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 conflict.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Good morning. Welcome to the committee members and to our two witnesses.

This is the 18th meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are continuing our study of the role of Canadian soldiers in international peace operations after 2011.

I want to thank our witnesses today.

We have, from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, Ms. Ann Livingstone. Merci. Bonjour. And from Paix Durable, we have Monsieur David Lord. We're very pleased that you're here. Thank you very much.

You'll each have five to seven minutes. I will start with Madame Livingstone, and then Mr. Lord.

You have the floor.

May 25th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.

Dr. Ann Livingstone Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you on this important topic. I would like to begin with a few comments based on my work on behalf of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, hereafter PPC. I look forward to our subsequent dialogue.

The PPC is a non-governmental organization founded 15 years ago by the Canadian government. Our focus is on researching, educating, training, and building capacity on complex peace operations. Since its inception, the PPC has trained civilians, military, and police personnel from Canada and 150 other countries as they prepared for deployment to peace operations.

We continue to write and provide evidence-based analysis on complex peace operations, and we are currently engaged in capacity-building projects in Latin America and over 30 countries in Africa. We also offer training to international military personnel through the military training cooperation program, with which you are familiar.

My comments and responses today are based on how the PPC thinks and works on this complex subject. I have also read the evidence from your previous sessions with interest.

I have four principal foci for today's commentary: one, what is peacekeeping in the 21st century; two, what is the nature of conflict and its environment; three, what is a whole-of-government response; and four, what might the possible role of the Canadian Forces be post-Afghanistan.

First, when the PPC thinks of peacekeeping, we do not envision traditional peacekeeping à la Suez. We focus rather on a continuum that begins with conflict prevention and extends through multiple phases and steps to peace-building and sustainability. It is not a linear process. Actually it's rather chaotic, and it demands critical analysis from a systems perspective.

As previous speakers have noted, it is no longer our fathers' world. The international community is dealing in an environment where intrastate conflict is more the norm than the exception. The response to this sort of conflict environment is as complex as the nature of intrastate conflict itself.

The response involves a multiplicity of actors from whole of government. It has to factor the power of non-state actors that are well equipped in both arms and technology. It has to include local civil society and the whole range of NGOs, both domestic and international. It cannot ignore international financial organizations, such as the World Bank. It must deal with the UN family. And it is increasingly alert to the expectations of regional organizations, such as the African Union, the European Union, and NATO. This has resulted in our use of the words “complex peace operations”, which more accurately describe the response rather than peacekeeping.

Second is the nature of conflict. The first question you provided to me asks about the nature of the environment in which Canadian Forces can expect to operate. We propose that what we currently see is likely to be the framework in which countries, including Canada, will deploy personnel. I would commend to you Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, as he defines this space very clearly.

We have four cross-cutting variables that we pay a great deal of attention to when we are looking at conflict and conflict environment and response. One is socio-economic realities. Two is youth bulge. Sixty per cent of the world's population are between the ages of 14 and 25. That's a terrifying thought when you think of education, housing, clothing, jobs, etc. Three is information technology and social networking, which changes the nature of information. And four is environmental changes. These affect the development of asymmetric conflict. Furthermore, the increase in visibility and authority of regional alliances and organizations and their standby architecture will impact on how and who responds to complex peace operations.

The retreat by developed countries from UN blue helmets complex peace operations as troop- and police-contributing countries is matched by the increased demand from the global south. They contribute boots to the ground and expect to be more systematically consulted by the Security Council and the Secretariat on the mandating and resourcing of peace operations, despite their often substantive lack of trained and well-equipped personnel for deployment to these operations.

It does not go unnoticed that the developed countries are engaging in non-blue helmet missions in coalitions of the willing, and developing countries are relied on for their contributions to blue helmet missions. This does result in a two-tiered system of responses, and it is resulting in significant debates on command and control structures, training and equipment needs, political will and resourcing, and mandates in their identified tasks, such as protection of civilians and robust peacekeeping, however broadly defined.

