Demilitarization and Peacebuilding: Report on the Project Ploughshares 20th Anniversary Conference

Tasneem Jamal

Working Paper 97-1


To hold the Ploughshares 20th Anniversary conference, in October 1996, on the theme of Demilitarization and Peacebuilding is really just a rather less poetic way of acknowledging that we’re still all trying to figure out how to go about the business of transforming swords into ploughshares. For 20 years Project Ploughshares has promoted the idea that enduring peace and security cannot be enforced by military might, but must be built on social and economic justice. In these past two decades, through the efforts of activists, scholars, and progressive political leaders around the world, the idea of “common security” has emerged internationally as the compelling model for the collective, co-operative pursuit of a stable peace. It is the idea that security is the product of mutuality, not competition, that peace must be nurtured rather than guarded, that stability requires the reduction of threat and the elevation of trust, and that sustainability depends on participatory decision-making rather than on control.

But however compelling the vision, its translation into official policy and action remains a daunting challenge. The 1990s are proving to be a decade of both extraordinary achievement and devastating setbacks in the pursuit of peace based on common security. Nuclear disarmament has advanced to the point where it is now feasible to begin exploring strategies for the final elimination of nuclear weapons; other weapons of mass destruction have been formally banned; and the problems of conventional weapons proliferation and small arms diffusion are being addressed with renewed energy. International humanitarian and diplomatic intervention in local emergencies has become the norm. But in all of these endeavours, the achievements are still dwarfed by the extraordinary need.

What are some of the key policy and action initiatives that should now be pursued to ensure that the world continues to build a common security framework? What is the role of Canada at this critical time? How can Canadian non-governmental organizations make constructive contributions?

Questions like these guided the discussions in the two-day conference of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics and representatives of government. Under four primary themes, we sought to assess how far we’ve come in forging public policies that reflect common security values. Representatives of the Canadian government reported on relevant Canadian policies and initiatives, and conference participants together explored policy/action priorities for research, policy development and advocacy over the next few years before the end of the millennium. The second day of the conference was devoted to exploring NGO action priorities and strategies.

We noted that, over the 20 years of Ploughshares activity, the growing acceptance by both NGOs and governments of the concepts of common security as a broad description of the pursuit of human well-being and of peace promotion has made possible a more shared approach between the NGO community and the government in the search for practical and concrete alternatives to militarism in building security.

As far as non-governmental peace and justice organizations go in Canada, 20 years of activity represents at least a modest level of institutional maturity-some NGOs come and go in a little less time than that, but of course many, some of which were represented around the conference tables, are considerably older and still enduring. About 20 years ago there was quite a remarkable flowering of popular peace and justice activity in Canada- notably within the ecumenical community. During the 1970s, out of the churches’ work connected to South Africa, Latin America, and other regions of the world, and in response to changing economic conditions at the time, about a dozen specialized ecumenical coalitions emerged in Canada to work at development issues, human rights, economic and solidarity campaigns, and so on. Those coalitions joined a range of other NGOs, labour groups, denominational groups, and other local and national institutions that were already engaged in this kind of work-and Project Ploughshares, begun in 1976, gradually inserted itself into that community of research, education, and advocacy. These groups were and are a manifestation of the civil society that is essential to democracy and the public welfare in our country as well as in developing countries.

So there have been and will continue to be other 20th anniversary celebrations within the Canadian peace and development community, but we invited participants not only to have them commemorate the aging process, but more importantly to invite them to share with us and with each other their collective wisdom and energy, and to recommit ourselves to the peacebuilding enterprise. The people gathered for the event were very well equipped to assess the challenges before us and to think imaginatively about ways in which we might add new creativity, energy, and resources to our collective response to a needy world. An impressive group of resource persons from the international NGO community, from international agencies, from the academic world and from the Canadian government reflected a new peacebuilding partnership-a partnership in which individuals, NGOs (local to international), international agencies, academics and researchers, and governments all have significant and, when we work best, complementary tasks to undertake. Our purpose in coming together was to try to think through what some of those tasks should be in the next several years.


Ernie Regehr
Policy and Public Affairs Director
Project Ploughshares



Nat J. Colletta, Principal Education and Social Policy Specialist in the Institutional and Social Policy Division of the World Bank, went to the core of the “demilitarization and peacebuilding” theme of the conference in the first panel session with a detailed presentation of recent World Bank experience in promoting war-to-peace transition in Sub-Saharan Africa. Acknowledging that the World Bank had just begun to deal with demilitarization, Dr. Colletta described lessons from the Bank’s recent demobilization programs, following wars that differ markedly from the Second World War (see Table I) in a continent that bears a disproportionate share of conflict costs (Table II). Although demobilization alone presents major challenges, it is only one part of a war-to-peace transition (see Figure 1) that must tackle the five priority “D”s: debt (that is, lack of resources or control of resources), demobilization (including security), displacement (return of refugees), demining, and democratization (and the building of social institutions).The following is Dr. Colletta’s discussion of the key issues of a successful demobilization and reintegration program, reproduced with permission from his recent jointly-authored book, The Transition from War to Peace in Sub-Saharan Africa, published by the World Bank.

Michael Small, Director of the Peacebuilding and Human Resources Development Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, reviewed Canadian policy and initiatives in his response to Nat Colletta. He noted that the Canadian government is attempting to deal with the same issues as the World Bank in a post-Cold War political environment where there is growing recognition that there can be no peace and security without development. The Canadian government supports peacebuilding efforts, through such initiatives as a roster of human rights monitors and “civilian peacekeeping,” and is attempting to build a more coordinated departmental response to peacebuilding needs.


Nat J. Colletta, Principal Education & Social Policy Specialist, World Bank (IBRD)

A demobilization and reintegration program (DRP) for ex-combatants is the key to an effective transition from war to peace. The success of this first step following the signing of a peace accord signals the end to organized conflict and provides the security necessary for people affected by war to reinvest in their lives and their country.

Reinsertion and reintegration are not distinct phases after demobilization. Rather, they form part of a seamless web of transition from military to civilian life, without a clear beginning or end. As reinsertion and reintegration proceed, the needs of ex-combatants change and call for different support measures

A successful demobilization and reintegration program needs to address several key issues. These are:

1. Political dimensions: fundamental preconditions

Strong political will and leadership, expressed in terms of commitment, realism, and pragmatism, are crucial factors for successful program implementation (and a clear conflict victor is often a prerequisite for strong political will). National reconciliation should be actively promoted through transparent policies and conflict resolution efforts at the community level. These can reduce suspicion and help rebuild trust. The question of land ownership and distribution needs to be treated carefully and openly. Both traditional and legal rights to the land, as well as historically rooted inequalities, have to be taken into account. (The recent Guatemalan peace accord, which addresses agrarian reform and native rights among other issues, is a model agreement on this point.)

2. Targeting: the central element

Ex-combatants constitute a specially vulnerable group in need of priority targeted assistance. Socioeconomic data should be collected to reveal their characteristics, needs, and aspirations so that appropriate program interventions can be designed. Careful analysis of the opportunity structure for ex-combatants (in particular, the demand for labour and the availability of land, credit, information, and provision for skill development) is a prerequisite not only for program design, but also for targeted counselling and adequate placement.

3. Demobilization: the essential first step

Ex-combatants should be released or discharged from military quarters as soon as possible so that they do not become a serious threat to security. Prior to discharge, they should receive information about civilian life-rights and duties, opportunities and constraints. If feasible, postdischarge orientation, with a focus on social support and economic opportunities, should be provided in the communities where ex-combatants settle. Especially in transitions from war to peace, neutral international monitors and technical assistance can facilitate the design and implementation of demobilization programs.

