The world spends far more on military intervention than humanitarian aid that can break the cycle of violence, the founder of a charity that helps children in war zones said in a lecture at Elizabethtown College.
Samantha Nutt, a Canadian physician and founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA, gave the 2017 Carlos R. and Georgiana E. Leffler Memorial Lecture at Elizabethtown College on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Nutt said she did not mean to suggest that there is no role for military intervention, but that the extreme imbalance of military vs. humanitarian efforts needs to be reconsidered.
“That balance right now deserves greater scrutiny,” Nutt said, adding that $249 is spent per person each year on war, 12 times what is spent on humanitarian efforts.
Nutt said deliveries of food, water and vaccines are pretty simple when nobody gets in the way.
“We know how to do that. It’s actually very straightforward,” Nutt said. But she said those efforts are sabotaged at every turn by “drugged-up, trigger-happy adolescent boys with Kalashnikov rifles.”
Kalashnikov rifles are automatic weapons developed by the Soviet Union shortly after World War II. The design is still in use many decades later because of its low cost and light weight. Nutt said Kalashnikov rifles sell for $10 in war-torn countries; nobody knows how many there are, but the best estimates are that more than half a billion exist.
Nutt said most of the small arms are exported from six countries: 80 percent come from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) plus Germany.
Nutt said she wants to see arms makers exercise due diligence before exporting guns to make sure they will not be used to attack civilians. One thing that would help is an arms treaty that has been accepted by a number of countries, but it is not in force in the United States because the Senate did not ratify it after President Barack Obama signed it.
Nutt said some of the worst violence comes in mining areas, specifically in places where “conflict minerals” are mined. Those minerals are tin, copper, tungsten, gold and coltan. The last of those is a mineral most people have not heard of, but Nutt said it is used in nearly all modern electronic devices to make them work faster.
Nutt said eastern Congo is believed to have 60 to 80 percent of the world’s coltan supply and the mining there generates hundreds of millions of dollars. This mining is what finances a lot of the violence in the region, Nutt said.