TRACKING THE PROMISES:
Canada's Contributions to UN Peacekeeping
Dr. Walter Dorn, 21 October 2018
Using the latest monthly data (UN, 30 September 2018)
Upon election, Justin Trudeau promised that Canada would re-engage in UN peacekeeping. The Prime Minister gave explicit instructions to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a Mandate letter (12 November 2015). The government made major pledges at the Peacekeeping Ministerial in London, UK, of 8 September 2016 (pdf). The Prime Minister made additional pledges at the Peacekeeping Ministerial in Vancouver on 15 November 2017.
This webpage tracks the status of implementation of these government promises on UN peacekeeping using easily measurable statistics, the latest figures, and benchmark data. It draws conclusions for each criteria and conclusions overall.
Pledge: Up to 750 uniformed personnel (600 military and 150 police) (London Ministerial: pdf), in addition to what Canada deployed at the time (112), for total of approx. 860.
Current status: 178 uniformed personnel deployed. This increase is due to the 138 personnel added to a new mission for Canada in July 2018: MINUSMA (Mali). The Canadian defence department (DND) frequently states that the number deployed in Mali is "approximately 250 personnel." The difference of between UN and Canadian numbers is because Canada deploys more personnel than the UN pays for (since the UN has uniform standards for the number of deployed by contingents). The additional Canadian personnel (112) are considered part of a "National Support Element" (NSE), which is not reimbursed, though these personnel still wear UN insignia and are incorporated into the mission as part of the regular UN chain of command.
Table 1. Number of personnel at significant points in recent history and presently
|2015 Oct 31||27||89||116||UN, 2015 (pdf)||Conservative gov
(last official figures)
|2016 Aug 31||28||84||112||UN, 2016 (pdf)||Contribution when pledge of additional 750 uniformed personnel was made|
|2017 Oct 31|| 23
||UN, 2017 (pdf)||At time of Vancouver Ministerial (last official figures beforehand)|
|2018 May 31||21||19||40||UN, 2018 (pdf)||Lowest number of uniformed personnel and lowest military contribution since 1956|
|2018 September 30||156||17||178||UN, 2018 (pdf)||
Increase in military personnel due to Mali deployment (138, or approx. 250 including NSE). The non-Mali military contribution remains small (23). And Canada is now at the lowest level of police deployment in this century.
Figure 1. Contribution by month, from 2005 to 2018 (July), showing governments in power at the time
Historical benchmarks: Canada was a leader in providing personnel to UN peacekeeping from its early days (e.g., providing the first chief of the first observer mission, BGen Harry Angle of UNMOGIP in Kashmir, created in 1948). Canada proposed the first peacekeeping force: UNEF in Egypt and made major contributions, including battalions throughout the life of the mission (1956–67). It also helped create the peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), to which Canada contributed large units (battalions) for 30 years, 1964–1993. Canada was the only country to contribute to all peacekeeping operations during the Cold War and remained a top contributor into the early 1990s. In 1993, Canada deployed 3,300 uniformed personnel in UN missions (incl. Bosnia, Cambodia, Mozambique, and Somalia). Canada contributed approx. 200 logisticians to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in Golan Heights (Syria) from its creation in 1974 until 2006, when the Harper government withdrew them (see decline in the above graph). So during the half-century 1956-2006, Canada always maintained at least 200 uniformed personnel in peacekeeping. In March 2006, shortly after the Harper government came to power, the UN contribution dropped to 120 personnel.
When President Barak Obama co-hosted the Leaders' Summit on Peacekeeping at UN headquarters on 28 September 2015, Canada made no pledge. That same night, in an election debate, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau criticised the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying: “The fact that Canada has nothing to contribute to that conversation today is disappointing because this is something that a Canadian Prime Minister started, and right now there is a need to revitalize and refocus and support peacekeeping operations ….”
Canada did propose the first peacekeeping force and was the top peacekeeping contributor during the Cold War and for several years afterwards. In 2015, Trudeau criticized the Conservative government of Stephen Harper for a decline (rank 66th on the list of contributors by number of uniformed personnel in September 2015). But the Trudeau government has let the contribution fall further for over two years until increasing dramatically with 134 in Mali (as registered by the UN). The current rank is 58th, up from the lowest rank of 81st (30 June 2018).
