Sat, Jul

'Imperative': Oxfam Pushes G7 to Use Fraction of Military Spending to Fix Hunger, Debt Crises


G7 - Oxfam International called for Group of Seven countries to redirect a fraction of military spending toward solving world hunger and relieving poor countries' sovereign debts as leaders prepare to gather in Italy this week. 

In a new analysis, the nonprofit found that just 3% of the seven countries' annual military spending—$1.2 trillion in 2023, with the U.S. alone spending $916 billion, according to SIPRI data that Oxfam used—would be enough to "help end world hunger and solve the debt crisis in the Global South," a statement said. 

"Governments are finding their pockets run deep to fund war today, but when it comes to stopping starvation they are suddenly broke," Max Lawson, Oxfam International's head of inequality, said in the statement.

"We're talking about a small commitment with the potential for huge impact," he said. "Imagine a world where no one goes to bed hungry and where countries in the Global South can put money into public schools and hospitals instead of debt interest payments. The G7 not only has the means, but the moral and strategic imperative to make this happen."

Oxfam found that eradicating world hunger, both acute and chronic, would cost $31.7 billion per year—most of the proposed 3% redirection in funds. More than 281 million face severe hunger and malnutrition, Oxfam said. The nonprofit's statement cited Somalia, Guatemala, Yemen, and Kenya as places where hunger is on the rise. It also said that the G7 was complicit in the ongoing suffering and starvation in Gaza. The G7 nations are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom. 

"The G7's collective failure has basically given the Israeli military a free pass to commit terrible atrocities against Palestinian people," Lawson said. "G7 leaders must do everything in their power to make sure there is an immediate and permanent cease-fire to stop the death and destruction. They also need to ensure full and permanent access of humanitarian aid through all ground crossings, and the release of all hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinian prisoners."

"Low- and middle-income countries are now spending nearly a third of their budgets on servicing debts―as much as on public education, healthcare, and social protection combined."

Oxfam also recommended redirecting a relatively small amount of military spending toward sovereign debt relief. Currently, Global South countries collectively are asked to pay $291 million a day in total debt payments, including on interest. 

"Low- and middle-income countries are now spending nearly a third of their budgets on servicing debts―as much as on public education, healthcare, and social protection combined," the Oxfam statement said. 

Poor countries currently owe about $4 billion to G7 governments, Oxfam found, based on World Bank and International Monetary Fund data, but G7 countries don't pay what they owe in social and climate aid: $15 trillion, according to Oxfam. This follows on an Oxfam analysis last year that found the figure was above $13 trillion. 

"It's really the G7 which owes a debt to the low- and middle-income countries. It's not the other way around," Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International's interim executive director, toldAl Jazeera last year. 

"We need to shift that gaze," he added. 

Oxfam also called for G7 countries to follow up on a recent G20 effort to tax the super rich. In April, top G20 ministers—from Brazil, Germany, Spain, and South Africa—called for a 2% wealth tax on billionaires "to invest in public goods such as health, education, the environment, and infrastructure."

Following preliminary meetings, G7 ministers pledged to "increase our efforts aimed at progressive and fair taxation of individuals" and work with Brazil, which currently holds the G20 presidency and is led by progressive President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

(Edward Carver is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first featured.)