Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Photo: Professor Douglas Bland speaking at the University of Ottawa.
Wars in the future will look a lot like the war in Afghanistan, according to Douglas Bland, Chair in Defence Management Studies, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.
Mr. Bland was speaking at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies today, as part of the university’s 2009 speaker series.
The theme of the talk was – is Afghanistan Canada’s last war?
Mr. Bland believes the conflict in Afghanistan exemplifies what Canadians should expect – and how much they will have to pay, should any future government commit the country to war.
Some of the characteristics of these so-called replica wars include: the use of low-tech weaponry; inhospitable terrain; little or no infrastructure; problematic border control; a young population in poor health, a conflict conducted in the midst of humanitarian actions, and perhaps most worrisome – no clear exit strategy.
Then there are the monetary costs to consider.
“Has our (proposed) national child care program been spent (fighting the war) in Afghanistan?” asked Mr. Bland.
The professor also talked about assumptions some Canadian politicians make – one being that there is no need for a large military in Canada because the United States will protect North America.
Perhaps Canadians will think about this dependency the next time they complain about other NATO countries not carrying their weight in Afghanistan.
During the question and answer period the discussion turned to how dramatically Canadian immigration patterns have changed – we are no longer just English or French. Many immigrants are leaving situations where the military is feared or their religious or cultural beliefs prevent them from participating in their adopted country’s armed conflicts.
“Who fights Canada’s wars?” asked Mr. Bland. “It’s young, white men.”
You only have to go to the Department of National Defence web site to see that.
Time will tell whether or not Canada engages in another prolonged military conflict on the other side of the world. But sooner or later, Canadians will have to decide how important the Arctic is to them and what they are prepared to do to defend it.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Photo: Elena Klimenko and Matthew Campbell standing in front of an exhibition of mine action photos.
Canadian Landmine Action Week kicked off last night with a photography exhibition at the UMI Café in Ottawa.
The photographs were taken by members of Mine Action Canada’s (MAC) Young Professionals International Mine Action Program (YPIMAP).
The photos show the devastating effects of anti-personnel landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in countries where 10 Canadian young professionals lived for five months on this unique internship.
Two of the interns were on hand for the exhibition. Both have just returned to Canada and were excited to talk about their photographs and experiences in mine action.
Matthew Campbell, of Charlottetown, P.E.I., spent five months in Kampala working for the Uganda Landmine Survivor Association (ULSA), while Russian-born Elena Klimenko spent her internship working for the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines (AzCBL) in Baku.
Mr. Campbell took an interest in mine action and peace building while studying political science at McGill University in Montreal.
During his stay in Uganda, Mr. Campbell spent much of his time on capacity building and advocacy. He helped open the first ULSA office, contributed to its web site, and travelled to mine-affected areas of the country to meet with and photograph landmine survivors.
Not long after he arrived in Uganda, he helped organize the international conference on cluster munitions in September 2008.
Although Uganda has signed both the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the government does not have the financial resources to provide for its 1,000 (or more) landmine/EWR survivors.
“Uganda is dependent on NGOs to support victim assistance,” said Mr. Campbell.
Unfortunately, the services that are available are not sufficient.
“There is a real need for maintenance of prosthetics and income generation activities,” said Mr. Campbell. “Mine action has to compete with other issues for funding.”
Mr. Campbell said disabled people face several challenges: poverty, abandonment and neglect.
Now back in Canada, Mr. Campbell continues to reflect on his experience.
“(Canada) should be a strong moral country. We cannot become small. We need to engage the world.”
Ms. Klimenko could not agree more.
“Human tragedy is very close to us,” said Ms. Klimenko. “ Even if we live in Ottawa, it affects us. We cannot neglect to help people in other countries.”
Ms. Klimenko became interested in mine action while studying at Carleton University in Ottawa, where she has lived for six years.
During her internship, Ms. Klimenko spent much of her time working on a highly successful microcredit program, which assists with the economic integration of landmine survivors.
Financing from the Swiss Foundation for Landmine Victims Aid enabled several landmine survivors in rural areas of Azerbaijan to set up a small business. More importantly, these survivors were able to access interest-free loans.
Some of these landmine survivors used the money to purchase livestock and feed. Others opened bakeries or started a bee-keeping business.
The microcredit program has proven to be highly successful. To date, all loans have been repaid in full and on time. Repaid money is loaned out again to other landmine survivors.
The only problem is that to date, less than twenty people have benefited from this microcredit program. According to the 2008 Landmine Monitor, there are at least 1,900 landmine survivors in the country.
Ms. Klimenko has tried to solicit assistance from other financial services; however, none have been willing to offer landmine survivors interest-free loans. In fact, some demand as much as 36 per cent in interest.
Both speak highly of the internship and are grateful for the opportunity to work in mine action. Ms. Klimenko is currently looking for work in international development. Mr. Campbell is working full-time in Ottawa, but is considering going back to university.
To learn more about Canadian Landmine Action Week, click here.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The G8 research group at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Development has just released their interim report detailing how G8 member states and the European Union are complying with commitments made at last summer’s G8 Summit in Japan.
The group monitored 20 commitments made at the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako Summit.
The report covers the time period from July 10, 2008 to Jan. 15, 2009.
While there has been much progress reported – especially in areas such as finance, climate change and energy – issues such as official development aid (ODA) for Africa, neglected tropical diseases and progress on fighting terrorism received low scores.
However, researchers in Toronto cautioned people to not be overly alarmed about the findings.
“Remember that this is the interim report,” said Allison Martell, compliance director with the G8 research group. “G8 members didn't make these promises with a January deadline in mind, so we should expect relatively low compliance scores. Much more will likely happen between now and July.”
The world’s poor certainly hope so. The global economic crisis will hit the most vulnerable hardest, according to new World Bank forecasts.
The World Bank is predicting that 53 million more people in the developing world could be pushed into poverty as a result of the economic downturn.
Germany was the only country to receive a positive score on ODA to Africa.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) did not respond to requests for information regarding its commitments to African ODA.
Work toward eradicating neglected tropical diseases (NTD) received the worst score of all the 20 commitments that the G8 research group monitored.
According to the World Health Organization, the majority of international aid goes toward HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis treatment.
However, NTDs such as leprosy, onchocerciasis, dengue and leishmaniases kill about 1.8 million people per year.
There is clearly work to be done in this area before the G8 countries can say they are in compliance. However, according to Ms. Martell, “a modest project in this area would yield a substantial score increase.”
To read the report, click here
The next G8 meeting will be held in Italy July 8-10, 2009.
For more information click here