Guns, armies and aid

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“Globally, we invest ten times as much money fighting and killing one another as ensuring that the children of this world have the opportunity to go to school, to be fed, to be vaccinated and to have access to clean water and other basic needs through basic development assistance,” announced Samantha Nutt, founder of international organization War Child, to the crowd gathered at Knox Presbyterian Church in Waterloo on Feb. 27.

Nutt’s keynote speech was the captivating conclusion to an evening dedicated to the recognition of locally based non-governmental organization Project Ploughshares, which was celebrating its 35th anniversary. The organization gathers information to inform policy on issues such as nuclear disarmament, control of weapons trade and other peace-building initiatives.

“We believe that other outcomes are possible, outcomes other than more war,” stated Nutt in solidarity with the theme of hope that characterized the evening’s events. “And that if we choose to pursue and invest in these other outcomes, we can achieve peace, for a fraction of the cost of our ongoing militarization.”

With a wealth of practical experience and unabashed, yet intellectually-grounded idealism, Nutt combated the scepticism which is often directed toward those who engage in development work.

“It’s as if those of us who struggle to articulate in and invest in solutions, it’s as if we are somehow assumed to be less intellectually astute than those who are mired in cynicism,” she said.

“And let me just say that these are, in my experience, vacuous assertions that are levelled by those who lack the creative and intellectual fortitude to propose and debate alternatives.”

Although she too has questioned in the past the impact of her work against overwhelming global problems, small victories have helped her sustain hope.
Nutt referenced the tragic story of a woman in Sudan whose family had been murdered before her by Janjaweed militia. Lacking skills such as reading, writing and basic math, her future promised continuing struggles. Through engagement with education programs provided by War Child, the woman was able to proudly write her own name for the first time.

“There is never a failure of opportunity to effect change,” Nutt declared. “I think that we are simply, tragically, too often paralyzed by our own unwillingness to even try.”

Nutt also openly supported the work of Project Ploughshares, acknowledging it as an organization “that is grassroots to its very core, but that also refuses, and has refused for the now three and a half decades, to cede to political and corporate interests.”

The NGO has done a significant amount of work in the field of peace-building and has a long list of accomplishments to its name, not the least of which has been providing policy recommendations to prominent political figures such as Pierre Trudeau and Lloyd Axworthy, as well as contributing to international discussions at the United Nations.

“Project Ploughshares is known for more than being an effective thinktank, for cutting edge research and advocacy in contemporary tough issues as they’re taking place,” added Lowell Ebert, director of peace and conflict studies at Conrad Grebel University College, with which the organization is affiliated.

“Project Ploughshares is also known by the quality of the character of the people who it has attracted to work for it and who are inspired to support it financially, morally and spiritually.”

The event also served as a fundraiser for Project Ploughshares, though contributions were of a voluntary nature. Information can be found at ploughshares.ca.

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