4. Reinsertion: the transitional safety net

Entitlement packages, which provide a safety net during the transition from war to peace, should reflect the needs of ex-combatants and their families in different socioeconomic environments. Such packages help ex-combatants and their families bridge the difficult period between demobilization and reintegration. Using local banks for transferring cash in installments allows ex-combatants to access financial assistance throughout the reinsertion phase. Staggered payments made to beneficiaries through local banks also help spread benefits and ex-combatants throughout the country. The capacity of the banking system or alternate payment systems, especially in rural areas, must therefore be evaluated before transfers begin.

5. Reintegration: the ultimate objective

Ex-combatants should be assigned to target groups and subgroups on the basis of their mode of subsistence and thus on their differing needs and aspirations. This allows for the development of a differentiated, relevant, and cost-effective approach. Ex-combatants should receive no more support than is necessary to help them attain the standard of living of the communities into which they are reintegrated. Reintegration in urban areas is more complex than in rural areas and requires a more diversified approach

6. Social dimensions: rebuilding social capital

Efforts to strengthen social capital-for example, by using existing community organizations and channels of communication-enable communities to take development into their own hands and facilitate reintegration of ex-combatants. Informal networks of ex-combatants-discussion groups, veterans’ associations, and joint economic ventures-are key elements for successful economic and social integration. Such associations can be extremely helpful when social capital has been depleted

7. Institutional issues: the nexus

To put scarce resources to optimal use, program components should be ranked by simplicity of implementation, with the simplest components first on the list. Central coordination of DRPs by one civilian agency with overall responsibility, balanced by decentralization of implementation authority to districts and communities through existing organizational structures, makes for a powerful institutional arrangement.

Elected representatives of ex-combatants, as well as field-based staff, can perform crucial roles in facilitating reintegration. Local communities should be involved directly in decisionmaking, especially on important local matters, so that scarce public resources are allocated in a transparent and socially accountable manner

8. Management issues: critical elements

The most important contribution of a monitoring and evaluation system is to consistently improve ongoing operations-by keeping abreast of major trends in the program and by regularly reporting to and advising management

9. External assistance: help and hindrance

Capacity-building and close coordination among the government, NGOs, community-based groups, and donors are central elements of cooperation. Coordination of donor support by a lead donor has proved very effective and timely availability of resources facilitates smooth operations.

10. Economic impact: assessing the peace dividend

The peace dividend needs to be understood in social and economic terms, as well as in financial terms. peace dividend by increasing security, building The reinvestment of some savings from military downsizing into the development of a disciplined, high-quality defence force can itself produce a confidence, and reducting public fear

Jump-starting the economy by rehabilitating critical infrastructure also can be linked to reintegration programs that involve training and employment schemes for both reconstructing material assets and building human and social capital

Continental demilitarization is a precondition for reviving civil society, reducing poverty, and sustaining development in Africa. The realization of this objective hinges on disarmament, the demobilization of forces, and the reduction of the flow of arms into the continent, on the one hand, and on the reintegration of ex-combatants into productive civilian roles, on the other

Revitalizing civil society entails the promotion of local associations, community participation, and peer accountability, all of which reduce individual fear, enable collective condemnation of violence, and strengthen local security. These are the minimal conditions for encouraging people to reinvest in their communities both emotionally and financially.




In the second panel session, Caleb Rossiter, Director of the Washington-based Demilitarization for Democracy Project, described the Year 2000 Campaign to Redirect Military Spending to Human Development launched by Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel laureate and former president of Costa Rica. Noting the convergence between the Campaign and the conference program, Dr. Rossiter outlined three central objectives of the Year 2000 agenda- attention by the IFIs (International Funding Institutions, such as the World Bank) to military budgets, especially in cases like Indonesia, where the military essentially runs its own economy; a system of UN regional envoys for conflict prevention; and tightened arms transfer controls, via an international Code of Conduct. The written text of his remarks follows.

John Robinson, Vice-President (Policy) of the Canadian International Development Agency and session respondent, outlined CIDA activities in support of shifting resources from global militarization to development. CIDA is promoting a “like-minded” grouping of countries and organizations like the OECD and IFIs to study state military expenditures, including transparency and accountability issues. Although gathering data is difficult, case studies of four states from separate Southern regions will be reported in early 1997. CIDA has brought military spending issues into its policy process, it funds programs that include human rights training and development, and it works with the Foreign Affairs Department to build an integrated approach to countries in conflict. The Agency also is more aware of related issues such as the security impact of resource scarcity and environmental degradation, and the role of the military in modern society.



Caleb Rossiter, Director, Demilitarization for Democrac

I am heartened by the high level of Canadian Government representation at this conference, and I think it speaks well for the Government and Project Ploughshares that you are both willing to engage in a dialogue and even a partnership. The contrast with our experience in the United States could not be more stark: it is rare for NGOs to engage in substantial discussions with top administration figures in the areas of national security and foreign policy, and when Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and a former president of Costa Rica, came to Washington last December to launch the Year 2000 Campaign to Redirect World Military Spending to Human Development, the Clinton administration even declined to provide a representative for a public forum hosted by Members of Congress.

Our arms exporters, who give $7.5-million to candidates and political parties during each election cycle, have no such problems of access: they have regularly scheduled meetings and serve on actual government policy panels with the same policymakers who declined to attend the Year 2000 event. Demilitarization for Democracy was founded to help reduce the power of military establishments in the politics of developing nations, but we have our own challenges in the area of military political power at home, as well. So stick with your Canadian model, please

That being said, why am I here in Canada, trying to promote a demilitarization initiative? We all know that the city where I live, Washington, DC, is-as a local bank’s advertisement says-the most important city in the most important country in the world. If Washington’s leaders are hostile to demilitarization, what can I possibly ask Canadians to do that will overcome the opposition of its southern neighbour? Well, as I learned recently from the landmines debate, a great deal

The Ottawa conference in October, at which Foreign Affairs Minister Axworthy circumvented years of dithering by boldly setting up a goal of signing a treaty in 1997 that bans anti-personnel landmines, showed that when it comes to international demilitarization, Canada can be not just master of its own fate, but a world leader as well. As a member of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines, I offer my thanks to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Bob Lawson, who is in attendance today, for his role in that decision. I can say from my meetings with Pentagon and other US officials that Canada is squeezing the United States into a fundamental re-evaluation of its policy. It is obvious from this example that if you can establish Canada as a world leader on other demilitarization issues, and develop and popularize those concepts as you have landmines, you can lead there too. It is often not the largest shareholder that guides the decisions at the World Bank, or leads the permanent members of the UN Security Council to a new position. Indeed, it is usually the most cogent, committed, and energetic member who can carry the day

That brings me to tiny, disarmed Costa Rica and its exemplary peacebuilder Oscar Arias. In the conventional thinking about international affairs, they are powerless, because they have no armed forces with which to back up their diplomacy; but in reality, there are few countries and leaders who can claim to have had such an impact on the affairs of other nations today. I know Dr. Arias had hoped to attend this conference, but had a scheduling conflict. Since I am here representing one of his campaigns, the Year 2000 Campaign to Redirect World Military Spending to Human Development, I will do my best to try to explain his concepts as well as this campaign.

When I founded my own organization in 1992 after leaving the congressional staff, I appropriated for our name a concept that Dr. Arias brought to prominence during the Central American peace plan for which he received the Nobel Prize: Demilitarization for Democracy. That is, democracy is not just the achievement of fair campaigning and free elections, but also the reduction of the political and economic power of the armed forces, the establishment of a judicial system that can hold military officials accountable for human rights abuses or corruption, control of military forces and budgets by civilian officials, and, eventually, the elimination of military influence from the decisions of the true rulers of the country, the people.

In Latin America during the 1980s, as in the 1950s, we saw that without demilitarization, elected governments crumble into dust, either through military coup or because the armed forces simply ignore them. Dr. Arias stressed that any process leading to democracy must admit to, and then control, the political and economic power, size, and independence of armed forces. As other regions of the world, and particularly Africa and Asia, try to make the transition to representative government today, this principle is as important for them as it has been for Latin America.