Conclusion: Canada is finally contributing a military unit to UN peacekeeping, the largest since 2005 and only the third time since 2005 (both other units were in Haiti). The number of uniformed personnel deployed is now greater than what it was when the Harper government ended in October 2015. Canada has finally contributed some of the additional personnel promised in 2016. But instead of being at 860, Canada is at 173 uniformed personnel -- using the latest UN numbers (NB: Canada may have assigned some additional forces to the task that are not under the Canada-UN MOU and hence not counted by the UN). Following the Defence and Foreign Ministers announcement on 19 March 2018 that Canada will contribute to the UN mission in Mali , Canada has provided an aviation task force of 8 helicopters. This is a substantial military contribution. But the police contribution has reached the lowest point in the century (17 police officers).
Initiative: to promote more women in peacekeeping
Table 2. Number of Canadian uniformed women in peacekeeping (benchmark data and the latest figures)
|2015 Oct 31||1||20||21||UN, 2015 (pdf)||Conservative gov (last official figures)|
|2016 Aug 31||2||13||15||UN, 2016 (pdf)||At time of London ministerial (last official figures before meeting)|
|2017 Oct 31||2||6||8||UN, 2017 (pdf)||At time of Vancouver Ministerial (last official figures before meeting)
2018 September 30
||6||19||UN, 2018 (pdf)||Now 19 women military personnel; 13 of 156 military personnel (8%); 6 of 17 police personnel (35%); overall 19 of 173 (11%)|
Women in Peace Operations Pilot – “The Elsie initiative”
A pledge of C$ 21 m was made for women, peace and security in UN peace operations. This includes contributions to the UN's trust fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "We are equally committed to increasing the number of women that we deploy as part of UN peace operations." Vancouver ministerial, "Canada to deploy more women to peacekeeping missions, says Trudeau," Youtube, 1:13.
Current status: Not yet implemented. Two countries have been designated to serve in a pilot project under the Elsie initiative: Ghana and Zambia (Freeland, Sept 2018).
Conclusion: Canada is not leading by example, with only 11% of the military personnel being women, not meeting the UN standard of 15%. The Trudeau government is providing only 19 women uniformed personnel (12 military women in Mali, 1 in South Sudan, and 6 police women in Haiti) to UN peacekeeping, less than the 21 police women that the Harper government provided at the end of its term. The Vancouver pledges (especially the financial incentives) hold promise to increase the number of women military personnel provided by other countries. Will Canada do the same?
Pledge: While no specific pledge has been made in this regard, service at UN headquarters provides an important way to make a significant contribution, to gain experience in UN methods, procedures, and priorities, and to view the inner workings of the world organization. Positions to support UN peacekeeping should be in Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) or the Department of Field Support (DFS). For the military, the placement would be within the Office of Military Affairs (OMA) within DPKO.
Current status (military)
UN employment: 0 (out of more than 120 personnel serving from over 70 countries)
Gratis personnel: 1
Background: Canada provided the Military Adviser to the Secretary-General (head of OMA) from 1992 to 1995 (Major General Maurice Baril). The last leadership post held by Canada in OMA was Chief of the Military Planning Service (Col. Dave Barr, serving 2011-2015).
Pledge: while no international pledge was made by Canada, the Prime Minister did request his defence minister to provide "mission commanders" for the UN. (Canada has not yet done so.)
Historical: The UN's first chief military observer (BGen Harry Angle in UNMOGIP) and its first Force Commander (MGen E.L.M. Burns in UNEF) were Canadians. Canada provided seven force commanders in the 1990s but none since. Canada was offered the opportunity to submit candidates for force commanders in the D.R. Congo and Mali in the new century but did not oblige. The highest ranking position since 2005 has been the Force Chief of Staff (military) in MINUSTAH (Haiti), 2005-2017.
Status: Canada lost its most significant military and police positions in UN missions (colonel position as COS in MINUSTAH and the police commissioner position) in 2017 when the mission was converted to MINUJUSTH. Canada lost the opportunity to provide the Force Commander for the Mali (MINUSMA) mission in January 2017 when it continued to dither and delay in offering a force package for the Mali mission.
