Canada: Uncertain Proposals Before Peacekeeping Summit

November 9, 2017
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Por Luis Brizuela Brínguez

Havana (Prensa Latina) Officials of the Ministry of Defense of Canada analyze with the United Nations proposals for the deployment of peacekeeping missions, just a few days before the holding of a major summit on the subject in Vancouver.

However, sources familiar with the issue -who requested anonymity- told CBC News that many of the ideas put forward by Ottawa are not considered by the UN as operational priorities, or even necessary.

Instead, they hope that Canada can provide men and equipment for deployment in critical scenarios such as South Sudan, Mali and Haiti.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged some 600 soldiers and 150 police to the so-called UN Blue Helmets.

After the commitment in August 2016, the Ministry of Defense carried out several investigative missions and elaborated options in this regard, but to date the Federal Government has not yet taken a final decision.

Concerns about the potential risks that involve such operations are some of the reasons for this delay.

The peacekeeping summit to be held in Vancouver on November 14 and 15 will continue the one held in London last year, and the initiative promoted in 2015 by the administration of former US President Barack Obama (2009-2017).

The summit that took place at the end of September of that year in New York, during the 70th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, sought new commitments from the member states to support current and future peacekeeping operations.

But some countries have been reluctant to participate in high-risk deployments because of the human and political costs involved. ‘None of them wants to risk losing a soldier,’ said a UN official, without suggesting that this was the case of Canada.

Some 500 delegates from more than 70 countries, including some 50 defense ministers, as well as international organizations must meet in Vancouver.

Representatives from the African Union, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the International Organization of La Francophonie are expected to discuss improvements to the above-mentioned operations, a long-standing concern in the multilateral body.

On the eve of the summit, the United Nations has no clear possible support from Canada. It would be very inconvenient for anyone to hold a ministerial meeting on peacekeeping without having made a concrete proposal, said another United Nations official who spoke with CBC News on condition of anonymity.

SOME PROPOSALS FOR THE SUMMIT

Most of these details must be revealed in the days before or during the meeting where an initiative to prevent the recruitment and use of minors in armed conflicts will be discussed.

Another key issue will be gender parity, recognition of the role of women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, as well as gaps in the completion of troops and equipment for rapid deployment units, according to a UN report.

The list of priorities for the Vancouver summit includes three missions where there is a critical lack of troops and specialized teams.

The United Nations specifically needs an intelligence unit, a company specialized in the dismantling of bombs and helicopters for Mali, a special forces component and a transport company for South Sudan and helicopters for Haiti.

It also requires more medical personnel, engineers, female blue helmets, troops and French-speaking police officers, which are military resources that Canada has, the source said.

Officials familiar with the talks between the two parties explain that one of the proposals of Ottawa has been sending a C-130 Hercules to the UN’s logistics hub in Entebbe, Uganda.

The military aircraft could be used to help transport personnel and equipment to and from missions in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Somalia.

Trudeau’s government is also looking at capacity-building and training for peacekeepers, such as countering the threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

However, the UN seems less enthusiastic about some of the other options, including helicopters for the mission in Haiti.

The same source said that although a Canadian proposal to strengthen the rapid response force with a view to the UN mission in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel, is not a priority either; they ‘would be very happy’ if Canada would offer a rapidly-deployable infantry force that could help in the Central African Republic.

In the case of Mali, and according to official data, the peacekeeping operation there has the highest-number of fatalities of any current peacekeeping mission, a growing terrorist threat and a peace accord that the country is struggling to implement, which makes it an unattractive option for decision-makers in Ottawa, argued a military specialist quoted by CBC News.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, head of the UN stabilization mission in that West African nation, acknowledged that he would welcome Canadian peacekeepers with open arms.

Canada’s contribution could involve multi-year commitments and, in the case of Mali, would only begin in 2019 after Germany and Jordan have completed their mandates there, he said.

One of the UN sources said that Canada has been asked to consider the possibility of deploying personnel and equipment in Timbuktu. ‘We’ll see. I do not know if that message will be heard or not, ‘he added.

In 2016, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan visited the African nation and there were even rumors that the next commander of the peace force could be a Canadian, said the official who was in Mali when the talks between the military authorities of both countries took place.

However, the defense minister took part in several security briefings which the official said may have contributed to a reluctance to deploy. If Ottawa does commit to the Mali operation, Canada’s contribution could include the deployment of six Griffon and Chinook helicopters, the official explained..

RESULTS OF THE SUMMIT IN DOUBTS

Military experts and members of the diplomatic community have been pushing for more active participation of the country in the issue.

Documents obtained and published by CBC News in mid-2016 showed that the UN has repeatedly asked Canada to provide troops for blue helmets, capable of deploying in areas of conflict.

Separately, France and the European Union have also requested the help of the northern nation, but the requests are rejected or remain ‘under consideration, ‘the source said.

Securing new pledges for UN peacekeeping operations has been a central issue at high-level conferences, the defense minister wrote in a report late last year.

Encouraging other countries to enroll in the preparedness system and, ultimately, providing the necessary troops are considered among the potentially desired results of the ministerial meeting in Vancouver, Sajjan added.

At last year’s meeting in London, Sajjan confirmed Ottawa’s intentions to contribute with more military forces to these peace missions, but without committing them to any specific ones.

Such precedents lead analysts to raise doubts about the possible results of the upcoming meeting in Vancouver.

The hypocrisy of all this is that we have not implemented our promise of London, and yet we are pushing others to also make promises and revise existing ones, said Walter Dorn, professor of defense studies at the Royal Military College, located in Ontario

We have been hypocritical and we have not implemented our promise of London, and yet we are pressing others to also make promises and revise existing ones, said Walter Dorn, professor of defense studies at the Royal Military College, located in Ontario.

Canada in not leading by the example, Dorn summarized.

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