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A hidden overconsumption

Since 2011, annual actions against military overspending have been organized around the world. Nevertheless, we rarely read about this in Norwegian media.


It is in connection with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) annually giving its overview of the world's military spending and weapons, that these actions are organized. The World Action Day Against Military Overconsumption (GDAMS), which this year was held on 13. April here at home, has been marked since 2011 and initiated by the International Peace Agency, also known as the International Peace Bureaus (IPB). The day of action is part of the organization's main program Disarmament for Development, which aims to release funds from military consumption in favor of increased investment for sustainable development. In the United States, the day is set to coincide with the so-called Americans Tax Day - the day they pay their taxes and discuss what the tax money should and should be used for. The tax money contributes to war and conflict. Therefore, there is an increased demand that one should be able to redirect part of the personal taxation to more peaceful purposes of one's choice. In Norway, the Peace Tax Alliance was signed between seven peace organizations in May 2007. Lack of media coverage. People around the globe thus unite on this day in activities to create public, media and political attention to the costs of military service and the need for other priorities. Together with the Norwegian Peace Council, the Norwegian Peace Team, Changemaker, the International Women's League for Peace and Freedom (IKFF), Grandmothers for Peace and IPB, the Norwegian Peace Council therefore invited this year to a breakfast meeting on the symbolic day of 9 April at the Peace House in Oslo. Among those present were Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan, senior adviser at the Forum for Development and the Environment (ForUM), Alexander Harang of the Norwegian Peace League, who gave an introduction on the world's defense budgets, and Ingeborg Breines, co-president of IPB, who chaired the meeting. The media world was represented by Mari Skurdal from Klassekampen, Remi Nilsen from Le Monde diplomatique and Truls Lie from Ny Tid, this newspaper which in its editorial coverage has chosen to prioritize climate, conflict and control, and which intends to contribute to an increased focus on the media responsibility. The focus of the meeting was the lack of coverage in the Norwegian media of rearmament and military overspending. Why is there not more written in the Norwegian media about the huge sums of money that are used in the military sector, both nationally and internationally? Ingeborg Breines opened the debate by asking whether there is so much secrecy surrounding the arms trade that it is too complicated for journalists to find relevant data – and whether editors are afraid to challenge the power structures and be seen as naive or unpatriotic in a a time of strong political tensions in several parts of the world. The issue is that war and arms exports receive far less attention than is desirable, and necessary, in an open and democratic society, according to Breines. In its introduction could Aleksander Harang from the Norwegian Peace League stated that the world's overall defense budget in 2014 had increased by 1,7 percent – which corresponds to 25,4 billion US dollars in real figures. After the value of the world's overall defense budgets has fallen for three consecutive years, 2014 thus marks the start of a new era in global military spending. The significant growth in Asia, the Middle East and Africa's defense budgets has continued over time, while the reduction in the West's defense budgets has thus turned into growth from 2014. The year 2014 marks the start of a new era in global military consumption. Regular increases. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that this trend will be reversed or weakened in the future. On the contrary, geopolitical tensions in 2014 increased significantly. A more unstable Europe, the Middle East and East Asia are increasingly faced with political promises of even greater investment in the military in 2015. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council – which will ensure world peace – are among the largest arms exporters with the US still sovereign in top. But small Norway is also a significant exporter. According to figures from SIPRI, international exports of major conventional weapons in the world have increased by a total of 16 per cent between the periods 2005–2009 and 2010–2014. The United States and Russia dominate international arms exports. Total US exports of major weapons increased by 23 percent between the periods 2005–2009 and 2010–2014. Between the same two time periods, arms imports to Europe fell by 36 percent, but this may change due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which may reverse the trend by neighboring countries importing more weapons. The United States' share of the total export volume for the last period is 31 percent, while Russia accounts for 27 percent of the total. China has increased its export volume by 143 percent between the two periods, and is thus the third largest arms exporter in the world – although still far below the United States and Russia. In the last four-year period, five of the ten largest arms importers were in Asia. India accounted for 15 percent of total arms imports, while China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore contributed the rest. Together, these countries accounted for 30 percent of the total import volume in the world. Kongsberg and Nammo. In recent years, Norway has had a reasonably high arms export. We are among the world's 20 largest exporters of military equipment, with two large and state players: Kongsberg Gruppen and Nammo. Norwegian arms exports go to countries all over the world, and last year Norway exported munitions to all continents. This is despite the fact that the value of Norwegian arms exports has fallen every year since 2008. Figures from Statistics Norway show that the decline has been particularly large for exports within the product group weapons and weapon parts, which include artillery weapons and rockets. That Norway in recent years has taken on a role as a bridge builder and peace mediator in the world has been