People’s Commission on Global Security: Canada’s Role
We live in a world in which there is a growing gap between rich and poor. At home and abroad, the rich are getting richer while the poor are becoming more numerous. This inequitable distribution of wealth and resources leads to increased poverty, injustice, oppression and environmental degradation. As these problems fester, they foment violence, armed conflict and war.
The links between development, peace and security are clear. Preventing armed conflict costs less in human and economic terms than waging war. Yet militarism is on the rise, while the root causes of conflict are inadequately addressed by government and exacerbated by corporate globalisation.
How would government deal with these issues if informed public opinion was taken more into account? What would government policy look like if we wrote it?
The People’s Commission on Global Security: Canada's Role intends to find out. You are invited to bring your answers to these questions and any others you choose to raise on the subject of Canada’s contribution to global security to the event nearest you or send them to the Canadian Peace Alliance.
This document provides background information for individuals and groups wishing to participate in the People's Commission on Global Security. It welcomes you into a process designed to enable concerned citizens to work together to create their agenda for global security. The intention is not to limit the debate, the issues, or the analysis to those outlined below. It is simply to highlight certain issues related to peace and security and to make some of the links between these and other important matters of social and economic justice.
Discussions of this kind are often confounded by unstated assumptions. For this reason, as sponsors of the People's Commission on Global Security, we begin by stating our assumptions about the concepts of violence, war, security and peace underlying the Commission.
Assumptions about Violence
Violence is a continuum with inter-personal and community violence at one end and the organised international violence of warfare at the other. The connecting thread is the desire to control the resources and behaviour of others. Violence breeds violence and tends to escalate out of control. Resorting to the use of violent means can almost always be avoided.
Assumptions about War
War is not inevitable. War, like slavery, is a highly institutionalised form of human behaviour that can be abolished.
Assumptions about Security
Security is multidimensional. In the past, security was seen primarily in military terms. The threat of military aggression across borders was countered by acquiring military means to meet such threats. Today, the threats to our security are seen as being primarily non-military, e.g. ecological catastrophe, depletion of non-renewable resources, etc. Security depends on meeting basic human needs and assuring environmental well being. This includes food, water, shelter, health care, education, human rights, social and economic justice, sustainable development, environment, and peace.
Security is mutual. Either all countries are secure, or all countries are insecure. Canadian and global security depend on the security of all humankind.
Security is collaborative. Global security depends on alleviating the social, economic and political roots of inter-group tension and war.
Assumptions about Peace
Peace is an attitude and a process; it is not an objective, a goal or an end to be achieved. Peace is a state of mind, not a state of affairs. As A.J. Muste once noted: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Peace is the determination to deal with dispute and conflict without resorting to violent means (except when the use of violence is unavoidable for self-defence in extreme situations). Peace cannot be won, enforced, or implemented. Peace is an ongoing, never-ending, persistent process of discussion, negotiation and compromise. Peace is possible.
A discussion about war and peace will never simply be about defence spending or military hardware, though it may start with these issues. The discussion may extend to human security, which, the Government of Canada defines as encompassing democratic governance, human rights, the rule of law, sustainable development and equitable access to resources.
Below we present a few issues that our member groups have identified as particularly important to the future of peace and security on the planet. They are not the only such issues, but we hope they pique your interest and encourage your participation in the People’s Commission.
Role of the Canadian Armed Forces and Military Spending Priorities
Our tendency as a society is to accept without question that all "national security" expenditures are legitimate. Yet, in a democracy, it is important to ensure that the military undertakes only those roles determined for it by civil society. In Canada, those roles are to defend Canadian territorial sovereignty and assist civil authorities in times of crisis, and internationally, to provide the military component of Canada’s commitments to its alliances (NATO and NORAD) and to the United Nations.
The Canadian military has a tendency to define its own roles and then plan to be ready to fulfill them. This planning shapes military spending priorities, which favour war fighting training and equipment over peacekeeping, and promotes Canadian involvement in the international weapons trade.
The Department of National Defence has the largest budget of any federal government department. It receives more than $10 billion a year. Less than ten percent of that is earmarked for UN peacekeeping and other humanitarian roles.
Those concerned about these issues may want to make recommendations regarding:
Canada and the International Weapons Trade
The Government of Canada participates in the international weapons trade through: subsidies to military industry, the export of Canadian-made military goods, Team Canada trade missions, weapons trade shows, and air shows. As a result, the weapons industry is not only highly subsidized but also highly profitable.
The latest government report on Canadian military exports shows that they rose from $304 million in 1997 to $421 million in 1998 – an increase of 38 percent. These figures do not include Canada's military exports to the US, for which permits are not required. So the figures are actually much higher since the US buys more military goods from Canada than the rest of the world (61 countries in 1998) combined. Canada sells military goods to some of the world’s most corrupt and violent regimes, notorious for gross violations of human rights such as torture and extra-judicial execution.
Those concerned about these issues may want to make recommendations on:
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not banned by international agreement. The Government of Canada has never declared its support for a total ban on nuclear weapons.
The nuclear weapons states (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) have come to regard their security, their power, and their position in the world as being linked to the possession and deployment of nuclear weapons. As a result, the world is experiencing the institutionalisation of nuclear deterrence, which was originally considered to be an interim policy, instead of progressive nuclear disarmament.
Those concerned about nuclear weapons may want to make recommendations regarding:
Canada-US Relations and the "Son of Star Wars"
The relationship between the US and Canadian military establishments is very close. This relationship greatly influences Canadian foreign policy, particularly with respect to nuclear weapons. It has led Canada to support NATO’s willingness to initiate nuclear war through its policy of first-use of nuclear weapons. It has kept Canada from voting for UN resolutions that promote nuclear disarmament. And it may yet involve Canada in a new Star Wars related scenario, known as National Missile Defense (NMD), currently planned by the United States.
These policies and actions are provoking two new arms races. One is among nuclear weapons states that are developing computer-simulated design and testing programmes. Another is among those non-nuclear weapons states that regard the institutionalisation of nuclear deterrence as a threat to their societies.
Those concerned about recent developments in Canada-US military relations may want to make recommendations regarding:
Canada and Peacekeeping
Canada has long been as respected a leader in United Nations peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is not an end in itself, but rather an instrument of a global policy of common security that must address the social, economic and political roots of international tensions and war.
For a peacekeeping operation to succeed, it needs a clear and practicable mandate, effective command, sustained political and financial support, and – most importantly – the cooperation of the conflicting parties. Peacekeepers' strongest "weapon" is their impartiality and their legitimacy, drawn from the fact that they represent the international community as a whole. UN peacekeepers cannot impose peace where there is no peace to be kept. Therefore, peacekeeping should not be confused with other forms of military intervention, including uni- or multilateral peacemaking and peace-enforcement actions.
In situations of conflict, the UN Charter suggests measures such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, and other peaceful means to resolve conflict. The UN also may implement measures such as complete or partial interruption of economic relations or means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations. If these measures fail, the UN may consider sanctions, blockades, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The year 1998 marked half a century of United Nations peacekeeping. While 13 operations were established in the first 40 years of UN peacekeeping, 3 times as many new operations have been launched since 1988. The mandate of UN peacekeepers has changed significantly during the 1990s. While "traditional" UN peacekeeping involve
s primarily military tasks – such as monitoring ceasefires, separating hostile forces and maintaining buffer zones – missions are becoming increasingly complex, involving simultaneous political, military and humanitarian activities.
Those who want to explore the topic of peacekeeping may want to put forward recommendations on:
Sanctions and Military Intervention
The UN Charter provides for the imposition of economic sanctions. Sanctions are generally considered to be a benign alternative to war and are intended to bring about the downfall of an objectionable regime. They may be imposed by individual countries acting alone or by groups of countries acting together.
Opinion is divided as to the effectiveness of sanctions. There is no guarantee that destroying the economy of a country will convince its leadership to change its ways. The main impact of sanctions often is to make poor and disenfranchised people even poorer, and to create huge profits for smugglers and black marketeers.
UN sanctions against Iraq were first imposed in August 1990. The purpose was to pressure Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. In April 1991, after the January-February war against Iraq, sanctions were continued to induce Iraq to comply with three disarmament requirements set by the Security Council. Medicine, food and "supplies for essential human needs" were to be exempt from the sanctions. In 1995, an Oil-For-Food program was approved which allowed Iraq to sell a certain amount of oil.
The effects of a decade of sanctions on the people of Iraq are well documented. In a country where begging was virtually unknown, child beggars now support entire families. Homelessness and prostitution are increasing. Water borne diseases are rampant. Chronic malnutrition affects 25-30 percent of the population. The number of children estimated by the World Health Organization to be dying of causes related to the sanctions is 5-6 thousand a month.
Those who want to explore this topic may want to make recommendations on:
Canadian Foreign Aid and Third World Debt
The gulf between rich and poor countries has been widening for decades. This growing gap is a major cause of insecurity for all countries because people do not willingly remain impoverished indefinitely.
Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) is approximately one third of the standard of 0.7 percent of GNP per year set by the United Nations. Some countries, including Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, exceed the UN standard.
If properly allocated, ODA results in economic power and self-reliance at the grass-roots level and can be an effective way of reducing the gap between rich and poor countries.
One of the most serious challenges to the livelihoods and security of millions who live in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is the mountain of foreign debt owed by their governments to international banks, institutions and foreign governments. Despite more than a decade of sacrifice in order to make payments on the debt, the total owed has actually increased. There is a growing consensus that the debt cannot be repaid but still little movement towards debt cancellation. Furthermore, when debt is cancelled there are usually strings attached that may restrict the capacity of governments to meet the economic, social, environmental and developmental needs of its population.
Those who are interested in Canada’s foreign aid and debt cancellation programs may want to discuss:
Human Security, Humanitarian Intervention and Peacebuilding
It is generally agreed that the best interventions are those that prevent conflict. Governments and civil society wishing to promote human security can best do so by addressing the root causes of conflict. Human security is more than the absence of violent conflict. It consists of meeting human and environmental needs. Canadian peacebuilding efforts should go beyond post-conflict reconstruction and emphasize prevention.
1n 1998, annual world military expenditures were approximately $780 billion. For a fraction of this amount, global programs could be implemented to eliminate starvation and malnutrition, provide shelter, eliminate illiteracy, provide basic health care and AIDS prevention, provide clean and safe water, protect the environment, retire developing nations’ debts and much more.
The Canadian Government strongly advocates a human security agenda that stresses the use of political, social and economic means to prevent and resolve conflict rather than resorting to the use of force.
However, recent military interventions, justified as protecting human security, raise serious questions about state sovereignty, international law and governance, unilateral interventions in the name of humanitarianism, and the potential for massive abuses of power.
Those concerned about these issues may want to make recommendations regarding:
You are undoubtedly concerned about the future of global security and the role that we can play, both individually and collectively, to ensure it. Your concern is timely. Amidst the hopes and aspirations of a new millennium, we face nuclear weapons proliferation, increased oppression of civilians within sovereign states and a flourishing international weapons trade.
The Canadian Peace Alliance wishes to encourage dialogue and build bridges among broad sectors of society working for the common goal of protecting the world's citizens from oppression and providing a decent standard of living world-wide.
We feel that it is an important moment to investigate these and other issues that affect common security – that is why we have launched the People's Commission on Global Security: Canada's Role.
We welcome you into this process. Please consider participating at an event in your area or making a written submission. Perhaps you would be interested in organising a discussion of these issues with friends or colleagues in your community that could result in a submission.
Oral and written submissions will be summarised in a report that will reflect how the people of Canada envision a secure future. Your participation will help us to produce a comprehensive report with recommendations to the Government of Canada that we will work to have implemented.
Let us together create our agenda for global security. We look forward to hearing from you and receiving your input to this important work.
Canadian Peace Alliance, May 2000