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  • November 24th, 2016

A shift to sustainable peace and common security

Chadian UN peacekeepers escort the convoy with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous in Tessalit, North of Mali. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Chadian UN peacekeepers escort the convoy with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous in Tessalit, North of Mali. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Eleven leading civil society organizations today publicly launched their submission to the Defence Policy Review, entitled “A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security.”

All members of Parliament and the Press Gallery received copies. The launch also featured an Op Ed  in the Toronto Star entitled Why UN Peacekeeping is worth the risks (Peggy Mason, 23 November 2016).

Commenting on the report,  Roy Culpeper, Chair of the Group of 78, and Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute, stated:

We believe the election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States, along with a Republican-dominated Congress, makes it imperative for Canada to articulate a clear set of guiding principles on foreign and defence policy.

Our submission recommends a “UN-centred sustainable peace and common security” framework with the UN Charter as its bedrock.

Common security puts a premium on the machinery and diplomacy of international cooperation; there is less reliance on the competitive pursuit of national security at the expense of others. It is therefore a more perfect reflection of the UN Charter provisions against the use of force and in favour of the peaceful resolution of disputes and of the equal right to security of all states.

The submission further states:

How best, then, for Canada to harness collective responses and coordinate effective solutions to global crises? We do so by making UN peacekeeping and sustainable peace a Canadian defence priority.

With the overall aim of enhancing Canadian sovereignty and security in an interdependent world, the submission provides a number of specific recommendations, including:

  • Clear criteria for Canadian military engagement abroad,
  • Improving UN rapid response mechanisms,
  • Weapons systems and international law, and
  • Leadership on nuclear abolition.

Click A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security for the full report, the covering letter to Parliamentarians, and the list of signatory organizations.  Version française: Une Transition vers la Paix Durable et la Sécurité Collective.”

Click Why UN Peacekeeping is worth the risks (Peggy Mason, 23 November 2016) for the Toronto Star commentary.

Photo credit: UN Photo (Mali)

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  • Blog
  • November 17th, 2016

UN Common Security Principles should guide PM’s dealings with Trump

peacekeepingmonumentThis comment by Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason first appeared in the Open Canada online forum, Seven Foreign Policy Wishes for the Trump Administration (OpenCanada.org, 16 Nov 2016).

President-elect Donald Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and “outmoded” and has warned its members to stop freeloading or the U.S. will no longer “protect” them.

NATO governments face huge challenges, from climate change and economic fragility to migration flows and a global terrorist threat that no amount of military firepower can quell. Surely it is obvious the problem is not that Canada or Spain is spending too little on defence.

No, the elephant in the room is the staggering amount of military spending by the U.S. – at $600 billion per year, more than the next seven largest military economies combined, including upgraded “tactical” nuclear weapons slated for Europe that will have lower explosive yields and greater accuracy. Critics point out this creates the “illusion of usability” at the very time when the President-elect has reportedly asked: “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”

Trump’s solution to ISIS is yet more bombing, at least in Iraq. He favours an entirely different approach in Syria, since he can apparently accept dominance by a Putin-backed Assad there, but he cannot tolerate Iranian influence in Iraq.

Trump has also said he does not think the U.S. should be the world’s policeman.

However half-baked and ill-informed these Trump pronouncements are, they will nonetheless force a conversation on the rest of us. How Western leaders respond will be central to limiting the damage a Trump presidency can wreak.

This is a hugely important moment for Justin Trudeau. He must take his lead from Angela Merkel in Germany and situate his responses to specific issues within a guiding framework of core principles. Absent this framework, an ad hoc or “pragmatic” approach will further unnerve Canadians, the majority of whom found the American election result quite shocking. It also will leave Trudeau utterly vulnerable to U.S. whim and pressure.

Crucial guidance can be found in a central provision of the UN Charter: the equal right to security of all states. This is the mindset change that is so urgently needed to replace the absurdly childish and morally bankrupt “good guys/bad guys,” “with us or against us” approach to terrorism instigated by George W. Bush, which has proven to be such a gift to violent extremists everywhere.

Once you allow the possibility that “the other” has legitimate concerns, the only way forward is the enlightened, constructive UN-centred multilateralism that Trudeau channeled so effectively in his “Canada is back” pronouncements. Now is the time for our prime minister to demonstrate the strength of those convictions; our southern neighbours will be watching.

Click Seven Foreign Policy Wishes for the Trump Administration (OpenCanada.org, 16 Nov 2016) to read all of the commentaries.

