My apologies for my lack of entries on this blog. I am hoping to catch up today. It is a dreary rainy day with a continual drizzle - making it ideal for some writing.
These past two weeks I have had the opportunity to take in two different talks which I would like to share. At first they may seem like different topics, but by the end of this blog you may discover a similar thread running through. The first was a speech given my Dr. Samantha Nutt, director of War Child Canada, a NGO which works in war-torn countries working to protect and advocate for women and children. What struck me initially was how young Dr. Nutt was, only 34 years of age, a young attractive women with obvious confidence and a passion for her work. She started War Child Canada 10 years ago which would have made her only 24 at its inception. As she presented her knowledge of developing world conflicts and their root causes became quite apparent.
Her first experience in a war-torn country was in Somalia with UNICEF. What impacted her the most was the sheer number of guns in the country and the many children that operated them. This led her to an investigation into the gun market. What she found was shocking: in most developing countries it is easier to get access to a gun then it is to get clean drinking water!! In most of these countries it costs as little as $6 for an AK-47. The ease and availability of these weapons is a huge contributor to the war and violence in these countries.
But what makes these weapons so accessible and affordable to such people? The question is not what but who... Countries such as the US, Russia, China, and Britain are selling more weapons today then ever before. And Canada? Dr. Nutt said that Canada ranks 6th in the world in weapons sales to the outside world. I was shocked!!
I just read part of a paper entitled "Arms Without Borders: Why a globalised trade needs global control" that can be found on following website: http://www.controlarms.org/en. It states,
Excluding China, for whose companies there is insufficient data, 85 of the
world’s top 100 arms companies in 2003 were headquartered in the industrialised
world. This paper shows how many of them (including Canada’s Pratt and Whitney,
Germany’s Mercedes-Benz and the UK’s BAE Systems) have been involved in exports of weapon systems from China, Egypt, India and South Africa to sensitive
destinations including Indonesia, Sudan and Uganda. In all those destinations,
those or similar weapons and military equipment have been used to commit serious
I briefly checked out Pratt and Whitney Canada's website and saw that they are an aviation engine provider. Strangely, in the midst of their professional website advertising the latest in "green" aviation engine technology I did not find out if they were exporting weapons into the above countries. Even the suspicion that they were troubles me. What it makes me realize is that many of the problems in developing countries are intimately connected with globalized economies of the developed countries. If you want more evidence of this pick up a recent documentary entitled Darwin's Nightmare which observed the trade of Tilapia fish for Kalashnikov weapons in Tanzania, East Africa.
Many of you may have learned of the nasty diamond trade that was going on in Sierra Leone from the blockbuster film Blood Diamond but did you know that a similar corrupt industry is taking place with the sale of a metallic ore called Coltan in the DR Congo (aka black gold)? It is an ore which is used to make many electronics including cell phones, computers, and video game consoles. It is estimated that the DRC is home to 80% of the world's Coltan reserves. A familiar story follows: instead of helping the Congolese people Coltan is fueling what is now being called the Playstation War... Here is an excerpt from an advocacy group called "Toward Freedom" about the topic:
The PlayStation War. The name came about because of a black metallic ore called
coltan. Extensive evidence shows that during the war hundreds of millions of
dollars worth of coltan was stolen from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The UN and several NGOs claim some of the most active thieves were the Rwandan
military, several militias supported by the Rwandan government, and also a
number of western-based mining companies, metal brokers, and metal processors
that had allegedly partnered with these Rwandan factions... "Kids in Congo were
being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill
imaginary aliens in their living rooms," said British politician Oona King, who
was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2005.
Dr. Nutt said that the Colton produced in the Congo is then sold to Rwanda in exchange for weapons by different militias. Over 50% of the soldiers in these militias are under 16 years old. It is estimated that 5.4 million people have died in the Congo since 1998, a large part due to the conflict over the resources that blanket the beautiful country.
What can be done about all of this? Dr. Nutt offered four answers:
1. Get informed. Click onto www.warchild.ca or some of the other websites I mentioned and educate yourself.
2. If you care please give. Does it seem fair that products we use everyday are costing the lives of people in the third world? We must contribute towards organizations like War Child whom are on the ground trying to address the root causes of these conflicts and they need resources to do this.
3. Watch your shopping? Question whether the things you are buying are ethically sound. Ask store workers and managers questions. We have power as consumers and producers are doing their best to cater to our demands.
4. Equality - Are our lives here just as important as lives elsewhere. This is an easy answer but hard to live out. Lets do our best to think globally and act locally.
After her talk Dr. Nutt gave an opportunity for a question and answer period. I asked her what she thought about the worth of a group of us going over to Uganda when the money for our trips could be used to help people in the country. She first assured us and my school administrators that Uganda is very safe. She then said that the experience will make the lives of people in the third world real to us and that it would change what we value back home. In her own words, "After being in Africa, there was no way I could go back to living the way I did before in Canada."
Hope this blog was insightful. Sorry I didn't get to my talk on Clean Energy and the future of Uranium development in Saskatchewan. I will try to get to it later this week. Again, please feel free to comment. Thanks. JC.