Ever-widening gaps in economic assets and living standards between rich and poor populations, climate change and transnationally-organised crime, to name a few, have led to increasing tensions between countries and within them, which very often result in instability, violence and war.
All of these factors exacerbate human insecurity.
According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.38 percent since 2008, due mainly to the rise of terrorist activity and internal conflicts.
In 2018, the total world military expenditure increased by 2.6 percent on 2017 to more than $1.8tr and global military spending itself represented 2.1 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $239 per person.
The United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India, and France together accounted for 60 percent of global military spending. Total military expenditure by all 29 NATO members was $963bn in 2018, accounting for 54 percent of world spending.
The United States, Russia, France, Germany and China represented the top arms exporters from 2013-2017, while India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and China constituted the top five arms importers during the same period.
The greatest impact of weapons sales is on human lives, who end up as the casualties of war.
Civilians constitute the majority of casualties of war, with women and children making up the majority of those affected.
In 2017, more than 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Of that 68.5 million, 25.4 million were refugees, 40 million were internally displaced persons and 3.1 million were asylum-seekers.
Children below 18 years of age constituted 52 percent - more than half - of the refugee population, an increase of 41 percent on 2009.
Altogether, more than 68 percent of all refugees worldwide came from five countries: Syrian Arab Republic (6.3 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.4 million), Myanmar (1.2 million), and Somalia (986,400).
“Civilians constitute the majority of casualties of war, with women and children making up the majority of those affected”
Moreover, it is developing nations who host 85 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, which puts a significant strain on their already limited resources.
It is hoped that the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee, who commissioned the report, will call on EU Institutions and EU Member States to act and enhance sustainable peace efforts.
Such actions could include a request for all Member States and allies, such as the United States of America, to cease arms sales to countries that violate human rights and for they themselves to uphold and respect international arms-control agreements.
Additionally, EU Member States could conduct an assessment of defence spending with conflict prevention and peace-building expenditures to better understand whether non-violent actions are being prioritised.
The FEMM Committee must insist on including women’s meaningful participation in peace and strengthening mechanisms for regular consultations with local civil society organisations focused on the rights of women and children.
The EU and multi-lateral institutions engaged in peace and transition processes must learn to adopt and implement a gender-sensitive lens when discussing war and peace.