Responding to the International Policy Statement

Tasneem Jamal

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2005 Volume 26 Issue 4

Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World was tabled by the Government of Canada early in 2005 in five basic sections: Overview, Diplomacy, Defence, Development, and Commerce. Together with the 2004 national security statement, Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy, it represents the most extensive review of Canadian foreign policy in a generation, and it is the first time that the human security approach developed in the 1990s and the focus on terrorism that emerged after September 11, 2001 have found their way into broad articulations of Canadian foreign and defence policies. The International Policy Statement (IPS) is currently being reviewed by Parliamentary Committees; Ploughshares staff and constituency groups, including national churches and Ploughshares local groups, have been preparing responses.

Two Ploughshares briefs were recently presented to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees:

  • Implementing Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Human Security Framework for Canadian Foreign Policy, presented by John Siebert and Ken Epps to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, November 2, 2005.
  • Canada’s Defence Contribution to International Peace and Security, presented by Ernie Regehr to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, October 27, 2005.

The following excerpts from the two briefs focus on five broad issues:

  1. Operationalizing human security
  2. Nuclear disarmament
  3. The international arms trade
  4. Defence policy and protecting the world’s most vulnerable
  5. NATO and the responsibility to protect.

Operationalizing human security: A declining military role

For people to live in safety in their own homes and communities they of course need to be protected by secure borders – from, for example, the uncontrolled and illicit flow of small arms that contribute to escalating crime and violence. But in addition to secure borders, the safety and wellbeing of people depend on a range of economic, political, and social conditions that meet the basic needs of people and encourage the peaceful settlement of disputes.

It should be the fundamental, if obvious, requirement of Canada’s international peace and security policies that they respond to the ways in which people and communities actually experience insecurity. The most immediate threats to the security of vulnerable people in troubled societies derive from unmet economic and health needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that invariably accompany conditions of chronic insecurity. Since in most cases the primary threats to the security of people are not external military forces bent on attacking the territorial integrity or sovereignty of their state, the primary contribution to the security of these people is not likely to come from armed forces. Human security depends on favourable social, political, and economic conditions that are advanced by measures to

  • combat poverty and promote human development;
  • foster good governance, including political inclusion and participation, respect for basic rights, restored confidence in public institutions – in other words, democracy;
  • end the ready availability of the instruments of violence (small arms in particular, since they are the primary means by which political grievance and social disintegration are transformed into violence) through arms control and disarmament; and
  • support diplomacy that promotes development, democracy, disarmament, and the peaceful settlement of disputes, and that ensures that the resort to force is in accordance with international law.

Together with defence, these are the five Ds of security. Even when the first four Ds fail, emergency protection and stabilization operations rely on more than military responses. Foreign Affairs Canada (2005) points out that “contemporary conflict, in which civilians are the primary tools and targets, has forced traditional peacekeeping missions to evolve into broad and multidisciplinary ‘peace support operations,’” and that to be effective such operations must be “expanded to include civilian experts, such as human rights monitors, refugee and child protection experts, corrections officers to rebuild justice systems, and civilian police to monitor and train local police forces.” Security is not only a broad concept; it is a multi-dimensional reality that requires multi-dimensional support.

Does Canadian spending on these five Ds reflect the multi-dimensional reality of a world in which conflicts are primarily intrastate and in which the insecurity or vulnerability of people is increasingly linked to failed and failing states? The National Security Policy emphasizes that failed and failing states are “one of the most disturbing of recent security developments” (Government of Canada 2004, p. 7), and that Canada’s policy “is focused, first and foremost, on prevention, through development strategies, support for human rights and democracy, diplomacy to prevent conflict, and contributions to build human security” (Government of Canada 2005a, p. 9).

Prevention requires urgent action in support of development, democracy, disarmament, and diplomacy, but current and planned future spending among the five Ds do not reflect this focus. Canada’s 2004 spending on development, democracy, disarmament, and diplomacy beyond Canada’s borders, when combined with defence, represented a total commitment to international peace and security of about 1.3 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product.1 Development, at less than 0.3 per cent of GDP, accounted for about 20 per cent of total security spending. Defence, at just over 1 per cent of GDP, accounted for about 75 per cent of the total, with the remaining 5 per cent roughly spent on diplomacy, disarmament, and the promotion of democracy. The defence-to-development spending ratio was thus about 3.8:1.

