UN Peacekeeping needs Canada's help
On Peacekeepers' Day in Canada (August 9)
"Now is the time for Canada to start re-engaging in UN peacekeeping," says Fergus Watt, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Canada. "The announced withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2011 provides an opportunity for us to direct our military leadership and expertise to missions where they are urgently needed by the world community."
Demand growing for UN Missions
In 2010, the United Nations has deployed more peacekeepers than at any time in the organization’s history. With over 124,000 troops, civilians and police, the UN currently supports more people in the field than any body in the world except the US government – more than UK, France, China and Russia combined. And demand for UN peacekeeping is expected to rise, not fall, in the coming years.
Multidimensional peace operations today require military and civilian teams with diverse capabilities to co-ordinate humanitarian aid, protect civilians, disarm and reintegrate former combatants, strengthen state structures and arrest indicted war criminals. Regional organizations such as NATO and the EU cannot match the range of civilian and military services that the UN provides. And the international and legal character of UN-led and UN-authorized missions gives unparalleled legitimacy to any UN peace operation.
Canada can make a dramatic difference
While the UN is at an historic high in the number of uniformed personnel deployed, reaching 100,000 for the first time in its history in 2010, Canada’s military contribution is languishing at only 63 soldiers. “Since 2006,” reports Dr. Walter Dorn, “Canada has been ranked 50th or lower among peacekeeping contributors, a drastic fall from its former standing as the number one contributor at points in the 1990s and through much of the Cold War.” Dr. Dorn, as Chair of the Department of Security and International Affairs at the Canadian Forces College, also laments that Canadian soldiers do not receive proper training and education for UN deployments. “We’re trying to fix that,” he says.
“UN peace operations save thousands of lives," says defence analyst Peter Langille. "Canada's advanced military and logistics capabilities could play a vital role in making these missions more successful. And as a majority of Canadians already favour a peacekeeping role for Canada, it's time for the Canadian government to pledge significant support for future UN peace operations."
Langille adds, “With serious discussions taking place at the UN on protection of civilians and prevention of armed conflict, Canada could also demonstrate leadership by championing a standing United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). A UNEPS would provide the UN with a strategic reserve and a rapid deployment capability to respond to crises before they escalate."
Background on Peacekeeping
'We the Peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war......'
- Charter of the United Nations, signed June 26 1945
- Peacekeepers' Day in Canada was created to recognize the high level of professionalism, dedication and courage of Canadians past, present and future serving in faraway places in the cause of peace - members of Canada's Armed Forces, diplomatic service, RCMP and provincial and municipal police forces.
- Canada's Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for developing the first United Nations peacekeeping force during the 1956 Suez crisis. These missions were characterized by interposition between armed forces, consent of the parties, impartiality, and minimum use of force.
- The UN has never had permanent standing peacekeeping forces. The United Nations Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS) comprises a growing list of personnel and resources that numerous governments have offered the UN on a conditional basis.
- Peace operations changed significantly after the Cold War. There have been many more missions, usually within states rather than between warring nations, and often conducted in co-ordination with regional and intergovernmental organizations. The tasks have become more complex requiring additional civilian personnel for humanitarian assistance, electoral and human rights monitoring, demining, and institution building.
- According to the Human Security Report, an unprecedented upsurge of international peace activism in the wake of the Cold War has led to substantial reductions in war casualties. Unfortunately not all peace efforts were successful. Catastrophes like Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans and Darfur have underscored the UN's inability to protect all civilians from the scourge of war, "ethnic cleansing" and genocide.
- Responding to these tragic limitations, a Canadian-commissioned report published in 2001 titled 'Responsibility to Protect (R2P)' argues that the international community must act when states fail to protect their populations from grave threats involving large scale loss of life. This responsibility to protect begins with active measures of prevention, sanctions military intervention where unavoidable, and obligates nations to rebuild subsequently.
- At a time when the UN is revamping its institutional structures for peacekeeping and when demand for peacekeeping operations continues to grow, Canada has seen its contribution to UN Peacekeeping fall dramatically over the last ten years.
- A current initiative is a call for the creation of a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS), a group of 15,000 or more police, military and judicial experts, engineers, and relief professionals sent to areas in need of immediate attention. UNEPS would help in stabilization while countries iron out the longer-term details.