There is a remarkable convergence between the program of this conference, which is really Project Ploughshares’ work plan, and the Year 2000 Campaign. Look at the four panels you will hear today: War-to-Peace Transition, Measures to Shift Resources from Military Purposes to Social Development, Control of the International Arms Trade, and Regional Security Structures. All four goals must be achieved together if any is to be achieved alone.

The six principles of the Year 2000 Campaign precisely subsume those four points. I am sorry to have to admit that this convergence of our frameworks is not due to genius. This isn’t advanced physics, after all, but common sense: conflict is costly, conflict is fueled by weapons, conflict must be solved by negotiation, and conflict is better prevented than cleaned up afterwards.

The Year 2000 campaign has a number of concrete plans to implement in the next four years, and I urge you to join the 70 other non-governmental groups who are sponsoring the campaign, and who are mailing out Arias Peace Pledges to lobby their government to back these plans both at home and at the United Nations and World Bank. Let me explain those plans, and then take your questions about how they would work.

First comes action at the international financial institutions (IFIs): we must encourage their executive directors, who represent individual countries or groups of countries, to link the extension of macro-economic loans to the existence of transparent military budgets, an end to military ownership or control of commercial businesses, and eventually to the reduction of military spending. Why is this so important? Because for those of us working in the area of economic development, health, education, and clean water, this is where the money is. The IFIs have lots of money, some $50-billion each year of new lending, but the armed forces of developing nations have even more: $228-billion in military spending they extract from their treasuries each year. We wouldn’t even need the “Tobin tax” on international currency transactions (another concept endorsed by Dr. Arias) to fund development projects if we could liberate some of this military spending.

And even in military terms, most of this spending is wasted: countries are no more secure with their large, costly military establishments, especially if the armed forces have an internal role, and suppress dissent and civil society. The nations of the Middle East have squandered one trillion dollars on weapons since the oil boom of the 1970s. Does anyone think that their far more costly and modern armies of today make them any more secure than they were back then? No, because all sides built up together, and the threat only got worse.

Another example of insecurity comes from a country that faces no external threat. Our office recently produced a report on the Indonesian armed forces. We found that the military budget is greatly under-reported, because of extensive commercial activity in sectors unrelated to military preparedness, and that the World Bank, that great stickler for playing by the economic rules, was providing $1-billion each year to Indonesia- roughly the size of the reported military budget. In effect, your taxes here in Canada are subsidizing the Indonesian armed forces, as they rule with the dictator Suharto. The Canadian World Bank executive director should be voting against loans to Indonesia and any other country that has a hidden military budget, military businesses, and an excessive level of spending. The Year 2000 campaign recently applauded Congressman Joseph Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont for passing a law requiring that action of US executive directors, with a three-year phase-in. I hope Canada will join us in mandating this requirement.

There should be a positive side of this policy as well, with the international institutions offering advice and training for the auditing and accounting systems needed to make military budgets transparent. The IFIs do this all the time for their loans in the civilian side of the budget; it takes political will, not new expertise, to apply the same standards to the military side.

Second, we must press the United Nations to establish a system of special envoys for conflict prevention and mutual force reductions. Too often, the UN finds itself appointing special envoys for conflict resolution. These are sound missions with a good track record, and I support them, but in fact each appointment is an admission that the international system has failed, at an earlier and far less costly stage in terms of both funds and human life, to do its job of preventing conflict and addressing its root causes.

The Year 2000 plan envisions a corps of experienced negotiators, empowered by the Security Council as honest brokers, traveling to each country in the world and helping it identify the threats it faces, and the reductions in armed forces it could make if those threats were also reduced. Then these special envoys would move on to the neighbouring countries, repeating the process and fashioning a regional agreement that dramatically reduces the threat all countries face. Great savings, both in funds and lives, are available, if the special envoys for conflict prevention are treated as seriously, and their mission as urgently, as special envoys for conflict resolution. A good example of how this process could work was the Conventional Forces in Europe talks, which guided the dramatic reductions that took place as the Cold War ended: certain types of weapons, certain levels of readiness, certain placements of forces, were all restricted, so that neighbouring states could also reduce their forces.

Third, it is essential to control the spread of weaponry in the developing world, and the way the Year 2000 campaign suggests we do that is by implementing an international Code of Conduct barring arms transfers to non-democratic countries, human rights abusers, and those engaged in conflict or not taking part in the UN arms trade register. In the United States, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon have brought this Code to, thus far, losing votes, but the effort will continue next year. In Europe, the non-governmental group Saferworld has made great strides in promoting the Code of Conduct in the European Community and in some individual member states. And Dr. Arias has developed an international Code with a panel of Nobel Peace prize winners that he will introduce at the United Nations next year and recommend to all individual member states for adoption.

The United States, I am ashamed to say, leads the world in arms transfers to developing nations, with an average of $10-billion per year during the past five years, according to DFD’s annual study. We are doing our best to make the US Code of Conduct the policy of our country, but that will do little good if other nations, such as Russia, Germany, France, and Britain, simply absorb the markets we abandon. This must be a multilateral effort, and Canada can play a leading role in setting the international norm by adopting the Code itself.

So these are the elements of the Year 2000 campaign that Canada can support. I hope that Project Ploughshares can play a leading role in gaining that support. I look forward to our close collaboration. Perhaps the elements of this plan are not quite right; perhaps we need to modify it to be more effective in creating a world of negotiation rather than conflict, or building down to mutual security rather than building up to mutual insecurity. But we must be organized and take action-words and ideas are not enough. It is time to put in place a system to prevent conflict and redirect resources to development. Join us. Thank you.




In the third panel session of the conference, Natalie J. Goldring, Deputy Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and Director of its Project on Light Weapons, spoke on “Control of the International Arms Trade, including Light Weapons.” After an introduction outlining the mandate and work of the Washington- and London-based BASIC, Dr. Goldring described current trends in the international arms trade (see Table III) and trends in light weapons transfers (Table IV). An abridged version of her subsequent discussion of the prospects for restraint of conventional weapons transfers follows. Dr. Goldring concluded her presentation by noting that the international community cannot afford the status quo regarding arms transfers. Current practices bring the Gulf War, Somalia, pressure for high defence budgets, and excessive equipment modernization. The status quo must be challenged by a program of public education and engagement.

Robert Lawson of the Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, was the session respondent. Replying to a question from Natalie Goldring, Mr. Lawson began his remarks with a description of the newly mandated United Nations panel of government experts on small arms, and the attention the panel has drawn from the US National Rifle Association (NRA). (Mr. Lawson represented Canada during the panel’s June session in New York.) Canada contributed to the expert panel by noting Canadian peacekeeping experience, and by promoting a broader security context for, and tools to implement, microdisarmament. Other Canadian government initiatives to constrain international weapons proliferation include support for the UN Register of Conventional Arms, and a major effort to promote a global ban on anti-personnel landmines. In the next months, the government will mount a “full court press” to advance the “agenda for action” of the Ottawa landmines conference, including a ban treaty proposed by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.


Natalie J. Goldring, Deputy Director, British American Security Information Council

Prospects for restraint: policy options

I use a three-part framework to distinguish among proposals to limit arms transfers, with transparency, oversight, and control as the overarching concepts. Transparency and openness generally refer to access to information; oversight to the issue of establishing a system for monitoring sales, maybe including consultation on controversial sales. Control refers to actually establishing limits. People speak of arms transfer restraint, but often the measures they are suggesting actually have little to do with control. The supply side of control is still much more concentrated than demand side, hence easier to deal with. But we need to be looking at demand as well. Suppliers have to be involved because otherwise they will undermine any regional restraint process.


1. Increasing openness and transparency is a good first step. With more information, people will be less likely to use exaggerated threat perceptions as the basis for force development and deployment. We must continue to assume that sunshine favours restraint. This is an area where more research would be especially useful; for example, the detailed case studies of light weapons transfers that the US NGO Human Rights Watch has done in the last few years have been extraordinarily helpful. However, they are a limited set.

