Award-winning activist discusses global conflicts

Samantha Seely December 7, 2017 0

Thursday, Nov. 30, Elizabethtown College welcomed founder of the North American branches of the War Child organization and award-winning humanitarian Dr. Samantha Nutt to speak for the annual Carlos R. and Georgiana E. Leffler Memorial Lecture.

The focus of her lecture was on the global wars and conflicts, and how the current responses to world conflicts—often involving increased military spending and military interventions—do little to alleviate the root causes of war. Nutt argued that there needs to be more of a balance between humanitarian and military strategies.

Many of the facts demonstrated how imbalanced our current response to conflicts are.

For instance, $249 per person on earth is spent on war, which is twelve times more than what is spent on humanitarian assistance.

“The most surprising fact I learned was how, for every arm that is sold legally, there’s two sold illegally,” sophomore Hannah Mason said.

Overall, there are more than 800 million small arms and light weapons in the world, the majority of which are produced in countries like the United States, Russia, China, Germany and France. However, the majority of small arms end up in the Global South, in the Middle East and Africa, where the majority of wars are clustered.

“Eliminating the means of violence is the only way to eliminate violence and get anywhere close to world peace,” first-year Michael Derr-Haverlach said.

While the sale of weapons is a major contributing factor to the conflicts in the world, it is not the only one. Another serious contributing factor is the mining and purchasing of minerals, most notably coltan, which is used to make our electronic devices.

The closer you are to a mining site of coltan, the higher the rates of rape with extreme violence are. A survivor of one such rape with extreme violence, Medine, told Nutt of her experience, saying, “All of this is for you. We die, for nothing.”

Photo by Emma Pile

Despite the horrors of these conflicts, getting people removed from the conflict to care and to take action proves to be difficult.

“There’s this perception around international humanitarian assistance, is that it’s foreign, and it doesn’t have a direct benefit here, so on average, less than 10 percent of donations each year go to international humanitarian causes,” Nutt said.

“A lot of the money goes to hospital foundations or educational foundations, things where people can put their names on buildings. The idea of donating to support people living with war and violence in a way that might not be fully recognized here, that presents a huge number of barriers.”

The lecture closed with Nutt discussing the best three ways people can actually help end global conflicts. The first thing she requested was for everyone to take 15 minutes every day to read one piece of international news involving human rights or geopolitical issues.

Without knowledge and information outside of our own echo chambers, Nutt feels that social change will not happen.

The second thing she mentioned was how to make donations count. While many humanitarian organizations encourage people to donate hard goods, such as food or used clothes, or encourage people to go for a few weeks to do busy-work philanthropy, these efforts do not provide long-term solutions and may cause more harm than good. What actually helps? The answer is smaller, but regular, monthly donations to organizations focused on helping communities become self-sufficient.

“It’s not just about charity cases,” senior Winsum Chang said. “It’s all about small incremental improvements. It’s about not trying to have this savior complex with people.”

The final way to help is to make sure the way people shop and invest is ethical. Nutt stated that people need to question the systems that continue to allow and encourage the profit off war, or ending conflict and war will be much more difficult.

Prior to the lecture, students and faculty were able to attend a dinner with refugees who have settled in the Lancaster area and were able to hear their stories. Friday, Dec. 1, students were able to have a class with Nutt.

There was also a lunch and panel discussion on the resettlement efforts in the Lancaster area.

The work being done to help dispel harmful narratives and myths about refugees and to help the refugees who have been able to come to America gives Nutt hope.

“That part, I think, has been very hopeful, because I don’t see a lot of complacency. I see the opposite,” Nutt said.

“I see people who are actually getting out of bed because they feel so passionate about the prevailing narrative and how to react against it.”

Nutt also has a book out, titled “Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid.”

More information about War Child and how to help can be found at


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