It's a complicated picture for your consideration.

Turning to the third focus, since 1956 Canada has been engaged in a variety of complex peace operations, and the lessons learned are many, but I would suggest the following are seminal: the need for a credible and legitimate partner; asymmetric conflict does not lend itself to shooting one's way to peace; the non-state actor is a credible force ignored at our peril; the continuum of prevention and peace-building and sustainability is a long-term, expensive proposition, which generally fails as our attention span shortens over time. Finally, I think all of us have learned that planning the exit is as critical as planning the entry. The analysis for both must be based on an accurate and comprehensive understanding of history, geography, people groups, religion, economics of the specific conflict.

One of the more interesting responses to this reality has been labelled a three-D or whole-of-government, or joined-up, or multi-dimensional approach. It is framed by the need to have all of the players and actors at the table, including the local actor who will bear the responsibility for sustainable peace, if it's at all possible. The idea of specific or exclusive tasks operating in linear sequence is not useful in this particular conflict environment. At the PPC, we prefer the whole-of-government language, which defines a total government effort in which staff, resources, and materiel are coordinated towards achieving the defined objective. Co-location and sharing of information among a broad spectrum of governmental stakeholders, including the local partners, means that civil and military coordination or cooperation becomes the critical aspect in “whole of government”. Fundamentally, the whole of government succeeds when there is shared power and political will; this is difficult to achieve at the best of times.

One need, for the whole of government to work, is more robust, joint, scenario-based training activities in which personnel can practise decision-making at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels before going to the field. Our experience over 15 years tells us that it is cost-effective to train in the safety of a classroom, as the mistakes do not cost blood and treasure.

The need for a civilian rapid response force has been recognized in the U.S. and other countries, and there is a concerted effort at building the “blue briefcases” who are instrumental in development, rule of law, security, and capacity-building for institutions in civil society. We are all a very long way from having this managed well.

The fourth focus is on the role of the CF.

Canadian Forces are a tremendous group of professionals who have acquitted themselves brilliantly across the years. Their accolades cannot be based solely on the Afghanistan experience. Coming from a country with no colonial past, which manages its multicultural diversity without blood in the streets, and whose historical diplomatic ability, lawyer skills, and development focus make Canada and its forces extraordinarily attractive in the current environment, the Canadian Forces in a post-Afghanistan environment could play a role of significance to complex peace operations, particularly in the following: providing mentoring and support to regional organizations such as the AU in building a strategic, operational, and tactical expertise; using the lessons learned in fighting a counter-insurgency in complex peace operations that will, by necessity, be robust; using the experience gained in the PRTs as a model for civil-military relationships, based on clear understandings of roles, responsibilities, and authorities; re-engaging with the UN and UN-mandated missions to provide needed technical expertise as well as high-tech equipment, which would provide needed support to current troop-contributing and police-contributing countries. Generally, this is capacity-building, and the CF are well suited to the task.

The Canadian Forces will be impacted by how intrastate conflict is conducted, how multilateralism evolves in an age of economic tensions, and how complex peace operations, regardless of nomenclature, are conducted. Complex peace operations in the 21st century require the use of a well-trained military force, married with diplomacy, development, economics, rule of law, good governance, human rights, and a host of alliances and partners that can build an environment in which the cost of war is more than the price of peace.

Thank you. I look forward to our conversation.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Thank you, Ms. Livingstone.

I will give the floor to Mr. Lord.

11:15 a.m.

David Lord Executive Director, Peacebuild

Merci beaucoup, monsieur le président.

Thank you to the members of the committee for inviting me to appear before you.

Peacebuild/Paix durable is a network of about 70 Canadian organizations and individuals involved in a range of activities related to peace and conflict situations. Today I am appearing in my personal capacity and not representing views of the network.

My initial comments will focus on criteria for Canadian engagement in responding to violent conflict or the threat of violent conflict, but I would be happy to discuss in the question period, if there is interest and if time permits, other issues.