2. The UN Register of Conventional Arms is the most encouraging transparency effort to date. It is a good first step, but the test will be whether it is expanded and strengthened in the future. The Register could be strengthened if suppliers refused to sell arms to countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) that do not participate. It also could be expanded to include light weapons, but regional light weapon registers may be more practical.

3. We can learn from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement and from the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) work on confidence- and security-building measures. On the one hand, countries that were preparing to wage war on one another were at the same time willing to take steps to make war less likely – a positive sign. On the other hand, the negotiations that led to the CFE were prolonged until the political will to reach an agreement was generated.

4. Suppliers could help regional negotiations by helping to pay for them, and by providing training in measures that have been successful in other contexts. They could also avoid rewarding countries with weapons for reaching peace agreements!


1. We could establish a UN system of verification of data submitted for the UN Register. Such a system may increase the confidence of participants in using the data for threat assessment.

2. More work could be done among suppliers. The Wassenaar Arrangement (on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies), established in April to succeed the Coordinating Committee on Export Controls (CoCom), is a hopeful sign of supplier cooperation.

3. We could increase oversight by broadening the range of weaponry being analyzed and potentially controlled. In the past, most efforts have concentrated on heavy weaponry of the types limited under the CFE agreement. For example, the UN Register of Conventional Arms deals with the five CFE categories (tanks, armoured personnel carriers, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, combat helicopters), plus ships, and missiles and missile launchers. However, people are being killed in ethnic conflicts with light weapons and small arms such as sniper rifles and land mines. Major conventional weaponry plays a minor role in current conflict.

4. We could strengthen national laws that provide for oversight of light and major conventional weapons transfers.


1. The real test of new policies is not improved access to information; it is whether we succeed in reducing the likelihood of war, and whether we reduce the number of people who die if war occurs. Oversight and transparency may help indirectly with these objectives, but control can help directly. A fundamental assumption of arms trade control is that it should be a priority to help countries stabilize at lower, rather than higher levels of armaments.

2. There are many control options if the political will can be generated, although this is a big “if.” Nevertheless, there are prospects that unilateral restraint would be met with reciprocity, both among suppliers and among recipients. Other control options include regional or sub-regional procurement freezes, and agreements on progressive dismantlement of arsenals.

3. Suppliers should set guidelines for systems they simply will not sell. The US is still trying to locate many of the extremely portable and equally deadly Stinger missiles the CIA provided to the Afghanistan mujahideen in the 1980s. As a result of this ill-conceived weapons transfer policy, both commercial and military aircraft, civilian and military passengers, are at greater risk.

4. The current policies for major conventional weapons seem to rely on economic constraints among recipients as a control mechanism. This is not sufficient. Suppliers also need to set, and meet, standards. The standard that seems most lacking now is a refusal to sell arms to countries that routinely engage in gross violations of human rights. While there is legislation on this topic in the US, for example, it is routinely ignored.

5. Suppliers also need to show that they are willing to limit their own arsenals.

More detailed options for controlling light weapons transfers

1. Focus controls on individual weapons by:

  • banning entire categories of weapons that are especially indiscriminate in their effects, such as landmines or blinding weapons;
  • limiting ammunition supplies;
  • prohibiting coproduction and codevelopment of high-tech light weapons; and
  • establishing controls on transfers of new light weapons technologies.

2. Focus on national and international control processes by:

  • tightening national control and enforcement measures, and harmonizing these measures in bilateral, regional, and global frameworks;
  • establishing strong end-user controls on transfers and developing strategies for controlling diversion and theft;
  • increasing efforts to uncover and destroy illegal weapons;
  • imposing stronger penalties for illegal possession of weapons and smuggling; and
  • eliminating covert aid and transfers.

3. Focus on conflict and post-conflict scenarios by:

  • emphasizing regional confidence- and security-building measures;
  • declaring and enforcing bans on weapons transfers to countries in conflict;
  • tightening border controls;
  • increasing effectiveness of disarmament after the settlement of a conflict; and
  • ordering the return and destruction of weapons as part of the disarmament process.



For the final theme session, James Busumtwi-Sam, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, presented a paper on “Regional Structures and Security” that surveyed the role of regional organizations in the prevention or resolution of conflict. With particular attention to Africa, Professor Busumtwi-Sam countered perceived regional comparative advantages with conditions where regional approaches may be inappropriate or fail. There are reasons why the emerging broader definition of security has yet to shape organizational response to conflict, and to move forward official and non-official actors must co-operate via more than one strategy. An abridged version of the paper follows.

As the final respondent, Gwyneth Kutz of the Regional Security and Peacekeeping Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade noted the variation in regional organizations and Canada’s role within them. In the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Canada has supported the African Crisis Response Forum and other mechanisms for conflict resolution. In the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Canada supports two levels of activity within its security-focussed Regional Forum (ARF)-Track I of strictly government dialogue and Track II, the less formal track from where government officials and some academics may move issues into Track I. In the Organization of American States (OAS), Canada has helped build a security structure that includes confidence-building measures (CBMs), transparency, and initiatives to ban anti-personnel landmines. More broadly, Canada integrates defence personnel in diplomatic missions, in part to demonstrate civilian control of the military.



James Busumtwi-Sam, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University


This paper presents a critical survey of the role of regional organizations in the prevention/resolution of local conflicts, with particular emphasis on Africa. The objective is to identify the opportunities and the pitfalls of regional security structures as vehicles for translating the idea of cooperative security into practice.

The paper argues that international and regional organizations will be important at critical moments, but the fundamental problems of violent civil conflict involve domestic institutional development which is a slow, difficult, and incremental process. Organizations such as the UN and the OAU should act to reduce violence, but should also be wary of excessive institutional overload. The most fundamental problems of state-building will not be resolved by international and regional organizations.

Who/what responds to crisis?

In the last decade or so, there have been a number of prominent interventions by regional organizations into regional disputes (both inter- and intra-state), which appear to support the notion of their preeminence (see Table V). However, in each case, the identified regional organizations were unable to act effectively, if by effective we mean decisive and timely facilitation of a satisfactory resolution of the dispute. This resulted in other extra-regional third parties, acting either unilaterally or multilaterally through the UN, assuming the primary responsibility for resolving these disputes, and the identified regional organizations faded into the background

It would appear logical and plausible to deal with threats to security at the local regional level prior to elevating it to the international level for the following reasons:

1. Theoretically, given collective action problems in assessing a group’s ability to cooperate, the smaller the number of actors, the easier it is for them to cooperate to achieve the desired objective.

2. Regional actors are more directly affected by the political, economic, and social consequences of crises (for example, refugee movements and destabilization when combatants cross frontiers, as in the examples of Sudan, Liberia, and Sierre Leone). They also have more at stake, and are more likely to perceive a direct interest in the regional conflict and take action.

Conversely, the UN is currently overburdened with peacekeeping operations, and it is experiencing severe financial and staffing difficulties. The UN has no conceptual or operational doctrine for dealing with civil war-UN Charter Chapter VII enforcement is unworkable and has never been used in the way it was intended.

In addition, the end of the Cold War has diminished the interest of the major powers in regional/local conflicts. The movement away from traditional peacekeeping towards enforcement in more recent UN deployments has increased the risk of casualties and created the “Somalia Syndrome,” the view that multilateral action to stop civil war is not feasible or desirable.

3. Regional organizations are more likely to have greater sensitivity to local norms and culture than a global organization like the UN. Regional actors may be better suited to undertake third-party interventions to achieve a negotiated settlement because of personal connections or an understanding of the dynamics of the region/locale. Local crises are also more likely to be given full consideration in regional fora than in global ones.(1)

By these arguments, regional organizations have a comparative advantage over a global organization such as the UN. Upon closer examination, however, the arguments are not entirely persuasive for the following reasons:

1. The concept of region is too inchoate to guide decisions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Often, membership of regional organizations is ill-defined or not inclusive. In Africa, for example, many non-francophone countries have been deeply suspicious of the close ties between France and its former African colonies.

