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Building Multi-national Cooperation


The creation and use of multi-national institutions and various forms of international cooperation and joint action since the end of World War II, for which Canada was an early and committed supporter, had a number of objectives. For Canada, it has been partly one of acting in our national interest, to leverage our influence and provide economic and political benefits.

But Canada was a significant player in the formation of the modern United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and IMF), and regional institutions designed on those models, as well as a principal instigator for the formation of NATO, and a supporter of the progress European nations have made in building, piece by piece, a conflict-resistant integrative structure culminating in the formation of the European Union. The list of multi-national institutions in which Canada has been a player, sometimes a major player, is a very long one.

Many, almost innumerable, Canadians have played a role in this long story, which has become part of our national character and identity. Not just the best known such as Lester Pearson, Dana Wilgress, Escott Reid or David Hopper.

But many others at the government official level and, of course, Lewis Perinbam and those who were inspired by and worked with him, have contributed so much as voluntary and non-governmental participants in developing the fabric of international and humanitarian cooperation. All of this was aimed at building a peaceful and cooperative world – even if we are continually reminded of the sometimes horrific challenges that the international community still faces.

In my own case, I had the privilege, as a young government officer in the Department of Finance, to be a part of this Canadian story. I had the good fortune to be able to play a role in the formation of three multilateral development institutions. Working from a Canadian base and later internationally, I was involved in the policy development and programs of these and other multilateral agencies. I was part of the governance structure of one of them, as well as providing input and advice on the governance of others, and a role in leading a particular international initiative to strengthen multilateral cooperation and joint action in development assistance.

There was also a role, on one posting, in designing the international response to a flood of several million refugees from a particularly miserable war. There was a sense of mission and commitment amongst those who worked together on these challenges and, in many cases, Canadian influence was extremely important.

In my case, I once represented, for several years, a number of different governments, including Canada, on the Board of the Asian Development Bank, with the then third largest voting strength after two major world powers - deployed, I hope, to good effect.

There were rewards, of course, in a sense of accomplishment, in expanded horizons and a wide circle of colleagues and friends. There were postings in different countries in Asia and Europe, and assignments that took me to many places in Asia, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. And, like others, I have since had opportunities to build on that experience in different and continuing roles.

Circumstances change, and Canadians in 2017 play a different role from that in 1967 and earlier years. But the challenges remain, the diagnosis and prescription continue to be highly relevant, and hopefully Canada’s role and that of individual Canadians will continue to evolve and contribute to the fabric of international, peaceful and humanitarian solutions.


By: Allan Barry

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