In looking at Canadian engagement in peace operations post-2011, I think we definitely need some explicit criteria that are as comprehensive as possible for engagement, and a process—bureaucratic, parliamentary, and public—for debating and applying those criteria to specific cases. I'd suggest, however, that criteria shouldn't be limited to possible involvement in peace operations but applied to determining the nature and scope of any major engagement by Canada in support of international peace and security, whether that involves support for conflict prevention to avert violent conflict, resolution of a hot conflict, or substantial involvement in a post-conflict situation.

Some basic categories for looking at any involvement would be, first, relevance to Canadian interests and values; second, what resources and capacities Canada could bring to bear on the situation; and third, the risks of engaging or not engaging.

In the first category, I personally would put humanitarian and human rights considerations at the top of the list. Would engagement serve to protect human life or prevent war crimes, possibly even genocide? Would engagement contribute to protecting or establishing the rule of law? Would it help democratic practice and attitudes to develop? Would it protect or strengthen gender equality, minority rights, or individual human rights?

In addition to these value issues, there is a set of issues related to national interests. These include how important the situation is to Canadian trade, whether there are strong diaspora links, shared language, or cultural links.

Our interests also include how much of a threat to international security the situation is or could become and how much of a direct threat the situation could be to Canada's national security or that of our friends and allies.

Another part of this equation is determining what Canada can bring to the situation. Do we have the resources and capabilities to engage in the state or region in question? Do we have a positive and constructive history in and some in-depth understanding of the situation? What are others, including the United Nations, Canada's allies, regional organizations and states, international NGOs, and others doing to respond? And are we likely to fill a crucial need?

How receptive will the local population and political leaders be to Canadian involvement? Are there adequate international or bilateral coordination mechanisms already in play?

Thirdly, there should be a determination of risk to Canadian lives from either taking action or inaction, and of the risks to local people of action or inaction. Other possible risks include internal or external spoilers—states or armed groups with a potential for negatively altering the dynamics of the situation—and whether waste or misuse of Canadian resources can be prevented.

Last but not least, it should be determined whether there is a realistic chance of success, of meeting clearly articulated objectives. Coming up with adequate, usable criteria for engagement would be a good first step. Effective application of criteria presents another set of issues that I'd be happy to talk further about in the question period.

Thanks.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Thank you very much, Mr. Lord.

I will give the floor to Mr. Wilfert.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If I give you a series of quick questions, could you give me a series of quick, short answers? This is to either one of you, through you, Mr. Chairman.

What do you define as our national interest?

11:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I'll start, Mr. Wilfert, if I may.

I think international peace and security, writ large, is in our national interest. In some particular situations we have more direct national interest in investment and trade. I think we have a national interest in responding to the will of the Canadian people in certain areas. This moves into issues of values as well.

From a political perspective, we have obligations to meet: legal obligations, treaty obligations, moral obligations. I think all of these things are in the national interest.

11:20 a.m.

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

Dr. Ann Livingstone

I would basically concur, but if we go back to Political Science 101, as you know, securing the borders is the principal activity for a government and for national interest. One can argue that when we look at the kind of conflict environment we are currently experiencing, borders are no longer as sacred as they used to be, and it's quite easy to infiltrate.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Should our national interest be confined to this hemisphere or go beyond?

11:20 a.m.

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

Dr. Ann Livingstone

In a globalized world, the idea of focusing only here, to the exclusion of there, probably is a bit limiting. You have to focus where the national interest is, without losing sight of what is also over the horizon.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

But that would be predicated, presumably, on one's capabilities.

11:20 a.m.

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

Dr. Ann Livingstone

Yes, it would be.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

How would you define international peace operations?

11:20 a.m.

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

Dr. Ann Livingstone

Well, the UN has a whole new book on principles and guidelines for how they'd define it. I think international peace operations would be any and all activities that respond to imminent conflict on that continuum from prevention to peace-building.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

One would presume, then, that our national interest should be linked directly to whatever we see as relevant to international peace operations.