Peace Keeping

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Two years ago, our government promised 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN peace keeping operations. At the recent international meeting of defense ministers in Vancouver this offer was substantially changed. The offer is now for a much smaller force, specialized personnel, training and air transportation facilities. The newer offer was based on the need for institutional reform and redefinition of the role of UN peacekeeping to that of maintaining stable governments against the threat of insurrection and outlawed military action by rebel forces.
Certainly, a quick review of the situations in places like Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, various North African states, Ukraine, and Myanmar provide ample evidence that more than a few additional troops in blue helmets are needed. The most obvious issue is the availability of arms for rebel groups. And who supplies these arms? The largest exporter of arms is the USA with sales to over one hundred countries. In second place is Russia. Next come China, France, Great Britain and Germany. Note the first five countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council – the very body that is supposed to authorize peace keeping.
In keeping with the universal desire for peace, the United Nations
established UNROCA – the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. In support of this, 89 nations ratified the Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the international trade in conventional arms. This treaty is supposed to cover all
conventional arms from small arms to tanks, aircraft and warships. Among the nations that have not signed the treaty are the USA and Russia. Since the USA and Russia account for more than fifty percent of all arms sales, only one quarter of arms sales are recorded by UNROCA.  Canada’s initial reaction was
to not sign the treaty because the two largest suppliers refused to sign. However, recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, introduced a bill
in Parliament that would require more transparency on arms sales by Canadian
companies and would make it possible for Canada to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
While arms control is essential to any peace keeping activity, it is not the only consideration. Economic, social and educational disparities are also major issues
contributing to current conflicts. Here again, Canada has an opportunity and an obligation to provide assistance for peaceful resolution and reduction in military aggression. Canada’s policies and actions must be more than nice words. Our commitment to peace keeping must include education, financial assistance where needed, support for just and fair settlements, assistance for innocent victims and a
genuine desire to work toward a more self-sustaining peaceful world. However, our government record to date has been talk rather than action.  The UN and our allies and supporters in peacekeeping are still waiting for concrete action.