2. There is a danger that dominant regional powers will use regionalism as a guise to further their own political, strategic or ideological ambitions. Examples include Nigeria and the Economic Organization of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) operation in Liberia, and the USA in the OAS throughout the Americas. Comparatively, as a global organization, the UN possesses the advantage of distance from a local conflict. The UN can more easily dissociate the intervening force from the politics of a particular region.(2)

3. Similarly, regional actors tend to have a stake in a local conflict, are often committed to one side or the other, and directly seek to influence the outcome. For example, in Angola the inability of the OAU to deal with the civil war reflected in large part deep disagreement among OAU members on the desirable outcome of the process of decolonization.

4. Like the UN, regional organizations must deal with international legal norms that limit the scope of intervention. Given the precarious bases of their legitimacy, some governments are wary of creating intervention precedents for fear they may be a future target.

Recent experience suggests that the oft-cited comparative advantages of regional organizations may be exaggerated. They have numerous weaknesses related to partisanship and resource shortages. What is needed, therefore, is a process whereby the activities of the different types of actors become complementary, that is, the weaknesses of one type/level are complemented by strengths in another type/level. This would require greater coordination in a formal sense rather than on an ad hoc basis.

What form of response to crisis?

There has yet to emerge a coherent framework for incorporating problems of violent civil conflict within a broader/extended conception of security that is manifest in the actual policies and strategies of the major international and regional organizations. There are several reasons for this:

1. The problem of interest, identity and role

A perception that interests are at stake may be the most important factor motivating a third party to respond to conflict. But how a third party acts is not determined by interest alone. It is also strongly conditioned by what kinds of roles are available,(3) and these are often defined by prevailing norms. Developing effective strategies for conflict prevention will require, as a precondition, a clarification of the normative/legal contexts in which third parties are to operate.

The problem is that existing international normative and legal frameworks are only equipped to view threats to security as aggression-the threat or use of force by one state against another.(4) From this perspective, a threat to security always emanates from outside a state’s territorial boundaries and represents a deviation from a status quo. The solution is to return to the status quo, and the only roles available to third parties are that of sheriff (enforcement under UN Charter Chapter VII), or umpire/referee (Chapter VII provisions, including peacekeeping).(5)

However, regional conflict in the coming century is likely to arise from the need to manage change and to provide transitions to more stable forms of political relations within states rather than from the need to oppose aggression and return to the status quo. This requires devising a greater variety of roles than that of sheriff and umpire. Although the lack of effective institutional mechanisms within the UN and regional organizations also must be addressed, an effective mechanism for responding to local/regional crises can only be developed if there are well-defined roles for third parties.

2. The role of the state

A second and related problem is a basic misunderstanding about the changing role of the state, particularly in developing regions like Africa. The state, as a particular form of governance and rule, has been taken as a given and reified, justifying inaction by regional organizations such as the OAU for reasons outlined above. In an effort to overcome this, some international actors have attempted to by-pass the state and devalue it by emphasizing strategies targeted towards “civil society.” Much of this is spearheaded by international and African non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

There are merits to using NGOs and responses aimed at civil society. NGOs may be better placed for the delivery of humanitarian relief, and, because of their non-political nature, NGOs may be better able to act as intermediaries in conflict. However, there are some potential pitfalls that need to be examined.

The most serious problem is the danger of depoliticizing security. Although, at its root, security is an objective or condition that applies to individuals, such an objective can only be achieved by individuals acting in a collective political process.(6) Yet, there is evidence that strategies that attempt to strengthen civil societies may undermine the political and authority structures, at both the national and local levels, which are essential to the collective political processes through which individual security is to be attained.

Since the state is the highest form of collective political organization to which most individuals belong in contemporary international relations, achieving individual security must come to terms with the state, especially in the context of Africa. To achieve the objective of individual security, there is little alternative to the reconstitution of state authority.(7)

3. Institutional inertia, “turf wars,” and rivalries

A third set of problems impeding the development of effective responses by international and regional organizations is the problem of inertia. Large organizations are often better at adapting existing measures to new situations than they are at devising new mechanisms. Solutions are often defined, not necessarily in relation to sources and nature of the crisis at hand, but in terms of the organizations’ goals and routines. A related problem is the tendency for different types and levels of organizations to act independently of each other. Within the UN system, for example, the specialized agencies (IMF, IBRD, GATT, etc) do not coordinate their activities with the functional offices (UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR), and there are times when UN agencies have worked at cross purposes with UN offices, even when they have a common objective in a particular country.

Recommendations and suggestions for future research

The ad hoc way in which multilateral actors, including regional organizations, have responded to crises needs to be replaced by well-planned and coordinated responses. Effective crisis interventions will involve application of more than one type of strategy and several types of official and non-official actors. The process must involve three interrelated components: the normative dimension; the institutional dimension; and the operational dimension.

The normative dimension involves a clarification of the roles of third parties.This seeks to strike a balance between state sovereignty and the requirements of effective human security in such a way as to expand available roles beyond sheriff and umpire/referee. The normative clarification of roles helps to define the context in which intervention may legitimately occur and legitimizes or delegitimizes certain types of political actions. It directly confronts the meaning of “consent” and challenges the conventional dichotomy between “international” and “domestic” jurisdictions.

The institutional dimension entails the development of institutional capacities to implement cooperative security. These will involve different types of international actors and will occur at several levels. In Africa, for example, the UN operates at the global level, the OAU at the macro-regional level, various bodies (ECOWAS, SADC, IGADD, etc.) operate sub-regionally, and NGOs act at the local level.

The operational dimension seeks more innovative tools and strategies to correspond to the widening range of roles third parties may assume. These are in addition to the traditional tools such as economic sanctions, and different forms of third-party mediation. Where the focus of traditional tools has been on post-conflict intervention, new strategies should shift emphasis to intervention of a preventive nature. For example, pre-crisis intervention by the OAU could include development of early-warning capabilities and preventive diplomacy such as mediation, confidence-building, and deployment of forces to act as deterrents to violence and to provide reassurance.(


1. Neil S. MacFarlane and Thomas G. Weiss, “The United Nations, Regional Organizations, and Human Security: Building Theory in Central America, ” Third World Quarterly, 15 (April 1994), 277-295.

2. Thomas Weiss et. al, The United States and Changing World Politics (Boulder: Westview, 1994), 33-41.

3. “” –

4. For example, most of the existing rules of international law that deal with violent conflict apply to international wars (with the exception of national liberation conflicts- civil wars fought in the name of decolonization). See Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (CUP: 1990), 27.

5. Zartman, 1995.

6. See Emma Rothschild, “What is Security?” Daedalus, 124, 3 (Summer 1995), 75.

7. James Busumtwi-Sam, “Models of Economic Development in Africa: Lessons from the Experiences of Ghana, 1957-1995,” forthcoming in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics (November 1996); also, Rothschild, 87.

8. A fuller account of the OAU’s attempts to develop these capacities is found in James Busumtwi-Sam, “Redefining Security in the Post-Cold War Era: New Approaches to Conflict Management in Africa,” forthcoming in R.O. Matthews and T. Ali, eds., Civil Wars in Africa: Their Roots and Their Resolution (McGill-Queen’s, 1996).


Tim Draimin, Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)

I am not sure why I was asked to provide some summary and closing comments for this Conference. I approach the issues dealt with here as a non-expert. It is quite an awesome task, given how much ground was so effectively covered!

My first observation would be: This was an extremely impressive and worthwhile day-where was Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) so that others could hear the presentations and discussion?

From pessimism to optimism

Natalie Goldring made the comment in her presentation that these are “manic depressive times.” That is certainly the case, as many presenters highlighted both the positive and negative trends of the era in which we live.

