Canada has a long history of participation in UN peacekeeping missions, and peacekeeping is often considered one of the best ways to contribute to international stability. As such, it is the position of this paper that Canada should adopt the policies necessary to expand United Nations peacekeeping capabilities. This paper will recommend the adoption of a multifaceted peacekeeping policy aimed at 1) redressing problems with existing mechanisms, and 2) expanding the capacity of the UN to respond rapidly and effectively to diverse humanitarian crises.

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, where peacekeepers were unable to intervene and prevent mass killings1, it became clear that current peacekeeping arrangements were insufficient. The need for peacekeeping remains strong, and with the necessary support, UN operations can succeed in “bringing peace to war-torn societies”2. At the heart of the developing norm of human security lies the promise to protect civilians, a commitment that is experiencing mounting support3. “The international community has indicated it will intervene when there are gross violations of human rights and genocide”4. While such intervention is both complex and expensive, the costs of intervention pale in comparison to the costs of inaction5, since regions mired in conflict can serve as “breeding grounds for extremist sentiments, providing fertile soil for international terrorism”6. Canada thus has an obvious interest in peacekeeping, both to maintain our commitment to international norms as well as to enhance global peace and security, thereby helping to ensure the safety and prosperity of Canadians.

Background: The Evolution of Peacekeeping to its Present State

While peacekeeping was not originally part of the UN Charter or mandate7, it has since become one of the UN’s most vital undertakings. Early peacekeeping operations (PKOs) immediately following the end of the Second World War served largely as a “symbolic presence… to internationalize an interstate conflict and raise the political costs of the resumption of war”8. Peacekeepers carried only light arms and were under “strict order only to use force in self-defense”9, thus they did very little to enforce or create peace, but rather were employed to ensure its continuance. Throughout the Cold War, PKOs operated under the constraints of East-West rivalries10. Since the end of the Cold War, PKOs have undergone major changes in both their goals and methods 11 in an attempt to address new types of conflicts, which pose new threats both to civilians, who are increasingly the direct targets of violence12, and to international stability, since the types of ethnic, communal, and regional conflicts which are now the most prevalent types13frequently spill across borders and can escalate rapidly14. Throughout the 1990s, PKOs in places such as Rwanda, Somalia, and Sierra Leone were unsuccessful in preventing massive humanitarian crises, and the result has been that “by the mid-1990s, the very word peacekeeping… had acquired a wholly negative connotation, widely associated… with failure and, worse still, moral cowardice in the face of evil15.

In an attempt to address this poor track record, a number of recent initiatives have aimed at expanding the resources available to UN PKOs as well as increasing their capability for rapid reaction16, a capability which is viewed as vital to preventing another tragedy like the one a decade ago in Rwanda. While these initiatives will be discussed in greater depth later in this paper, including an examination of Canada’s contributions, their main components include: the SHIRBRIG high-readiness brigade, a multination effort to provide a rapidly-deployable force for UN PKOs17; the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters (RDMHQ), aimed at creating the capacity for rapid deployment of tactical mission headquarters18; the UN Standby Arrangement System(UNSAS), whereby member states supply the UN Secretariat with lists of resources available for future PKOs19; major revisions to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)20; and the creation of a Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy21.

Canada’s Position and Current Policies: A Legacy of Peacekeeping

The Canadian Government identifies peacekeeping as “an important aspect of Canada’s national heritage and a reflection of our fundamental beliefs22” as well as “a significant component of Canada’s foreign policy and our contribution to the multilateral security system23”. Canada has been involved in peacekeeping since its inception, and the role played by then-Foreign Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson in creating peacekeeping was so vital he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution. Canada has participated in over 34 UN PKOs as well as a number of non-UN missions24, although our participation levels have dropped to the point that we are currently ranked 26th on the UN list of contributing countries25. We are also in the process of working to overcome criticism that we lack “a coherent procedure for planning or conducting peacekeeping operations26”. Despite these difficulties, the Canadian contribution to peacekeeping remains significant, as reflected in both our current policies and our commitment to peacekeeping reform and improvement.

Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping is reinforced by our adherence to the principle of human security, described as "A condition… characterized by freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, their safety, or even their lives. From a foreign policy perspective… it is an alternative way of seeing the world, taking people as its point of reference, rather than focusing exclusively on the security of territory or governments27." Human security also dictates a responsibility to protect, whereby if a population is suffering serious rights violations, and their government is unwilling or unable to intervene, the international community must do so, and in this context the idea of non-intervention is superseded by the responsibility to protect28. Our dedication to peacekeeping and to human security is indicated by our involvement in efforts to improve UN peacekeeping. The Canadian report Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the Untied Nations presented to the UN in 1995 has been considered a substantial inspiration for current UN reforms29 and we have been major contributors to new mechanisms and resources, most notably SHIRBRIG and the RDMHQ which will be discussed in considerable depth in the following sections of this paper.

Policy Options: The Future of Canadian Peacekeeping Policy
Option One: The Status Quo

Canada has recently made substantial contributions to improving peacekeeping which some may argue are sufficient. Thus, the first policy option explored, rather than advancing a specific policy, will, through reviewing Canada’s current contributions, suggest that no changes need to be made, a claim that will be disputed by analysis of persisting problems in need of redress.

In addition to preparing the report discussed above, Canada has also been involved in several very important and tangible efforts to improve UN peacekeeping capabilities. Canada, alongside other like-minded nations such as Denmark and the Netherlands, is considered one of the founding members of the group ‘Friends of Rapid Reaction’ which has been working with the UN Secretariat to take steps towards the development of “a UN standing emergency capability30”. The Friends group has helped to spearhead the development of the RDMHQ, an idea which was originally presented by Canada31. The idea of improving UN rapid reaction capabilities was also a major impetus behind the creation of SHIRBRIG, perhaps Canada’s most substantial recent contribution to international peacekeeping.

SHIRBRIG, or the Standing High Readiness Brigade, operating within the UNSAS, is a “non-standing brigade at high readiness… that provides the UN with a well-prepared, rapidly deployable capability for peacekeeping operations mandated by the UN Security Council”32. Canada is one of nine full contributors to SHIRBRIG33, and one of 16 that have signed SHIRBRIG documents34. Combined, the SHIRBRIG forces amount to one brigade of four to five thousand troops, as well as support facilities such as a headquarters and communication facilities35, that can be deployed in a little as 15 to 30 days once national governments involved decide to deploy troops as per a UN request36. Although the SHIRBRIG arrangement does require the individual consent of every nation before each deployment, the number of participants should “provide sufficient redundancy among units37” so that the decision of one member not to participate need not impede SHIRBRIG action since troops from other countries could be sent in their stead. SHIRBRIG’s first deployment was in November 2000 as a part of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and it is currently considered ready for deployment38 .

Combined, these improvements seem to address many of the biggest obstacles to effective peacekeeping, including resource availability and rapid deployment capabilities. Nonetheless, problems remain, and at the very least Canada should pursue the policies necessary to ensure that these new mechanisms are actually able to help overcome the problems they were designed to address. In terms of the RDMHQ, in its current composition it may be unable to fulfill its mandate in “any period of intense activity where it may face multiple operations39”, which given the UN’s current record of engagement, with great number of operations being run concurrently, is definitely an issue of concern. With regard to SHIRBRIG and other UNSAS arrangements, there are equally grave concerns, beginning with the problem of governmental consent and political will. These arrangements still require that national governments individually make a decision to deploy for each PKO. "Critics frequently point to the refusal of member states to provide adequate forces to avert the 1994 catastrophe in Rwanda. Not one of the nineteen governments that had undertaken to have troops on standby for UN peacekeeping agreed to contribute to the UNAMIR mission40." If these contributions are not likely to be sufficient to ensure activity in a situation as dire as the one Rwanda faced, then is seems clear that more must be done.

Other problems also threaten the functionality of both SHIRBRIG and UNSAS deployments, including a lack of cohesion and interoperability resulting from independent staging that means units will first combine and assemble at the site of the PKO41. Without prior experience working together, troops with different training and backgrounds may experience considerable impediments to cooperation. Also of concern is the potentially limited application of SHIRBRIG and UNSAS troops since both are designed for Chapter VI operations, which means that “in cases involving extreme violations of human rights, including genocide, the UN may be unable to intervene42” since situations like these may require a Chapter VII, or enforcement, mandate. While some SHIRBRIG members have agreed to consider deployment for Chapter VII operations, there remains as yet no mechanism for full SHIRBRIG involvement in such operations43. One other concern warrants attention given the complex nature of contemporary PKOs: "whereas much attention has been devoted to ensuring sufficient ‘hard power’ (military forces) capable of restoring security, greater efforts will have to be devoted to ensuring they are accompanied by ‘soft power’ civilian elements that can restore hope and address human needs44." If current arrangements neglect these vital humanitarian elements of PKOs, then there is much more Canada could be doing. Taken together these concerns show that, while current policies do mark important steps towards improved peacekeeping capabilities, they are not sufficient, and thus maintenance of current policies will not be enough to ensure the realization of the principles and ideals on which these policies were based.

Option Two: Alternate Peacekeeping Arrangements

Given current problems with UN peacekeeping, it may seem desirable for Canada to consider exploring the possibility of peacekeeping missions through other organizations. Indeed, Canada has a history of participation in non-UN peacekeeping missions, especially those conducted by NATO, for example, in Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo45. There is even support within the UN for such non-UN operations. Security Council members including the United States, as well as former-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali have expressed the view that, owing to difficulties in UN enforcement missions, PKOs should be undertaken by “coalitions of the willing46”, a position supported by the international community, who in the late 1990s “increasingly looked towards regional organizations to take on peacekeeping tasks47”. During his tenure as Under-Secretary General of Peacekeeping, Kofi Annan suggested that there was a role NATO could play in “peace keeping with teeth48”, a proposition that expresses certain logic given that NATO clearly has a capability that exceeds that of the UN49. It has even been suggested that by shifting peacekeeping responsibilities towards NATO, Canada could even specialize its NATO troops for PKOs thereby dispatching both its NATO and peacekeeping responsibilities simultaneously50. Should encouragement of and participation in NATO PKOs be considered a viable policy option for Canada?

If there is one recent situation that might provide reason to be wary of the ability of so-called coalitions of the willing or regional organizations, it is the situation in Iraq, which remains so volatile that the US, UK and other members of their coalitions have now adopted the position that “an Iraqi settlement should be based on a broader international basis, with UN participation51”. The controversy that has surrounded the situation in Iraq, which was not explicitly a PKO, nonetheless helps highlight another concern with non-UN peacekeeping: namely, that those involved may be subject to suspicion of having impure or self-interested motivations for their involvement52. In some cases, the participation of regional organizations must be entirely ruled out since members may even be parties to the conflict53, as was, for example, Liberia during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Other concerns over non-UN operations include the power of such operations to undermine the UN itself, as well the world order it represents which is based on core Canadian values such as multilateralism, not to mention the legitimacy of international law altogether54. Fundamentally, the UN carries with it a legitimacy that no other organization can match55, and for this reason it is within the auspices of the United Nations that Canada should make its contributions to peacekeeping. As has been stated by our government, “there is no better or more appropriate body than the United Nations… to authorize military intervention for humanitarian purposes56”.

Option Three: Enhancing UN Peacekeeping Capabilities

Canada’s commitment to UN peacekeeping provides benefits to both Canada and the UN. Canada’s international reputation is such that our involvement in UN peacekeeping serves to increase perceptions of its legitimacy and neutrality57 but this reputation could be in danger since Canada is among the wealthy nations that has recently suffered from implications that it only participates in PKOs “as a means to be seen as doing something in the face of public outcry58”. Rather than having to suffer through implications that Canada is using the UN for its own political gains, by contributing to a vital and fully-functional UN peacekeeping capacity Canada could gain recognition for our role as peacekeepers59, an identity that has been built by the hard work and ingenuity of generations of Canadians following in Lester B.Pearson’s footsteps. This is not a reputation we have gained through political manipulation, but rather through our willingness to put ourselves in violent and dangerous locations to protect the people in those places, which, according to some opinions, is what earns a country a “seat at the table60”. The more we contribute to international peace and stability, the greater a voice and influence we will achieve.

In addition to the reasons for involvement discussed above, there is also a set of pragmatic, tangible benefits to improving UN peacekeeping capabilities. The existence of sufficient rapid reaction capacity is likely to “reduce the high costs of major peacekeeping and enforcement operations, not to mention the reconstruction of war-torn societies61” as well as restoring confidence and support for the UN, which in turn may be likely to contribute to stable funding for UN PKOs62 thereby reducing the share of the burden borne by Canada. Rapid reaction capacity may also further reduce the demands placed on Canada by lessening the need for PKOs in general, as knowing that an international response will be both quick and effective could serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of human rights violations63. It seems clear that Canada should adopt policies in support of increasing UN peacekeeping capabilities, and there are a number of ways we could do so.

In the immediate future, Canada should adopt specific policies and commit itself to the diplomatic processes necessary to implement a number of changes and improvements to SHIRBRIG. Starting with policies that could be implemented here at home, Canada should immediately seek to reduce the likelihood of deployment delay that results from national decision making processes by passing legislation outlining the terms for Canadian participation in PKOs64. While these conditions would not guarantee Canadian participation in a PKO, they could nonetheless allow decisions to be made without lengthy consultation, and Canada could also provide both the Secretariat and SHIRBRIG with this information so as to allow for more accurate assessments of resources. We should also encourage our SHIRBRIG partners to undertake passing similar legislation so that national approval would be less likely to be a major impediment to UN response65. Canada should also ensure that it has dedicated SHIRBRIG troops sufficient to ensure that lack of personnel does not prevent our participation in PKOs. Peacekeeping, by promoting international peace and security, represents the protection of vital Canadian interests, and we must ensure we have sufficient troops to do so. Canada should also provide civilian components such as aid workers and electoral officials for SHIRBRIG in order to provide humanitarian aid and necessary services during SHIRBRIG deployments66.

Other improvements to SHIRBRIG will require negotiation with our fellow participants, but as long as Canada is willing to contribute adequate resources as mandated by this policy, achieving them should be within reach. SHIRBRIG deployments have generally been limited to Chapter VI missions, as discussed above, although recent changes agreed on by the Steering Committee allow for the consideration of “more robust operations on a case-by-case basis67”. This step shows that Canadian advocacy of the official adoption of a policy for handling Chapter VII operations would likely not meet excessive resistance, and such a step is necessary as most UN PKOs in recent years have been Chapter VII operations68. Canada should also enter into immediate negotiations aimed at the co-location of all SHIRBRIG forces69 to increase cohesion, the scope of troop training, and general commitment by all parties to the collective undertaking SHIRBRIG represents, finally allowing it to be realized as a multinational standing peacekeeping capability70.

In addition to SHIRBRIG reform, there are several other policies Canada could examine in order to aid UN peacekeeping, such as promoting the expansion of the Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy through both direct resource provision, as well as incentives for private contributions, such as corporate tax breaks for in-kind and financial donations to the base. Canada should also seek wider support for its proposition that Security Council members agree not to use their vetoes to prevent humanitarian intervention and that if they fail to reach a decision, authorization for such intervention could be sought within the General Assembly71. While Canadian policy alone cannot force such agreement, by working multilaterally we may be able to gain recognition for the necessity of such changes.

Embarking on the policies described above will serve not only to enhance the United Nation’s peacekeeping capabilities, but also to ensure the continuation of Canada’s long and proud legacy of humanitarian intervention. Canada has long been a leader in advocating human rights, and our new human security agenda offers us the opportunity to take our defense of these rights to a new level. Adopting the policy recommended in this paper would seize that opportunity and make substantial improvements to our ability to promote peace, stability, and security around the globe.

Sumitted to Dr. Alen Sens, University of British Columbia, Department of Political Science, POLI363

