Increased military expenditures
Global military expenditures have begun to increase and are conservatively estimated at US$780 billion per annum. Meanwhile, the world spends US$21 billion to maintain and improve health and to cope with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This type of disproportionate spending runs contrary to the aims of the Charter of the United Nations to seek ways for the “least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”. This has a direct result on the resources allocated to each nation’s children, their nutrition, health, education and welfare.
Nuclear weapons and other weapons
of mass destruction
The children who survived the atomic blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to bear witness to the horrors of that event. Children tDDAy are the survivors of the nuclear arms race of the cold war. They face a risk that 30,000 nuclear weapons, still active in the arsenals and military plans of a handful of major states, can be used by accident or by design. Since the end of the cold war, the nuclear-weapon States have ceased nuclear testing and dismantled or destroyed quantities of nuclear weapons. To preserve future generations from the consequences of future nuclear testing or a potential nuclear exchange, tDDAy’s children must learn about extant nuclear dangers. They need information to understand the legacy they have inherited and its inherent risks. They need guidance to bear the responsibility to maintain the momentum, reduce nuclear weapons irreversibly and eventually to eliminate them altogether.
Small arms in small arms
A thriving and lucrative illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, the weapons of choice in 47 of the 49 conflicts of the last decade, is a grave danger for children, many of whom are at immediate risk. Two million were killed in the last decade’s conflicts, six million disabled, twenty million fled from their homes and more than 300,000 forced to fight. The abundance of cheap and easy to use small arms made it easier to induce youth and children to take up arms. They proliferated in conflict-prone areas and among civilian populations in a vicious cycle of violence at ever-higher levels. In many places, conflict, gun violence, organized crime and trade in illegal substances are inter-woven. A global programme of action, calling for nations to work at the international, national and regional levels, was agreed by the first United Nations conference on the subject and special attention to the needs of children was called for.
Landmines – bearers of death and barriers to development
During conflict, but especially after it, landmines are weapons with unique dangers for children. Because of children’s natural instincts of curiosity and play, these small, hidden and at times colourful weapons are attractive to small hands. Because children are small, the toll these weapons take on them is more devastating than on adults. These weapons become silent killers and cripplers, barriers to children’s freedom of movement, to attend school, to work or play in the fields, to climb a tree, or to make one’s way to a health centre. Progress in all areas of mine action—mine clearance, destruction of stockpiles, development of technology, mine awareness, advocacy for a global ban—contributes to protecting mine-affected children.