World Military Expenditures

A compilation of data and facts related to military spending, education and health

Coordination Office for the Decade to Overcome Violence, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland, 2005

Full report on World Military Expenditures (31p., pdf, 776 Kb)
Summary of the report on World Military Expenditures (2p., pdf, 266 Kb)



Some 25 years ago, in the seventies and eighties, the world seemed acutely aware of the threat hanging over humanity like a Damocles' sword. Nuclear armament and militarism during the cold war had reached a level that was alarming in such a way that most everybody called for ending this "balance of horror".

In the 70s, German theologian and activist for justice and peace grounded in spirituality, Dorothee Soelle, wrote a book entitled "Militarism Kills without war". That holds true to this day, yet churches and the peace movement are paying less attention to the issue of militarism. Have we become complacent? Have we accepted the militaristic reality as an unchangeable fact? Or is it simply that we don't know how serious the situation is? That there is a growing risk of nuclear
disaster caused by terrorist attacks is bad enough. Yet a silent deadly disaster takes place every day in the starvation of 24,000 people, many of whom could be saved if the world had not gotten its budget priorities so utterly wrong.

The Decade to Overcome Violence claims to be "challenging the growing militarization of our world, especially the proliferation of small arms and light weapons." It also calls on churches and Christians "to relinquish any theological justification of violence". Are we doing this boldly and clearly enough? If we are not, then perhaps it is because we have not realized the gravity of the situation.

For the second half of the Decade, the DOV Reference Group meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in April 2005 recommended to make militarism an emphasis. There are several hopeful signs that things might become more acutely clear in people's minds and hearts. Through the tragedies of both the Tsunami in Asia and Katrina in the US it became more clear that governments are ill equipped, in spite - or because? - of incredible military expenditures, to respond adequately and afford real solutions to current disasters and prevention of future ones.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are becoming more prominent, yet too often the issue of militarism is not even mentioned in the context of shifting means in order to attend to human need. Furthermore, an international and interfaith "Global Priorities Campaign" (, launched in October 2005, is precisely aiming at that issue: One half percent of the world's military spending would save 6 Million children from death each year. The World Game ( has calculated that one third of the world's
military spending would satisfy budgetary needs for addressing any and all  global problems, from deforestation to HIV & AIDS, from clean water to illiteracy.

At the WCC DOV Office we felt the need to update some of the facts on World Military and Social Expenditures, last edited by Ruth Leger Sivard ten years ago, in 1996. It is a modest attempt to update a useful tool for keeping us alert. Our thanks go to Abigail Pound, who has worked hard and diligently over a 2-month-internship to research, compile and interpret the relevant data. May it inspire us to work for change.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • World Military Expenditures - Summary and Recent Trends
  • United States Military Spending
  • Comparisons Between Global Military and Social Spending
  • Militarism or Basic Social Services?
  • Aid to Developing Countries
  • The Global Arms Trade
  • A Wider View of National Security
  • References