‘Blog’

  • Blog
  • May 24th, 2016

Defence policy review misses big picture

Paul Meyer, a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, is now a Senior Fellow in Space Security and Nuclear Disarmament at the Simons Foundation. In his recent article, Defence policy review too narrow on cyber, space (The Hill Times, 18 May 2016), he demonstrates how our defence review is being dangerously skewed by the lack of a broader foreign policy framework.

Security challenges and the possible responses to them should not be rendered exclusively from a military perspective.

This is the proverbial tail of defence waving the entire dog of global security policy.

There was reason for optimism as the government began its defence policy review last month. The process includes cross country roundtable meetings with non-governmental experts, engaging with Allies, as well as having the House and Senate Committees on National Defence study issues relevant to the review.

However, this optimism has turned to concern as scrutiny of the background discussion paper reveals a narrow focus on largely military responses to the national and international security challenges facing Canada. Says Paul Meyer:

The whole field of non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament, for example, is absent from the discussion paper.

Canada has an array of diplomatic, development, and other non-military tools at its disposal to address contemporary security challenges, and it is therefore essential to examine all options through a “whole of government” approach.

In the area of space security, Meyer notes that the discussion is essentially formulated around threats and military counter-measures:

Where is there an acknowledgement … of Canada’s long-standing support for the non-weaponization of outer space? Or the possibility to use new capacity, such as Canada’s Sapphire satellite, to support verification of envisaged co-operative security arrangements in the “global commons” of outer space?

For the full article, click Paul Meyer on Defence Review. (Because the Hill Times article is only available to subscribers, Paul Meyer has made it available in pdf. format.)

Photo credit: CAF, Egypt

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  • Blog
  • May 19th, 2016

New developments in the fight against sordid Saudi arms deal

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Our April 27th blog post highlighted our Open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to rescind forthwith the export permits approved by Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion for the “unethical and immoral” Saudi arms deal. Since then, we have seen more damning evidence of Saudi repression of the Shia minority at home, as well as newly declassified evidence of the Saudi role in the September 11th attacks.

Most recently, we have learned of the last minute “postponement” by Saudi Arabia of their unseemly and untimely plans for a huge “cultural festival” in Ottawa on May 18-21st. Billed as a showcase for Saudi dancing, cuisine, calligraphy, and Saudi-Canadian relations, one can be sure that seminars on the brutal Saudi justice system (with its ghastly array of beheadings, floggings, and stonings) would not have been on the agenda of this free public event.

‘Logistical’ concerns have derailed the four-day festival planned for this week – says Saudi Embassy in Ottawa

We must contrast that bit of good news with the bombshell in Wednesday’s Globe and Mail in the form of a commentary by veteran Middle East expert and retired Canadian diplomat Michael Bell: “Canada’s new strategy pays off with a seat at the Syria table”.  However able a commentator Bell may be, his argument that we need to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia in order to have a seat at the Syrian peace talks is so misguided as to take one’s breath away.

Canada has played a valuable role in past negotiations precisely because we were an honest broker, able to see things from all sides, not a “yes man” for our heavyweight allies.

What possible use are we at the Syrian peace talks if we cannot propose anything that Saudi Arabia might dislike? –  asks RI President Peggy Mason

We do not have the “hard power” leverage of the United States, Russia, the UK, and France—all permanent members of the UN Security and all major arms dealers—and that is precisely our “soft power” value in proposing solutions that have the greatest chance of working for everyone.

It is also absurd to suggest that sales of Canadian LAVs to Saudi Arabia are necessary to shore up the House of Saud. Rather than yet another sell-out for Saudi cash, what is actually needed is a country with the courage to support President Obama’s none-too-subtle message in his recent Atlantic Magazine interview that the only real way forward for the Kingdom is if it starts to take reforms more seriously at home and co-existence with Iran to heart in the region.

Canada has nothing to offer at the negotiating table as an echo of the big boys who argue that human rights matter when they are violated by the other side’s allies but are irrelevant when grossly violated by our own.

