With its Global Militarization Index (GMI), BICC is able to objectively depict worldwide militarization for the first time. The GMI compares, for example, a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its health expenditure. It contrasts the total number of military and paramilitary forces in a country with the number of physicians. Finally, it studies the number of heavy weapons available to a country’s armed forces. These and other indicators are used to determine a country’s ranking, which in turn makes it possible to measure the respective level of militarization in comparison to other countries.
The GMI includes historical as well as current data, starting in the 1990s up to 2011, the most recent year for which data has been available. It provides further detailed analyses of specific regional or national developments. BICC’s aim is to contribute towards the debate on militarization and to highlight the often inconsistent distribution of resources.
The initial results of the GMI show clear regional differences. The Middle East is probably the most highly militarized region in the world. Five of the ten countries with the world’s highest level of militarization are to be found there. This indicates the outstanding position of the military apparatus compared with the rest of society.
In many countries, excessive militarization hinders the necessary structural change of the economic and social framework conditions and enforces development deficits in its industry and agriculture. On the other hand, a low degree of militarization can also be problematic and thus hinder development as it can point to fundamental deficits in the security sector. A weak or not functioning security sector cannot prevent violence and conflicts which negatively affect the population and its development as it cannot successfully enforce and uphold a monopoly of violence. One result is often fragile and weak states in which economic growth and development cannot prosper.
These examples illustrate the dilemma of the debate. The GMI is attempting to dispel the wide assumption that a high level of militarization is bad and a low level per se good, and to contribute to a new approach on studying militarization. An assessment of the situation requires the specific consideration and analysis of individual countries and regions—and the GMI is the right tool for evaluating the development orientation of states as well as regional developments.