Nineteen charities, NGOs and other organisations have signed the following open letter. Please scroll down for a list of signatories. If your organisation would like to sign up to the letter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. We urgently need to stop accepting “defence” and “security” as euphemisms for war and militarism.
Military personnel have taken part in building the Nightingale Hospital in London and the Dragon's Heart Hospital in Cardiff. The arms company Babcock is diverting some resources to produce ventilators. These initiatives, which involve just a small percentage of the armed forces and arms industry, should be the first step in reallocating “defence” resources to defending us from the most serious threats to our security.
While NHS staff struggle with insufficient protective equipment, nuclear submarines patrol at a cost of billions, powerless to defend us from a pandemic. While some armed forces personnel are helpfully delivering medical supplies, others are increasing military tension by participating in NATO exercises – scaled back but not cancelled despite coronavirus. UK troops train Saudi forces who have attacked civilians in Yemen.
The UK government's security reviews in 2010, 2015 and 2018 identified pandemics as a serious security threat. Despite this, they chose to increase spending on armed force, maintaining the seventh highest military expenditure in the world. Recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya demonstrate that deep-seated problems cannot be solved with bombs. War makes the whole world less safe.
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. Longer term, we need to re-orient the economy towards socially useful production and shift “defence” resources away from militaristic approaches and towards tackling serious threats to human security, including pandemics, poverty and climate change.
Peter Glasgow, Chair, Peace Pledge Union
Dr Philip Webber, Chair, Scientists for Global Responsibility
Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, Medact
Theresa Alessandro, Director, Pax Christi (UK)
Mererid Hopwood, Chair, Cymdeithas y Cymod
Danny Beever, Chair, Veterans for Peace (UK)
Richard Bickle, Chair, Fellowship of Reconciliation (England and Scotland)
Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade
Brian Jones, Vice-Chair, CND Cymru
Colin Archer, Global Campaign On Military Spending (UK Working Group)
Paula Shaw, Secretary, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (UK)
Jinsella Kennaway and Mélina Villeneuve, Demilitarise Education
Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
David Webb, Chair, Yorkshire CND
Eileen Cook and Janet Fenton, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Scotland)
Tim Devereux, Chair, Movement for the Abolition of War
Lynn Jamieson, Chair, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Monica Frisch, Director and Treasurer, on behalf of Conscience – Taxes for Peace Not War
Philip Austin, Co-ordinator, Northern Friends' Peace Board