• Blog
  • May 16th, 2017

New President of South Korea wants diplomacy with North Korea

asia-1294398_960_720A leading Canadian disarmament expert, Ernie Regehr, makes the case for renewed diplomatic engagement with North Korea as the only sure route to eventual denuclearization: What a U.S. missile defence system and a new president mean for South Korea (Ernie Regehr, OpenCanada.org, 11 May 2017).

“While inflammatory rhetoric and military action meant to intimidate have escalated, diplomacy remains restrained to the point of paralysis.”

Yet, as the article expounds, North Korea has sent some positive signals regarding possible negotiations that the U.S.A. has to date failed to build upon, instead taking the highly provocative and likely counterproductive step of deploying the unproven anti-ballistic missile system –THAAD – in South Korea.

“…. [T]here really is only one antidote to the “mystery” of North Korea, and that is engagement….[beginning with] multi-level and multi-forum explorations…. [i]nformal but sustained contacts among officials and experts, academic-level discussions and conferences, citizen-to-citizen engagement….”

The good news is that the newly elected President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has signaled his strong desire for a new round of diplomacy, and this is precisely what Canada and other like-minded states should be promoting.

For the full article, click What a U.S. missile defence system and a new president mean for South Korea (Ernie Regehr, Open Canada, 11 May 2017).

See also: A Pivot on the Korean Peninsula (Frank Ching, Globe and Mail, 16 May 2017).


Public Domain Photo

Read More
  • Blog
  • May 9th, 2017

Key questions about Canada’s Arms Trade Treaty legislation

800px-2000_people_killed_by_arms_every_dayIn this blog post we highlight some of the key questions we will be asking the Government of Canada about Bill C-47, Canada’s national legislation to implement the Arms Trade Treaty.

Will Bill C-47 bring all U.S.-destination military goods — the bulk of our military exports — within the ambit of the Export and Import Permits Act as is required by the ATT?

Comment: So far as one can tell from the draft legislation, the intention is to continue to EXCLUDE U.S.-destination military goods from Canadian export controls AND from the Annual Reporting on our military exports.

Why is the Government of Canada relegating a central provision of the enabling legislation — the legal obligation on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to assess export permit applications on the basis of the criteria set out in Section 7 of the ATT — to the regulations to be promulgated AFTER Royal Assent?

Comment: This approach is contrary to the basic rules of legislative drafting and will deny parliamentary and public scrutiny of one of the most important provisions of the ATT enabling legislation.

Why is the Government of Canada not considering an Arms Trade Treaty Implementation Act instead of this convoluted approach of amendments to the Export and Import Permits Act?

Comment: See for example this model legislation which makes it absolutely clear and transparent what the new law is all about:  Arms Trade Treaty Model Law.

Watch for the next blog in our series, where we will continue to analyze this historic legislation to ensure that it fully complies with Canada’s international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Read More
  • Blog
  • April 18th, 2017

Canada Prepares to Join the Arms Trade Treaty: Part One

LAV IIIApril 13th the Government of Canada tabled Bill C-47 (ATT) in the House of Commons to enable Canada to accede to the landmark Arms Trade Treaty. Below is the associated press release from the Media Relations office of Global Affairs Canada.

This is the first in a series of blog posts discussing and analyzing this historic legislation to ensure that it fully complies with Canada’s international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty.

The Arms Trade Treaty can set a real global standard, and thereby help prevent human rights abuses and protect lives. Canada’s existing system of export controls meets most of the treaty’s thresholds, and this legislation will set our standards in law. We must continue to encourage other countries to join this treaty, and we must ensure it is properly implemented globally. We committed to introduce this legislation, and I am very pleased that we will in turn raise the bar with a stronger and more rigorous system for our country.
– Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

The press release continues:

Canada believes that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights, and is strengthening its existing practices. As part of Canada’s support for a stronger and more rigorous export control system, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today delivered on the government’s commitment to introduce legislation so Canada can accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The ATT is about protecting people from arms. It ensures countries effectively regulate the international trade of arms, so they are not used to support terrorism, international organized crime, gender-based violence, human rights abuses, or violations of international humanitarian law.

To implement necessary changes, in March 2017 Canada announced an investment of $13 million to further strengthen the country’s export control regime. These resources will be used to implement new brokering controls, improve transparency, and support enhancements to Canada’s export controls.

Canada also recognizes the importance of promoting the ATT and is contributing $1 million to the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, in order to help other countries accede to the ATT.

For more information see the following:
Backgrounder – A bill to enhance transparency and accountability in Canada’s export controls and allow accession to the Arms Trade Treaty
Minister Dion statement on Canada’s accession to Arms Trade Treaty and reform of export permit controls and reporting system
Export and Import Permits Act

End of the Press Release where the Government of Canada outlines its intentions.

