Good morning, honourable members of the committee.
It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to testify before you today. I thank you for the opportunity to offer some observations and proposals on behalf of the organization I represent, the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association.
May I also say it is a privilege for me to be included among the other witnesses here today, all of whom are experienced and expert practitioners of peacekeeping. I admire and respect each of them and count them as friends and esteemed colleagues.
Today, I will concentrate on what I consider to be a key issue—Canadian leadership within UN peace support operations—and I will offer two practical, national-level proposals to enhance our leadership capabilities.
Even at its lowest ebb, Canada continued to contribute civilians, troops, and police to United Nations peace support operations, or PSOs. Now, however, the government's ambitions involve larger contributions and a greater role in PSOs, preferably in smarter, more targeted ways, in order to maximize the effects on the ground. Presumably, it foresees that smarter and more effective contributions will assist Canada in regaining our position as a respected world leader in PSO.
Canada most recently announced some of these new, smarter contributions to the UN mission in Mali. No doubt Global Affairs Canada and National Defence explained to you last week how they are planning to meet the Canadian national interest for this mission, which should translate into very simple national objectives: making a significant contribution toward mission success, and then returning our people and equipment home safely.
Although the objectives may be simple, implementation is not. Apart from currently being the most dangerous mission in the world for peacekeepers, the United Nations' multi-dimensional integrated stabilization mission in Mali is a good example of how modern PSOs have evolved to become ever more complex, multi-dimensional, and integrated. Conducted within austere and hostile environments, in countries with minimal host nation infrastructure or support, and meddling neighbours, the modern PSO is more akin to counter-insurgency operations with added responsibilities for nation building and humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.
As such, modern PSOs require expertise in such major crosscutting issues as security sector reform, defence sector reform, justice and rule of law, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, sexual and gender-based violence, protection of civilians, and peace-building tasks.
To be successful, missions also require advanced equipment and support, which Canada is now offering, but they also require, from troop- and police-contributing countries, expert leadership from well-qualified military, police, and civilian personnel, not only on the ground or tactical level, but also at the mission or operational level, and, I would propose, at the UN headquarters or strategic levels as well.
PSOs also require commanders and multinational staffs who are not only experts in these evolving and complex areas of endeavour, but who can also be available at very short notice and have the ability and training to work effectively as coherent staff teams within the Byzantine UN systems. They must be able, effectively and efficiently, to provide integrated police, military and civilian capabilities in such areas as intelligence, mobility, logistics, engineering, and medical support. Since most UN missions now operate under security council resolutions that include elements of chapter 7, or the use of force, those same mission leaders and their staffs must also be warriors with clear-eyed understanding, capability, and determination to undertake robust operations as required, but within sensitive political and diplomatic environments.
One way to assist the UN in meeting these complex and evolving challenges is by providing better leaders at all three levels—strategic, operational, and tactical—and from all three elements—military, police, and civilian. Canada obviously has excellent leaders in all three, but over the past dozen or so years, it has lost much of its broad-based capabilities in peace support operations. With that loss, it has forfeited its claim to be an international leader in that field.
To turn that situation around, Canada will need to commit suitable time and resources to the development of the required expertise, and its contributions must be readily available and rapidly deployable, so that timely establishment of new or expanded peacekeeping operations can be achieved. To be blunt, Canada must re-learn all aspects of peacekeeping support operations, including how to train, prepare, deploy, and support its troops, police, and government-provided civilians within the UN context.
If it so chooses, Canada can be fully capable of meeting these new challenges and of providing the necessary military police and civilian expertise and leadership within those evolving, multi-dimensional, complex, and integrated missions. However, this will not happen without strong direction and support from Parliament before, during, and after deployments.
The conclusion I personally have come to, which has the endorsement of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, focuses on two areas that I have had some experience with. I foresee both of them offering the means to regain our leadership position within missions and on the international stage.
Specifically, I would make these two proposals: one, the establishment of a Canadian international peace support training centre to enable development of PSO research, education, training, and capacity building; and two, contributing a rapidly deployable, pre-trained multinational headquarters to support UN mission leadership, something that the UN desperately needs but cannot provide itself.
First of all, on a Canadian international peace support training centre, we had something very much like this in the past, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Before its dissolution due to the withdrawal of financial and personnel support from DND, the RCMP, and Foreign Affairs, it was the world's first civilian-managed peacekeeping training centre, one of only a handful conducting training, capacity building, public education, and research that reflected the multidisciplinary realities of contemporary peace support operations. The PPC was historically an effective instrument of Canadian foreign and defence policy. It enjoyed a solid reputation in the international community as a leading authority on peace support operations, and served as a model for other countries. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of long-term financial security and personnel support sounded the death knell for the PPC.
I therefore propose that a new institution be established, a Canadian international peace support training centre, with capabilities similar in nature to the former PPC, but without the financial vulnerability it suffered from. The long-term commitment of government support would be a necessity so that the new institution could concentrate on accomplishing its work rather than expending effort on remaining financially solvent.
My second proposal envisages Canada contributing towards a rapidly deployable, multinational headquarters to support mission leadership. Like my first proposal, this is not a new one for Canada. For 12 years, we partnered with 15 like-minded nations to create a multinational, standby high-readiness brigade for United Nations operations, or SHIRBRIG. This was a multinational brigade that could be made available to the UN as a rapidly deployable peacekeeping force. It did not belong to the UN, but rather was made available to the UN as required and at the discretion of the individual SHIRBRIG members.
This brigade was first declared available for deployment in 2000 and in that same year deployed to the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia. That successful mission was followed by deployments and planning assistance in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan—including work in the Darfur Planning Team—Chad and Somalia.
Canada was a recognized leader within SHIRBRIG. Although a full multinational brigade may never be resurrected for political and economic reasons, Canada could still undertake the leadership role by focusing on providing the framework of one vital contribution that SHIRBRIG provided—the jewel in the crown, if you will—and that is a multinational UN military headquarters. Such a headquarters could be fully trained and equipped with UN-compatible vehicles, equipment, and communications, able to integrate fully within a UN mission headquarters, and deployable within a very short period of time in order to rapidly establish new military command-and-control capacity within an integrated UN mission headquarters. It should not be a full-time, fully manned headquarters, but rather would have a small, permanent planning and training staff that would be augmented from across the country for training events and operations. By recreating that headquarters capability, Canada would be offering a unique yet vital capability to the UN, something it cannot provide itself or readily obtain from anywhere else, except with the possibility of NATO and the European Union.
To achieve the headquarters multinational character, Canada could provide the basic building blocks, and then arrange to partner with like-minded nations to provide elements to augment the headquarters staff, equipment, and resources. Once established and trained, it could be offered as a formed headquarters on standby, and readily deployable within the framework of the UN peacekeeping capability readiness system.
Honourable members of the committee, my two proposals to you today have both focused on PSO leadership, one on PSO leadership development, and the second on the practical application of those PSO leadership skills. Both are proven concepts to which Canada has ascribed in the not-too-distant past. The requisite knowledge and expertise to plan and implement both proposals are still readily available in Canada today. With a relatively modest infusion of resources, both could be accomplished in a comprehensive whole-of-government fashion. The resulting Canadian impact on PSOs could be greatly enhanced, in turn positioning Canada in an even greater overall leadership role on the international UN stage.