The independent resource on global security

The Human Security Case for Rebalancing Military Expenditure

Cover Human Security Case for Rebalancing Military Expenditure
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
May, 2022

Global military expenditure has reached record levels. At the same time, hundreds of millions of people face non-traditional ‘vital’ risks and threats to their security—threats to their lives, livelihoods and dignity. Accelerating climate change and growing loss of biodiversity add unprecedented urgency to investing in people’s security. The concept of human security, as explained in this paper, emphasizes the security of people without neglecting the security of states and state order. The human security approach stresses the necessity to balance the financial needs from all vital risks and threats, regardless of their cause. It logically leads to a reassessment of spending on the military. It also seriously considers the fear that reducing military expenditure will reduce the security of states, a major barrier to past international initiatives to reduce military expenditure.

As a first step to initiate the rebalancing, this paper proposes three priority fields of activity to free resources from military spending: (a) arms control and disarmament negotiations and agreements; (b) sector-wide security sector reform for conflict prevention; and (c) financial responsibility in military expenditure and arms procurement. These can be taken without impairing the security of states and state order. If successful, these steps would remove barriers to further military expenditure reductions to improve the human condition in an increasingly dangerous Anthropocene.


1. Introduction and rationale

2. International initiatives to reduce military expenditure

3. Global insecurities

4. The standard of human security

5. Human security and military expenditure

6. Priority fields of activity for military expenditure reductions

7. Conclusions


Dr Michael Brzoska is an Associate Senior Researcher at SIPRI.
Wuyi Omitoogun is an Associate Senior Fellow at SIPRI.
Dr Elisabeth Sköns is an Associate Senior Fellow at SIPRI and the former Head of the Mali civil society and peacebuilding project.