Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act 2017 (CAATSA), a US Federal Law, which imposes new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia, empowers the US President to impose at least 05 or more of the entitled sanctions on persons engaging in transactions with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.

However, these sanctions are considered illicit under international law by various states of the world due to its extra-territorial reach. In furtherance, its waiver clause that can be used by the President, makes this act more provocative. This wavier was generally viewed as a workaround to avoid making India suffer collateral damage from CAATSA sanctions over its S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system deal with Russia.

Now, is the time to look at the providence of CAATSA, is there any worth of CAATSA in the COVID-19 pandemic? Legislation of such extra-territorial nature must be for the cause of humanity. The sanctions have to be imposed on the states showing a lack of interest in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their specific parameters to ensure a better and sustainable future for all mankind.

Moreover, the UN General Assembly passes 50 to 60 resolutions unanimously or by a majority vote every year for restricting the arms race but only to fall on deaf ears thereof. Imagine, what kind of place the world would have been if only the money being thrown away on arms production had been channelled into schemes designed for the welfare of people? More than a trillion dollars have been spent on the Afghan war so far. This sum is enough to make Afghanistan a fairyland.

The world spends $1.8 trillion on military expenditure every year and is scheduled to spend $1 trillion dollars on new nuclear weapons in the next 20 years for the security of its citizens.

Conversely, almost thousands of people had died due to COVID-19 outbreak, drawing crystal clear milieu of healthcare facilities all over the world and developed states as well. World military exercises cost more than $1 billion each year, and arms production and arms exports are on the increase in the world’s leading economies. We cannot sweep these facts under the carpet.

Military spending is 50 percent higher today than at the end of the Cold War. Billions are spent on military research, money which would be better invested in healthcare, human needs and research to help the fight against global climate change. Militarization is the wrong path for the world to take; it fuels tensions and raises the potential for war and conflict and aggravates already heightened nuclear tensions. Countries can only keep away from the arms race in a utopian and global society.

In the present scenario, there is a dire need of self-examination on the part of world powers amid all other countries and to come forward as all of them can draw lessons for the future.

The United Nations must call on all the worlds’ leadership for the cause of global healthcare. We now have an opportunity to reshape global and country-to-country relations. Put geo-political tensions to one side, which have blighted global cooperation in recent years and work to ensure that a spirit of peace prevails. The world’s attention to the increasing velocity of the global arms race must now end as our communities are paying a high price due to diverted resources away from basic health and welfare of the people.

We are now experiencing the result of a lack of healthcare research and infrastructure. Hospitals are overburdened, nurses are exhausted, and medical equipment is scarce. Life and death decisions are made on who can and cannot have access to the scarce number of ventilators available. All over the world, health systems are reaching the limits of their strength and heroic front-line staff are under massive pressure. Older people are vulnerable and need help. The virus hits the weakest hardest. Privatisation, austerity measures and the neoliberal system have brought the local, regional and national health services to the brink of collapse.

The UN must urge world leaders to put disarmament and peace back in the centre of policymaking. Global leaders must have to develop a new agenda for disarmament, which includes the banning of nuclear weapons. Without it, the world is handicapping its fight against future health glitches, to eradicate poverty, hunger, to provide education and healthcare for all, as well as the realisation of the SDGs 2030 goals.

Disarmament is one of the keys to the great transformation of our societies to ensure that human life is the most valued; and societies are more vigilant to the issue of climate change and the healthcare crisis.

The writer is a law graduate and civil servant at Civil Secretariat Lahore. He tweets

@asfantariq and can be reached at asfantariq@gmail.com

The world spends $1.8 trillion on military expenditure every year.