This is my makeshift gavel. I don't have one right now.
Thank you, everybody, for coming this morning to the Standing Committee on National Defence.
We're getting close to the end of our discussion on Canada's contribution to international peacekeeping, but I'm thrilled that we have the folks we have here to add value to this discussion.
From the United Nations Association in Canada, we have Kathryn White. From the Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada, we have Beth Woroniuk. Joining us through VTC from Washington, D.C., we have Dr. Bruce Jones with the Brookings Institution. From Calgary, Alberta, we have Dr. David Bercuson, from the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies.
I'm going to yield the floor to Kathryn White first.
Since we have four people planning to speak, in order for us to manage the time constraints, if you ever see this sign, it means that I'd like you to wrap it up in 30 seconds so the committee will have a chance to ask questions.
Ms. White, the floor is yours.
Chair, honourable members, Beth, David, Bruce, and colleagues, thank you for this opportunity to address you on behalf of my board and our 35,000 members around the country as part of a 73-year-old national civil society organization, and also for global civil society, on behalf of the World Federation of UNAs, for whom I serve as elected chair.
At this challenging time in geopolitics, one of the key remaining notions about international co-operation that tie the UN members together is that everyone believes in aid, in development and in peacekeeping. In 2015, the General Assembly unanimously approved the sustainable development goals as a framework for guiding programming up to 2030. These include ambitious pledges to eradicate extreme poverty. The global consensus is that this is the path forward to maintain cohesion on global issues. Your committee, in your governance role, has grappled with the evolving realities of UN peacekeeping. You will be aware that Canadian citizens have long had a regard for this historic role, since Lester B. Pearson used his graceful diplomatic skills in that significant Sinai deployment.
I also acknowledge the innovative discipline, military and other contributions that the Government of Canada has been making to UN peacekeeping over many years.
I also want to commend the Government of Canada and the 's innovations and leadership on enhancing the protection of children; increasing the participation of women in peace ops; announcing the ambassador for women, peace and security; and providing capacity-building to civil society. You'll know what the documents behind those initiatives are. I think that better peacekeeping occurs when we are all working together in inclusive security.
I'm also proud of UNA-Canada's own contributions, including on the engagement of youth in peace-building and peacekeeping through a series of consultations. We also had a conference in parallel to the UN Defence Ministerial almost a year ago in Vancouver.
Of course, we are also a proud founding member of Women, Peace and Security, but my colleague will speak articulately on those issues as well.
Here are some some recommendations.
We applaud the Elsie initiative.
We also caution that there are risks in monetizing rewards for women peacekeepers from countries that are not used to deploying women. The potential is that it puts a stress that there be more than one deployment a year. I think we should keep these issues in mind, as I'm sure we will.
I also encourage the continued investment of women in peacekeeping at the grassroots level. Again, my colleague will talk a bit more about this.
I'm going to get very specific—because I know that you are going to New York—to call for Canada to place 10 gender advisers attached to the UN DPKO. I'm not looking for the very senior people, but people who will actually be deployed with troops. I'm delighted that our CDS has been a supporter. We have a gender adviser in Mali, but this is different. This provides cohesion and coherence across all of the TCCs, or troop-contributing countries, and I think it's something that we could do. I will also point out to you that the Pentagon just announced at the end of last week $1 million for training gender advisers, which I'm also pleased about, under the circumstances.
On the ambassador's position, again, we applaud this. I urge you to consider that this has to be a person who can speak with ovaries to the military, and is confident in doing so, as well as to be an open listener to grassroots women who are not used to being consulted on these issues.
Next is engaging civil society. The protection of civilians is increasingly vexing and complex in modern peacekeeping, not least because this is what asymmetrical threats look like, as you know. They are often targeting civilians. It seems to me that the Canadian Forces have been well trained on GE 9, but I would also like to encourage the gender and civil society engagement throughout the command structure, and to explore new ways to engage civil society in order to protect them on the ground. This is part of holistic, inclusive security, and I think Canada has led on this with development, diplomacy and defence, as well as, of course, governance and gender.
We commend the UN Secretary-General's initiative on action for peacekeeping. I'm also pleased to see that Canada did sign up. We're one of 148 countries.
In terms of youth, peace and security, increasingly we feed conflict. We feed radicalization with young people. It seems to me that this is an area Canada could contribute to. We know from global studies and from our own work, along with the UN Secretariat's review of Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, that what youth are looking for is meaningful employment and stewardship, and this is in fragile and failing states. It seems to me that Canada can contribute, including on the defence side of this as well.
Finally, on the future of peacekeeping, considering current deployments in peacekeeping, a lot of them in the African continent, it seems to us that we have to work on the diplomatic side to ensure that the AU and ECOWAS are increasingly seen in their leadership role, to support them and to invest in them, so that they are contributing as well.
