Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the fan club is starting to expand on the other side.
It is my pleasure to rise today on Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers’ Day.
First of all, I want to say that I am a fan of everything that the United Nations represents when it comes to international conflict prevention and assistance for people in difficulty.
Before being elected as the member for Gatineau, I was a secondary-school teacher. I want to say that in the five schools in which I had the pleasure of teaching, in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, I either helped to establish UN debating clubs or participated in simulations of the United Nations as an ambassador or the president of the General Assembly. I always took it upon myself to emphasize to my students and other participants how important multilateralism is for solving the difficulties faced by the nations of the world.
In regard to Bill C-287, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of it. The strengths of this bill are, first of all, that it recognizes the very important role played by UN peacekeepers.
Second, the Bloc Québécois is very much in favour of multilateralism as a method of settling international conflicts. The UN peacekeepers embody this approach.
Third, the peacekeepers who have died on UN missions deserve to be commemorated.
Fourth, this will give our Prime Minister an opportunity to discover peaceful uses for our army.
The only shortcoming that we should examine is the date of the commemoration on August 9. I will explain why we do not like this. We prefer a date that is already universally recognized: May 29. We think that the peacekeepers should be honoured in a more international context. There is already an International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, and it is May 29. We think that this date is more appropriate than August 9 in order to demonstrate our solidarity with the entire international community and the choice it has already made.
It is quite appropriate to pay tribute to the peacekeepers. They are a central element in multilateralism, a principle of conflict resolution that is dear to Quebeckers. The essentially international characteristic of the peacekeeping missions authorized by the United Nations Security Council grants unparalleled legitimacy to any intervention and attests to the determination of the entire international community to take tangible steps to deal with the crises that occur from time to time. However, peacekeeping operations alone are not the appropriate instrument for every situation. They must be accompanied by a peace process, not simply replace this peace, which is so dear to us and which must be real to everyone around the world.
United Nations peacekeeping operations are an impartial and very widely accepted way of sharing the burden and of acting effectively among the ordinary people. Peacekeepers are present throughout the world, as we well know.
The 18 operations directed by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, are being carried out on four continents in 10 time zones, employ more than 90,000 people and have a direct influence on the lives of hundreds of millions of others. Close to 64,200 people are currently serving as soldiers and military observers, and roughly 7,500 are in police forces.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations also employs nearly 5,250 international civilian personnel, over 11,300 local civilian personnel and approximately 1,720 United Nations volunteers. One hundred and eight countries contribute military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.
The UN is the largest multilateral contributor to post-conflict stabilization worldwide. Only the United States deploys more military personnel in the field than the United Nations. There is therefore still a long way to go before multilateralism is the most commonly used form of conflict resolution.
In 2005 alone, UN peacekeeping operations rotated 161,386 military and police personnel, made 864 flights into or out of the field, and carried 271,651 cubic meters of cargo.
The actions of peacekeepers are usually effective. Since 1945, UN peacekeepers have undertaken 60 field missions and negotiated 172 peaceful settlements that have not only ended regional conflicts but also enabled people in more than 45 countries to take part in free and fair elections.
UN electoral assistance has become a regular and increasingly important feature in UN peacekeeping operations, bringing democracy to people everywhere on Earth.
UN peacekeeping is cost-effective. A survey by Oxford University economists found that international military intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—action taken when peace is under threat—is the most cost-effective means of reducing the risk of conflict in post-conflict societies.
The approved DPO budget for the period from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007, was approximately $5 billion. This represents less than 0.5% of global military spending.
UN peacekeeping operations are less expensive than other forms of international intervention. UN costs per peacekeeper, as compared to the cost of troops deployed by the U.S., the developed countries, NATO or regional organizations such as the African Union, show that the UN is the least expensive option by far.
A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that it would cost the U.S. about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN stabilization mission in Haiti: $876 million, compared to the UN budgeted $428 million for the first 14 months of the mission. Other comparative advantages of UN peacekeeping cited by this study included its multinational nature, which provides impartiality and legitimacy, burden sharing, involvement of member states with experience in post-conflict peace-building operations and a structure for coordinating international assistance.
May 29 is a more appropriate date for commemorating peacekeepers. That is the date chosen by the United Nations as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. Indeed, May 29 commemorates Security Council Resolution 50, which was passed on May 29, 1948, and which provided for the establishment of the first United Nations peacekeeping operation.
We believe that May 29 should have been preferred over August 9, because it is more universal, in keeping with a principle at the very heart of the institution that the peacekeepers represent.
As for August 9, it reflects a form of self-centredness or isolationism that is not consistent with the principle we want to convey to future generations on that occasion.
I will conclude by saying that August 9 refers to the day in 1974 when Canada suffered the heaviest losses in a single day during a UN mission in the Middle East. May 29 is an appropriate date. I urge the House to vote in favour of this bill with the date of May 29.