John English(1) began by noting the following modern trends:

  • the de-coupling of local and foreign interests, especially in the United States where events elsewhere don’t matter as much;
  • the crisis of the United Nations and the anti-multilateral drift;
  • the retreat from universalism and the rise of the new right;
  • the rise of isolationism;
  • the paradox of arms: while Russian arms expenditure has plummeted, the US still spends over $200-billion a year.

Natalie added to these pessimistic observations by addressing the issue of the post-Cold War arms surpluses which are washing over the globe.

At the same time, speakers noted the positive trends:

  • the rise of the “Common Security” agenda which is taking up greater space and attracting growing political energies;
  • the glow of the success of the recent landmines conference, where the agenda moved solidly towards an outright ban with non-governmental groups playing a key role;
  • the news from Nat Colletta at the World Bank that structural adjustment is dead! (He was judging it by its declining importance.) Good thing that John Robinson of CIDA was witness to that unprecedented policy Rubicon;
  • the rise of “civil society” which Doug Roche highlighted as the counterpoint to the political failure of the international system

Confidence-building measures

I judge those positive trends to be of significant value. In fact, those trends should represent a “confidence-building measure” for those of us working on the “Common Security Agenda.” NGOs and the peace community should take credit for having an important impact! Bob Lawson at Foreign Affairs noted that the Department recognized the importance of protecting NGO space in the international landmines work in order to keep the agenda moving forward. In other words, government actively recognized the important synergy in developing an implicit collaborative relationship with NGOs.

All this is a tremendous testament to Project Ploughshares, to its vision of 20 years ago and to the quality of its work. As Nat Colletta said when talking about the World Bank’s “War-to-Peace Transition” work, the Bank was 19 years behind Ploughshares.

We should stop for a moment and recognize the fact that NGOs can have an impact. They have many success factors: they have expertise, moral authority, perseverance, coordination and networking, self-reliance, and a decentralized presence which allows them to be in many places at the same time.

NGO impact can make itself felt in very short order. Take the case of human rights monitoring. Canadian NGOs were on the ground floor seven years ago in El Salvador when the United Nations was seeking expertise in putting together the UN’s first ever human rights monitoring mechanism. Now such monitoring in an expected part of the UN’s role in many parts of the world. I am reminded of this because last night Murray Thomson related to me how 20 years ago CUSO had to support surreptitiously an Amnesty International human rights monitor in Latin America. Human rights work at that time wasn’t perceived by official development assistance (ODA) funders as being a legitimate development activity. How times change!


A dominant impression from this conference is the growing convergence between NGO and official policy agendas: our issues and our points of departure are much closer today than they were before. This convergence goes far beyond the impact of the end of the Cold War. Can one even talk about the potential for partnership between NGOs and government?

Looking at the policy process, there is much more space for dialogue and greater opportunity for participation. In terms of policy content, there is much more common ground and shared strategy. Now the question becomes how to sustain and deepen this progress. John Robinson spoke about how difficult taking these ideas to implementation is when he referred to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) military expenditure group.

We are now entering the difficult terrain of issue development and management: how to move from compartmentalization to integration, how to build coherence into our policy approach, how to link symptoms to root causes, how to look at solutions holistically.

All this points to at least two conclusions on 1) how to coordinate our program and our policy work, and 2) how to share lessons learned among ourselves.

Tripartite framework

I would like to suggest that, as we continue to develop our policy work, we employ a tripartite framework which looks at the need for equilibrium among the roles of the state, the market, and civil society. Or, in other words, it looks at public capital, private capital, and social capital. Development thinking has evolved with fluctuating interest in, early on, the state. More recently the focus has been the market. Now an emerging flavour is civil society. The challenge is to look at the three together.

Recent years have drawn attention to the rise of non-state actors. But it is important not to be woolly-eyed about civil society. Even the National Rifle Association is part of “civil society.” (And one can wonder how sharp the NRA is when it identifies the emerging importance of global governance issues as Natalie alluded to!)

We need thoughtful strategies to strengthen civil society. As James Busumtwi-Sam noted, it shouldn’t be civil society strengthening at the expense of local political and state structures. The goal is the appropriate equilibrium among the three: state, market, and civil society.

This discussion leads to the obvious observation: There is one sector missing today, business. Issues of business ethics and morality are growing in public prominence. The likelihood of business codes of ethics is not too far in the future. Can we assume that at the 40th Ploughshares anniversary, business will be around the table?


The Common Security approach is touching on the issue of resource allocation. Normally, we think of this leading to a peace dividend as a post-Cold War world makes it easier to reallocate funds from the security to the development side of the spending envelope. Unfortunately, the concept cuts both ways. Now we face ODA slippage as the Department of National Defence sees itself, through schemes such as the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), spending development dollars as part of the new so-called “peacekeeping partnership.” We have to monitor this situation very carefully.

Caleb Rossiter made the important point that before going for additional resources, we should use existing resources better. We are reminded to focus on the quality of what we are doing. Perhaps the Tobin Tax is premature until we carry out a more rigorous examination of the use of existing resources.

Costly status quo

We can’t afford the global status quo. If we look at human development indicators, although there are some success stories, the fact remains that each year finds many more thousands of people added to the global poverty rolls. Looking at our shared environment, we know too well that our growing impact on the world’s biosphere exceeds the planet’s carrying capacity.

Security has now expanded to include the human dimension. Our broadened concept also needs to take on the environmental aspect.


How do we advance our collective policy work? CCIC has been examining ways to build on past successes. How can we link the diverse issues we work on in the minds of the public and decision-makers? How do we generate a sense of forward momentum that builds confidence among the public that we can make a different? How do we build synergy among all the areas we work on: human rights, development, democratization, security, environment? What is an appropriate division of labour, and what are points of integration of our work?

CCIC is preparing a framework for the NGO community’s policy work which attempts to expand the space available for our activities with a goal of generating political will to make significant policy changes.


1. John English, MP was the keynote speaker during the opening evening of the conference. Mr. English is the Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.



Extract from an address by John Foster, former National Secretary, OXFAM-Canada to


OCTOBER 25, 1996

The short twentieth century: in bed with the doctor

Your special curse at this conference is that the organizers chose not only to invite a historian to open the event, but another to close it. My particular difficulty was that my own preparations for this conference were interrupted by a virus of some sort, and I had to take to bed, thus truncating some of the interviews and research I’d hoped to do for this address. However, I was not alone. I took to bed with the Doctor, in this case, Prof. Eric Hobsbawm, formerly of the University of London, and his epic history of the “Short Twentieth Century,” the Age of Extremes.1

He reminds us that for many (although not necessarily the colonized populations of the globe), the 19th Century, particularly if you date it from 1815 and the Congress of Vienna, was an age of relative peace.

I mention this because the experience of the 20th Century may have led us to become unduly pessimistic about the capacity of the human race to achieve liveability and sustainability on the planet. We may be too accepting of the frailties and disparities and criminalities of our world. Not that Hobsbawm is by any means optimistic; he is not, by and large, although he sees a very positive side to globalization in its integration of much of the world’s people in the possibilities of a world economy, albeit one hideously disfigured by inequity.

But Hobsbawm, like the Ploughshares Armed Conflicts Report,2 reminds us that the twentieth century has been not only an Age of Extremes, but an Age of Total War.

Of 74 international wars between 1816 and 1965 ranked by the number of people they killed, the top four occurred in our century:

  • the two world wars
  • the war of the Japanese against China (1937-39)
  • the Korean wa

Each killed more than a million. The largest war between 1816 and 1914, the Franco-Prussian combat of 1870-71, killed perhaps 150,000. (Note that this review excludes important civil conflicts, notably the US Civil War which killed more than half a million.) We have again rehearsed at this conference the figures on civilian casualties, the millions of internally displaced and externally refugeed. The century gave us “holocaust” and we know that it is not a word restricted in use to the 1940s. Hobsbawm concludes that 1914 opened “the Age of Massacre.”3

Two weeks ago, a member of our extended communal family, aged 110, passed away in Toronto. She may have been the oldest Canadian WW I widow, widowed for 80 years, her husband having died in the battle of the Somme, where Britain alone suffered a loss of 420,000.

