In the past, Canada provided great contributions to the evolution of UN policies and practice, with the creation of the first peacekeeping mission called UNMOGIP in 1948, and especially the first peacekeeping forces called UNEF in 1956 and UNFICYP in 1964. Later it led in the development of the concepts of Responsibility to Protect or R2P in 2001, the Protection of Civilians or POC in 1999, and human security more generally. It also helped pioneer the use of panels of experts for sanctions monitoring, e.g., Angola 1999, which often happen in conjunction with peace operations.
During the tenure of the Harper government, no intellectual initiatives were undertaken, even as the UN made tremendous progress in developing POC, peacekeeping-intelligence, as well as better training and equipping of peacekeepers. The Trudeau government made a major contribution in one area: child soldiers. Thanks mostly to the work of the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, the Vancouver Principles on “Peacekeeping and Preventing the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers” were adopted at the 2017 Vancouver ministerial and have been endorsed by over 80 countries. The contribution to Women, Peace and Security has been more by example, i.e., percentage women deployed in 2019, and financial contributions than by intellectual contribution. In the area of peacekeeping technology innovation, Canada did provide the UN with one gratis personnel for one year, namely Walter Dorn, 2017-18, who served as the UN’s Innovation and Protection Technology Expert.
For decades, Canada has consistently chaired the Working Group of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping (aka Commmittee of 34 or C34, from the original number of members of the committee). The Working Group develops the draft of the annual C34 report, which is an important document in the United Nations since it expresses (by consensus) the views of the nations contributing to UN peacekeeping. Some years, the negotiations can be quite difficult because of the range of positions on major issues. In 2020, Canadian diplomats had to work hard to secure consensus, particularly after some nations refused to accept the wording from previous years as acceptable.
The Minister of National Defence created the Dallaire Centre for peace and Security in June 2019 but the results of this centre are not visible to the public. One area of focus is on the Vancouver Principles.
Conclusion: With the exception of the Vancouver Principles on child soldiers and peacekeeping, led by the non-governmental Dallaire initiative (now Dallaire Institute), little or no intellectual leadership in peacekeeping has been shown by the current government.
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