I also want to acknowledge that Canada has had a historic leadership role in the deployment of police. Increasingly, we are in urban settings. Police are skilled in working in urban settings, so I encourage you to maintain Canada's strategic advantage there as well.
In peacekeeping and peace ops training, you won't be surprised that.... I'm aware that you've been spoken to here about both the loss of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and the potential to reform or restructure something such as that. I would encourage you to also consider the thinking part of that, the policy development part, the innovation part, the sharing of promising practices.
Yes, in terms of training, the military does a wonderful job, including recognizing its role in the engagement of civil society, but it is not the same thing as an arm's-length organization that does this, so I urge you to consider that as well.
I have left you some swag. It's important swag. It is a copy of the Charter of the United Nations, which begins, “We the peoples”. This is why we come together in support of global peacekeeping—because it builds our peace.
I have also shared with you a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UDRH. It is the 70th anniversary of this declaration. The first draft of that document was pencilled, not penned, by John Humphrey. His version is in the basement at McGill University. It's something we should all be proud of, and we're all in this room because we aspire to live it.
Thank you very much.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, committee members and fellow witnesses. Thank you very much for the invitation to appear before you today.
I coordinate the Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada. We're a volunteer network of over 20 organizations and another 60-plus individuals. Our primary purpose is to monitor the commitments and actions of the Canadian government on the women, peace and security agenda. We see our role as a critical friend with the government. We applaud when there are advances, but we also don't hesitate to push for improvements or point out shortcomings. The important role played by our network has been acknowledged by the government.
My starting point for looking at Canada and peacekeeping or peace support operations is somewhat different from that of many other witnesses for this study. I would like to thank the committee for inviting a different perspective: a civilian perspective, and one of a women's rights activist—dare I even say a feminist perspective. This type of voice is not always heard in discussions of peacekeeping or security. We hear again and again from women activists in countries where there are peace support operations that they are not invited to the table, so I thank the committee for making space for us here today.
The women, peace and security agenda is often dated back to the year 2000, with the passage by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1325. The resolution acknowledged the critical link between the security of women and the security of states, and opened the door for analysis of these connections and synergies. Yet, women's organizations had been working to bring their perspective to peace and security long before that.
This agenda is often defined as having four pillars: one, the participation of women in peacemaking and all forms of conflict resolution, including peacekeeping; two, protection or dealing with conflict-related sexual violence; three, the prevention of armed conflict in the first place; and four, ensuring that post-conflict recovery benefits both women and men and, where possible, works to narrow gender gaps.
I refer you to the report of the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled “An Opportunity for Global Leadership: Canada and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda”, tabled in the House almost two years ago. This excellent report contained recommendations addressing peace support operations, and I encourage this committee to take up these recommendations.
I'd also urge this committee to look at Canada's national action plan on women, peace and security, and ensure that all recommendations are consistent with and reinforce the commitments in this plan. This plan was launched less than a year ago by . It is signed by seven ministers, and it outlines a comprehensive and ambitious set of targets that, if implemented, would set Canada up as a global leader on women, peace and security. The national action plan makes numerous commitments related to peacekeeping, peace support operations, and Canada's international deployments. We urge this committee to ensure that its recommendations recognize and build on these commitments.
In the time I have left, I'd like to focus on four issues: the Elsie initiative; the importance of taking a broad context around the goal of deploying more Canadian women in peace operations; incorporating a gender perspective into Canadian approaches to peacekeeping; and sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel.
My colleague mentioned the Elsie initiative. In November of last year, Canada announced the Elsie initiative, naming it after the pioneering aeronautical engineer Elsie MacGill. As others have noted, this is a pilot project to accelerate women's meaningful participation in the United Nations peace support operations. Despite long-standing goals to increase women's participation in UN peace support operations, progress has been glacial. Currently, just under 11% of UN police and approximately 5% of military deployments are women.
The Elsie initiative includes research on what works, technical support for troop- and police-contributing countries to address barriers, and a global fund to incentivize increased deployment of women to peace operations, which is highly debated, as my colleague mentioned.
It is important to note that the Elsie initiative is path-breaking and holds great potential. It is an example of how Canada can lead at the UN. However, three major concerns can be noted.
First, the Elsie initiative focuses on getting other countries to deploy more women. It seems rather contradictory to urge others to increase deployment percentages without turning this focus inward. We did hear last week that Canada will undertake the same assessment of barriers facing women as the Elsie partner countries. This is good news.
Second, as raised by Dr. Baruah in discussions with this committee, there are important concerns around the argument that increasing the participation of women will lead to increased effectiveness of peace operations. All peace support operations personnel must take responsibility for improved effectiveness in addressing issues of gender-based violence, not just the women members.
Third, Canada's attempts to support UN peace operations must take a broad view. There is a need to support and fund the full range of gender-mainstreaming initiatives in peace support operations. Deploying more women without addressing the overall capacity of peace support operations to implement the full range of gender equality issues will take us only so far. I'll elaborate on what this involves in a minute.
My second issue is the importance of looking at the full range of challenges and opportunities in deploying more Canadian women as part of our own peacekeeping initiatives. While we strongly support Canada's increasing the percentage of women deployed to international missions, we have heard that the conditions must be in place to ensure their success. The focus cannot be on numbers alone. There are institutional, cultural, structural, attitudinal and logistical issues in peace support operations that must be addressed to ensure that these deployments are effective. It is crucial to ensure that women peacekeepers have proper training, medical support, equipment and facilities.
As well, research shows that women peacekeepers are subject to harassment and abuse, often called blue-on-blue violence. Understanding and addressing issues related to sexism and homophobia in the security sector is critical. Canada's efforts to tackle these issues through initiatives, such as Operation Honour, must yield results if we are to be a credible advocate on the global stage. Learning from these initiatives can also be shared with contributing countries. This is an important issue for peacekeeping as a whole, as well as to the Canadian contribution to any mission.
My third issue is addressing gender perspectives in peacekeeping. It is important to note that there are both global and Canadian commitments to do more than increase the number of women in peace support operations. There are commitments to integrating a gender perspective. This includes understanding how diverse women and men are affected differently by armed conflict generally, and by peace support operations more specifically.
This key insight has been recognized by our own Department of National Defence. I have heard the chief of defence, General Vance, speak eloquently on this subject, and I have no doubts about his commitment. We are pleased to see work proceeding within both DND and the Canadian Armed Forces, through the implementation of the chief of the defence staff's directive on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
Yet, more work is required to build skills, construct training that actually works, and develop guidance across all work areas, from procurement to relations with local populations. This includes, but is not limited to, gender analysis—supported by gender advisers, as mentioned by my colleagues—across all issues, including the rule of law, protection of civilians, security sector reform, and consultations with women's organizations on the ground. It involves including gender issues such as conflict-related sexual violence in mission mandates. It involves improved gender data, capacity-building and training on gender analysis and gender perspectives, including participation from women's organizations. It is important that this training be directed at leadership, not just the rank and file. It also involves specific programs to increase women's participation in post-conflict reconstruction, the deployment of women protection advisers, as well as improved reporting on all of these issues.
Canada's national action plan stresses the importance of civil society and women's organizations. How peace operations interact with local populations is crucial. We have heard from women on the ground that their main interaction with UN peacekeepers is seeing the Jeeps drive through their villages without stopping, just turning up dust. There is much to be done to ensure that peace support operations personnel, both military and civilian, have the skills and abilities to interact effectively with local populations, drawing on the skills, knowledge and expertise of local women's rights organizations and activists.
The final issue to highlight is sexual exploitation and abuse. One of the major stains on UN peacekeeping has been the long-standing issue of peacekeepers abusing and committing violence, including sexual assault, against the very people they are there to protect. Despite universal outrage, this issue has proved remarkably difficult to address.
There are, however, numerous recommendations on the table. For example, AIDS-Free World's code blue campaign advocates for a special court mechanism, arguing that investigation and prosecution must be distanced from internal UN processes.
Canada has spoken out on the importance of effectively addressing sexual exploitation and abuse at the UN. We urge continued vigilance, both at the UN and in all peace support operations Canada participates in.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge the work done to date by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada. However, the issues are complex and more work is required to ensure that our performance delivers on the ambitions we have outlined in global settings.
I'll leave you with the recent words of our hard-working , Chrystia Freeland, who noted last week in New York, “We need to bring feminism to peacekeeping. It's time to end the patriarchy in peacekeeping missions.”
Thank you for the invitation. Thank you for listening. I look forward to the discussion.
Chair, honourable members, and witnesses, thank you for having me here. It's a pleasure to speak to you, even if it's via remote.
I thought it might be most useful for me to step back for a couple of minutes and put the conversation about Canada's current contributions in the slightly wider context of the evolution of conflict and the evolution of peacekeeping. I'll do it very briefly.
I think it's worth understanding that since the end of the Cold War, we've seen essentially three phases of evolution in UN peacekeeping.
There was a phase from the late eighties to the mid-nineties, which I think could most charitably be described as a phase of experimentation, when the UN was experimenting with new forms of peacekeeping after the end of the Cold War. There were some successes in that phase in Mozambique, El Salvador and elsewhere, but also a series of searing strategic failures in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Angola and elsewhere.
That led to a second phase, which I think we could describe as a phase of reform, led largely by Kofi Annan when he became Secretary-General. It saw the UN substantially increase the size of its deployments relative to the fighters it was confronting; substantial improvements in command and control; a recognition that impartiality as a core principle of UN peacekeeping did not limit the UN from fighting back against spoilers or those trying to undermine peace agreements; and the adoption of what's called “multi-dimensionality”—i.e., the integration of security, economic, and humanitarian instruments under an overall political framework.
The large expansion of peacekeeping during this phase from about the mid-nineties to 2010 is highly correlated with and certainly contributed to—you can't really say “caused”—a phenomenon that doesn't get discussed much, which was a 40% decline in all wars worldwide during that period and an 80% decline in major wars. UN peacekeeping, as well as peacekeeping by other actors, such as NATO and regional organizations, played a major role in the substantial decline in the level of war in the world during that period.
The third phase is what we're in now, which is a post-Arab Spring phase, where we've seen in effect the integration of two agendas: a counterterrorism agenda on the one hand, and a civil war management agenda on the other. In the period from 2010 to the present day, more than 90% of all battle deaths have occurred in wars where a terrorist organization is one of the combatants. In other words, you can no longer meaningfully separate questions of civil war management on the one hand from issues of counterterrorism on the other. These slide across a range of scale of difficulties, from the extremely difficult, like Syria, to the rather less difficult, like Mali, but we're confronting new challenges across the spectrum.
For countries like Canada, I think that creates three options for contributing to conflict management.
One is deployment through NATO, which we did in Afghanistan, of course. There are substantial advantages to NATO in terms of military capacity, military punch and CT capacity, etc., as well as substantial disadvantages. NATO has proven to be rather bad at multi-dimensionality, and I think across large swaths of Africa and the Arab world it confronts a substantial built-in disadvantage in terms of the perception of legitimacy or illegitimacy of a western-based platform.
The second option is coalitions of the willing. We're seeing these deployed more effectively in the last several years, most notably with the Global Coalition against Daesh, but also with the G5 in the Sahel and the multinational force against Boko Haram. Those are performing quite effectively. They have the disadvantage of operating in a kind of questionable legal domain and a questionable legitimacy domain and not having the instruments for multi-dimensionality that the UN, when it has done its best, has been able to deliver.
The third option is what I would describe as hardened UN peacekeeping, which we're seeing in southern Lebanon, Mali and the DR Congo, where the UN still operates under relatively traditional concepts of peacekeeping, such as impartiality, but with substantially greater punch capacity and a substantially greater capacity to fight back against spoilers and those who would derail peace agreements or otherwise threaten the peace and stability of the country in question.
The implications for the UN are that it requires—it's not an option; it requires—the participation of sophisticated troop contributors such as the Dutch, the Chinese and the Canadians if these missions are going to be successful. It does, in my view, require an evolution of the legal framework to recognize that there are times when the UN will be a party to conflict. There's nothing wrong with being a party to conflict; it's a perfectly recognizable legal category. The UN should at times see itself as a party to conflict.
It requires a willingness to use force against spoilers and against groups that are dedicated to eroding civilian security, eroding a peace agreement, and eroding the stability of the country in question, and it requires effective backstopping from headquarters.
I think all of those conditions are at least largely present in Mali, where Canada is now deploying, of course. I applauded the decision for Canada to deploy in Mali, just as I had applauded Canada's contribution to ISAF in Afghanistan. I think it matters a great deal that Canada chose to contribute at the harder edge of UN peacekeeping. It's the lighter edge of the counterterrorism spectrum, but the harder edge of UN peacekeeping. That's where the evolution needs to be.
We will see now a world in which UN peacekeeping is essentially only deployed in a context where there are CT components, and we have to evolve and develop the capacities for that if we're going to have the instruments available to us to help manage fragile states and civil wars with a CT component.
By contributing to Mali's operation, Canada has given itself a stronger platform than it's had in the last several years to push the policy framework at the UN and develop a stronger policy voice at the UN on the evolution of these instruments.
That's extremely helpful. Thank you so much.
I don't have a lot of time. Dr. Jones, I'm hoping to loop back to you on a couple of other questions. However, I'd like to turn my attention to Ms. White and Ms. Woroniuk.
Thanks for the excellent conversation.
As a woman who has worked only in male-dominated professions, the business world and politics, I've learned that for a woman to really have an impact, we need to actually get to a critical mass really quickly. We're in what I call the “uncomfortable phase”. Part of the thing that I can't quite figure out in our conversation is, if we're at 5%, 10% or 15%, how do we move to 30% as quickly as possible, where we can actually have that critical mass to create change? That's question number one.
Two, it's more about sponsorship versus mentorship. How is it that we really do need to have senior male leaders sponsoring female leaders within international peacekeeping, within peace and conflict, to be able to actually get to those leadership positions?
Three, we need to create groups where women can actually support each other within peace and conflict.
I wonder whether both of you can address how we can actually achieve each of those. First, do you agree? Second, how can we actually move the bar on any one of those three? Thank you.