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Peace Policies and Solutions in International Affairs


For everyone involved in Canadian international affairs, the issue of ‘peace’ will often arise both as a policy means and an end solution. Following are reflections on ‘peace’ from a 36-year career in Global Affairs Canada with experience drawn from: diplomatic postings in Chicago, USA, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Colombia, Iran, Libya, El Salvador, Algeria, Addis African Union; Ottawa assignments in US affairs, arms exports, nuclear non-proliferation/disarmament, Trade and Investment, Middle East, African and European Affairs, NATO Security affairs, Parliament and Cabinet; and involvements in the Liberal Party and NGOs with peace interests i.e. the Peace Festival.

The tools of diplomacy, development assistance, trade facilitation, intelligence, police and legal liaison, consular assistance to Canadians and regulating the flows of people as immigrants, workers and refugees are all essentially ‘peaceful’ means to achieve solutions that are also ‘peaceful’ even if forceful, not always successful or conflict free. It is when Defence (or use of military force) enters the policy equation that the likelihood of armed conflict and violence increases. Therefore, getting to ‘peace’ positions and outcomes is often difficult.


For the most part, in the post-war world, Canadian international affairs practitioners have been able to employ ‘peaceful’ instruments arising from Canada's role as an international peacemaker and mediator. ‘9/11’ and the ‘wars’ on terrorism and illicit drugs introduced more militarily oriented action into Canadian international policies. The Canadian decision to intervene militarily in Afghanistan, followed the only time NATO had invoked the collective defence article 5 after the Al Qaeda attacks on the US and subject to a UNSC mandate. This was in contrast to Canada's very limited military support for the two US-led military actions in Iraq, but consistent with Canada’s role in forceful regime change in Libya and currently, direct military engagement in northern Iraq in support of the Kurds against ISIS.

Although accompanied by massive development and governance efforts, these major military interventions by NATO and willing coalitions, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, have not brought stability, peace and good governance to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, nor won the war on terrorism. These examples, and how the current crises in Syria and North Korea play out, may demonstrate the limits of such interventions.

There are other examples of the role of ‘peace’ policies. Certain illegal excesses in the war on terror have been met in Canada by more principled positions, as demonstrated in the compensation paid to both Omar Khadar and Mahar Arar, as well as Bill C-51 to better balance security and rights. While Canada has been engaged in solving problems in Africa (AU) and the Americas (OAS), Canada has seemed to back away from its traditional policies for Middle East peace and a two state solution in Israel and Palestine, and has been hesitant to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran. It has struggled to balance trade, commercial resource and human rights interests (LAVs and human rights in Saudi Arabia).

Canada's intention to legalize ‘marijuana’ may bring greater sanity to the US-led war on drugs, although it may further complicate Canada-USA relations just as sensitive NAFTA negotiations are set to start. The greatest ‘peace’ challenge going forward is how the projected considerable increase in Canadian defence spending can be balanced against the resources needed to combat serious non-military threats such as climate change, refugee and irregular migration flows, human and natural disasters, infrastructure needs, cyber conflict, etc. A current dilemma is how can Canada (as a non-nuclear weapons state party to the NPT) resolve its historic active commitment to nuclear disarmament with its membership in NATO, whose strategic doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons, in such a way so as to become a member of the new UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty?


Hopefully, practitioners in Canadian global affairs will find the most ‘peaceful’ policies to maximize effective ‘peaceful’ solutions, while holding military means in last ditch reserve. Such a positive approach to ‘peace’ in international relations will help Canada set a good example and return to its rightful place as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council.


By: George Jacobi

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