Given the special capital and personnel needs of the military, it is not a surprise that defence spending would dominate the security envelope, but it is nevertheless important to ask whether the balance is right, and interesting to speculate what the balance would be if Canada actually increased its overall contribution to international peace and security, especially to accommodate reaching the official goal of development spending at 0.7 per cent of GDP. If the overall security envelope were in the process increased to about 2 per cent of GDP, development would come in at about 30 per cent of the total, and defence at 65 per cent. The defence-to-development ration would be closer to 2:1 – as it is in the Nordic states and the Netherlands.

The spending projections in the February 2005 budget, however, push us in the opposite direction. The budget projects that in five years development spending is to reach only 0.33 per cent of GDP (Tomlinson 2005) and by our calculations that would drop it to only 18 per cent of security spending, while defence is to reach 1.6 per cent of GDP (Macnamara 2005), thus representing about 78 per cent of total security spending (the other three Ds – democracy, disarmament, diplomacy – would make up the other 4 per cent of the total).

In an international security environment in which the threats are increasingly found in dire economic, political, and social conditions, rather than in overt military threats, does it make sense to proportionately decrease spending on development, democracy, disarmament, and diplomacy, and instead focus the bulk of our security spending increases on military forces? Again, defence, given its extraordinary requirements, will continue to take the most resources, but given what we know about the sources of insecurity, and given that the “responsibility to protect” doctrine emphasizes the responsibility to prevent and rebuild along with the need for protection operations, are the current and planned proportions appropriate?

Jeffrey Sachs, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, spoke recently about efforts to meet the food needs of five million people by getting fertilizer and seeds to Malawi in time for this growing season. An appeal was put out for US$37-million (less than an hour of Pentagon spending and just over a day of Canadian military spending). Governments have responded with pledges for only $12-million, and thus we knowingly condemn millions to certain and catastrophic hunger. We’ve again been hearing the message of Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and a tireless campaigner for a just and humane global response to the needs of Africa. It is the same story, only multiplied many times over. The world knowingly allows children to inherit the virus and others to die early, and thus leave still more orphans, when we fail to provide the needed funds that amount to less than what the world spends in a single day on military forces.


Nuclear disarmament

The failures in the past year in the nuclear disarmament machinery provide alarming evidence of a crisis in our ability to stop proliferation and reduce overall numbers of nuclear weapons. The failures include the collapse of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2005, the continued stalemate on agreeing to an agenda for the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, and the inability to agree on any language on the nuclear threat in the final document at the United Nations World Summit in mid-September 2005. At the same time nuclear terrorist threats seem increasingly plausible, and the number of known states in possession of nuclear weapons outside the framework of the NPT continues its slow growth to now include Pakistan, India, Israel, presumably North Korea, and possibly soon Iran.

The IPS (Government of Canada 2005a, p. 13) expresses concern about “irresponsible states who are in possession of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] or who pursue their development,” but acquisition or possession of nuclear weapons by any state is always an irresponsible act.

Consistent with the human security framework, effective nonproliferation requires a comprehensive approach that deals with the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that drive the demand for nuclear weapons, while affirming that all nuclear weapons, whoever holds them, are unacceptable and illegitimate tools of terror. Canada should continue to work consistently to reduce the political legitimacy and value of nuclear weapons in order to accelerate progress toward their elimination.

The nuclear doctrine held by NATO maintains that nuclear weapons are essential to preserve peace and will be retained indefinitely. Canada’s commitment to reduce the political legitimacy of nuclear weapons is compromised by its membership in an alliance that continues to uphold nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of peace.


That Canada continue to work with other like-minded non-nuclear NATO states to call for a review of NATO’s nuclear doctrine, to bring it into line with international commitments.

In spite of gains made in the immediate post-Cold War period, the current trend is toward nuclear weapons retention and modernization by the five nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT – China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The international community must encourage continued tangible reductions in the arsenals of the nuclear weapon states, including through the NATO alliance and within the context of the NPT. We commend Canada for actively and publicly encouraging the nuclear weapon states to make further verifiable and irreversible reductions in both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and demonstrate measurable progress toward fulfillment of Article VI of the NPT.

The IPS notes the possibility that WMD will one day fall into the hands of terrorists and adopts a counter-proliferation approach to these threats. It highlights Canada’s efforts to control the supply of nuclear materials through export controls and threat reduction programs, including the G8 Global Partnership Program. The cases in Iraq, Libya, and North Korea suggest that diversion of nuclear materials from civilian programs to clandestine weapons programs is a very real proliferation concern that must be addressed.


That Canada maintain a policy fully in line with the international norm that precludes any civilian nuclear cooperation with a state, unless there is a verifiable commitment (full-scope safeguards) to forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons, while continuing to enforce export controls and support threat reduction.

One of the greatest obstacles to making headway on the disarmament agenda is the inability to engage in substantive discussions, mainly because of the stalemate in the CD. Canada has supported innovative solutions to compensate for the institutional deficit of the NPT and the abuse of the consensus system in the CD, but more coordinated effort is required.

We encourage Canada to continue exploring all avenues to rejuvenate the multilateral arms control negotiating process and to engage states in substantive discussions toward negotiation and implementation of new tools of disarmament.


That Canada work to raise the necessary support for a resolution in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly to create four ad hoc committees and commence discussions on the issues that are currently blocked in the CD, while at the same time exploring “the possibility of bringing NPT States Parties together next year [2006] in a special session that would address the reform agenda and go some way to make up for the time wasted this May” (DFAIT 2005).

Among the issues that are being suffocated by the impasse in the CD is space security. This appears on the CD agenda through a resolution called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. While continuing to promote a range of means to break the CD deadlock, Canada must support informal discussions on space security themes, including important technical concepts. Resolving key debates over definitions, building understanding around complex technical concerns, and engaging all space actors, including the civil and commercial sectors, will help to build consensus on the way forward to preserve the peaceful uses of space for all.


That Canada facilitate discussions on the technical, commercial, scientific, and political considerations of the space security debate and definitions of central concepts, including the parameters of ‘outer space’, to lay the foundation for negotiations on a treaty to ban space weapons.


The international arms trade

The widespread availability of conventional weapons – especially small arms and light weapons (SALW) – has contributed to the deaths of millions of combatants and civilians in dozens of conflicts around the world. The IPS (Government of Canada 2005a, p. 14) refers to the illicit trade in small arms: “…each year more than 500,000 people are killed by the 640 million small arms and light weapons in the world today.”

In the past Canada has been a leader in multilateral efforts to address the problems caused by the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons around the world. The IPS indicates that Canada will continue to provide diplomatic and financial assistance and promote its efforts as part of the human security agenda: “Foreign Affairs will renew action on the human security agenda by giving fresh impetus to international action on controlling the illicit flow of small arms into conflict zones, including urban areas” (Government of Canada 2005a, p. 14).

Although we welcome these statements, especially the call for a renewed emphasis on international action to control the spread and misuse of these weapons, with the exception of a reference to CIDA’s role in supporting disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration and weapons collection programs (Government of Canada 2005c, p. 13), the IPS is silent on where and how Canada will realize this commitment. We encourage Canada to continue to make the control of small arms and light weapons a primary objective of Canada’s disarmament (small arms) agenda and an integral part of Canada’s human security agenda.

The 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) has been the focus of multilateral efforts to combat SALW. In July 2006 the international community will meet to review the PoA. Canada should publicly recommit itself to leadership in this forum.


That Canada work with like-minded states and civil society to ensure a substantive and comprehensive agenda for the PoA Review Conference in July 2006 and to ensure that the PoA continues after that date and is subject to an ongoing review process.

Canadian civil society has been working with government officials to develop credible policy alternatives. Project Ploughshares has worked through the Small Arms Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee (CPCC), a network of Canadian organizations and individuals working on small arms research and policy development. A set of policy recommendations covering a wide range of issues related to small arms was provided to officials by the Small Arms Working Group in 2005 in support of the PoA. These include the following:


That Canada support greater international controls regulating small arms possession and use by individuals. More specifically, there is a growing consensus that there are no legitimate grounds for the use of military assault weapons by civilians.

That Canada seek a legally binding international instrument on marking and tracing arms and ammunition.

That Canada develop national legislation or administrative procedures to regulate arms brokers – those individuals and companies acting as ‘go-betweens’ in many international arms deals. Apart from providing regulation of the activities of Canadian arms brokers, a Canadian law on arms brokering would demonstrate Canadian leadership in this neglected area of conventional arms control.

That Canada support international preventive measures such as restraining the legal and illegal circulation of existing weapons, and simultaneous proactive micro-disarmament measures such as the collection and destruction of weapons.

The trade in conventional weapons, largely a story of states in the North supplying states in the South, is unencumbered by a single international agreement. National controls to regulate the trade have widely varying standards, with the result that states regularly supply weapons that have been denied by their allies.

A more comprehensive formulation of Canada’s international policy would bring needed attention to the international trade in all conventional weapons and commit Canada to measures to control and reduce the arms trade in order to prevent irresponsible transfers and excessive and destabilizing accumulations. To this end Canada should take action at the international level by promoting the negotiation of an international treaty, and at the national level, by reviewing its own arms export control system.


That Canada increase its efforts to build strict, universal standards for the transfer of conventional weapons by promoting the development of an effective international arms trade treaty.

Canada’s export control system includes important criteria for restricting military exports, but these are essentially unchanged from 1986 – the height of the Cold War. Canada’s export control system would benefit from a thorough review that took into account the emerging international attention to additional criteria such as responsibilities under international law.


That Canada’s military export control system be reviewed, with the goal more comprehensive, transparent, and consistently applied criteria.

The export control review should also attend to a number of weaknesses in the current system. For example, responsibility for export permit decisions was transferred from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Minister of International Trade in December 2003. Because arms exports are fundamentally foreign policy transactions, Foreign Affairs Canada, in consultation with other Departments and Agencies, should have final responsibility for ensuring that Canadian military exports are consistent with Canadian values, objectives, and obligations. Additional weaknesses include the special exemption of arms exports to the US, inadequate end-user controls, and limited transparency.


Defence policy and protecting the world’s most vulnerable

It is surely a form of high hubris to assume that the current cases of state failure and armed conflict that have proven intractable and durable for decades will be readily amenable to either military or diplomatic quick fixes. Such conditions and conflicts tragically persist and persist. They are rooted in toxic mixtures of soil depletion, resource scarcity, the absence of health care and basic infrastructure, political exclusion, religious and ethnic competition, and plentiful arms – and the list goes on. There are effective responses, but they are long-term peacebuilding strategies that address the fundamental economic, political, bureaucratic, policing, and social deficits that fuel failure. We know that those efforts require resources far beyond those now available, but which in total are still tiny in comparison to the trillion dollars the world spends annually on armed forces. At the same time, the international community must also become much more determined and much better equipped to protect those civilian populations most grievously affected and imperilled as the process of slow change unfolds in the midst of ongoing violence and abuse.

That protection really describes the military dimension of the challenge of the responsibility to protect (R2P). And the Defence statement addresses it when it declares, “The ability to respond to the challenge of failed and failing states will serve as a benchmark for the Canadian Forces” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 11). The statement properly recognizes that responding to people imperiled by failed and failing states must be the particular task and focus of Canada’s armed forces operating beyond North America.

The statement also acknowledges that “this focus will not see the Forces replicate every function of the world’s premier militaries” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 11), and thus the specialization question seems finally to be settled. Canada will not try to mount forces designed to respond to every contingency that might be conceived or faced. Instead, the commitment is to focus – to develop a capacity to make a contribution in some circumstances but not in others. In developing that focus for the Canadian Forces, planners should pay particular attention to the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in elaborating on what the Defence statement says will be “more relevant” forces for responding to the instability of failed states (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 11). The Defence statement commits the Armed Forces to supporting Canada’s R2P efforts, but it does not address the question of whether R2P operations require any changes to Canadian equipment and training.

The ICISS report, however, is clear that the force that is to be deployed and used for humanitarian purposes must be distinguished from military war-fighting methods and objectives. It repeats the point several times. While noting that peacekeeping was designed to monitor ceasefires between belligerent states, the ICISS report (2001 p. 5) says, “The challenge in this context is to find tactics and strategies of military intervention that fill the current gulf between outdated concepts of peacekeeping and full-scale military operations that may have deleterious impacts on civilians.” Later it makes the point that “military intervention [for humanitarian purposes] involves a form of military action significantly more narrowly focused and targeted than all out warfighting” (ICISS 2001, p. 37). Winning the acceptance of civilian populations, says the report, “means accepting limitations and demonstrating through the use of restraint that the [military] operation is not a war to defeat a state but an operation to protect populations in that state from being harassed, persecuted or killed” (ICISS 2001, p. 63).

Canadian military leaders have not liked to hear it, but it is still simply the case that overseas military engagements in failed and failing states must function much closer to a policing model than a war-fighting model. It is inevitable that in some instances protection forces will face heavily armed and unrestrained adversaries, but military operations to protect people are analogous to policing in the sense that the armed forces are not employed in order to ‘win’ a conflict by defeating an army or even a regime. They are there to protect people in peril and to maintain some level of public safety while other authorities and institutions pursue solutions to underlying problems. And in all this, they must ultimately be accountable to the communities that host them and which they are sent to serve.

In the list of types of international operations that Canadian Forces will participate in, there is no reference to civilian protection operations; the closest is “complex peace support and stabilization missions” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 28). However, the
Defence statement does acknowledge a new context: “Our soldiers, sailors and air personnel must increasingly operate in environments where the lines between war and peace have blurred” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 26). It then identifies a variety of tools required – “from negotiation, compromise and cultural sensitivity to precision weapons” – but it doesn’t adequately explain how Canadian Forces’ training, equipment, and rules of engagement need to be adjusted to “put a premium … on the sanctity of human life” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 27).


NATO and the responsibility to protect

The National Security Policy (Government of Canada 2004) speaks of ensuring “the continued and enhanced relevance of both NATO and the United Nations” (p. 51). There is an implied equivalence between the two, and even when the NSP does make a distinction, calling NATO “our best insurance policy” in the face of a dangerous world, while a reformed UN is “our best hope for a truly global peace” (p. 52), the distinction is not compelling. It implies immediate concrete benefits from NATO and only hoped-for future security benefits from the UN, if it is meaningfully reformed. The Defence statement continues the equivalence theme: “The Canadian Forces will … maintain their contributions to international institutions such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 24). It defines NATO as key to international security outside its own area and supports the development within NATO of “a global power projection capability to manage crises and respond to threats” (Government of Canada 2005b, p. 25).

The Diplomacy section of the International Policy Statement (Government of Canada 2005a, p. 6) also focuses on NATO as the vehicle through which Canada will cooperate with the United States in building greater capacity for participation in peace support operations.

This focus on NATO’s reach and military preparedness does not speak to the needs of Darfur, or Northern Uganda, or Zimbabwe. It lauds military prowess but ignores the profoundly political, legal, and moral conundrum: how is the world to find a means of timely and consistent access to people in situations of extreme vulnerability?

To the extent that military forces can come to the aid of people terrorized in their own homes and communities, the priority challenge is to develop the means for timely access – and that is a problem of political will and legal legitimacy. NATO is the source of neither.

NATO is not a regional organization in the United Nations system – that is, NATO is not, like the African Union or the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a politically inclusive body that has the mandate to make decisions for, and politically represent, regional interests. NATO is like any coalition of the willing, and cannot be the author of its own legitimacy. For that it relies either on the United Nations Charter (the right to defence), the UN Security Council, or, in some circumstances, the decisions of bona fide, politically inclusive, regional organizations.



  1. We acknowledge the difficulty in achieving a precise measurement of relevant and relative security spending. The Ploughshares attempt is detailed in Reshaping the Security Envelope: Defence Policy in a Human Security Context by Ernie Regehr and Peter Whelan, Project Ploughshares Working Paper 04-4, 2004.


DFAIT 2005, Opening Statement to UNGA60 First Committee by Paul Meyer, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN for Disarmament, 3 October.

Foreign Affairs Canada 2005, “Peace Support Operations.”

Government of Canada 2004, Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy.

Government of Canada 2005a, Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World, “Diplomacy.”

Government of Canada 2005b, Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World, “Defence.”

Government of Canada 2005c, Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World, “Development.”

International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty 2001, The Responsibility to Protect, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa.

Macnamara, D. 2005, “Happiness is – a rising defence budget?” IRPP Special Commentary, Institute for Research on Public Policy, February 25.

Tomlinson, B. 2005, “Budget 2005: Mixed Messages for Canada’s Commitment to Ending Global Poverty,” Canadian Council for International Cooperation, February 24.


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