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  • September 26th, 2016

Colombia peace deal shows power of mediation

unsc-approves-mission-to-monitor-peace-dealOn August 24, 2016 an historic peace deal was reached between the FARC rebels and the government of Colombia, after four years of secret negotiations.

The five-decade-long conflict, rooted in Colombia’s unique land distribution and political exclusion of large segments of the population, has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC radio’s The Current, interviewed Norwegian diplomat Dag Nyland, who mediated those secret negotiations. Click on “Inside 4 years of secret negotiations to reach Colombia’s peace agreement” (21 September 2016) for the full interview.

One of the central parts of these peace talks was hearing from victims of the violence.

These were mothers and fathers who had lost their children. These were people that were maimed by anti-personnel mines. These were people that had been subject of kidnappings…. – Dag Nylander

The peace deal was signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on September 19th, and on October 2nd there will be a referendum on the deal.

Without the support of the Colombian population the peace agreement won’t work. – Dag Nylander

Like the decades long civil war in Colombia, the overwhelming majority of wars end in military stalemate with the underlying grievances still unresolved until they are settled at the negotiating table. Particularly important to successful talks will generally be the assistance of unbiased, expert mediators like Norway’s Dag Nylander.

For much more on “winning the peace”, see “Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot be Won on the Battlefield” by famed peace activist Ernie Regehr (September 2015, Between the Lines publishers).

September 26, 2016 Update:  Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion announces further Canadian support for implementation of the Colombia peace accord.  See: Dion announces further Canadian support (Global Affairs Canada).

Photo credit: UN News photo showing Security Council approval of mission to monitor Colombia peace deal.

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  • Blog
  • September 19th, 2016

Join in global efforts to abolish nuclear weapons

14192042_10155041930122069_1472098946174328510_nRideau Institute President Peggy Mason was honoured to speak at the international conference Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World  in Astana, Kazakhstan on August 30th.

She began her remarks, entitled, A-Canadian-Defence-Policy-that-moves-towards-Security-without-Nuclear-Weapons-or-War with:

Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev in his Manifesto of the World for the 21st Century set out a visionary, yet clear and practical programme for achieving security without reliance on nuclear weapons or war of any kind. He builds his plan on the central principles of the UN Charter: the peaceful resolution of disputes, the non-threat or use of force, the importance of human development and the common security of all states.

The conference brought together parliamentarians, NGOs, academic experts, UN representatives, and other diplomats to reaffirm the fervent desire of the vast majority of the peoples of the world to achieve nuclear abolition. The proceedings culminated with the adoption of The Astana Vision: From a Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-World:

Deeply concerned for the future of all humanity, and encouraged by the example of Kazakhstan in the field of nuclear disarmament we affirm the possibility and necessity to achieve the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world in our lifetimes. (Final paragraph of Declaration).

Following the conference, participants had the opportunity to visit the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk, where over a 40-year period a total of 456 nuclear bombs were detonated, 116 of which were above ground. The cumulative radiation inflicted on the Kazakh people was equivalent to 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The UN General Assembly, the forum where every one of the 193 UN member states has a vote, began its 71st session on 13 September. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has made clear the priority he hopes UN member states will give to the urgent goal of nuclear disarmament:

The consequences of any further use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or by mistake, would be horrific. When it comes to our common objective of nuclear disarmament, we must not delay — we must act now.

The Liberal Cabinet is in the process of deciding how Canada will vote when the UN First Committee of the General Assembly considers the Geneva Report of the OEWG (discussed in our blog post of 26 August last: Canada Spurns UN Nuclear Disarmament Plan).

We call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure that Canada’s vote will be unambiguously in favour of this groundbreaking report, calling as it does for nuclear abolition negotiations to commence in 2017.

Let’s make 2017 the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

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  • Blog
  • September 7th, 2016

Peter Langille: UN peace operations need Canada’s expertise




In light of the Liberal government’s commitment to increase Canada’s participation in UN peacekeeping efforts and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s five-country tour in Africa, Peter Langille, a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, wrote an article (Policy Options, 10 August 2016) discussing ways in which Canada can uniquely contribute to improving UN response capabilities.

Langille argues that besides Canada simply contributing further to the size of UN peacekeeping forces, it should also look at pushing for a “wider shift from war-fighting to providing prompt help and useful services” through UN reform.

One area that Langille identifies where Canada can contribute is the UN’s rapid deployment capabilities. He points out how slow UN responses to conflicts often are:

It frequently takes six months to a year or more to deploy a new operation. Many missions still remain under the strength required. With slow responses, conflicts tend to escalate and spread, and then they demand larger and longer operations at far higher costs.

Langille points out that a permanent base from which the UN can quickly deploy assistance into complex conflict zones has been a long-running policy objective which continues to elude UN officials. He argues that Canada has unique experience in that field. In 1992, the Canadian government ordered an intensive study into the potential requirements of a UN standing force. The proposal which emerged from this study is the United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS).

UNEPS would be designed to quickly and efficiently offer important services during the first crucial 6 months of a UN operation. While the initial cost of such a base would be quite high, it would ultimately save costs in the long run because it would help prevent conflicts from escalating.