Aside: On the civilian side, two Canadians host positions of mission leadership (Special Representative of the Secretary-General or SRSG): Colin Stewart leading the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and Elizabeth Spehar leading (since April 2016) the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). But these leaders are not provided by or seconded from the Canadian government. They are part of the international civil service, individually recruited by the United Nations.
Pledges: As part of the "Contribution of police and up to 600 military personnel" (2017 Vancouver commitment, "advancing" the London pledge):
Tactical Airlift Support [C130 aircraft]
Aviation Task Force
Quick Reaction Force [approx. 200 personnel]
New Police missions being examined
Status: only one pledge has been honoured (the aviation task force). All the others are not yet implemented. A transport aircraft unit (C-130) was promised for UN service, based in Entebbe, supposedly to be deployed by August 2018, but that plan is in limbo. So are the plans for the deployment of a QRF.
Mandate Letter: includes "leading an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations"
Training activities to meet systemic UN needs
Canadian Training and Advisory Team (to be established)
Status: No international leadership in peacekeeping training has yet been shown. The Canadian government is currently less well equipped to lead in training for UN peacekeeping since so few military personnel have deployed in such operations over the past two decades. In addition, the training and education within the Canadian Armed Forces on UN peacekeeping has also declined, with the number of activities less than a quarter of what they were in 2005 (see one study: Dorn and Libben, Preparing for Peace?, 2018, html or pdf or the longer 2015 version: html, pdf). The closure of the Pearson Centre in 2013 left Canada without a place to train military, police and civilians together.
The Government announced on 29 May 2018 (International Day of UN Peacekeepers) financial contributions for peacekeeping training to two institutions: École de Maintien de la Paix Alioune Blondin Beye de Bamako (EMP Bamako), and Peace Operations Training Institute (POTI, US-based). Each institution was offered $1 million. This does not demonstrate international leadership but does assist these two institutions financially.
The government does its own self-evaluation of the results of its promises (from the mandate letters) at canada.ca/results, which redirects to https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/mandate-tracker-results-canadians.html. It lists its peacekeeping commitments as "Underway – on track" (defined as "progress toward completing this commitment is unfolding as expected").
The government's self-evaluation of promises "on track" is inaccurate, if not outright false, at the present time. The contribution to UN peacekeeping reached an all-time low in May 2018 and only one mission has been added since 2015: the Mali mission, where 135 military personnel are deployed, according the UN numbers (30 September 2018).
Ironically, the same month that Canada hosted a peacekeeping pledging conference (Vancouver, November 2017), the number of Canadian uniformed personnel in UN peacekeeping was lower than at any other point since the creation of the first peacekeeping force in 1956, and decreased even further afterwards. Even with the recent (July 2018) increase in Mali, the average Trudeau government contribution since 2015 is less than half that of the previous government (on average 107 uniformed personnel for Harper government, 2006-2015). The Trudeau government is not "back" and is not on track to meet its promises, even with the almost 200 deployed. Furthermore, for a country that seeks to champion women in peacekeeping, it is not leading by example, with just 11% of deployed uniformed personnel being women.
The Mali deployment may or may not signal a "re-engagement" in UN peace operations since the planned deployment of the aviation task force is relatively short-term (one year, less than the nations that preceded Canada in that role). Canada announced on 19 March 2018 that it will provide the UN mission in Mali with an aviation task force of 6 helicopters and an aeromedical team. The deployment came to 8 helicopters after negotiations with UN headquarters. This is a substantial contribution, that became fully operational in August 2018 but the commitment is only for one year. Furthermore, it is not a complete replacement for the German capability that is being withdrawn. And this would be only a third of Canada's pledged military contribution (up to 600 personnel). Furthermore, the promised Quick Reaction Force is not deploying quickly. And as a new mission for Canadian police contributions has not yet been announced, Canada has now reached the lowest police contribution of this century. So Canada is not on track and has not re-engaged, though some progress has been made in Summer 2018 with one mission.
The promised deployment of a C-130 (Hercules) aircraft to Entebbe, to serve multiple missions, is in limbo, and may never be implemented. Though August 2018 was the expected deployment month, it has not materialized and negotiations with UN headquarters are at an impasse.
