The new Liberal government has indicated that Canada intends to dedicate more resources and personnel to United Nations Peacekeeping. But will they?
So far, Canada’s interest in UN peace operations has been demonstrated more by words than deeds.
Statements by the Prime Minister, at the UN and during Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent visit to Canada, certainly give the impression that Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping will be strengthened and renewed.
But the actions taken by various ministries of the Government of Canada suggest otherwise. For example:
*More than 6 months after the election, Canada’s military and police contributions to UN operations have continued to decline, and have reached an all-time low! Canada now ranks 77th among UN member states, with only 49 police and 27 military personnel deployed.
*A United Nations General Assembly High-level Thematic Debate on the UN, Peace and Security, that took place May 10-11 in New York, provided a culminating meeting for three UN review processes to upgrade UN machinery and procedures in Peace Operations, Peacebuilding and Women, Peace and Security. This important High-level meeting included a portion of the agenda for government ministers. However, Canada sent neither Foreign Minister Dion nor the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones. If Canada wanted to signal to the international community its readiness to do more to support UN peace operations, this High-level meeting was a missed opportunity.
Inside Ottawa, the Department of National Defence has not exactly earned a reputation in recent years for championing Canadian involvement in UN peace operations. In recent weeks, the Department has initiated a Defence Policy Review. The policy review background materials soliciting input from Canadians frame discussion about peacekeeping not as an enduring commitment, but as a question: “What form should the CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) contribution to peace support operations take?” And “Is there a role for the CAF in helping to prevent conflict before it occurs?”
The fact sheet on Canada and UN Peacekeeping, published annually by the World Federalists, documents a UN peacekeeping system stretched to the limit. In fact, as of July 2015, five UN missions were staffed significantly below personnel levels mandated by the UN Security Council.
The UN needs help from governments like Canada. Why are we waiting?
What you can do
There are two ways to support a revitalized Canadian contribution to UN peace operations: