Canadian Peace and Security Spending: An Update on the 5 Ds

Tasneem Jamal

Ernie Regehr and George Hamzo

The Ploughshares Monitor Autumn 2008 Volume 29 Issue 3

The 2004 Ploughshares working paper on security spending, Reshaping the Security Envelope,1 tried to identify the full extent of Canadian military and nonmilitary spending in support of international peace and security. Ploughshares intern George Hamzo assisted with an update of the numbers and Ernie Regehr examines the results.

The 2004 study began with the premise that the most immediate way in which people experience insecurity is through unmet basic needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that invariably attend such conditions of insecurity. It follows, we argued, that the most urgent action required to address these insecurities is the pursuit of more favourable social, political, and economic conditions. This in turn means that security preparedness involves much more than military strength. A comprehensive Canadian approach to international peace and security thus requires attention to, and funding for, five basic elements (what we called the 5 Ds):

  • Development – Measures to end poverty that address the essential underlying causes of humanitarian emergencies and create economic conditions that are conducive to sustainable human security;
  • Democracy – Measures to promote good governance that emphasize political inclusiveness and participation, as well as respect for human rights;
  • Disarmament – Measures to prevent the transformation of political conflict into armed conflict by limiting the availability of weapons;
  • Diplomacy – Engagement in multilateral efforts toward the prevention of armed conflict; the peaceful management of political conflict; the development of a rules-based international order; and the promotion of development, democracy, and disarmament;
  • Defence – The capacity to resort to the use of force in extraordinary circumstances in support of the full range of peace and security efforts, i.e., the other four Ds, including protection and compliance.

When social, political, and economic insecurity escalates to the point of violence it tends to be within states rather than between states. Indeed, of the 30 current wars taking place on the territories of 26 countries, the overwhelming majority are variations of internal or civil wars, rather than international wars (Project Ploughshares 2008). They put individual states on the frontlines of the struggle for human security and to maintain the social, political, and economic conditions essential to the wellbeing of people in their homes and communities. It is a measure of the dysfunction of the modern state, and of the international context in which states try to manage their affairs, that more than one in seven states has failed so badly in managing its sociopolitical affairs that it has descended to a level of violence sufficient to be defined as a location of ongoing war.

Canadians have traditionally supported their country’s efforts to restore and support peace and security beyond its borders, grounded both in the sense of a common humanity and in the recognition that our own security depends ultimately on a stable, rules-based, equitable international order.

Canada’s contributions to international peace and security are built on its extraordinary prosperity and its climate of durable peace and stability at home. Blessed by what the peacebuilding guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2004, p. 9) refer to as a primary security and war prevention measure, namely the presence of “institutions capable of managing socio-political tensions and avoiding their escalation into violence,” Canada comes to the world stage with significant resources and responsibilities to try to advance beyond its borders the enviable conditions that prevail within them.

The fact that Canada does not face imminent or foreseeable military challenges to its sovereignty, territorial integrity, or internal order means that it enjoys considerable flexibility in considering the best ways and means of addressing security challenges beyond our borders. Because Canada is not burdened by the need to maintain high levels of military forces for security at home, it in effect enjoys a major ongoing peace dividend that allows it to focus attention and resources on security needs beyond our borders.

Because Canada’s peace and security toolkit does not need to be dominated by the military, it has options—it can decide on the most effective way to deploy resources abroad in response to contemporary security threats.

In other words, Canada can support a 5D response to contemporary security threats and exercise a measure of flexibility in shaping development, good governance (democracy), disarmament, diplomacy, and military (defence) responses in ways that are appropriate to particular contexts.

Determining an accurate measurement of what Canada is spending on each of the five Ds is a challenge. In fact, in 2004 Project Ploughshares suggested to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in a pre-budget hearing that “it would be a major service to Canadians if federal officials were to track and disclose the full extent of Canadian international peace and security spending within these five areas” (Regehr 2004).

Canada’s Performance Report 2006-2007 sets out for the first time Canadian spending on “International Affairs” and, in particular, efforts toward “a safe and secure world” (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat 2007).2 The report shows that $25.1-billion, or 11 per cent of total government spending of $223.4-billion, was on International Affairs.

Table 1, with figures drawn from the report, shows the International Affairs spending envelope as defined by the Treasury Board. It includes all defence spending, well over half of the funds spent by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), all expenditures for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and some poverty reduction expenditures through the Department of Finance. In addition, spending on North American cooperation, air transport security, and the promotion of global commerce and other undefined spending is included.

While the latter four items are appropriately included in “International Affairs,” they are not directly related to war prevention and the promotion of international peace and security. If they are removed, what remains can roughly be defined as spending on the three Ds of defence, development, and diplomacy, as shown in Table 2. By that reckoning, roughly 70 per cent of Canada’s international peace and security efforts are focused on military capabilities.

Setting out the five Ds of security is an attempt to emphasize the greater range of approaches that is necessary to support durable peace and security. While this exercise tries to bring together the major areas of government spending relevant to international peace and security, it is certainly not an affirmation that all such funds have been spent wisely or effectively. Table 3 shows changes in Canadian spending on these measures between 2003 and 2007. Spending for FY 2003-20043 is set out as it was in the earlier working paper and then those numbers are first updated for FY 2006-20074 and then shown with adjustments.

FY 2003-2004 and FY 2006-2007 (A) include all spending on defence and development assistance, but only the DFAIT spending that links quite directly to peace and security efforts—hence, only program costs under International Security, Global Issues, and Strategic Policy and Public Diplomacy are included. Similarly, programs in other Government departments that are linked to international peace and security are also included. Finance Department funding for the International Development Association, the IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, and the G8 Debt Relief Initiative, amounting to $366-million, is thus included as development spending. Health Department expenditures linked to international programs are also included in development, as is Citizenship and Immigration spending on resettlement assistance. CIDA funding for promoting democracy and good governance and Foreign Affairs spending for peacekeeping and disarmament are included in the democracy, defence, and disarmament categories respectively.

