Evidence of meeting #18 for National Defence in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was military.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Thank you very much.

Monsieur Bachand.

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First of all, I want to congratulate you both on your excellent presentation that I find quite comprehensive. But I would like to clarify some details and to go a little further.

My first questions are for you, Ms. Livingstone.

By virtue of our positions, members of Parliament regularly hear from military representatives and people like you who are civilian representatives. The representatives of the military often tell us that NGOs cannot provide services if they are not protected and if they do not enjoy a degree of security. We hear civilians say that the military presence is detrimental to their effectiveness and to the delivery of those services.

Ms. Livingstone, I would like your opinion. Who is wrong and who is right?

11:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

Thank you for a very interesting question.

I'm not sure that it's about right or wrong. I think it's much more about a changed landscape for the delivery of services in a conflict environment that doesn't obey all the rules and complicates the relationship between the humanitarian NGO community and the military. One can make a very strong argument that it's not one or the other, it's both, which is why there was such a need for a robust understanding of civil-military coordination and cooperation.

I realize this is not always a popular stance with some of my humanitarian colleagues. I fully appreciate the need of a secure environment for them to do their work. I also appreciate the fact that they need to have an understanding and respect for what the forces provide for them in terms of their capacity to do their work. I don't think we've come to the end of the discussion or argument yet, but when I look at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and CMCoord and OCHA, talking about coordination, I think we're slowly making incremental steps towards this.

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

So, in fact, you are advocating for better cooperation between civilians and the military. But I have already had this discussion with the military in operational areas and when they decide, for example, that they are going to go somewhere, it is unfortunately rare for them to advise NGOs. For NGOs, things are much the same. The principle is the same and we have to work to improve it.

In the case of Afghanistan, do you feel that the overall coordination of all the governments—several of them are on the ground there—should be handled by a civilian or by a military commander like General McChrystal?

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

We believe in civilian oversight of the armed forces in this country and in most democratic countries. Again, I think it's not as easy as one or the other, but what is the shared relationship, what is the shared information, and what is the co-location that is required to ensure that all the parties around that table have a clear understanding and appreciation of where they are going, what they are doing, what the costs are, and what the risks are? So I'm talking about a risk mitigation strategy that is responsive to a military perspective and a civilian perspective, and don't forget, there's a rule of law with policing in there as well that has to be managed. I think this is a more interesting way on a go-forward basis, but I probably should defer to my colleague.

11:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I think it's dependent on the situation. We've been very much caught up in Afghanistan and the particular examples of Afghanistan.

Situations are different in different parts of the world and that fact must be recognized. In some cases, it is perfectly safe for NGOs to be working in many parts of a country. In others, it is very dangerous and it is wise to work in closer cooperation with the military, the United Nations, or with whomever can provide a measure of security. Each situation has to be assessed on its merits.

In the case of Afghanistan, we can see that some NGOs are very comfortable working with the military. These are not necessarily humanitarian organizations. Members of humanitarian organizations who see the military when they are working to distribute assistance or working with the people may consider that the presence of the military puts a target on their own backs. Military and humanitarian personnel have to be aware of that. Other organizations are working in governance or to support the government administratively. They are able to work with the military very easily.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Lord, I have a question for you. You mentioned national interests. We have often talked about that here at the committee. Some western countries seem to feel that UN approval is important. But we are beginning to see some exceptions. In Kosovo, the decision to intervene and to go there was NATO's. Then other things started to happen. There was the coalition of the willing in Iraq, headed by the United States.

Now there are other ways of working in accordance with international law. I would like to hear what you have to say about the duty to protect. This is a new legal concept that we do not quite know what to do with.

Can you or Ms. Livingstone share your concept with us, where one or more states intervene in order to provide protection, but without a UN or NATO resolution? Is that something you can conceive of, and, if so, what form would it take? I know that might be a long answer.

11:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

We can conceive of it because it has already been done. Recently, I feel, we have seen a change in the attitude of the Americans. They are now talking more of a multinational approach. I think much of the world is more comfortable with that approach after the setbacks we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Fifteen seconds left, Ms. Livingstone.

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

I think with the emphasis on multilateralism in the current administration and the emphasis on smart power, there's going to be much more interest in seeing how the UN and others can be shaped in their running of mandates to the Security Council to become more active. So I think it bears watching.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Thank you.

Now I will give the floor to Mr. Harris.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for your presentations. I have four questions, and I will try to see if I can get through them in the time allotted to me.

First of all, to both of you, but Mr. Lord, since you have 70 organizations in your umbrella group, do you see a role, or what role do you see for Parliament in making decisions about getting started in peacekeeping operations or continuing?

We see mission creep in various things that we get involved in. Should we have a rule that says we ought not to deploy troops without parliamentary oversight or parliamentary approval. Do either of you have any views on that?

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I certainly have views on that. I think Parliament should be as involved as possible in tracking, information gathering, and analyzing situations as they evolve, on a regular basis.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

You're talking about values, the decision being based on Canadian values and the national interest. Surely the government has a role, but parliamentarians obviously care about these things too.

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I would suspect that parliamentarians have a wide range of interests in these issues, that there are values and there are interests related to Canada's economy, Canada's alliances, and so on. I think there's a way to sort of differentiate between values and some of these other things. I would think that parliamentarians should take a look at this range of issues related to intervention and be prepared to play a role in gathering information, assessing that information, and making known their views on how Canada should proceed.