On the centenary of Armistice Day, Christian Aid has warned that appalling levels of violence across the globe continue to cost lives and that world leaders, including the UK’s, are too often fuelling rather than preventing conflict.
Christine Allen, Christian Aid’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs, said:
“On the centenary of the Armistice, we remember all those who have lost their lives in war around the world in the past 100 years, especially those who died during World War One. Today the prayers of all Christians must be for peace with justice, for we are called to be peacemakers.
“Yet a century after the cessation of hostilities in Europe, violence and conflict still rage around the world, so it is right to ask why governments including the UK’s continue to fuel war through the arms trade and why international peace efforts are off course.
“Since 2016, more countries have experienced violent conflict than at any other time in nearly 30 years. If current trends persist, by 2030—more than half of the world’s poor will be living in countries affected by high levels of violence. Much of this is due to reoccurring violence and protracted conflicts.
“The truest way to honour casualties of war would be to make peace a priority. Peacebuilding can and does work. However currently the UK does too much to fuel war and too little as a peacemaker.”
Pointing to the UK’s role in the arms trade, she added:
“The UK sells billions of pounds worth of military equipment including to its ally Saudi Arabia which is pursuing a conflict in Yemen where British-made cluster bombs are killing Yemeni citizens. Yemen is the world’s most acute humanitarian crisis yet the UK gives far more in arms than it does in aid.
“This solemn moment of Remembrance and the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph sit uncomfortably with the UK government’s endorsement of arms fairs, secretive licenses for deadly weapons, and ongoing military support to regimes which routinely violate human rights.”
Violence is a major cause of poverty, capable of wiping out years of development and destroying thriving societies. Conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have cost millions of lives in the past two decades. Poverty is now most concentrated in countries afflicted by chronic conflict. Over 40 million people are displaced by conflicts, over 75% of whom are concentrated in just 10 countries which are also among the world’s worst war zones. Meanwhile, the cost of military spending is estimated to be nearly 250 times more than is spent on peacebuilding.
This statement comes ahead of a landmark Christian Aid report on global peacebuilding priorities coming out in December. The report will outline the vital importance of local peacebuilding efforts which are often the only pathway to sustainable peace, and puts the spotlight on the role of the arms trade and UN efforts to resolve conflicts. This Christmas, Christian Aid is focusing on peacebuilding around the world.
Regarding Yemen, UNICEF has said that 400,000 children are at risk of dying due to lack of food, 40% of whom live around the city of Hodeidah. Since June, when the latest offensive against Hodeidah began, civilian deaths have risen by 164%, and at least 50,000 people have been displaced, according to a report by the armed conflict location and event data project (ACLED).
Meanwhile, it has emerged that UK military sales to Saudi Arabia increased by two thirds in 2017 from 2016. This is an increase of more than £450m. This figure does not take into account the number of so-called "secret" open licences doubled across that 12 months - from 21 to 44.
According to Department of International Trade figures, the UK issued 126 licences relating to military goods in 2017, with a value of £1.129bn, compared to 103 licences relating to military items in 2016, with a value of £679m.
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