Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s peacekeeping plan still ‘a work in progress’: UN of­fi­cial

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL - LEE BERTHIAUME

OT­TAWA — While Cana­dian of­fi­cials and the United Na­tions have been fu­ri­ously try­ing to iron out the de­tails of Canada’s lon­gawaited peacekeeping plans, one se­nior UN of­fi­cial says no fi­nal de­ci­sions have been made — even with Van­cou­ver play­ing host to a two-day sum­mit on the sub­ject start­ing Tues­day.

“It’s a work in progress,” JeanPierre Lacroix, the un­der­sec­re­tary gen­eral for peacekeeping op­er­a­tions, said Mon­day in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press.

“It looks like there are a num­ber of av­enues that have been ex­plored quite thor­oughly. But we’re wait­ing for the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to come up with a fi­nal de­ci­sion.”

The rev­e­la­tion comes as the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pre­pares to host rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 80 coun­tries at a ma­jor peacekeeping sum­mit in Van­cou­ver start­ing Tues­day.

It was widely ex­pected that the Lib­er­als would an­nounce their plans to de­ploy peace­keep­ers ei­ther be­fore or at the sum­mit, more than a year af­ter promis­ing up to 600 troops and 150 po­lice of­fi­cers for UN mis­sions.

But Lacroix’s com­ments pour cold wa­ter on that idea, and are likely to dis­ap­point — if not spark out­right crit­i­cism from — many of the for­eign dig­ni­taries and de­fence ex­perts sched­uled to at­tend the two-day meet­ing.

Nonethe­less, Lacroix, who is re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing all peacekeeping op­er­a­tions, said he was “en­cour­aged” that there is fi­nally some move­ment af­ter more than a year of de­lays and si­lence from Canada.

“Things are mov­ing, and it’s not frus­trat­ing, it’s rather en­cour­ag­ing,” he said. “Now, given the needs, I would be quite happy if the de­lays are rather short than long. But then again, I am quite en­cour­aged by the lat­est evo­lu­tion.”

Sources say the gov­ern­ment has put sev­eral of­fers on the ta­ble for the UN’s con­sid­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the de­ploy­ment of he­li­copters to help in Mali, and a trans­port plane in Uganda to as­sist dif­fer­ent mis­sions in Africa.

Canada is also re­port­edly ready to pro­vide a rapid-re­ac­tion force in the Golan Heights be­tween Is­rael and Syria; con­trib­ute to the UN’s new po­lice mis­sion in Haiti; and send trainers to help other coun­tries be­come bet­ter at peacekeeping.

Lacroix would not com­ment on the gov­ern­ment’s of­fers, but did say dis­cus­sions on “when and how and where these po­ten­tial con­tri­bu­tions would be used and where they would make a dif­fer­ence, that’s where we are.”

The fact spe­cific de­tails re­main in the works nonethe­less comes as a bit of a sur­prise, given ex­pec­ta­tions the gov­ern­ment would an­nounce its plan for de­ploy­ing peace­keep­ers at this week’s sum­mit, if not ear­lier.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is sched­uled to ap­pear at the meet­ing Wed­nes­day with Lacroix as well as De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan and For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land.

The sum­mit is only for coun­tries that have made — or are ready to make — con­crete pledges to peacekeeping, and some UN of­fi­cials, for­eign diplo­mats and ex­perts have warned Canada will be em­bar­rassed if it doesn’t de­liver.

Yet while the Lib­er­als have been crit­i­cized for drag­ging their feet on a de­ci­sion for more than a year, Lacroix said the UN hasn’t been sit­ting around wait­ing for Canada to make a com­mit­ment.

For ex­am­ple, af­ter the gov­ern­ment re­fused to com­mit to pro­vid­ing des­per­ately needed he­li­copters to Mali, Jor­dan and Bel­gium are now step­ping up, mean­ing any Cana­dian con­tri­bu­tion might be de­layed to 2019.

Nonethe­less, said Lacroix, gaps re­main and “the de­mand is still big­ger than the sup­ply.”

Much of the fo­cus of this week’s meet­ing in Van­cou­ver will be on pledges that dif­fer­ent coun­tries make to peacekeeping mis­sions, as well as tak­ing stock of pre­vi­ous com­mit­ments.

But the meet­ing will also fea­ture dis­cus­sions about ways to in­crease the role of women in peacekeeping and con­flict-pre­ven­tion, re­duce the use of child sol­diers, and bet­ter pro­tect civil­ians.

“So how do we im­prove the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians in our en­vi­ron­ment? Lacroix said.

“Where we have more dis­placed per­sons. We have more peo­ple in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and sup­port. And we have more dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ments.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN un­der­sec­re­tary gen­eral for peacekeeping op­er­a­tions, speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Euro­pean head­quar­ters of the United Na­tions in Geneva, Switzer­land in Septem­ber. Lacroix says the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment still has not made a de­ci­sion on where it will send Cana­dian peace­keep­ers.

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