Despite widespread complaints about the sorry state of Canadian military spending, Canadian contributions to international peace and security are more heavily weighted toward the military than they are in key European middle power countries.

Given the UN Security Council’s recent attention to Article 26 of the UN Charter,[i] it is worth asking whether the world’s 33 million military personnel (plus 54 million reservists) and the $1.3 trillion it spends annually on military forces are what the framers of that Article had in mind when they called on states to maintain international peace and security “with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.”[ii]

As a general proposition, many will certainly agree that this human and material treasure could be put to more productive use, but in most particular cases the point is likely be disputed.

Take Canada, for example. Canada is the world’s 14th highest military spender[iii] and might logically be regarded as among those states guilty of the excessive diversion of economic resources to military purposes – but it’s obvious that many disagree. Indeed, the prominent, if not prevailing, view among those interested in these matters is that Canadian forces are seriously understaffed and underfunded.

During recent discussions of the formation of a Liberal-NDP Coalition, to be supported on confidence votes by the Bloc, the Canadian historian and military affairs analyst J.L. Granatstein warned that “ideological and anti-military concerns of the coalition partners” could not be relied on to “restore” Canadian forces as the national interest requires.[iv]

The International Institute for Strategic Studies lists Canada as the 6th highest military spender in NATO, in addition to being the 14th highest in the world, yet Douglas Bland of the Queens University Defence Studies Program says “many billions more” will be needed to rebuild the Canadian Forces after the current Afghanistan mission.[v]

Canada’s ranking in the top 10 or 20 percent of the world’s military powers (the 14th highest in absolute military spending, and 26th from the top in per capita military spending) doesn’t deter another military analyst from declaring that “Canada has been a defence laggard for so long that it hardly warrants as news that we remain one today”[vi] – did we mention that Canada has the 6th highest defence budget in NATO?

There is another way of measuring the level of resources devoted to armaments or development and that is obviously to look at the defence to development spending ratio of a number of like-minded states.[vii] In 2004 that ratio in Canada was 3.8:1 – that is, military spending was at just under four times the level of development assistance spending, putting Canada roughly in the middle of the OECD rankings.[viii] The most balanced ratio was held by Luxembourg (1.2:1), while the most disproportionate ratio belonged to the United States (24.8:1). While those are both examples outside the mainstream, ratios in selected like-minded countries ranged from 5.9:1 for Germany to 1.6:1 for Denmark, 2.2:1 for Netherlands, 2:1 for Sweden, 2:1 for Norway, and 1.8:1 for Ireland. In other words, Canadian peace and human security spending was weighted more heavily toward the military than in most of these like-minded states.

In 2006 (the most recent year for which such figures are available) the Canadian ratio of defence to development spending had climbed to 4:1. The ratio in Germany had dropped to 3.6:1, and in Denmark it was 1.7:1, Ireland 1:1, Netherlands 1.8:1, Norway 1.7:1, and Sweden 1.5:1. In all of these states the spread between military and ODA spending had narrowed; in Canada it had widened.

Notably, if Canadian development spending had reached the declared target of .7% of GDP by 2006 (with defence spending maintaining its rate of growth), the Canadian defence to development ratio would of have been roughly the same as Sweden at about 1.5:1 and generally comparable to the ratios in the Nordic and some other like-minded European countries.

For now, however, Canadian contributions to international peace and security do remain more heavily weighted toward military spending than they are in key European countries – and that doesn’t seem to be quite in the spirit of Article 26.

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[i] See the December 16 posting here.

[ii] These numbers are for 2006, taken from The Military Balance 2008 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press).

[iii] The Military Balance 2008 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press).

[iv] J.L. Granatstein, “The Coalition, the Obama Administration, and the Canadian Forces,” The Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (,%20the%20Obama%20Administration,%20and%20the%20Canadian%20Forces.pdf).

[v] Douglas Bland, “The Afghan mission has taught our politicians a lesson,” The Globe and Mail, 27 November 2008,

[vi] Andrew Richter, “What Happened to the Promise of Large Defence Spending Increases?” Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, Summer 2007 Newsletter (

[vii] See the 5 September 2008 posting in this space, “How Canada Spends its Peace Dividend,”

[viii] Military spending data is drawn from The Military Balance 2003-2004 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press); and data on ODA is drawn from OECD statistics, Table 4: "Net Official Development Assistance from DAC countries to Developing Countries and Multilateral Organizations," at


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