This tabulation shows that close to four-fifths of security spending goes to defence, with less than 20 per cent going to development, and the remaining 5 per cent split among diplomacy, democracy, and disarmament. It also shows that the basic pattern of peace and security spending has remained rather constant in recent years, although there is a moderate trend toward greater emphasis on defence. Total peace and security spending increased appreciably from 2004 to 2007, going from 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2004 to 1.8 per cent in 2007.5 The defence proportion has increased slightly, while the development share has declined, but the shift has not been as dramatic as might have been anticipated, given the military spending increases that began with the Government of Prime Minister Paul Martin and continued under Prime Minister Stephen Harper (of course, some of those increases have come into effect since the 2006-2007 fiscal year).

FY 2006-2007 (B) alters the approach slightly in an effort to be more inclusive in calculating diplomacy spending. The costs of foreign missions are therefore included, on the grounds that, while they are not primarily focused on peace and security, they are supportive of and available for building and nurturing the kinds of international and multilateral relations on which a stable international order ultimately depends. Costs linked to trade and commercial relations are not included, but headquarter costs are prorated to include support services for peace and security measures.

The Treasury Board reporting on International Affairs spending includes $357-million for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Assuming CSIS activities support both military and diplomatic efforts, half of the costs are attributed to each category.

With these adjustments, overall security spending increases slightly to 1.9 per cent of GDP and diplomacy spending moves from less than 2 per cent to almost 6 per cent of total spending on international peace and security. In turn, the defence spending share declines to just under 75 per cent and development spending also declines proportionately to less than 17 per cent of the total.

The questions asked in 2004 remain relevant. Given Canada’s extraordinary wealth and the high level of stability and security that Canadians now enjoy at home, should Canada be doing more to support efforts that help the rest of the world to reach similar levels of peace and security—and in the process contribute to the durability of our own wellbeing?

Second, whatever the level of the security effort that Canadians decide on, is the relative balance of our effort appropriate? Should three-quarters of our security effort be on military roles when the most prominent threats to the security of people come from non-military sources such as unfavourable economic, social, and political conditions—especially when these threats are not amenable to military mitigation?

Another way to assess the appropriateness of the balance is to look at Canada’s defence to-development spending ratio in comparison to that of other likeminded states. In 2004 the Canadian ratio was 3.8:1—roughly in the middle of the rankings for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).6 The most balanced ratio was held by Luxembourg (1.2:1), while the most disproportionate ratio belonged to the United States (24.8:1). While those examples are both outside the mainstream, the ratios of several likeminded countries ranged from 5.9:1 for Germany to 1.6:1 for Denmark, with the Netherlands at 2.2:1, Sweden at 2:1, Norway at 2:1, and Ireland at 1.8:1. Thus Canadian peace and human security spending priorities are weighted more heavily toward the military than are those in most of these likeminded states.

In 2007 the Canadian ratio of defence-to-development spending (as shown in Table 3, FY 2006-2007 [B]) had climbed to 4.5:1. Internationally comparable figures, using the same US$ sources as in 2004, show that in 2006 (the last year for which figures are available) all states except Canada had either held or reduced the defence-to-development spending ratio (OECD c.2007; IISS 2008, Table 37, pp. 443-444).

According to these figures, the Canadian ratio moved to 4:1, compared with Denmark’s 1.7:1, Germany’s 3.6:1, Ireland’s 1:1, Luxembourg’s .9:1, the Netherlands’ 1.8:1, Norway’s 1.7:1, Sweden’s 1.5:1, and the US ratio of 22.8:1.

If Canadian development spending had reached the declared target of .7 per cent of GDP by 2006-2007, the Canadian defence-to-development ratio would of course have been closer to 2:1 and thus closer to the ratios in the Nordic and some other likeminded European countries.

For now, Canadian contributions to international peace and security remain heavily weighted toward military engagement. That begs the obvious question: is it rational to devote only a quarter of international peace and security dollars to mitigating the threats to security as they are actually experienced—namely, unmet basic needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that invariably attend such conditions of insecurity?

George Hamzo is a student in the MA Program in Global Governance at the University of Waterloo. He completed an internship at Project Ploughshares during the Spring 2008 term.



  1. Another version of the paper was subsequently published as Ernie Regehr, Reshaping the security envelope, International Journal, Autumn 2005, pp. 1033-1048.
  2. Reports on years 2000 through 2006 are available here.
  3. Based on the Treasury Board Report on Plans and Priorities.
  4. Based on Treasury Board Departmental Performance Reports (see note 2).
  5. Total GDP figure taken from Statistics Canada Website for the period ending May 2007.
  6. Military spending data is drawn from International Institute for Strategic Studies 2003; data on ODA is drawn from OECD statistics, c. 2003.


International Institute for Strategic Studies. 2003. The Military Balance 2003-2004.London: Oxford University Press.

———. 2008. The Military Balance 2008. London: Routledge.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2003. A Development Cooperation Lens on Terrorism Prevention: Key Entry Points for Action.

———. c.2003. Table 4: Net Official Development Assistance from DAC countries to Developing Countries and Multilateral Organizations.

Project Ploughshares. 2008. Armed Conflicts Report 2008 summary.

Regehr, Ernie. 2004. Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Panel on “Canada’s Place on the World Stage,” November 3.

Regehr, Ernie and Peter Whelan. 2004. Reshaping the Security Envelope: Defence Policy in a Human Security Context. Project Ploughshares Working Paper 04-4.

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. 2007. Canada’s Performance Report 2006-2007: The Government of Canada’s Contribution.

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