1 See Berdal, 2003, p. 6
2 Guehenno, 2002, p. 80, see also Fedotov, 2004, pp. 9, 14 3 See, for example, the Government of Canada, “Human Security…” p. 1
4 Langille, 2002, p. 4
5 See Carment, 2002, p. 7
6 Fedotov, 2004, p. 12
7 See Malone and Wermester, 200, p. 37 and Guehenno, 2002, p. 69
8 Guehenno, 2002, p. 69
9 Malone and Wermester, 200, p. 38
10 During the Cold War, peacekeeping operations were limited both in scope and locations of deployment. See Berdal, 2003, p. 8
11 Peacekeepers are increasingly involved in such diverse activities as “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants…; assistance in returning refugees and displaced persons to their… homes of origin; supervision and/or conduct of elections…; and monitoring of local police forces to uphold the rule of law” Guehenno, 2002, p. 69
12 For discussion of the increasing targeting of civilians in conflict situations, see for example the Government of Canada, “Canadian Non-Paper on The Responsibility to Protect…”, 2004, p. 1
13 ibid, see also Fedotov, 2004, pp. 6-7
14 ibid, p. 12 discusses the international implications of post-Cold War conflicts
15 Berdal, 2003, p. 6
16 For further discussion of the reform process, see for example Fedotov, 2004, p. 12, Thakur, 2003, p. 43, and Langille, 2000, pp. 8-9
17 Langille, 2002, p. 2
18 ibid, p. 1, see also Langille, 2002, pp. 2, 10 19 Langille, 2000, p. 1
20 ibid, pp. 2-3
21 ibid, p. 8
22“Canada and Peace Support Operations”
23 ibid
24 Bouldin, 2003, p. 265
25 as quoted in Lowe, 2000, pp. 5-6
26 see, for example, Bouldin, 2003, pp. 266-268
27 Government of Canada, “Human Security…” p. 3
28 the Canadian affirmation of these principles is thoroughly outline in the Government of Canada, “Canadian Non-Paper on The Responsibility to Protect…”, 2004, pp. 7-8
29 see, for example, Langille, 2000, pp. 4-6
30 Langille, 2002, p. 1
31 Langille, 2000, pp. 7-11
32 Introduction to SHIRBRIG,
33 Other full participants include Austria, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Sweden. Department of National Defense, 2002, “The Origins and Status of SHIRBRIG”
34 Introduction to SHIRBRIG,
35 Department of National Defense, 2002, “The Origins and Status of SHIRBRIG”
36 Introduction to SHIRBRIG,
37 Langille, 2000, p. 6
38 Department of National Defense, 2002, “The Origins and Status of SHIRBRIG”
39 Langille, 2000, pp. 14-15
40 ibid, p. 14, see also p. 16 for discussion of the tendency of even countries supportive to UN peacekeeping to “wait and watch” for considerable periods before deciding to deploy.
41 ibid
42 ibid, p. 16
43 Department of National Defense, 2002, “The Origins and Status of SHIRBRIG”
44 Langille, 2000, p. 20
45 Bouldin, 2003, pp. 266-8 discusses Canada’s participation in these operations in considerable depth.
46 Malone and Wermester, 2000, p. 47
47 Guehenno, 2002, p. 71
48 Malone and Wermester, 2000, p. 49
49 Guehenno, 2002, p. 71
50 For in-depth discussion of this proposition see Bouldin, 2003, p. 274
51 Fedotov, 2004, p. 9
52 See Berdal, 2003, p. 10
53 Guehenno, 2002, p. 71, see also Fedotov, 2004, p. 12
54 See Langille 2002, p. 4 and Fedotov, 2004, p. 7
55 Guehenno, 2002, p. 71
56 Government of Canada, “Canadian Non-Paper on The Responsibility to Protect…”, 2004, pp. 8-9
57 Malone and Wermester, 2000, pp. 38-39
58 See Guehenno, 2002, p. 73 where this is cited as a recommendation made by the Brahimi Report which was later used by some Member States in specific reference to Canada.
59 Langille, 2002, p. 3
60 Lowe, 2000, p. 9
61 Langille, 2000, p. 19
62 Langille, 2002, p. 4
63 ibid
64 This argument is based on a similar one about the “streamlining” of national processes in Langille, 2002b, p. 8
65 For discussion of the obstacles posed by national approval requirements, see Langille, 2002, pp. 2,5
66 Integration of civilian components in more general terms is advocated in Langille, 2002b, p. 12
67 Introduction to SHIRBRIG,
68 Langille, 2002 p. 3 and 2002b, p. 8-9 both discuss the need for SHIRBRIG willingness to undertake Chapter VII missions
69 ibid
70 See Langille, 2002, p. 3
71 Both of these propositions are presented in considerable detail in the Government of Canada, “Canadian Non-Paper on The Responsibility to Protect…”, 2004, p. 9
Berdal, Mats. (2003). Ten Years of International Peacekeeping. International Peacekeeping. 10(4). 5-11. London, UK: Frank Cass.
Bouldin, Matthew. (2003). Keeper of the Peace: Canada and Security Transition Operations. Defense & Security Analysis. 19(3). 265-276. Carfax Publishing.
Carment, David. (2001). The Struggle for Peace: Rethinking Intervention. Harvard International Review. 23(2). 55-59.
Department of National Defense. (2002) The Origins and Status of SHIRBRIG. Accessed online March 2, 2005 at
Fedotov, Iu. (2004). Challenges to Multilateralism and the UN. International Affairs. 50(3). 7-25. Minneapolis, MN: East View Publications.
Government of Canada. Canada and Peace Support Operations. Accessed online March 2, 2005 at
Government of Canada. (2004). Canadian Non-Paper on The Responsibility to Protect and the Evolution of the United Nations Peace and Security Mandate. Submission to the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. Accessed online March 2, 2005 at en.asp.
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Langille, H. Peter. (2002). SHIRBRIG: A Promising Step Towards a United Nations that Can Prevent Deadly Conflict. Accessed online March 2, 2005 at
Langille, H. Peter. (2002b). Bridging the Commitment-Capacity Gap: A Review of Existing Arrangements and Options for Enhancing UN Rapid Deployment – Executive Summary. Publication 19 by the Centre for UN Reform Education, Wayne, New Jersey.
Lowe, Steven Wallace. (2000). Peace-Keeping, Peacebuilding, Human Security, and Self-Interest: Why Canada Remains the Prolific Peacekeeper. Presented to the Conference of Defense Associations Institute. Accessed online March 2, 2005 at
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