Peace & Security conference Feb. 17/07

Stephen LaFrenie

These are my observations of the Peace and Security conference based on my notes taken during the presentations.

Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, had some very intriguing and challenging questions for the Green Party, some of which we took to task in the workshop on the concept of triple D. (Defense/Diplomacy/Development). He framed his opinions around seven basic concepts of Foreign policy.

Good policy is good politics.
Foreign policy is important if not vital.
Defense, Diplomacy and Development
American Relations
Multilateral Relations
International Law and Governance
Fighting Terrorism intelligently

Mr. Heinbecker thinks that it is vital for political leaders to have and state what their foreign policy is. It is something that is important to discuss during an election campaign and in particular to the Green Party it is vital in order for the Canadian people to see us as a potential government as opposed to a one issue party. If we are going to shake that myth then we have to demonstrate a well thought out policy on a wide range of issues confronting the world. International Law is a rock that we can firmly stand on and the continuing fight to uphold international agreements and forge others is vital to the stability of the world. He thinks that the U.N. is much maligned and in fact is betrayed by the member states themselves and the Security Council which have failed to live up to their obligations. He listed an impressive list of UN achievements over the decades, things that were not part of the original UN Charter upon its founding. Peace keeping, peace/nation building, counter terrorism, international court on war crimes, environmental agreements, 100 million people fed, observance of elections around the world, land mine treaty, etc.

He further described Diplomacy as an endangered species that has received less and less funding over the past years. We need to fight terrorism intelligently with the number one tool being prevention. “We can fight terrorism by not fueling it in the first place”. There is no war on terrorism because you can’t have a war on a tactic. He observed the lack of peace keeping around the world stating that there really isn’t any peace keeping happening in the world.

Douglas Roche, former Senator and Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, had a very blunt warning for us. Canada needs to wake up and see what is happening in the world today. We are moving closer to a dangerous nuclear confrontation which poses a greater threat than that of terrorism. Nuclear weapons stockpiles remain alarmingly high with more and more countries seeking nuclear programs which could lead to weapons development. Six Arab states have recently begun seeking nuclear energy projects which may lead to weapons development and further destabilize the region. Twelve trillion dollars has been spent on nuclear weapons with a new focus on offensive use as opposed to defensive. The classic scenario of MAD (mutual assured destruction) is losing ground to the concept of a limited, winnable, nuclear confrontation. He thinks that the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) needs more teeth and remain under a strengthened IAEA to assure that peaceful nuclear energy projects cannot be used as weapons development through back door channels. We need to remember that India’s nuclear weapons capability was developed with the waste from Canadian CANDU reactor technology. He reminded us that Canadians think of Canada as a ‘nuclear free zone’ which is not true. Technically we do not house nuclear weapons but our NATO obligations place us in a contradictory position because NATO recognizes the need and superiority of nuclear weapons. So even though close to 83% of Canadians oppose nuclear weapons we support their existence and potential use throughout the world. He further observed that Lloyd Axworthy, the former External Affairs Minister, tried to alter this NATO policy but failed. There is support for the NPT and Nuclear Weapons Free Zones in Canada and all we need now is the political will to accomplish it. We need to work around the U.S. and its policies of winnable nuclear war and approach countries independently and bring them into the non-nuclear positions. Mr. Roche believes this is an area of foreign policy that is perfect for the Green Party and that we should lead the way in developing it.