Six South American countries are sharing for the first time in history information on defence expenditure which is seen as a first concrete step to leave behind border disputes and ensure peace in the region, said delegates from Chile, Ecuador and Unasur, Union of South American Nations.
“This will ensure a long standing utopia, ensuring measures of reciprocal trust” said Ecuador minister of Defence Javier Ponce, who described the decision from the six countries as “a historic moment, a radical change in the regional scenario”.
The six countries involved are Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay. Missing are heavy weights Brazil and Venezuela.
“We expect the rest of the twelve Unasur members to join us in the coming months”, said Ponce Chilean Minister of Defence Andres Allamand said that the ‘opening of the books’ is the result of three years of intense work by a committee made up of Chile, Ecuador and Peru, which agreed and established a common methodology for the assessment and measuring of defence expenditure.
The data with which the commission worked corresponds to the 2006/2010 period, said Allamand adding that the report was delivered to the Unasur Defence Council made up of Unasur Defence ministers and the Defence Strategic Studies Centre, which has been working in Buenos Aires since last May and its main objective is to draft a South American defence doctrine.
Unasur Secretary General Maria Emma Mejia said that agreeing on a basis to assess military expenditure helps to conceive a common defence policy in the future as “a region”, contrasting with the “enormous fears” that existed “ because of the internal security fronts” among South American countries.
The decision helps to break the myth of secrecy involving military expenditure”, said Ponce who added that once the information is consolidated, ministers will then decide if to make it public, or not”.
Another issue was Haiti and Chilean Defence minister Allamand revealed that at the end of April a ministerial meeting at Defence and Foreign Affairs level will be held in Montevideo.
“We need an additional effort in Haiti, in terms of transiting from a stage where security was the emphasis to one where development contribution must be the focus”, said Allamand.
Unasur Defence and Justice Ministers are scheduled to meet in Cartagena, Colombia next 3/4 May to address trans-national crime and regional security affairs.