The next one or two years will see more high-level discussions and debate of arms control and disarmament, said Dr Bates Gill, Director of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute at the launching press conference of SIPRI yearbook in Stockholm on Monday.
"The good news is to have a good opportunity to see progress in nuclear related arms control and non-proliferation over the past ten years. And many strategists such as Henry Kissenger and George Shultz have called for serious actions on arms control", said Bates Gill.
He said the bad news is that in the conventional terms, "we are far from a secure world, conflict is more fragmented, more and more people become the objects of arm violence.
Military spending across the globe is expanding, not just the US but all the major players. Global weapon production and arms trade is also on the rise. International treaty on disarmament has been weakened".
Trends in armed conflicts
Dr. Ekaterina Stepanova from SIPRI said at the press conference that in 2007, the fragmentation of armed violence, the diversification of armed actors and the blurring of boundaries between categories of violence and between their actors were among the predominant trends in armed conflicts. 14 armed conflicts were active in 2007.
She said violence against civilians continued unabated and the number of people killed by tribal and factional violence was greater than the number killed in battles between the government and the rebels.
Darfur in Sudan, Iraq and Pakistan are the conflict prone zones. She cited state weakness as one of the critical factors stimulating the fragmentation and the growing intractability of armed violence in 2007.
In order to reduce violence, she suggests that priority should be set on efforts to support state building that combine functionality with local legitimacy, for example in Iraq. And a wider representation in social, political and security agendas will help legitimize the government.
Stepanova said for the fourth consecutive year no interstate conflict was recorded in 2007.
US military spending accounts for 45% of the world total
Military spending, arms production and international arms transfers are all on the rise, according to the SIPRI yearbook 2008.
World military spending totalled $1339 billion in 2007, a real-terms increase of 6% since 2006 and of 45% since 1998. This corresponded to 2.5% of world gross domestic product and 202 US dollars for each person in the world.
The USA's military spending accounted for 45% of the world total in 2007, followed by the UK, China, France and Japan with 4-5 percent each. Since 2001 US military expenditure has increased by 59 % in real terms, principally because of massive spending on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also because of increases in the ‘base ' defence budget. By 2007, US spending was higher than at any time since World War II.
China has increased its military spending threefold in real terms during the past decade. However, due to its rapid economic growth, the economic burden of military spending is still moderate at 2.1% of GDP according to the yearbook.
Meanwhile, arms sales by the 100 largest arms-producing companies in 2006 increased by 8% in nominal terms over 2005.
International transfers of major conventional weapons were 7% higher over the period 2003–2007 than in 2002–2006.
Commenting on the increased military spending in the world, Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs said considering the UN Millenium Development Goals of halving the 2 billion people who live in absolute poverty in the world by 2015 and the rising global food prices which hit the poor hard, ‘ we see this military expenditure being excessive'.
Dhanapala stressed that weapons based security is very insecure security. There should be more investment in development which will provide substantial and endurable security to the world.
Nuclear arms control and non-proliferation
While 8 states possess almost 10 200 operational nuclear weapons, many arms control and nonproliferation agreements are faltering or making little progress, according to the yearbook.
In 2007 Iran's nuclear programme remained at the centre of international controversy. The UN Security Council has adopted Resolution 1747, demanding that Iran suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities and imposing additional sanctions on Iran.
North Korea failed to disable the nuclear facilities and to provide a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear programmes and past activities by the year end deadline set out in an October 2007 agreement for implementing the Action Plan.
India and the USA announced a draft 123 agreement that specified the terms governing the resumption of Indian-US trade in nuclear material and technology that was envisaged in the 2005 Indian-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative. The draft agreement was criticised in the US.
The US and Russia are the two super powers in owning stretegic warheads. While the US deployed 4075 warheads, Russia deployed 5189 while China has 176, according to the yearbook.
Efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological or chemical—are increasingly focused on individuals and non-state groups, rather than states.
In response to these challenges, there is growing urgency around the globe to bring new life and a mainstream momentum to arms control.
There are new leaders in the UN, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the UK and, from January 2009, the USA—who will find it politically possible to take concrete action on the arms control and disarmament front.
Gill said that a global consensus on arms control and disarmament must include both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states and be supported by think tanks and other non-governmental organizations.
‘Voices from across the political spectrum are coming to recognize again the value of arms control in the face of looming threats to humankind,' said Gill.
SIPRI was established in 1966 to commemorate 150 years of unbroken peace in Sweden.
By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm.