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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Realistic Peacekeeping Options for Canada

By: Sarah Jane Meharg, Canadian Global Affairs Institute

The Liberal government’s Defence Review was called on 6 April 2016. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s review will determine defence capabilities – what the Canadian Armed Forces have and what they need and how these capabilities will be employed to confront conflict and calamity in the environment of global instability. Defence Reviews are significant benchmarks because they set out guiding principles informed by foreign policy within the emerging social, political and economic context of the day.

Historically, such reviews have not aligned with fiscal frameworks to develop fully the grand strategies envisioned in such White Papers. If ends, ways and means – in other words, the fiscal framework – are not in lock-step, then, for the next decade Canada will be out of step in achieving its defence-related foreign policy aims.

The security and defence budget is approximately CAD $20 billion, rising with inflation each year. Canada’s UN peacekeeping financial contribution does not come out of the security and defence budget, but rather directly from Global Affairs Canada, the department responsible for making all assessed contributions to international organizations, of which UN peacekeeping is one. Defence dollars are spent at home and internationally. There is an (irrational) fear held by the government that the defence budget is bloated and there is a move afoot by Canada’s new government to carve out a leaner, more agile military from the already gutted reality of the past decade.

Putting the ongoing procurement debacle aside, defence requires funding specifically aligned with the readiness to deploy.

Peacekeeping missions have expanded to include many peace operation activities that have been empirically proven to reduce conflict recidivism, including: deployments into large, expensive and increasingly complex operations; developing and implementing transition strategies for operations where stability has been achieved; and equipping communities with capacity for long-term peace and stability, evidenced through economic development. UN peacekeeping remains one of the most powerful tools wielded by the international community to manage peaceful outcomes of contemporary armed conflicts, yet, like any other capability development, peacekeeping requires training that is specific to its remit. The tool is only as effective as its contingent troops, police and civilian personnel, and this boils down to deployment experience.

Deployments, among other things, help identify the personnel who cannot manage the stress of operations and who may detract from mission successes. Only with real experience – rather than simulations and exercises – can successes be gained. For example, the United States has innovated its ability to gain relevant and timely deployment experience by running ‘live exercises’ during its humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations (HA/DR) – a type of operation that requires a whole-of-government approach to succeed.

If we are not doing Cyprus peacekeeping anymore, we certainly need to avoid doing the same type of peacekeeper training. Canada can apply innovative ‘live exercising’ to get on-the-job peacekeeping training. Deploying more Canadians on UN missions means that they gain field experience within semi-permissive multidimensional environments and learn the lessons of international cross-cultural leadership, civil-military relations, community-based policing and security, and other innovative techniques that bring about lasting stability. It is recommended that the government deploy 1,000 contingent troops, police and civilian personnel per year to the UN peacekeeping missions that matter to national security, and fall within its defence related foreign policy aims. The cost of this increase would be approximately 10 times the current cost of the deployment of 100 personnel. Deployments should be short term (1 month), medium-term (3 months) and long-term (6 months to 1 year) to yield learning and innovation.12 It is recommended that the government engage existing defence lessons-learned capabilities to assess the experience of troops, police and civilian personnel to increase knowledge acquisition within the relevant government departments and agencies.

When the government of Canada decides to deploy the CAF to an existing or new UN peace operation, it must ensure the following pieces are in place:


  • A clear chain of command exists in theatre and with the CAF in Canada able to make decisive changes if the mission environment deteriorates beyond the remit of the mission’s mandate and Rules of Engagement. 
  • If deploying under a Chapter 7 mandate, Canada must guarantee – or confirm allied protection through – combat heavy weapons support in theatre prior to the deployment of CAF capabilities, such as mobile medical teams, engineering support, civilian experts, police and the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), if its mandate is widened beyond disaster response. 
  • The CAF, Canadian police and other deployed personnel foster relationships with reliable in theatre partners in communications, logistics and airlift in the nascent stages of Canada’s own development in these support capabilities.
  • The rules of engagement (ROE) for each mission13 in which Canadians are deployed are robust to allow for a full spectrum of use of force by the CAF against aggressors, whether aggressor violence is focused on the local civilian population, or the UN peacekeepers themselves. If the ROEs are not robust enough, Canadians should not deploy to the mission. 

Canada’s bid to participate on the UN Security Council for two years starting in 2020 is a committed position to engage fully in multilateral efforts of the international system intended to net enhanced peace, security and stability dividends.

While it is pursuing a seat, it is recommended that the government focus its approach to conflict management by supporting innovative systems and processes that can be duplicated by other states and non-state actors, such as it did with the development of innovations like Results-Based Management,14 the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre15 and Free Balance,16 to name a few. The remit for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) now has an economic lens, evidenced by the transformation away from supporting ‘dead aid’ that causes cyclical state-based welfare in developing states towards investment aid that ends the welfare cycle and creates autonomy in developing states while having direct economic benefits for Canada’s public and private sector contributions to global peace and security. UN peacekeeping contributions should be viewed with a similar lens in that missions can be used to deploy more Canadians to reap the benefits of live whole-of-government exercises. As well, contributions should empower the development of innovations in the conflict management industry to improve the efficacy of peacekeeping while driving Canadian economies. While the Security Council seat would be advantageous for Canada, the government must concomitantly support UN peacekeeping by increasing deployments to missions, as well as drive public and private sector innovations for managing conflicts, all while capturing the relevant lessons to inform the government’s understanding of the changing nature of the conflict environment. It is recommended that the government establish a fiscal framework supporting peacekeeping training, deployments, lessons learned and conflict management innovations that exceeds the existing budget for these existing capabilities by 10%.

This plan will yield the highest dividends for global peace and security which, in turn, underscores Canada’s foreign policy interests. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with allies on UN peace operations permits Canada entry to the decision-making table regarding international governance and collective security.

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Dr. Meharg is Canada’s authority on post-conflict reconstruction. She specializes in the cultural, security and economic reconstruction of post-conflict and post-disaster environments. Dr. Meharg teaches peacekeeping and political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada, where she is Adjunct Assistant Professor, and also instructs at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.