 

For an UPDATE to our October 23rd blog, click on: RI President Honoured for Work on Nuclear Disarmament

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  • Blog
  • November 10th, 2016

“This Remembrance Day I’ll wear two poppies: one red and one white”

RedandWhitePoppiesFirst posted on Ceasefire.ca on 11 November 2014, we are grateful to share this insightful commentary again this year.  Note that, since being elected, the Liberal government has responded to the criticisms about veterans’ treatment referenced below.

Malcolm French, a veteran who served for 25 years with the Royal Canadian Naval Reserves, discusses on CBC Radio why he wears both a red and a white poppy on  Remembrance Day:

Last year I wore two poppies: one red and one white. This year, I intend to do it again. Some claim the white poppy is disrespectful to veterans and to the fallen. It’s a trumped-up controversy designed to have citizens outraged over trifles to divert attention away from the real disrespect meted out to veterans every day….

So why did I wear two poppies, and why will I do it again?

For me, the red poppy represents the sacrifice of the fallen; the white poppy represents the hope for a better future where young soldiers, sailors, and air crew do not have to die.

I’ll wear two poppies because I believe that the two sides of the Remembrance Day narrative need to be balanced, because I honour the sacrifice of veterans and their fallen comrades. I believe that the lives of young Canadian service folk should not be sacrificed lightly.

I’ll wear two poppies because I reject the antics of the professional rage artists who deflect our attention from real issues. But mostly, I’ll wear two poppies to take a stand against the phony outrage intended to shame those who would wear a white poppy. If not for that, I doubt I’d have gone to the trouble of tracking down a white poppy.

[…]

As we approach Remembrance Day, we will be reminded again and again that those who served and those who never came home were defending our freedom. I agree. And I can think of no greater disrespect to veterans and to their fallen comrades than to self-censor on Remembrance Day of all days. I will not dishonour the sacrifice of the fallen by fearfully laying aside the freedom they won at such cost.

That’s why this Remembrance Day I’ll wear two poppies: one red and one white.”

Listen to the full statement on CBC Radio’s The 180, Tuesday October 28, 2014: Do red and white poppies contradict each other?

 

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 image “Rememberence [sic] Day 2007” by Douglas O’Brien on Flickr

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  • Blog
  • November 2nd, 2016

We call on Canada to step up on nuclear disarmament

hill-times-op-ed-4

 

The following article by RI President and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, Peggy Mason, appeared in the influential Hill Times Wednesday, 2 Nov 2016. It elaborates on her earlier Statement released immediately after UN First Committee vote.

Canada Says No to Historic UN Vote on Nuclear Disarmament

The negotiation to be launched by this resolution is the best hope the international community has to move away from the nuclear brink,” writes Peggy Mason

On October 27, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security of the UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution, mandating the launch in 2017 of negotiations for a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. Such a ban could reinforce customary international law against the threat or use of nuclear weapons and enable further negotiations on their verifiable destruction and ultimate elimination.

Tensions between Russia and the USA are dangerously high. All nine nuclear-weapons-possessing states (USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) are modernizing their arsenals, with the 1 trillion dollar American program dwarfing all the rest. Russia is second with a planned $70 billion expenditure. The negotiation to be launched by this resolution is the best hope the international community has to move away from the nuclear brink. It is the culmination of years of work and reflects the determination of the vast majority of UN member states to not allow the nuclear weapons states to paralyze disarmament efforts indefinitely.

Canada’s vote against this resolution puts this country, quite simply, on the wrong side of history. It was one of only a handful of countries to vote NO, in concert with the USA, Russia, the UK and France. Of the other nuclear weapons states (NWS), North Korea voted for the resolution while China, India and Pakistan abstained. In voting against, Canada joined most other NATO member states, despite our legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI to enter into good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

This is the exact opposite of what Canada should be doing. We should be working as hard as we can to reduce NATO’s dangerous and unnecessary reliance on nuclear weapons, not using that reliance to oppose nuclear disarmament negotiations at the UN. One NATO member, the Netherlands, withstood pressure and abstained rather than voting against, bolstered by overwhelming support for the resolution in the Dutch Parliament. This stance is all the more remarkable given the Netherlands’ role as one of five NATO countries where American so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons are based.

So what is going on here? What possible rationale could the Trudeau government have for this regrettable step? It flies in the face of a long tradition of both Liberal and Progressive Conservative leadership at the UN on nuclear disarmament at the very time when it is most urgently needed.