strongly emphasized by both politicians, the media and the population. The fact that Norway also plays a major role as an arms exporter is not as well known. The Norwegian state has large ownership interests within the Norwegian arms industry, and it has been said that the arms industry is a focus area. The Norwegian arms industry makes a lot of money from selling its products to countries all over the world. For most companies, the US military is the largest customer. The United States is taking its weapons into the war. The Norwegian export share accounted for 5,4 per cent of all registered exports of weapons, ammunition and tanks worldwide in 2008. In 2013, Norway's share had fallen to 2,8 per cent, but in the same year we were still ranked as the world's sixth largest arms exporter. Last year, Norway exported weapons worth NOK 1,8 billion. Six years earlier, the export value was NOK 3,1 billion. Almost 80 per cent of last year's arms exports, corresponding to the value of NOK 1,4 billion, went to NATO countries. Sales to the United States accounted for 45 percent of this amount. Measured in value, the USA, Poland and Sweden were the three largest recipients of Norwegian weapons last year. Double Moral. "Freedom of expression is the core of any democracy," wrote Børge Brende in an article in Dagens Næringsliv on 13 January. He pointed out in the article that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has "started work on a strategy for how freedom of expression can best be strengthened in Norwegian foreign and development policy," – but this work clearly does not include a closer look at the consequences of Norwegian arms exports to dictatorships in the Middle East. Norway exports weapons to a number of oppressive regimes. From 2012 to 2013, Norway doubled its exports to authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Algeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia is notorious for public beheadings and for cracking down on democratic riots – most recently in Yemen. While Sweden is in clinch with Saudi Arabia, Norway has, according to figures from Statistics Norway, stepped up sales of weapons for the human rights violation: While in 2013 we sent weapons to Saudi Arabia for NOK 1,5 million, arms exports increased to 2,13 million in 2014 According to the report Reckless arms exports? In the period 2002–2012, Norway exported military equipment to Saudi Arabia for more than NOK 650 million. For the past five years, all parties in the Storting have supported Norwegian munitions exports to all these recipients. This is an irresponsible policy, which contributes to oppression and civilian suffering, and which Norway should therefore end. At least that is the opinion of Tove Lie, who published the book in 2012 The Peace Nation's boundless arms trade in collaboration with Øystein Mikalsen. "Unfortunately, today none of the parties in the Storting are advocating to stop the export of munitions to any of the mentioned regimes. SV was a peace party, but in the eight years the party was in power, arms exports increased considerably, which has led to them losing credibility as a peace party. The MDGs have partly taken on the role, but here too there is a shortage, "says Lie to Ny Tid." Authoritarian regimes, including Saudi Arabia, receive weapons from Norway. But despite this, there are few people participating in the peace movement and civil society, and the media are not as active as they should be, "says Lie, adding:" Norwegian war participation and arms exports take far too little place in the public discussion. . There is very little discussion and critical voices. Maybe because it is scary and difficult to deal with, but a real democracy requires that the various issues be discussed. " Tove Lie emphasizes that there are far too few editors who focus on the case. "There is a small degree of investigative journalism, and there are few, if any, newspapers that have their own people to cover war and conflict. It is important that the journalism education includes method and being critical, and that it teaches students about the world and about war, "she says. "There was a high level of conflict after 911, which then went down somewhat. Now, however, the level of conflict is again at a peak. That is why it is important to write more about the topic, and not least about who benefits from the wars and what interests are behind it. " Corrupt. Back at the seminar, Borghild Tønnessen-krokan from ForUM describes that the global arms industry is fragmented. "It is fragmented and characterized by corruption and secrecy. We must therefore take the statistics with a pinch of salt, "she says. She adds: "Former South African politician Andrew Feinstein, who wrote the book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade on corruption in the arms trade, claims that as much as 40 percent of all corruption in global trade takes place in the arms industry. " She continues: "To prevent Norwegian military equipment from risking making the world more dangerous, the government must tighten control. For example, Norway must also demand an end-user declaration from our NATO allies, and we must demand that Norwegian-owned arms factories abroad follow strict Norwegian rules. Furthermore, it is high time that Norway stops equipping oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia militarily, "says Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan. Tønnessen-Krokan also agrees with the UN Secretary-General, the peace movement and others who point out the enormous sums many countries spend on armaments and deterrence in relation to what is used for prevention as measures for peace, poverty reduction and human rights and against violent extremism and sectarianism. At the same time, she points out that it is difficult to know exactly how much money countries spend on military equipment. "The work on export control has not received enough focus. It is incredible that the media does not write more about what is happening. The information is available. The White Paper on Norwegian arms exports comes annually. But what good is it, when the media does not focus on it, and the parties do not take it seriously enough, "says Tønnessen-Krokan. "I hope there will be more focus on it in the future, because it is important that the media follows what is happening. That is their democratic task. "

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