Lori Johnston from War Child Canada visited the school this week to speak about how wars around the world impact the lives of children and to thank SMUS students for all the fundraising work they have done for her organization, through Keep the Beat and other events. War Child is a non-profit organization that works with children affected by war, including orphans and child soldiers.
“In war, it’s children who pay the highest price,” says Ms. Johnston, who gave a presentation in assembly this Monday as part of the Scholar in Residence programme. In the past ten years, 20 million children died as a direct result of war and another 20 million were displaced from their homes. In countries such as Sierra Leone, Sudan and Ghana, children as young as eight are forced into fighting.
“The use of children in fighting is increasing,” says Ms. Johnston. The estimated number of child soldiers in the world is 300,000, but the actual population is difficult to track and likely much larger.
Ms. Johnston also educated students on the complex international politics that stand in the way of ending global conflicts. For instance, of the five countries that hold 82% of the arms trade market (Russia, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom), all but one (Germany) are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The United States is also home to the three of the five largest companies that produce cluster munitions, which our students campaigned against.
“The global arms trade is one of the greatest threats to humanity today,” says Ms. Johnston.
Though Canada has a history of peace-keeping and global intervention – Canadian John Peters Humphrey wrote the first draft of the international declaration of human rights – Canada is now ranked 60th and donates only 0.3% of its gross national product to overseas aid.
While global conflicts can seem distant, Ms. Johnston points out that globalization connects all countries together. Though Canada may not be supporting the wars raging through Africa, we are involved. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting is fuelled by the country’s supply of coltan, which is used in cell phones, laptops and flat screen televisions.
“War affects all of us,” says Ms. Johnston, “regardless of where and how we live.”