Watch for Part Two where we will analyze this historic legislation to ensure that it fully complies with Canada’s international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Read More
  • Blog
  • April 5th, 2017

A bleak outlook for Afghanistan and a way forward: Part One

ISX2013-0039 Members of the 6 Mobile Strike Force Kandak move into position during their validation exercise at the Consolidated Fielding Centre, Kabul, Afghanistan during Operation ATTENTION on September 2, 2013. Photo: Sgt James Funk © 2013 DND-MDN Canada ~ ISX2013-0039 Des membres du kandak de la 6e Force de frappe mobile se mettent en position, pendant leur exercice de validation au Centre consolidé de mise en service de Kaboul (Afghanistan), le 2 septembre 2013, dans le cadre de l’opération Attention. Photo : Sgt James Funk © 2013 DND-MDN Canada

by Mathieu Potter, NPSIA Masters student and Rideau Institute Progressive Public Policy Intern

As conflict in Iraq and Syria captures the bulk of media attention, ongoing instability in Afghanistan has seemingly failed to generate much interest among the Western public. This is perhaps an indication of a broader ‘fatigue’ with Afghanistan’s ongoing and intractable conflict with insurgent groups like the Taliban. Despite a decade-long NATO-led and UN-sanctioned campaign to stabilize and develop Afghanistan, positive progress has largely been overshadowed by an apparently endless series of challenges and setbacks that continue to plague all major sectors of Afghan society.

Some of the challenges identified in the Afghan security sector include issues of loyalty and high desertion rate, the level of corruption and the lack of full control over government militias, human rights violations and the lack of intelligence capabilities and gathering.

According to a recent report to the European Parliament, Afghanistan’s security is degrading. The Taliban insurgency has made significant territorial gains, with estimates placing them in control of close to a fifth of the country.  To make matters worse, the Islamic state in the Khorasan (ISK), an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), emerged in 2015 and currently operates in Afghanistan’s eastern region in reported collusion with the Pakistani Taliban. While the ISK’s ambitions have been stymied by conflict with the Afghan Taliban and pro-government forces, the group (should claims of responsibility be taken seriously) has shown itself capable of inflicting serious casualties with an attack on Kabul’s main military hospital. As violence escalates, the brunt of the conflict is borne by Afghan civilians who, according to UNAMA, suffered their highest number of casualties in 2016 since reporting began in 2009.

With all this politicking, it’s easy to see why Afghans and Afghanistan’s allies alike are frustrated and confused.

Afghanistan’s woes are not solely attributable to its deteriorating security situation. Political power struggles and rampant corruption have severely undermined the legitimacy of the central Kabul government and harmed its support among the population. The delivery of public services remains inefficient and rife with corruption. Meanwhile, meaningful reform and development initiatives have taken a backseat to infighting within the ironically named ‘national unity government (NUG) between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. The power struggle extends beyond the executive, with Afghanistan’s parliament voting to oust seven NUG ministers for a perceived failure to achieve their mandates.

With Afghanistan muddling along at best and teetering towards collapse at worst, it is evident that a new approach is required if the beleaguered nation is to have some hope at sustainable peace.

See  Part 2 (later this week) for further analysis and a proposed way forward.

For the European Parliament report, click on: Afghanistan: Challenges and perspectives until 2020 (Directorate-General for External Policies, European Parliament, February 2017)

For more on the Kabul military hospital attack, see: After Deadly Attack on Kabul Hospital, ‘Everywhere Was Full of Blood’ (Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed, The New York Times, 8 March 2017)

On civilian casualties in Afghanistan, see: Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016 (UNAMA, February 2017)

For more on Afghanistan’s struggle with corruption, see: Corruption in Afghanistan – What Needs to Change (Transparency International, 16 February 2016)

For more on the conflicts within the Afghan government, see: Power Struggle Continues Inside Afghan Government (Catherine Putz, The Diplomat, 29 November 2016)

Photo credit: Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Read More
  • Blog
  • March 31st, 2017

ICG report examines pitfalls of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy


A new report by the International Crisis Group examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit. See: Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the U.S. Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid (Special Report N° 3, 22 March 2017).

A main dilemma facing the Trump administration is to find the right balance between military action against jihadists and policies aimed at tackling the conditions they exploit.

Counter-terrorism pitfalls which the report examines include:

  • Angering local populations whose support is critical, through indiscriminate air strikes and failure to rebuild “liberated” cities;
  • Aggravating regional rivalries between Turkish and Kurdish forces, between Shiite and Sunni tribes, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia;
  • Picking unnecessary fights with Iran, China, and others;
  • Defining the enemy too broadly to include political entities like the Muslim Brotherhood rather than isolating it; and
  • Neglecting peace processes, foreign aid, and other vital diplomatic efforts to build stability.

…[C]ounter-terrorism does not exist in a vacuum. The U.S. administration’s executive order banning entry from certain Muslim countries; the troubling rhetoric of some of its officials; the calling into question of some of the restraints imposed on military operations… all undermine its goal of protecting Americans from terrorism.

For the full report click on: Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the U.S. Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid (Special Report N° 3, 22 March 2017).

For a related analysis by Professor Paul Rogers, see: Washington’s wars: in a fix  (Paul Rogers, Open Democracy.net, 23 March 2017).

Read More