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19 charities and NGOs call for military budgets to be used to tackle Covid 19

Poster reading, 'Fund Healthcare Not Warfare'

19 charities and NGOs call for military budgets to be used to tackle Covid 19

Nineteen charities and NGOs have called for the billions currently spent on armed force to be used instead to tackle Covid 19 and related problems.

In an open letter, they say that "defence" and "security" must not be allowed to be euphemisms for war. They call for the money allocated to "defence" to be spent on measures that really defend people, including protection from the Covid 19 pandemic.

The signatories include the Peace Pledge Union, Scientists for Global Responsibility and Medact, an organisation of medical professionals concerned with human rights.

They are joined by other groups such as Veterans for Peace, Pax Christi, Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

They write, "Covid 19 is a deadly reminder that armed force cannot make us safe. People around the world have the same needs and face many of the same threats."

They acknowledge the work of armed forces personnel in building hospitals, along with decisions by certain arms companies to divert some of their resources to making ventilators. But they point out that these initiatives involve just a small percentage of armed forces and arms companies. They say they "should be the first step in reallocating 'defence' resources to defending us from the most serious threats to our security".

The signatories to the letter point out that while some UK troops are helpfully delivering medical supplies, others are stirring up tension through NATO exercises and training the Saudi forces that have targeted civilians in Yemen.

The open letter is the latest development in growing calls for the billions wasted on war and militarism to be used instead for healthcare and real security. On Friday, members and allies of the Peace Pledge Union held a day of online action around the campaign for "Healthcare, Not Warfare".

The UK government maintains the seventh highest military spending in the world. Following a deal made in 2018, British ministers have spent £10.4bn of public money on 48 F35 fighter jets. Despite the pandemic, they are committed to buying another 90 of them.

The organisations that have signed the letter suggest, "Money diverted from military budgets could contribute towards NHS and social care costs, initiatives to assist those losing their jobs and support for people whose mental health is affected by isolation". They say that longer term, "defence" resources need to shifted to tackling real threats to human security, such as pandemics, poverty and climate change.

UK government security reviews in 2010, 2015 and 2018 identified a possible pandemic as a likely and serious threat to security. The signatories to the open letter say that despite this, the establishment has continued to see "security" and "defence" solely in terms of preparation for war.

Pressure to divert military spending is also growing at international level. The Global Campaign On Military Spending and War Resisters' International have said that the global pandemic should prompt the world to put energy and funds into saving lives rather than taking them.