Peacekeeping plan ‘a work in progress,’ says UN official
OTTAWA — While Canadian officials and the United Nations have been furiously trying to iron out the details of Canada’s long-awaited 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 today.
“It’s a work in progress,” Jean-Pierre 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 today.
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.
Things are moving, and it’s not frustrating, it’s rather encouraging.
Relatives weep over the body of an earthquake victim in Sarpol-e-Zahab, Iran, on Monday.