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Canada’s support for UN peace operations: Unmet promises, delayed commitments

Canadian officials are once again hinting at renewed Government of Canada support for UN peace operations, without delivering firm commitments of personnel.

  • Defence Minister Sajjan was in New York last week to brief governments and other stakeholders on the details of a major international conference on UN peace operations taking place November 14-15 in Vancouver.
  • And Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland is expected to include discussion of Canada’s support for peace operations next week in a major speech to Parliament on Canada’s approach to international relations. Media reports suggest those remarks will describe a framework for Canadian engagement with UN operations, but not the specifics of a Canadian deployment.

According to Prof. Walter Dorn, National President of the World Federalist Movement – Canada, “All this dithering and delay by Canada is harming our reputation at the UN.” Dorn, a faculty member at Canada’s Royal Military College, is on leave while working in New York to implement recommendations from a UN Experts Panel on technology in peace operations.

Canada’s failure to deliver on announced commitments also drew critical comments this past March from Hervé Ladsous, outgoing head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Canada’s renewed support for the UN, including peacekeeping, was “very exciting,” according to Ladsous. But, “So far, it hasn’t materialized.”

A September 2015 peacekeeping summit convened at the UN by the United States rallied governments to increase troop commitments at a time when many UN operations were understaffed. This led to a new DPKO system for tracking troop and equipment pledges made by member states. Although Canada announced last August that it would contribute up to 600 military personnel, 150 police and $450 million to UN peace operations, the CBC recently reported that the UN has not been officially notified of those pledges.

At the 2016 Defence Ministerial Meeting on Peace Operations in London, Canada was selected to host the 2017 meeting on the strength of its pledge to increase its personnel contributions. Canada’s Department of National Defence anticipates over 500 delegates from 80 countries at the November meeting in Vancouver.

“Our failure to deliver on the 2016 commitments only reinforces disappointment in Canada in the eyes of the international community,” says Dorn.

Meanwhile, Canada presently ranks 67th among contributors to United Nations Peace Operations with only 105 personnel (23 military and 82 police) in the field. (UN figures as of 30 April 2017.)

The World Federalist Movement – Canada is a longstanding peace organization advocating more effective and accountable global governance. WFMC publishes an annual fact sheet on Canada and UN Peacekeeping.

According to Dorn, “At a time when so many governments are demonstrating less support for multilateralism and the benefits of international cooperation, I am also hearing from numerous UN delegates a desire for renewed Canadian leadership at the UN. But so far, they’re just watching and waiting, hoping that Canada’s actions live up to the rhetoric.

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