07/07/2020, 16.49
VATICAN
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The pandemic should stop military spending and promote human security

At a press conference titled “Preparing the future, building peace in the time of COVID-19,” Card Turkson said: “As the world takes emergency measures to address a global pandemic and a global economic recession, both underpinned by a global climate emergency, we must also consider the implications for peace of these interconnected crises.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Vatican COVID-19 taskforce today held a press conference titled Preparing for the future, building peace in the time of COVID-19. Its speakers noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing humanity to face not only a health crisis, but also a world-wide economic recession, compounded by global climate emergency. Such interconnectedness and societal fragility call for a "globalisation of solidarity" and "sustainable" peace, which entail an end to the arms race.

Card Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development and chairman of the Vatican COVID-19 taskforce, opened the briefing saying: “As the world takes emergency measures to address a global pandemic and a global economic recession, both underpinned by a global climate emergency, we must also consider the implications for peace of these interconnected crises.”

In his view, “Reducing conflicts is the only chance for reducing injustices and inequalities. Armed violence and conflict and poverty are indeed linked in a cycle that prevents peace, furthers human rights abuses and hampers development.” Hence, arms control is a must. Without it, “it is impossible to ensure security. Without security, the responses to the pandemic are not complete.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, and the climate change make ever clearer the need to give priority to positive peace over narrow notions of national security. Pope John XXIII already signalled the need for this transformation by re-defining peace in terms of the recognition, respect, safeguarding, and promotion of the rights of the human person (Pacem in terris, 139).

“Now, more than ever, is the time for nations of the world to shift from national security by military means to human security as the primary concern of policy and international relations. Now is the time for the international community and the Church to develop bold and imaginative plans for collective action commensurate with the magnitude of this crisis. Now is the time to build a world that better reflects a truly integral approach to peace, human development, and ecology.”

Sister Alessandra Smerilli, coordinator of the taskforce’s economic group, noted that “Pope Francis has asked us for creative solutions. So, we have been asking ourselves: if instead of doing the arms race, we ‘race’ towards food, health and work security? What are citizens asking for right now? Do they need a strong military state, or a state that invests in common goods? [. . .] Does it make sense to continue to make massive investments in weapons if human lives cannot be saved because there is no adequate healthcare system?”

“[W]e are at a stage in which we must understand where to direct financial resources during this paradigm shift. Today, the first safety is that of health and well-being. What are arsenals for, if a handful of infected people are enough to spread the epidemic and cause many victims? The pandemic knows no borders.

“We know that the issue is more complicated than it seems: the arms race is a dilemma that sees states, out of fear of other states, or wanting to excel, to continue to increase their military power. This generates a vicious circle that never ends, pushing in turn towards a constant increase in military spending, a positional competition that causes irrational expenses. This type of race stops only with a collective will of self-limitation. We need courageous leaders who can demonstrate that they believe in the common good, who are committed to guaranteeing what is most needed today. We need a collective pact to direct resources for health security and wellbeing.”

For Alessio Pecorario, coordinator of the taskforce’s security group, “The worst medical impact of COVID-19 is still to come,” citing “the World Health Organisation (WHO). The impact so far is already triggering the most severe economic and social disruption of modern times. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already predicted a global fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by at least 3%.”

“Global military spending in 2019 was 1.9 trillion US dollars (which far surpasses annual military global expenditures during the Cold War and is some 300 times the budget of the WHO), and some observers and officials urge increased military spending in response to COVID-19.”

“Tensions are rising with COVID-19 at times has become a reason for dispute, fuelling what the Vatican Security Task Force has described as ‘conflict trap,’ ‘security dilemma,’ etc.

“Choices have to be made. Medical supplies, food security and economic revival focused on social justice and green economy all require resources that can be diverted from the military sector in the context of renewed arms control.”

“In the light of the emergency, complexity and interconnected challenges arisen from the pandemic, we could conclude that human and financial resources and technology should be used to create and stimulate strategies, alliances and systems to protect lives and the planet and not to kill people and ecosystems. According to us Multilateralism and the implementations of Sustainable Development Goals are key in this process.” (FP)

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