Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill.
The strengths of this bill are the following: it recognizes the important role played by UN peacekeepers, which should be highlighted here, in this House. The Bloc Québécois is very much in favour of multilateralism as a method of settling international conflicts, and UN peacekeepers embody this approach. The peacekeepers who have died on UN missions deserve to be commemorated. This bill will also give our current Prime Minister an opportunity to discover that the peaceful use of our army is something that must absolutely be encouraged.
The only shortcoming is the date of the commemoration on August 9, which is not the first choice of the Bloc Québécois.We would have preferred a date that is already universally recognized as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers: May 29.
There are a great many reasons to pay tribute to 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 replace it. United Nations peacekeeping operations are an impartial and very widely accepted way of not only sharing the burden, but acting effectively.
Peacekeepers are present throughout the world. 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 Department of Peacekeeping Operations. 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 peace 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.
In 2005, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations successfully completed peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, and fulfilled its mandate of helping to establish domestic institutions and providing these as yet fragile societies with the opportunity to establish lasting peace.
Demining operations managed by the UN Mine Action Service, part of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, facilitate the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.
In terms of security, recent peacekeeping missions have been carried out in some of the most difficult and least governed areas ever encountered by international missions. These operations have provided practical assistance on the ground to extremely vulnerable populations. Peacekeepers are deployed to areas where others cannot or will not go and play a vital role by paving the way for the return to stability and, ultimately, for peace and long-term development.
There is also a clear correlation between the decrease in the number of civil wars and the increase in UN peacekeeping missions. The number of UN peacekeeping operations has more than quadrupled since the end of the Cold War. Since 1990, this renewed international activism has grown in scope and intensity, and the number of crises, wars and genocides has begun to diminish accordingly.
In addition to peacekeeping and security, the peacekeeping forces have, with increasing frequency, been responsible for supporting political processes, building legal systems, creating law enforcement and police forces, and disarming former combatants. For example, through their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program, the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone alone has destroyed 42,330 weapons and more than 1.2 million bullets and shells. It has also disarmed 75,490 combatants, including 6,845 child combatants, and provided an allocation to and ensured the reintegration of nearly 55,000 veterans.
The United Nations mission in Timor-Leste has created a business women's group that trains women entering the public service and ensures that they are heard in the new government and structures of civil society. Today, women represent over 25% of parliamentarians in that country. That is one of the highest percentages of female parliamentarians in the world.
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 Department of Peacekeeping Operations budget for the period from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006, was approximately $5 billion. This represents 0.5% of global military spending. 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.
I will end here with those statistics and illustrations, because it has been proven that peacekeepers are a necessity and the Bloc Québécois is very proud of that.