Reinvesting military capacity in civil goals

Converting military facilities to peaceful use
Adapting military technologies for sustainable development
Accepting conversion from arms manufacture to a peaceful economy
Redeploying defence capabilities
Reallocating to environmental protection resources currently committed to military purposes
The Cold War witnessed the biggest military build-up and arms race ever. The end of the Cold War has presented the need to reduce and transform the large-scale scientific, technological and industrial capacities designed to serve the military-industrial complex, and has since resulted in substantial reductions in military expenditures in many countries. However, the transition and conversion from military to non-military activities has been more difficult politically, socially and economically than expected. All major countries and many smaller nations have been affected by such military reduction. The resulting impact on national vitality varies considerably between countries because of the importance of military budgets, and the types of military establishments, commitments and industries found, ([eg] maintaining overseas military bases, hosting foreign military bases, large or small domestic arms industries, net importer or exporter of arms). During the Cold War, the two superpowers' military-industrial complexes relied on more resources than any other major countries. As a result, both the USA and the former Soviet Union have experienced some of the harshest consequences of military reductions in the post-Cold War era, though it is the former Soviet Union which has suffered a breakdown of its industries, and has failed to provide for the region's needs. In large part, this is because the manufacturing sector was dominated by military industries, and ran with all the wastes and inefficiencies, and market ignorance common of military industries. In contrast, it is worth noting that those countries already relatively freed from military burdens for some time, specifically Germany and Japan, can thank their competitive success in industry in part for it, and provide examples of what can be achieved. Thus, successful military conversion may be achieved by restructuring production from a narrowly-based military one to a more efficient production system serving a broader commercial civilian market. The conversion process lies less in simply the release of actual financial resources from military to civilian budgets, but essentially in terms of human resources such as scientific and technical personnel being freed to pursue profitable civilian R&D. The military-industrial complex needs to actively find niches for new products in the market, as well as to compete in existing markets, and accordingly adjust its production systems and personnel base. Since military-industrial complexes consist of technically orientated enterprises and installations, opportunities may exist where these can be converted into new and competitive civilian enterprises in the aerospace, electronics, communications, electrical, machineries, and transportation industries, among others. Beyond the military-industrial firms, military bases may have the potential to be converted into industrial parks and commercial airports, among others.

It is evident that the process of conversion is complex and that it encompasses a broad range of issues of concern to the international community. These include: (1) A new understanding of "security": threats to nations are not simply just military threats. Today, the future of nations is equally threatened by global environmental change and economic or social instability. (2) Industrial restructuring for sustainable development: conversion of the military-industrial complex into clean, market- and consumer-oriented production facilities is part of overall efforts of industrial restructuring in the pursuit of sustainable development. (3) Human Resources Issues: In countries where the military sector (industry, national R&D institutions, and the armed forces themselves) is particularly important as compared to overall economic activity, and unemployment, including that of scientific and technological staff resulting from disarmament, could lead to an outflow of skills to nations still expanding military RSD and production. (4) Cleaning of abandoned military sites: These are often among the worst areas struck by toxic waste pollution. This is a task which requires scientific and technological inputs. Closely related to this aspect of conversion is the environmentally sound disposal of existing military hardware. (5) Developing timely alternative use plans for military sites and facilities: This is part of the development strategy in communities heavily dependent on the presence of such facilities. It is essential to avoid large-scale unemployment and to secure public support for conversion measures. It requires, [inter alia], technology assessment and economic projection.

Finally, the question of how to redirect some of the resources formerly devoted to the arms race towards environmental protection and accelerate the development process has increasingly become part of the equation. Such a "trade-off" has been termed the "peace dividend". The growing body of knowledge from actual conversion experiences (both successful and failed ones) in different parts of the world has been accompanied by a broad discussion of strategies to utilize the expected peace dividend for sustainable development efforts.

