First aired on Mansbridge One on One (24/10/11)
In 1995, after studying international development and medicine, 25-year-old Samantha Nutt headed to Somalia, confident that she could make a difference. What she saw there shocked her, and sent her on a remarkable career path. Now, the co-founder and executive director of War Child Canada, who is also a professor and practicing physician, can add author to her impressive resumé. In her new book, Damned Nations, she documents the horrors of life in a war zone and the ways in which the international aid industry is a contributing factor — and what we can do to change things for the better.
Global development and international aid are complex issues. According to Nutt, decisions we make every day have an impact on developing nations. She wants Canadians to understand exactly how aid works, and what our dollars do for war-torn countries. "The best of intentions don't guarantee the best outcomes," Nutt explained to Peter Mansbridge in a recent interview. "We have a responsibility to know what we are doing, why we're doing it and to really focus and concentrate our efforts."
Nutt believes we need to take into consideration the global impact of all of our decisions, not just the obvious one of choosing which charities to support. According to Nutt, contemporary Western society thrives on the creation and support of wars. Pension plans, natural resource extraction, technological developments and more all rely on international conflict. "We are consumers of war. It's in everything we do," Nut said. "We think of conflict as being very far removed from our daily lives, but in fact, it's pretty much in everything we do every day."
Nutt believes Canada needs to become a visionary force and a leader in international aid. Once a worldwide leader when it came to peacekeeping, we're falling behind and losing perspective on the global impact of our actions. "We need to take a look at our actions very closely," she said. "We're missing opportunities to really promote employment through development, skills training, education."
Instead, Nutt says, Canada is currently in a devastating cycle where military spending is growing, along with military involvement in aid, and the safety of the soldiers, aid workers and civilians in war-torn countries is increasingly in jeopardy.
"We're constantly racing to catch up and that's the cycle that has to be broken."
Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, and Aid
by Samantha Nutt
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From the publisher:
"In 1995, twenty-five-year-old Samantha Nutt, a recent medical-school graduate and a field volunteer for UNICEF, touched down in Baidoa, Somalia, 'the City of Death.' What she saw there — gangs of young men roaming the streets armed with rocket launchers; a woman in a clinic line holding a dead baby; an aid agency working in such an unsafe environment that its workers had to travel with armed escorts high on drugs — would spur her on to a lifetime of passionate advocacy for children and families in war-torn areas around the world. Damned Nations is the brilliant distillation of Dr. Nutt's observations over the course of fifteen years providing hands-on care in some of the world's most violent flashpoints, all the while building the world class non-profit War Child North America. Combining original research with her personal story, it is a deeply thoughtful meditation on war as it is being waged around the world against millions of civilians — primarily women and children. Nutt's boundless energy, dedication, and compassion shine through on every page as she lays out real, lasting solutions to these problems and shows how to move beyond outdated notions of charity towards a more progressive, inclusive, and respectful world view."
Read more at McClelland & Stewart.