As militarism grows in response to an increasingly unstable world and threatens instead to take the world into greater instability and war, the rights of the poor need to be championed in order to achieve peace and development. This is one of the key messages from the CSO Forum workshop entitled Aiding Militarism held in on 29 November 2016 at the Pride Inn Centre, Westlands in Nairobi, Kenya. The activity aimed to present the impacts of militarism across the globe especially among the rural poor, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, and to expose the role of aid in furthering militarism especially in developing countries as well as a barrier to effective development cooperation. The forum involved speakers who represent peace and justice groups in countries in Asia, Africa and MENA that have continuing wars of aggression and strong military presence, namely Atama Katama of Borneo Dayak Forum, Nyikaw Ochalla of Anywaa Survival Organization, Sadeqa Siddiqui of International Migrants Alliance, and Leonard “Jerry” Imbiri of Dewan Adat Papua.

Exposing how aid is diverted to further wars and militarism, discussions revolved around experiences in countries receiving aid for military or peacekeeping. The situation of communities affected by the use of military in development projects shows that use of aid for military purposes has brought more damage and loss of life than development. In the Philippines, indigenous peoples leaders, activists, community members including children were killed and displaced to make way for mining and development projects. While in Ethiopia, the national government has leased millions of hectares of land to foreign and domestic investors, but this involved widespread land grabs and human rights violations against farmers and indigenous peoples. These are only some of the cases of development aggression that resulted from aiding militarism in developing countries.

CSO speakers also shared how aiding militarism is a barrier to effective development cooperation. CSOs are concerned that military aid shifts the focus of ODA from addressing poverty. Development cooperation, in order to be effective, should be geared towards poverty reduction. Aid for military spending is not proven to help reduce poverty, and in some cases it even aggravates the conditions of the poor and other vulnerable groups. Military aid is also being used as a means to promote private sector interests, in the expense of violation of peoples rights.

In response to the issues discussed, the participants came up with several recommendations. These include promoting respect for human rights, recognizing civil society as drivers for resolution of conflict, strengthening people-centered approaches to security, protecting the integrity of aid for poverty eradication, improving donor coherence, and exhausting all means for promotion of peace. Civil society must continue to work together and with other stakeholders to fulfill these recommendations.

Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), International Migrants Alliance (IMA), and Reality of Aid Network – Asia Pacific (RoA-AP) organized the workshop on Aiding Militarism at the CSO Forum.

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