The [Rio Declaration on Environment and Development] adopted by UNCED noted that peace, development and environmental protection are independent and indivisible. The United Nations has stressed the growing importance of the relationship between disarmament and development in current international relations and recognized that science and technology could contribute greatly to the elaboration of a strategy for the conversion of military technologies for civilian use, sustainable development and environmental protection.

In 1962, the USA and the former Soviet Union undertook successive draft proposals for a [Treaty on General and Complete Disarmament (GCD)], providing for control and conversion of military R&D for peaceful civilian purposes. In spite of such early efforts, conversion did not become politically feasible until the late 1980s when a new detente in international relations changed such ideas from an utopian concept into a very practical problem to be solved in many parts of the world. As in 1962, the United Nations served as a forum for such discussions on conversion.

Between 1991 and 1993, four major UN conferences were organized to address particularly scientific and technological issues of military conversion. The first of these, the Conference on International Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Military Industrial technology (China, 1991), was jointly organized by UNCSTD and the China Association for Peaceful Use of Military Industrial Technologies. It suggested that international cooperation include arms-related trade arrangements and regulations, and the transformation of existing bilateral programmes of military assistance into bilateral development programmes specifically designed to facilitate the transition to disarmament. Participants proposed that the UN assist in facilitating the transfer of know-how or cooperation between nations in diverse areas such as the destruction of chemical weapons, peaceful uses of outer space and the aerospace complex.

The international conference on Conversion - Opportunities for Development and Environment (Germany, 1992), considered a broad set of issues related to military conversion ranging from sustainable development aspects to East-West and North-South cooperation. The conference explored, in particular, opportunities for development and environmental protection with special emphasis on the role of science and technology. These discussions resulted in the [Dortmund Declaration], a portfolio of specific recommendations to the international community and national governments. The UN Conference on the Conversion of the Aerospace Complex (Russia, 1992), analysed the aerospace complex as a particularly promising area with regard to the conversion of scientific and technological capacities. Among its recommendations to the international community, policy-makers and the private sector was a proposal to establish national and regional conversion centres. Linked through data bases, these centres would provide institutional support to member states and training for managers of military enterprises. One major follow-up activity of the Moscow Conference was the establishment of the Russian Centre for Conversion of the Aerospace Complex.

The Conference on International Cooperation to promote Conversion from Military to Civilian Industry was held in Hong Kong in 1993. The [Hong Kong Declaration on Conversion from Military to Civilian Industry] emphasized, in particular, the need for international cooperation, new funding strategies, training and information. It highlighted the importance of creating enabling environments for military enterprises to carry out conversion. In this context, it also stressed the particular need to focus on human capital in the military industry as an invaluable source in the conversion process. In addition to the above, a number of UN bodies have addressed issues of conversion within their specific mandates. These included, [inter alia], the Global Technology Group of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Office (ILO), the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the UN University (UNU).

The Department of Defence of the USA prefers the term "reinvestment" to describe the process of conversion, thus focusing on "the investment activities of the Department of Defence that can lead to new opportunities in the economy and for business". This includes "investment in people" who formerly served in the armed forces or worked for the defence industry by providing job-training programmes and information services for career changes, investment in technology as well as reinvestment of capital assets (such as closed bases, unneeded technical laboratories [etc]). The USA Department of Defence reports that 75 out of 97 closed bases now have industrial parks, and 42 have municipal airports. Elsewhere, base housing has been made available to the surrounding communities.

****** FROM DUPLICATE Implementation ****** This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

1. The skills and resources that are put into the development of military activities have a significant opportunity cost. If you put the same amount of funding into civilian projects, the returns economically and socially are demonstrably greater.

2. An enormous amount of money is being spent patching up problems created by the Cold War with redundancy payments of military personnel, decommissioning military sites and equipment and loss of research capability. Much better is to investigate ways to produce a far better return for each tax payer's money currently spent on military research and development, and to produce outcomes which are more socially beneficial.

Manufacturing processes
Sustainable development
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies