To facilitate greater exchange of grassroots knowledge, resources, best practices, and lessons learned, we are conducting a series of guest interviews to sustain both public and private conversations about critical and timely issues.
This week we are discussing the economics of peace with Kathy Crandall Robinson. Kathy is the Senior Public Policy Director for Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), where she leads policy and advocacy strategy development.
Her work focuses on Congressional budget processes, nuclear weapons policy, Pentagon spending, and promoting the agenda for women, peace, and security. She manages the WAND Washington, D.C. office and acts as Political Director managing WAND’s PAC.
Kathy Robinson: I am the senior policy director at Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND.org). The new directions we are seeking at WAND lead towards peace and prosperity and away from weapons and war, and our focus is to empower and engage women to lead in those new directions. We do our work primarily through educating U.S. policymakers and shaping policies that lead toward peace and prosperity. Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL) is a feature program of WAND that equips and engages women state legislators in pursuing WAND goals for peace and prosperity.
A key piece of our work is related to the federal budget. Year after year we see over half of the discretionary budget that Congress appropriates annually go to Pentagon spending on weapons and war, leaving tiny pieces of the budget pie for investments in everything else – education, health care, environmental protection, energy development, and more.
WAND leaders, especially including our WiLL legislators know how devastating it is in our states and communities to be shortchanged on needed investments for things like safe drinking water , disease prevention (like stopping the Zika virus), Head Start programs, or domestic violence shelters. Meanwhile the Defense Department gobbles up more money than any other agency and yet is the only federal department that does not even conduct an audit.
Forum On Women: What are the parameters of defining world peace? Are you optimistic that world peace can be achieved under the current global economic and political environment? Do you think things are getting better or worse today?
Kathy Robinson: The focus this year of this year’s International Day of Peace on the Sustainable Development Goals as building blocks for peace gives me great hope. The SDG’s set out clear measurable goals and we’re seeing real progress.
Keeping the focus and the pressure on this effort is vitally important. At the same time, globally we must curb the spending on the machinery of war that leads inevitably to more war and violence. If we don’t stop feeding the growth war and violence, there is no way that peace will prevail. (For more see my Huffington Post column Day of Peace – Where Do We Put our Money.)
Forum On Women: Do you think the United Nations and leading developed nations like the US and UK are sufficiently contributing to world peace through their actions and policies?
Kathy Robinson: It is striking how much more the United States could contribute to world peace if budget priorities were shifted. For example, the United States is planning to spend a trillion dollars over the next thirty years on building up the next generation of nuclear weapons. (And it must be noted that this will drive a nuclear arms race globally.)
If we used even a fraction of that trillion dollars on schools, on disease prevention, on violence and terrorism prevention and other peace and development goals, this would be a remarkable contribution to creating sustainable peace and security,
Forum On Women: If you could exercise some sort of control over the direction of things, what would you like to see happen in the next 10 years? One year?
Kathy Robinson: In the United States, there will soon be a new President and a new Congress. I hope that this is the year that regardless of party affiliation, leaders will work together to remake budget priorities with investments that are needed in U.S. communities and also with smart investments in diplomacy and development globally. At the same time, fiscal scrutiny of the Pentagon, war and nuclear weapons budget should mean finding cost savings that allow us to invest more where it is needed.
After a decade of reshaping budget priorities, I hope that there will be a new norm in the thinking of our policymakers. No longer would they consider billions more for failed and, unworkable weapons systems like missile defense, or the F-35 when they see the value and effectiveness of dollars spent stopping the spread of Zika, or finding a cure for cancer. No longer would they consider spending a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons when their possible use poses an existential threat. Instead the budget battles would be on things like how to make preschool programs most effective, how to make sure no refugee or displaced child misses out on school, and how to make college affordable.
Forum On Women: Who do you think should be held accountable making peace happen?
Kathy Robinson: In the United States, “we the people” must hold our elected officials accountable. We have to make it clear that we prioritize peace and prosperity over war and weapons and that needs to be reflected in policies and especially in the budget.
Forum On Women: How would you urge people to help and get involved? What advice would you give? What specific actions should people take to help?
Kathy Robison: Especially for everyone in the United States, everyone must vote. This year is a momentous Presidential election, and there are key decisions in shaping the next Congress as well.
Next, regardless of the outcome of the election, develop relationships with key policymakers. Meet with them and tell them your stories and your priorities. Tell them your opinion when key decisions are being made about the budget, or key votes are happening in Congress.
Internationally, stories from voices of civil society of what’s happening, what’s needed and what impact the United States role are vitally important as well. I’d love to invite everyone to receive WAND email action alerts, and news of other opportunities to engage in steering towards the new directions of peace and prosperity.
Kathy is a graduate of Earlham College and obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado. Kathy has been published on a number of issues including opinion pieces on nuclear weapons dismantlement, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and Pentagon spending and budget politics. Kathy is a contributor to the Huffington Post.