Canada needs a world class centre focused on strengthening international peace and security

In an earlier blog post we highlighted one of the Liberal Party’s foreign policy campaign pledges and the conditions under which we would support it. We wrote:

Perhaps the most interesting new [Liberal campaign] proposal — and one which could yield long term results in strengthening Canadian foreign policy development — is the promise to:

  • establish the Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government, which will lend expertise and help to people seeking to build peace, advance justice, promote human rights and democracy, and deliver good governance….

We recalled that back in 2016 several Canadian civil society organizations, led by the Rideau Institute and the Group of 78, made a comprehensive submission to the Defence Policy Review, which included a call for a national institute focused on international peace and security. Here is our recommendation:

Institution-Building and Civil Society Engagement: As one of the few leading OECD members without such an institution, Canada should establish an expert, arms-length, non-partisan, domestic Institute for sustainable common security, with long-term financial viability. … Its Board of Directors should be diverse and include academic, non-governmental and international expertise.

The blog post then went on to welcome this new Liberal commitment with the following important caveats:

  • first and foremost, the focus must be on enhancing Canadian capacity for analysis and policy development on international peace and security, as the only solid basis for “lending expertise to others’;
  • to be credible and sustainable, the mandate must ensure the Centre’s independence, diversity and long term-financial viability.

To this analysis, we would add a further elaboration:

The work of the Centre must be firmly grounded in the principles of international cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution and inclusive, sustainable common security that underpin the United Nations Charter. Canada cannot help to build international peace and security by seeking to impose on others an inward-looking version of “Canadian values”. Instead, our work must be fully and transparently grounded in global principles as reflected in international law and in respect of which Canada has played a key role in developing and strengthening.

Let cross-party collaboration begin with legislation to significantly enhance Canadian peacebuilding capacity

Now that the election is over and the Justin Trudeau Liberals have a real opportunity to work constructively and collaboratively with progressive parliamentarians in other parties, we believe that the establishment (actually re-establishment) of a world-class Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government is an excellent place to start.

(Indeed, might we even envisage the support of the Scheer Conservatives in this collective endeavour, recalling that it was the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives that actually implemented the legislation that had first been conceived and enacted under the Liberal government of then Prime Minister John Turner for the establishment of the first Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.)

One thing is very clear. The establishment of such an institution for Canada is long overdue:

From Sweden’s world renowned Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), to  the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Norway’s Peace Research Institute, the International Peace Institute, the European Institute for Peace, the list is long with Canada conspicuously and incomprehensibly absent.

….

Given the extraordinary complexity of the interdependent challenges of climate crisis, the destruction of nature and the looming threat of catastrophic nuclear or global conventional war, Canada has to significantly up its international affairs acuity, and the sooner the better. – RI President Peggy Mason

Whither Canada?

We therefore call on the Prime Minister to include in the mandate letter of the incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs the requirement to institute consultations — both parliamentary and non-governmental — on a priority basis with a view to introducing the necessary legislation for the establishment of the Canadian Centre for International Peace, Order and Good Government in early 2020.

 

Photo credit: Government of Canada (interim House of Commons in West Block)

 

 

 

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