For a reminder of the war crimes in Yemen of which Saudi Arabia stands accused, see: Experts conclude Saudi-led coalition conducted widespread airstrikes against civilian targets in violation of international law.

For a chilling account by Robert Kennedy Jr. of the long history of American interventions in the Middle East, see: Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria: They don’t hate our freedoms. They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries – for oil. (Politico.eu, 3/1/2016).

For the latest on Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, see: Dion to raise human rights concerns during visit to Saudi Arabia (Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, 18 May 2016).

Photo credit: General Dynamics Land Systems

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  • Blog
  • May 12th, 2016

RI President testifies against BMD at National Defence Committee

parliament-clock-610pxOn Thursday May 5th, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason gave testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, during its hearings on the defence of North America.

Her are some of her arguments against Canadian participation in ballistic missile defence (BMD):

The American BMD system (called GMD or ground-based mid-course missile defence) is not reliable despite 30 years of investment and billions of dollars spent.

Strategic BMD is an incentive for Russia and China to build ever more and better offensive systems in order to overwhelm these defences, in case they should ever work and be directed at them.

There is no threat to Canada from either North Korea or Iran.

There is very little likelihood that Canadian participation in missile defence would give Canada the much sought after “seat at the [American] BMD table”.

There will be significant financial costs to Canadian participation.

Click here for her opening statement, which begins at the 9:49:29 mark, followed by that of David Perry, a BMD proponent. The rest of the audio clip includes their answers to questions from Committee members.

Comic relief is provided at the very end of the audio clip at 10:38:35 when ever-clueless Conservative MP and Vice-Chair of the Committee Cheryl Gallant accuses the Rideau Institute of ties with Iran and North Korea, because of a standard drop-down menu used by virtually every online donation site.

Cheryl Gallant – Does Rideau Institute get funding from North Korea?

Amanda Connolly, the iPolitics national security reporter, wrote about these outrageous accusations here: Cheryl Gallant accuses Rideau Institute of ties to Russia, Iran, North Korea. Later, the Broadbent Institute did a little research of their own and found that Gallant’s own riding association had used the same drop-down menu, not to mention the Heritage Foundation and countless others.  See their hilarious article here: Does Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant’s riding association have ties to North Korea too?

Press Progress – Where did Cheryl Gallant’s Easter hams really end up?

On May 10th, at the outset of the hearings for that day, NDP member and Vice-Chair Randall Garrison gave Cheryl Gallant an opportunity to apologize for her baseless accusations against the Rideau Institute, but she declined to do so.  That exchange can be heard at the very beginning of the testimony recorded here. The same day, at the 9:55 am mark, the opening remarks begin of Rideau Institute Board member and Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law (UBC) Michael Byers.

Mason – Canadians must say no to this costly, destabilizing and technologically flawed BMD chimera.

It is discouraging that the Liberal government has re-opened the question of Canadian participation in American BMD, as part of its Defence Policy Review.  Once again it will be up to the Canadian public to let the government know we want no part of the costly, destabilizing, and technically flawed BMD chimera.

 

Photo credit: Library of Parliament

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  • Blog
  • May 4th, 2016

From peacebuilding to sustaining peace

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Global Observatory, a publication of the International Peace Institute, recently featured an analysis of the groundbreaking new vision for the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. See With New Resolutions, Sustaining Peace Sits at Heart of UN Architecture (by Youssef Mahmoud and Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, 29 April 2016).

This holistic vision stands in sharp contrast to the primacy of military approaches that we have seen applied to such disastrous effect in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iraq again.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly adopted identical resolutions on a new vision for the UN’s peacebuilding architecture on April 27th. This was the culmination of a tireless intergovernmental negotiation process guided by the findings and recommendations of last year’s The Challenge of Sustaining Peace report, produced by a group of experts convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

But what exactly is “sustaining peace”? And how will the UN’s key peacebuilding instruments work within this new conceptual framework?