We are still living with the experience of this age of total war and, as Caleb Rossiter pointed out this morning, with the military budgets it engendered, at least in some powerful countries. If the World Bank and IMF are the banks with sufficient funds to be worth robbing (the estimate was something like $35-billion a year in funding), how much more so the US military budget at seven times the magnitude. If American politicians refuse to confront it, and American citizens are unable to do so, should we create a worldwide campaign for the reduction and reinvestment of the US military budget? Just an offhand idea? I trust that that is what the Year 2000 campaign and other efforts may, in part, become.4

Ploughshares and others can be helpful to us by constantly reminding us, as graphically as possible, of these important orders of magnitude. The 19th Century was remarkably less murderous in a military fashion than the 20th; can we make the 21st even safer? The arguments of the anti-government and anti-public purpose privatizers are based on myths about available resources. As we’ve heard time and again at this conference, we can and we must redirect existing resources from wasteful and deadly to productive and life-sustaining purposes.


We all have our favourite lists of action priorities as we emerge from this important conference. I have a modest agenda: emancipate the poor, recreate the state, transform Canada’s defence and aid spending priorities, and change the face of Ploughshares. Let’s look to the future.

The next century: eradicate poverty,

emancipate the poor

Last Thursday, October 17, was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. January 1, 1997 begins the International Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know. While Canada’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference chose the day to issue a pastoral letter on the “Struggle Against Poverty,” the Federal Government has chosen to let the occasion pass.5 While Canada took part in the World Summit on Social Development which asked each nation to develop its own national plan for the eradication of poverty and involve its civil society therein, no plan or planning process has been undertaken.

A little over a year ago, Chilean UN Ambassador Juan Somavia, who led the process of the World Summit on Social Development, spoke in Canada. He argued that to achieve security, we have to deal with the sources of insecurity worldwide: hunger, poverty, social disintegration, violence, drugs, the environment. It transcends state boundaries. And, he reminded us, you can have a very “developed” economy, but have a high level of social disintegration. Go a few blocks from the UN in New York, he suggested.

He then suggested that there is a single component which runs through the whole history of so-called developed societies. “You reach stability,” Ambassador Somavia stated, “by adding elements of equity into your society. The stable societies are the ones in which you progressively incorporate more and more equity and that is the instrument which makes people feel a part, feel they are participating, feel and hope that through education and other means things may in the future get better.”6

To reach it you have to stop polarizing, whether by policies of the World Bank or the Federal or Provincial government.

Surely that is why people are in the streets today in Toronto and will march on Queen’s Park tomorrow, because they feel we are being moved in the wrong direction. In the direction of polarization. Away from equity. Away from integration and participation. Away from justice.

Ambassador Somavia reminded us that the Copehagen summit produced a commitment on the part of 185 state governments to eradicate poverty, to say poverty is a social institution which we do not want to exist in societies that call themselves democratic, modern, etc. It is a social institution which should disappear. Let each society discuss what is feasible, make a plan, and set dates.

He suggested this objective for the coming century, in a way that abolition of slavery became an objective which marked the last century. At the beginning of the 19th century slavery was legally acceptable almost everywhere and whole economies were based on the assumption of its contribution.

Today our economy and certainly the punitive and patriarchal spirit which seems to motivate our governments seem based on the old assumption of a reserve army of the unemployed to keep wages down and scare the employed, or a more modern but equally reprehensible assumption that anywhere from 10 per cent to 50 per cent of the able-bodied folk in a society are expendable, although they may have a marginal use in scaring the employed.

My historian/mentor, Dr. Hobsbawm, refers to this general area of equity as the demographic challenge facing the next years and the next century, and he places beside it in importance the ecological challenge, which in many ways comes back to the same issues, how to allocate and protect the world’s resources when survival, not only of a few, but of the planet itself, is in question.

He is not at all optimistic about this picture. The decline of governability and the growth of criminality in the economies of the former east bloc, the further descent into poverty of many poor countries and poor segments of populations encourage pessimism. So does the inability of governments to make radical environmental policies and implement them. So does the extent to which the monopoly of the state on possession of arms has been broken or privatized-not least in our militia and gun-prone neighbour to the south.

Yet the challenge to manage, collectively and democratically, remains. As Hobsbawm concludes:

Social distribution and not growth would dominate the politics of the new millennium. Non-market allocation of resources, or, at least, a ruthless limitation of market allocation, was essential to head off the impending ecological crisis. One way or another, the fate of humanity in the new millenium would depend on the restoration of public authorities.7

The next twenty years: the reinvention of national and transnational responsible modes of allocation and accountability

I am talking about an extension, not a retreat, of governing institutions, albeit transformed public bodies

We remain in a period in Canada when the nostrums of the Fraser Institute (not to mention the Frum-kins) choke off creative political thought and in a world where the roving ambassadors of Thatcherism and neo-conservatism remain dominant. What has been called ideological monoculture is reinforced by the ownership and control patterns of the means of “public”-keep that word in mind-communication symbolized but not contained by the appetites and orientations of that son of Sherbrooke, Conrad Black.

At this point I want to vere eclecticly from the Marxist sensibilities of Prof. Hobsbawm to the author of The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, McGill University’s Professor Henry Mintzberg. From Marx to Mintzberg, from Hobsbawm to the Harvard Business Review and The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine.8

Why Mintzberg, the master of management? Because, in this useful article reprinted in the October Report on Business Magazine, he turns a good deal of the so-called common wisdom of management and business gab on itself, and reminds us that many of our best achievements have emerged from a balance of forces, not from the free and untrammelled operation of the market and its marketeers. “I do not wish to buy my cars from government,” he says, “any more than I wish to receive my policing services from General Motors.” Further, he breaks down the private/public sector dichotomy, reminding us that many things can be run by non-owned bodies and by cooperative ownership.

In the meantime he offers an extremely useful corrective. Perhaps Ploughshares could invite him as a third-party mediator in a meeting between the premier of Ontario and other neo-conservative oracles and social justice organizations. “Attacks on government,” he says, “are attacks on the fabric of society. We have individual needs, to be sure, but a society that allows them to undermine collective needs will soon destroy itself. We all value private goods, but they are worthless without public goods…to protect them.” Some privatization chat is probably useful, but much of it is also, in his words, “just plain silly.” “We need proud, not emasculated, governmment.”

He argues that today, when business is more influential than ever, “the system is out of control.”

Doug Roche asked John English last night if the Jesse Helms of the world might not be offset by a sort of natural process of political evolution or balancing. I am among the more skeptical on that score. Market ideology dominates today in part because of well-funded and well-organized campaigns by thinktanks and corporations dedicated to it, and because of the dominant structures in the world of communication.

This challenge is absolutely central in our own society, but is just as urgent in the institutions which govern the life of societies much poorer than our own. While some of us see some glimmers of light at the World Bank, the dark shadows which fall on whole populations through what may be politely called “state failure” are immense. Structural adjustment has been rightly condemned as contributing to some of this process, and the possibility that it may be on the wain is a glorious one, but don’t hold the wake yet. We focused today on Rwanda and others mentioned Somalia. Do we even begin to understand what the orders of magnitude might be, to what the human and material costs might escalate, if either Zaire or Nigeria were to follow a comparable path?

To right the balance, to reverse this dangerous trend, I believe an essential building block is dedicated work, nationally and internationally, by the thinktanks and workshops of a counteragenda: by economic thinktanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice, in international development by aspects of the UNDP as well as the NGOs, and in areas like common security and peacebuilding by Ploughshares. Work for the long haul.