The rhetoric remains lofty on paper and in speeches but the Canadian government has yet to match its words with deeds. Just as Canada's promise remains unfulfilled, so is Canada's good advice to the world: "The time for change is now and we must be bold" (Sajjan speech to UN Security Council, 28 March 2018).
This webpage is updated on a monthly basis (around mid-month, after UN statistics for the previous month-end are released). The assistance Nic Baird and Dr. Danielle Stodilka in data gathering is gratefully acknowledged . A copy of this page can be found at peacekeepingcanada.com.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND), "Pledges," 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, Vancouver, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/peacekeeping-defence-ministerial/pledges.html.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND), Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH),
Operations Database: DOMREP; ONUC: ONUCA: UNDOF; UNEF; UNEFII; UNFICYP; UNGOMAP; UNIFIL; UNIPOM; UNMOGIP; UNTAG; UNYOM.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND),"Minister Sajjan Reaffirms Peace Operations Pledge at UN Defence Ministerial," https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2016/09/minister-sajjan-reaffirms-peace-operations-pledge-defence-ministerial.html (quote: "Canada stands ready to deploy up to 600 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel for future UN peace operations."), 8 September 2016.
Canada, Prime Minister, "Canada bolsters peacekeeping and civilian protection measures," News Release, 15 November 2017,
Canada, Privy Council, "Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians," https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/mandate-tracker-results-canadians.html, accessed 8 February 2018.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Canada offering 200 ground troops for future UN peacekeeping operations," http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/peacekeeping-plan-trudeau-vancouver-1.4403192, 15 November 2017. Trudeau Quote from Ministerial (15 November 2017): "We are making all these pledges today, because we believe in the United Nations and we believe in peacekeeping," he said. "What we will do is step up and make the contributions we are uniquely able to provide."
Canadiansoldiers.com, “Peacekeeping,” http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/peacekeeping.
Dorn, A. Walter and Joshua Libben, Unprepared for Peace? The Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping Training (and What to Do About It), Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Rideau Institute, Ottawa, February 2016. (html, pdf)
Durch, William J., The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Case Studies and Comparative Analysis, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1993.
Sajjan, Harjit (Defence Minister), Address to the UN Security Council, 28 March 2018, video at http://webtv.un.org/watch/part-2-collective-action-to-improve-united-nations-peacekeeping-operations-security-council-8218th-meeting/5760429007001/?term=, 42:00-51:44.
Trudeau, Justin (Prime Minister), Minister of National Defence Mandate Letter (12 November 2015): https://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-national-defence-mandate-letter.
Trudeau, Justin (Prime Minister), Minister of Foreign Affairs (update of 1 February 2017): https://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-foreign-affairs-mandate-letter
United Kingdom, "UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial: London 2016," https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/un-peacekeeping-defence-ministerial-london-2016. Final Report (pdf).
United Kingdom, "UN Peacekeeping Ministerial - pledge slides (PPT)" (pdf), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/556825/Pledge_slide_show_-_final_for_media_2.pdf.
United Nations (UN), "Troop and Police Contributors," https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors.
United Nations (UN), Department of Peacekeeping Operations / Department of Field Support, "Current and Emerging Uniformed Capability Requirements for United Nations Peacekeeping," issued periodically, including December 2016 (pdf), May 2017 (pdf) and August 2017 (pdf).
United Nations (UN), Department of Public Information (DPI), The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping, 2nd ed.. (New York, N.Y.), United Nations, 1992.
World Federalist Movement -- Canada, “Canadians for Peacekeeping”, https://peacekeepingcanada.com/ (includes a copy of this page at https://peacekeepingcanada.com/tracking-the-promises-canadas-contributions-to-un-peacekeeping/)
Figure A.1: Canada's pledges, as recorded in the Vancouver pledges
Figure A.2: Canadian contributions of uniformed personnel from 1950 to 2018 (July)
Sources: Canada DND, Canadiansoldier.com, W. Durch, UN DPI
Figure A.3: Canada's rank among nations contributing uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, 1991 to July 2018
(Lowest rank ever reached in May 2018, on the eve of the Mali deployment)