The preamble of the dual resolution defines sustaining peace as including:

activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing root causes, assisting parties to conflict to end hostilities, ensuring national reconciliation, and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.

It is an inherently political process that spans prevention, mediation, conflict management, and resolution.

This expansive definition means putting UN member states and their populations in the lead, putting politics and political solutions front and center, giving prevention an uncontested home, and leveraging the UN’s three pillars—human rights, peace and security, and development—in a mutually reinforcing way.

From Peacebuilding to Sustaining Peace

During the General Assembly debate following the adoption of the resolution, most member states hailed the conceptual shift from peacebuilding to sustaining peace as transformative and forward-looking. It means peacebuilding is no longer confined to post-conflict situations but applies to all phases: before the outbreak, during the conflict, and after it has abated.

Sustaining peace is “a goal and a process to build a common vision of society,” according to the new resolution. Its building blocks include:

– greater links between peace, development, and human rights;
– inclusive national ownership, where local actors have a consistent voice and women and youth play a critical role; and
– more strategic and close partnerships with diverse stakeholders.

All require sustained support and attention by the international community.

With “sustaining peace” now firmly in the mindsets of member states, the General Assembly resolution decided that the Assembly will convene a high-level meeting in September 2017 on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace.”

For the full analysis, see With New Resolutions, Sustaining Peace Sits at Heart of UN Architecture (by Youssef Mahmoud and Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, 29 April 2016.)

 

Photo credit: UN Photos: UN General Assembly

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  • Blog
  • April 27th, 2016

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Saudi Arms Deal

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At a well-attended press conference on Parliament Hill today, Roy Culpeper (Group of 78),  Peggy Mason (Rideau Institute), Alex Neve (Amnesty International Canada) and Cesar Jaramillo (Project Ploughshares) released an OPEN LETTER to the Prime Minister on the Saudi arms deal 25 April 2016 . The letter had been signed by a total of 15 Canadian non-governmental organizations, listed below.

The letter states in part:

We, the undersigned, wish to express our profound concerns about the issuance of export permits for Canada’s multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, despite the flagrant incompatibilities of this contract with the human rights safeguards of our export controls.

To provide such a large supply of lethal weapons to a regime with such an appalling record of human rights abuses is immoral and unethical. The spirit and letter of both domestic export controls and international law support this view. The government has had every opportunity to uphold this position, but has chosen not to. We therefore ask the government to rescind the export permits, ensuring that this deal does not go ahead unless and until relevant human rights concerns have been resolved.

Of this we are convinced, Prime Minister: the decision to proceed with this arms deal undermines not only the public’s trust in our export control system, but also the core values that define Canada’s character as a nation.

Click on the link for the full copy of the  OPEN LETTER to the Prime Minister on the Saudi arms deal 25 April 2016

Pour la version française, cliquez LETTRE_OUVERTE_AU_ PM_L’Arabie_Saoudite_25 April 2016.

For the Globe and Mail article on the Press Conference, click on Saudi arms deal breaks Canada’s export controls, opponents argue (CP, 27 April 2016). See also Canada breaking export control rules, violating Trudeau’s feminism with Saudi deal, say critics (Janice Dickson, iPolitics 27 April, 2016).

The organizations that signed this Open Letter are listed below.

Roy Culpeper, Chair: Group of 78

Fergus Watt, Executive Director: World Federalist Movement Canada

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director: Project Ploughshares

Pierre Jasmin, Vice-President: Artists for Peace

Peggy Mason, President: Rideau Institute

Béatrice Vaugrante, Directrice Générale: Amnistie internationale Canada francophone

Alex Neve, Secretary General: Amnesty International Canada English

Julia Sanchez, President-CEO: Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC)

Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Thomas Woodley, President: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Paul Hannon, Executive Director: Mines Action Canada

Silke Reichrath, Director: Brooke Valley Research for Education in Nonviolence

Professor John Packer, Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa

Nicole Filion, Coordiatrice: Ligue des droits et libertés

Metta Spencer, President: Science for Peace

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