Beyond this work, the field of communication is absolutely central. Prof. Mintzberg also makes a timely contribution. He contends that just as we’ve been scrutinizing what doesn’t belong in government, we should begin again to think about what doesn’t belong in business. I quote:

Take newspapers, for example. Can any democratic society afford to have all its newspapers in the private sector, especially when they are concentrated in a few hands that can exercise great political influence should they choose? Other models of ownership can be found, indeed, in some of the most prestigious newspapers in the world-for example, the non-ownership of The Guardian in Britain and multiple cooperative ownership (journalists and readers, alongside some institutions) of Le Monde in France.

I believe that this is where much of the talk-fuzzy or otherwise-of civil society must be concentrated, and where experimentation, new networks, electronic networks, and new coalitions must take place. The international campaign to ban landmines may be a significant forebear of the sort of movements we need. A true international effort to transfer military expenditure to social and productive purposes would contribute to this not only materially, but as has been made clear here, through increased transparency and public accountability in much of the world.

I believe that it is in this area that we most need to free our own imaginations, but also engage those of generations my daughter’s age and younger. It is a subject for a whole other weekend’s conference and many more.

The next year: focusing on the political moment

My sincere hope is that Ploughshares, its members, and as many allies as can be coalesced focus on the immediate and sustained transfer of resources from Canada’s defence budget to overseas development and other investments in human and environmental security. The agreement of every party should be sought; every candidate in every riding should be faced with Canadians raising this issue. Ploughshares considers that $7.5-billion would provide an adequate defence budget. Time to campaign for immediate reductions to that level.

On Wednesday, the head of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Betty Plewes, appeared before the House of Commons Finance Committee. She regretted that she had to repeat an appeal made many times before. Why? Because the Committee and Minister of Finance Martin don’t seem to be listening. She pointed out that over 100 countries are worse off than they were 15 years ago. That the gap between rich and poor has grown dramatically. That foreign investment helps about a dozen countries, and that Canadian overseas development assistance has been cut more than 40 per cent since 1991.9 So there you have it very simply: Cut Canadian defence expenditures by $2.5- to 3-billion; be particularly watchful about expenditures on high intensity warfare equipment; rebuild Canadian overseas development aid contributions; be particularly watchful to increase investment in sustainable human development, basic needs, and care of the biosphere.

The immediate future:

Ploughshares in the short term

Now I have very specific suggestions for Ploughshares itself as it plans its future. I was billed as giving comments from the NGO experience and this is based largely on my NGO experience. In OXFAM over the past seven years, and most actively during the past four, we worked extremely hard and, I might say, met significant conflict and resistance internally, to bring increased DIVERSITY to our Board and our staff. This meant confronting established regional and personal power structures and it meant dealing with the union. I want to be very blunt here: we worked to establish clear policies and procedures to enhance the number and place of visible minorities, the physically challenged, and gays and lesbians in the organization. We may have-in fact, I’m certain we have, like all fallible souls-made mistakes. Certainly in times of reduced and insecure resources, with an aging staff concerned about job security, these changes are not at all easy. We have a lot to learn. We have only begun. But the face and the nature of the organization has changed.

I’ve had several keen experiences in the last three years with the engagement and integration of youth in the work, not only in OXFAM where we developed a significant youth camp program-Youth for Social Justice-but in the non-governmental process leading up to the World Summit on Social Development where we had significant youth, and most interestingly Inuit youth, participation. I also remember the surge of energy and interest which came into the Svend Robinson leadership campaign in the NDP with the engagement of youth, and would cite as well my own home, where we have a 26-year-old tenant who works for high wages in high tech industry one year, and subsidizes his work in a small NGO he’s created for Nicaragua in the next.

Can Ploughshares devote some energies in the coming year and years to increasing diversity in its structures, with a particular emphasis on dialogue and engagement with youth?


* * *

In conclusion

As the great contemporary American social commentator Tomlin (Lily, that is) said: “Reality is only a consensual hunch.”10 If she’s right, events like this, when we come together to reflect on experiences and project visions, are pretty valuable. For me, this conference has been extremely valuable.

Let us end by reminding ourselves of why this is worthwhile. That lives are changed, that lives can be enhanced, that lives can be saved in the work of building peace. I can’t do justice to the list of contributions that have been made. The achievements of the allies, local and national, who come together in Ploughshares have been palpable, not least in projecting a vision of common security and in contributing significantly to having it accepted as a policy reference point in at least one important section of the Canadian government; not least in contributing to a worldwide wildfire of public concern which has energized action on landmines; not least in developing a respected and credible source of information and analysis over the long-haul and for the long-haul; not least in maintaining “witness” as Ernie Regehr wrote about it in the Coalition volume a few years ago.

No less important has been the year-to-year relationship with the college and the provision of core budget contributions and volunteer energies by religious denominations and a small number of NGOs to support and enhance this work.

Nat Coletta admitted this morning that the World Bank was 19 to 20 years behind Ploughshares, but moving to catch up. That’s just about the biggest warning to emerge from this conference. Success could be eating away at the fibres of imagination and challenge. Time to move ahead, again. Ploughshares has led, not least by being willing to take a measured, serious, and self-critical look at the context and alter its priorities. Let’s hope that this event has been an effective contribution to Ploughshares’ once again creatively rejigging its priorities, refocusing its resources, and leaping another 19 or 20 years ahead!


1. Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes:The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 (London, 1995)

2. Project Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report 1996 (Waterloo, 1996).

3. Hobsbawm, pp. 23-25.

4. This refers to “The Year 2000 Campaign to Redirect World Military Spending to Human Development” based in the Project on Demilitarization and Democracy, 160l Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20009

5. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The Struggle Against Poverty: A Sign of Hope for Our World,” Pastoral Letter by the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs, Halifax, October 17, 1996

6. Ambassador Juan Somavia, unpublished notes of an address to the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, May, 1995.

7. Hobsbawm, p. 578.

8. Henry Mintzberg, “The Myth of ‘Society Inc.'” in Report on Business Magazine, Toronto, October, 1996. This is reprinted from the Harvard Business Review, “Managing Government, Governing Management,” by Henry Mintzberg, Cambridge, May-June, 1996.

9. CCIC Presentation by Betty Plewes to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, October 23, 1996 (Bilingual Version). Assistance has been cut more than 40 per cent since 1991.

10. As quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 20, 1996, Arts and Leisure, p. 37.


Project Ploughshares

Since 1976 Project Ploughshares has undertaken research, education, and advocacy programs to promote the peaceful resolution of political conflict; demilitarization; and security based on equity, justice, and a sustainable environment.

Public understanding and support for these goals are promoted through programs that advance the following objectives:

  • reduce reliance on military force and transform military roles from combat/enforcement to peacekeeping;
  • abolish nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction;
  • restrict and reduce the proliferation of conventional weapons by promoting disarmament and arms trade controls; and
  • enhance the international community’s capacity to end and prevent wars, and to develop more effective mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Project Ploughshares is a Canadian peace and justice organization, sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches. It is a part of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel College (affiliated with the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario). Support for Project Ploughshares comes from national churches and civic agencies, more than 20 affiliated community groups, and more than 10,000 individuals.

About this paper

The text of this paper is based on presentations from the conference “Demilitarization and Peacebuilding” held at Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario during October 24-26, 1996.

We wish to acknowledge financial support from The Simons Foundation and The Anglican Church of Canada for the conference and this report.

Project Ploughshares
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
Conrad Grebel College
Waterloo, ON  N2L 3G6
Ph: (519) 888-6541
Fx: (519) 885-0806

First printed April 1997


Other papers in the series:

Project Ploughshares’ Working Papers are published to contribute to public awareness and debate of peace and security issues. The views expressed and proposals made in these papers should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the official policy of Project Ploughshares.

A Pacific Ocean? Arms control in the oceanic commons–February 1993

Defence beyond borders: Canada’s overseas military responsibilities–April 1993

War after the Cold War: Shaping a Canadian response–October 1993

Intervention in Regional Conflicts: Multilateral and NGO actions–July 1994

We call for peace: Statements on peace by Canadian churches and religious organizations–January 1995

Canada and the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: A Window of Opportunity–

November 1996  

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