Canadian diplomats argue that major nuclear weapons states will likely boycott the negotiation, rendering its outcome symbolic at best, or perhaps even creating confusion in international law. Canada prefers a “step-by-step” approach, which includes the nuclear weapons states from the outset and therefore offers the best prospect of concrete progress.

The problem, however, as former Ambassador Paul Meyer wrote in these pages the day after the UN vote, is that these “steps” – including the entry into force of the nuclear test ban treaty and the start of negotiations to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons – have not advanced in years. Canada’s strategy amounts to inching slowly forward toward the ever-receding nuclear disarmament horizon while on a conveyor belt hurtling backwards toward ever more lethal nuclear weapons upgrades.

A preference for pragmatic steps does not justify Canada’s voting against such a landmark resolution rather than abstaining. Abstention is the traditional expression of support for the objective – nuclear disarmament – but not the methodology.

We are also told that Canada made a “tactical” decision to vote against the ban treaty resolution so as to secure more support, particularly from the NWS, for the establishment of a high-level group to prepare for a negotiation to ban fissile material essential for nuclear weapons.

But the “FISSBAN” resolution represents a very modest advance over a similar resolution passed in 2015 and its passage could just as easily be due to the pressure generated by the nuclear ban treaty resolution.

Of course there is no doubt that Canada is in a delicate position, trying to balance its NPT obligations with its membership in a military alliance that still purports to rely on nuclear weapons as the supreme guarantor of its security. But this has been so since the NPT entered into force in 1970. It did not stop Canada during the Cold War years from voting differently from the USA on disarmament issues in the UN First committee 52 per cent of the time. It did not stop Canada from leading on a UN nuclear test ban resolution, vociferously opposed by the United States for many years. Most importantly, it did not stop Canada from resisting any suggestion that NATO consensus would dictate our voting at the UN.

Canada also argues that a negotiation to outlaw nuclear weapons will be futile so long as relations continue to deteriorate between Russia and the West.

Non-nuclear weapons states like Canada, sincerely dedicated to nuclear disarmament, should instead be arguing that the heightened tensions between the USA and Russia require that nuclear disarmament efforts be redoubled.

Canada has another opportunity to put this right when the General Assembly votes on this resolution in early December. The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) and many other NGOs are calling on the Government of Canada to support the resolution or, at a minimum, to abstain on the vote. We can also do what Japan has done and signal our intent to contribute constructively to the negotiation, once launched.

These actions would be worthy of a country seeking election to the UN Security Council in 2021.

Peggy Mason is the President of the Rideau Institute and a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament

Click here for an exact record of the vote. Y for Yes, N for No and A for Abstention.

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  • Blog
  • October 28th, 2016

Historic UN Vote on Nuclear Ban Treaty

1st-com

Peggy Mason, Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the UN, now President of the Rideau Institute, released the following statement after Canada’s UN vote on October 27th, 2016 against Resolution L.41.

 

“The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security of the UN General Assembly today passed an historic resolution, mandating the launch in 2017 of negotiations for a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. Such a ban would reinforce customary international law against the threat or use of nuclear weapons and pave the way for further negotiations on their verifiable destruction and ultimate elimination.

Tensions between Russia and the USA are dangerously high. Massive nuclear weapons modernization programmes are underway. The negotiation to be launched by this resolution is the best hope the international community has to move away from the nuclear brink.

Canada’s vote against this resolution puts this country, quite simply, on the wrong side of history. Canada was one of only a handful of countries to vote NO. In so doing we joined with most other NATO member states, in blatant contradiction of our legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI to enter into good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament. This is the exact opposite of what Canada should be doing. We should be working as hard as we can to reduce NATO’s unconscionable and unnecessary reliance on nuclear weapons, not using that reliance as a reason for opposing nuclear disarmament negotiations at the UN. In that regard, we note that fellow NATO member, Netherlands, withstood American pressure and abstained rather than voting no.

Canada has another opportunity to put this right when the General Assembly votes on this resolution in early December. We call on Canada to change its vote ideally to a YES but, at a minimum, to an abstention and at the same time to signal its intent to contribute constructively to the negotiation, once launched. These actions would be worthy of a country seeking to be elected to the UN Security Council in 2021.”

 

For background information on the resolution, click: UN Votes to Outlaw Nuclear Weapons in 2017 (ICAN.org 27 October 2016).

For details of how each UN member state voted, click: Voting Result on UN Resolution L.41 (ICAN.org, 27 October 2016).

 

Photo credit: ICAN

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