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UN says it's OK with Trudeau government's piecemeal peacekeeping plans

A woman walks past the flags of participating nations at the 2017 United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday November 14, 2017. The two-day conference is largest gathering of defence ministers dedicated to UN peacekeeping. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
November 14, 2017 - 3:34 PM

VANCOUVER - The UN is sending early signals that it approves of Canada's forthcoming plans for peacekeeping, which are expected to involve several smaller contributions rather than a single specific mission that gets all of the government's available resources.

The Trudeau government is poised to finally open the curtains — at least partly — Wednesday on what sort of military personnel and equipment it is willing to offer to help with the UN's peacekeeping efforts.

The long-awaited decision comes more than a year after the Liberals first promised to make up to 600 Canadian troops and 150 police officers available to the UN, and as Canada plays host to a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver.

Sources have said that rather than focusing on one mission, Canada is offering the UN a veritable grab bag of goodies in the form of helicopters, trainers and other assets for a variety of different missions.

While such an approach might seem scattershot, it's actually preferable when it comes to developed countries like Canada, the UN's undersecretary general for field support told The Canadian Press in an interview.

That's because many missions are short on the type of high-end equipment and personnel that Canada can offer, said Atul Khare, who oversees the day-to-day operations of peacekeeping missions in the field.

"It is precisely in these high-technology areas — engineers, hospitals and doctors, strategic airlift and tactical airlift — that developed countries have the largest contribution to make simply because they have the capacity," Khare said.

"And I do see a great advantage of distributing that capacity because through distribution of that capacity, the gaps are better filled globally.

"Rather than only making one mission 100 per cent, you improve many missions from, say, 70 per cent to 80 per cent, which is a better way of improving the situation globally."

Speaking in the Philippines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada's contribution would ensure "maximum positive impact, not just for Canadian contributions but for all peacekeepers."

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.

But UN and Canadian officials are said to still be hammering out many of the details, such as when and how those offers would be employed, suggesting the government's announcement Wednesday will be light on specifics.

Khare would not talk about Canada's offer, but he did say such discussions between the UN and contributing countries are commonplace as both sides work to ensure promised troops and equipment are used to the best effect.

"It is for the individual countries to decide and give us their specific options, and then for the secretariat to examine those specific options and work with the countries to find what best capabilities they are offering are best suited where," he said.

"That means instead of fixing a caveat, that we will only go to Lebanon or we will only go to Mali, this is the capacity which we have and are willing to put on offer. If you have some use of it, come back and discuss with us on where it can be best deployed as a joint decision."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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