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Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “Governments have brought shame on themselves by wasting vast sums of money on the military and increasing spending while urgent requirements for public health and economic reconstruction and resilience from the COVID-19 pandemic have not been met.

“This is a scandalous misuse of resources at a time when the whole of humanity is threatened by the virus, and when vital financing to tackle climate change is missing. The fact that governments have prioritised their ability to fight wars against each other rather than confronting existential human crises simply beggars belief.”

Social protection

The SIPRI figures show increased military spending in every region except the Middle East, mainly due to a drop in Saudi Arabia that still spends tens of billions of dollars each year.

Just the 2.6% increase alone would more than meet the investment required for a social protection fund for the least wealthy countries, or cover two-thirds of the investment needed to provide social protection to every person on the planet.

“Much of the world remains defenceless against the SARS-CoV-2 virus due to nationalism and corporate capture of vaccines and other public health tools. This gross misallocation of funding deprives hundreds of millions of people of protection and starves investment in job creation, social protection, public health and care.

“Governments should reduce the size of their military and convert arms manufacturing into socially useful production. Weapons don’t provide security. It is social justice, engagement of civil society and negotiation that keep people secure,” said Sharan Burrow.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) represents 200 million members of 332 affiliates in 163 countries and territories.