The United Nations deploys peace operations and peacebuilding missions to fragile and post-conflict areas to help create the conditions required for sustainable peace. Canada is building on its long tradition of supporting and participating in UN peace operations while promoting innovative peacebuilding policies and activities.
Canada has been a leader in peace operations since Lester B. Pearson spearheaded the development of peacekeeping during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Today, Canada consistently contributes highly trained and experienced civilian, military, and police personnel to UN-mandated operations. We also support increasing the UN’s capacity to conduct peace operations that effectively meet the needs of the host country and its population.
Canada's traditional role as a peacekeeper is complemented by leadership in peacebuilding activities, which seek to bridge the gap between immediate post-conflict aid and long-term development assistance. One of the first countries to recognize the importance of peacebuilding, Canada works with the UN to ensure the effectiveness of UN peacebuilding efforts, and to build its capacity in this area, including through the recently-established Peacebuilding Commission.
Often referred to simply as “peacekeeping,” peace support operations have evolved greatly from the first modern peacekeeping mission over 60 years ago. Today, they encompass a range of operations that take place in all phases of the conflict cycle, including peacekeeping, peacemaking, and even reconstruction and development roles. Many peace support operations now involve more than one of these roles at the same time. In addition, peace support operations have become increasingly multidisciplinary, encompassing civilian, police and military tasks.
Canada is active in all manner of UN peace operations. Since the first peacekeeping operation in 1956, Canada has accepted frequent requests to join UN operations around the world, whether in Cyprus, Bosnia, Haiti, or elsewhere. To date, over 125,000 Canadians have served in close to 50 UN missions.
Canada continues to strongly support and participate in UN-mandated peace operations. As well as deploying personnel in the service of peace, Canada works to improve the effectiveness of peace operations at UN Headquarters. Canada has been a member of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations since its creation by General Assembly resolution 2004 (XIX) in 1965, and has been elected annually as Vice-Chair since 1966. Starting in 1990, Canada was entrusted with the chairmanship of the Working Group of the Special Committee, a position it has held ever since. The Special Committee is mandated to conduct comprehensive reviews of peace operations in all their aspects, and together with the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), works to shape and improve the doctrines that guide peace operations.
While Canada is a strong supporter of the UN’s role in peace operations, we also recognize that the UN system faces evolving challenges and must continually change and improve. Canada would like to see the UN’s capacity to plan and administer peace operations strengthened, including by reinforcing military and police capabilities within DPKO by developing a comprehensive doctrine for peace operations, and by improving analysis and coordination mechanisms. Canada continues to actively support aspects of the UN reform agenda, including the proposals put forward by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his March 2005 report entitled In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All, and the subsequent Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit.
Canada continues to call for the full implementation of the recommendations made in the 2000 Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi. These include a greater emphasis on conflict prevention, increasing the role of civilians and police, peacebuilding strategies, and rapid deployment.
Responding quickly to an unfolding crisis is essential to preventing loss of life and maintaining stability. To this end, Canada is a founding and current member of the Multinational Standby High Readiness Brigade for United Nations Operations (SHIRBRIG), a standing military force able to deploy rapidly when called upon by the Security Council. Canada – along with six other countries – founded SHIRBRIG following the presentation of a ground-breaking study on a UN rapid reaction capability at the 50th session of the General Assembly: Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations. Since its creation, SHIRBRIG has been deployed four times. Canada held the presidency in 2003 and had command of the Brigade from 2003 to 2006.
Finally, Canada supports increased cooperation and coordination between and amongst UN member states, the UN, regional organizations such as the African Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and civil society. Improving the effectiveness of peace support operations can only be achieved by working together.
Sustainable peace cannot be built through peacekeeping alone. Lasting peace requires an integrated approach that involves economic, social, political, and security support for countries prone to recurring cycles of violence. In the words of the Brahimi Report, “peacekeepers work to maintain a secure local environment, while peacebuilders work to make that environment self-sustaining.”
Peacebuilding efforts can include demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration processes, increasing the role of women, security sector reform, technical assistance for democratic development, or promoting conflict resolution and reconciliation techniques.
Canada was one of the first countries to promote the concept of peacebuilding. In 1996 it launched the Canadian Peacebuilding Initiative, followed two years later by the creation of a Peacebuilding Fund within the Canadian International Development Agency.
Within the UN system, Canada supported the creation in 2005 of the Peacebuilding Commission, an intergovernmental advisory body mandated to better coordinate and provide direction to post-conflict peacebuilding activities. Canada also helped create the Peacebuilding Support Office, which serves and provides policy guidance to the Commission, and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, which is administered by the United Nations Development Program and provides post-conflict financial assistance at the discretion of the UN Secretary-General. Canada supports further strengthening the capacity of the UN to provide coherence to its peacebuilding efforts, both before and after conflict.