Langille argues that Canada has unique advantages and skills which lend themselves well to hosting a permanent UN Emergency Peace Service:

Because it is a country that faces no direct military threat, Canada could help to encourage a specialization in rapid deployment to difficult UN peace operations. The Canadian Forces have recent experience with austere, high-threat environments, as well as with disciplined, cohesive formations with multipurpose combat capability, which are required in robust operations authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Peter Langille concludes by calling for the government to commit to substantive UN reform:

We can throw good money after bad at high cost, but we also have a better option. The Canadian proposal for a permanent United Nations emergency peace service complements existing arrangements with a more rapid and reliable first responder.

For Peter Langille’s full article, see Re-engaging Canada in United Nations peace operations (Policy Options, 10 August 2016).

For the Rideau Institute report on Canadian peacekeeping training, see Unprepared for Peace? The Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping (And What to Do About It) (Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, February 2016).

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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  • August 26th, 2016

Canada spurns UN nuclear disarmament plan

Craters from previous underground nuclear test semiplasticik (2)

In an article which first appeared in Wednesday’s Hill Times, former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Doug Roche delivered a stinging rebuke to the Liberal government for its recent actions in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament. See Canada Turns Back on UN Nuclear Disarmament Plan (Douglas Roche, 24 August 2016).

The focus of his concern was the vote by Canada in the Geneva Open-ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament against nuclear disarmament negotiations. Writes former Ambassador Roche:

The government turned its back on an important nuclear disarmament initiative and sided with the nuclear weapons states that want to keep and modernize their nuclear arsenals for the rest of the 21st century.

Canadian Tariq Rauf, one of the world’s leading experts on nuclear disarmament and head of the Disarmament, Arms Control, and Non-proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, went even further, saying Trudeau “seems disengaged on nuclear arms control” and that the present government has “undermined” the nuclear disarmament work so valiantly championed by Pierre Trudeau.

This astounding action by Canada comes just as nuclear disarmament experts are gearing up for a conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, which will take place on 28-29 August.

In the words of  Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who will open the conference:

We hope to capitalize on the leadership Kazakhstan has been taking for a nuclear-weapon-free world. On August 29, 1991, I officially closed the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (also known as “The Polygon”), which had been the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons.

This conference will bring together parliamentarians and mayors from around the world, along with a selection of religious leaders, government officials, disarmament experts, policy analysts, civil society campaigners, and representatives of international and regional organisations (UN, OSCE, ICRC, etc.) to build political will and traction for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Among those in attendance will be Rideau Institute President and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Peggy Mason, who will make a presentation in Panel Session I: Security without nuclear weapons or war: “Manifesto of the World for the 21st Century”.


For those who have not yet signed it, please click here to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop undermining negotiations and, instead, begin to lead internationally on nuclear disarmament.

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  • Blog
  • August 25th, 2016

Conference on Arms Trade Treaty meets in Geneva


The World Trade Organisation is hosting the second conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which came into force in 2014, laying out new rules governing the international arms market.

Arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen have largely dominated the conference, with the Control Arms coalition urging major weapons exporters to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign last March, France has authorized $18bn in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia last year, the United States approved arms deals with Riyadh worth $5.9bn in 2015, while for Britain the figure was $4bn. (ATT Monitor 2016 Report)

A recent article in the Economist points out that the Saudi coalition has a worse record for civilian casualties in Yemen than the oft-criticized Russian air campaign in Syria:

Air strikes were responsible for more than half the thousands of civilian deaths in the 16-month campaign, Amnesty International reported in May. It found evidence that British cluster bombs had been used. Together with other watchdogs, including the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, it has documented the use of Western weaponry to hit scores of Yemeni markets, medical centres, warehouses, factories and mosques. One analyst alleges that the use of its weapons amounts to Western complicity in war crimes.

According to Oxfam, the UK government has switched from being an enthusiastic backer of the international Arms Trade Treaty to one of the most significant violators. See UK in ‘denial and disarray’ over Saudi arms sales being used in Yemen: Oxfam (Middle East Eye, 23 August 2016):

How can the [UK] government insist that others abide by a treaty it helped set up if it flagrantly ignores it?

Control Arms also accuses major exporters of fueling the war in South Sudan by authorizing arms transfers despite clear UN sanctions. SeeWestern powers flouting international law by selling arms to Saudis: group (Globe and Mail, 22 August 2016).

And what about Canada?

Not only is Canada complicit in the Saudi violations of international law through its $15 billion sale of armoured vehicles, but Canadian companies have also been cited by UN experts for violating the UN arms embargo on South Sudan.

The latest update from the CBC on the South Sudan arms scandal reports that the Canadian government, after initially alleging it had no responsibility in the matter, has now referred the UN panel’s findings about the Streit Group to the RCMP. In the words of government spokesperson François Lasalle:

It is the role of the RCMP to investigate potential offences under Canadian law, while the prosecution of offences under federal jurisdiction is the responsibility of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada who will determine if Canada has jurisdiction to prosecute based on the facts of the case.

The Streit Group is also accused by the UN of breaching international law through the “illicit transfer” of armored vehicles to Libya contrary to a UN embargo on arms dealings.

For the full Control Arms report on compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty, see  The 2016 Report (Arms Treaty Monitor).

Note that Canada has said it will ratify the Arms Trade Treaty by June 2017.

Photo credit: Control Arms

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