Canada and Human Security: From the Axworthy Doctrine to Middle Power Internationalism
Bernard, Prosper, Jr., American Review of Canadian Studies
One of the main priorities of Canadian foreign policy in the post-Cold War period has been the promotion of human security. Human security, a term popularized by the United Nations Development Program, refers to the physical safety and material welfare of people. The human security agenda involves unilateral or multilateral governmental and non-governmental actions aimed at enhancing individual protection and well-being. In particular, the agenda tackles those conditions--such as economic privation, civil strife, and political instability--that undermine the quality of life of individuals. The international focus on human security is the result of recognizing that fostering international peace and stability does not necessarily contribute to enhancing individual protection and welfare. In fact, the human security agenda is based on the premise that the promotion of human security is more conducive to international peace and security than the other way around.
Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister from January 1996 to October 2000, championed human security and believed that Canada could play a central role in promoting it worldwide. In addressing the prospects for human security, he noted that "the road forward has many paths. What unites them is a very simple aspiration--security for all people, everywhere" (2001, 2). This paper compares the paths that Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin took to promote human security. I argue that from 1996 to 2000, Canada's approach to human security was influenced by the Axworthy doctrine--a foreign policy model based on Axworthy's understanding of changes in the international system and what they mean for the promotion of security. Under the leadership of Paul Martin (2003-2006), the Canadian government moved closer to middle power internationalism, an alternative foreign policy model with a tradition dating back to the early post-World War II period, which in turn changed the manner Ottawa promoted human security. The human security approach informed by the Axworthy doctrine was ambitious, setting its sight on a range of international endeavors all aimed at securing human well-being. Soft power and reliance on like-minded nations and non-governmental organizations were the primary instruments of this approach. On the other hand, the human security approach guided by middle power internationalism attempted to narrow its focus, prioritizing among human security's various components. Moreover, the approach placed greater emphasis on hard power, and Ottawa seemed more inclined to engaging and coordinating with great powers as a means of advancing its human security goals.
As two foreign policy models, the Axworthy doctrine and middle power internationalism are similar to the extent that they are derived from Canada's tradition of active international involvement. In addition, both models recognize Canada's middling influence in international affairs and show a preference for working through multilateral channels. However, their differences lie in their understanding of the international opportunities and constraints facing Canada as it promotes human security. The Axworthy doctrine holds that weaker states and non-state actors (global civil society) are capable of advancing the agenda on their own. This has spurred the belief that the agenda could be pursued without securing great power cooperation through bargaining and compromising. Second, the doctrine asserts that the state-centered international system is being replaced by a norm-centered system where states' freedom of action and ability to maximize their self-interest are increasingly constrained by normative principles. The Axworthy doctrine, therefore, is based on the notion that the community of states can move beyond the Hobbesian nature of the international system. Finally, the Axworthy doctrine contends that Canada's ability to achieve progress in the human security agenda depends more on its possession of soft power than hard power assets.
Middle power internationalism, on the other hand, holds that although non-state actors and weaker states command greater influence today, great power participation is instrumental in ensuring that progress is achieved in the human security agenda. Second, the model contends that the promotion of human security should be guided by such political considerations as state power and interest so as to facilitate the setting of priorities among the agenda's many components. Lastly, middle power internationalism recognizes the continued relevance of hard power resources.
The timing of each model, the shift from one model to the other, and the manner in which human security was promoted under each model were shaped by two factors. Financial constraints shaped the manner in which the Axworthy doctrine was promoted. During the 1990s Ottawa's latitude for foreign policy actions was constrained by a regime of fiscal austerity. This forced foreign policy practitioners to make adjustments, trying to remain actively engaged abroad with a declining amount of resources. One result of this was Ottawa's focus on soft power--the idea that Canada could influence international developments by setting an example (as a well-functioning liberal democratic, multinational state) for other countries and through the attraction of Canadian values. While it was cheaper to maintain this form of international activism, Canada's hard power assets were left to atrophy. Likewise, the restoration of financial solvency in recent years enabled the Martin government to begin rebuilding Canada's material capabilities and thus facilitated a reorientation of Canadian foreign policy.
The other factor is the emergence of a new threat, namely international terrorism. The end of the Cold War afforded middle powers like Canada greater foreign policy latitude. Accordingly, Ottawa assumed leadership roles in addressing various global problems that hitherto were largely neglected, such as human security. Moreover, this latitude for policy action led Canada to be at the forefront of worthwhile human security initiatives, such as banning anti-personnel landmines, bringing justice to human rights abusers through the International Criminal Court, getting involved in peacebuilding missions, and eliminating child soldiering, to name a few. In the post-September 11 international environment, the threat of global terrorism has led Canada to prioritize its human security efforts by focusing much more on the nexus between failing and fragile states and human security. Not only is the reconstruction of fragile and failed states instrumental in reducing human suffering, but viable states serve as a bulwark against the infiltration of terrorist groups. Thus, global terrorism has had the effect of adding greater focus to Canada's human security agenda.
The rest of this paper is divided into four parts. The first part elaborates on the Axworthy doctrine and Canada's accomplishments in advancing the human security agenda. In the second part, I identify the main flaws in both the doctrine and the path charted by the Chretien government to promote human security. The third section explores the characteristics of middle power internationalism. The concluding section provides evidence suggesting that the Martin Liberal government was pursuing human security under the guidance of middle power internationalism and draws attention to certain flaws in the government's approach.
The Axworthy Doctrine: The Human Security Agenda
When Lloyd Axworthy became foreign minister in January 1996, he advanced an agenda which was unlike those of his predecessors. Axworthy recognized that since the end of the Cold War, Canada's foreign policy had been struggling to find its bearings in the new international system. The foreign minister moved quickly to articulate a bold and ambitious policy agenda to guide Canada's foreign policy in the years to come. Promoting human security became Canada's new international objective. Denis Stairs (1999, 7) noted that the agenda Axworthy promoted "sought to transform the intellectual foundations of Canada's foreign policy, and in so doing to challenge some of the longest standing premises of practical statecraft in the world at large."
The Chretien government's human security efforts led to a number of notable accomplishments. Consistent with its reputation as a facilitator of initiatives, Canada strived to broaden the conventional definition of security to include the dimension of human security in key international organizations such as the United Nations. During an address to the United Nations Security Council, Prime Minister Jean Chretien (2000) noted, "Canada has worked to broaden the Council's definition of security to encompass new human security challenges. We have argued that humanitarian principles and human rights must be given greater weight when the Council decides when to act." Two years earlier, Canada and Norway negotiated the Lysoen Declaration as a way to engender international awareness of human security and map out an action plan to advance the objectives embodied in the human security agenda. This initiative gave rise to the Human Security Network, which today includes about thriteen middle powers that work in concert with non-governmental and international organizations to promote human security.
Canada played a pivotal role in the movement that culminated in the 1997 signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. As an alternative track to the failed UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the Ottawa Process was launched by Axworthy in October 1996 to breath new life into the international movement to ban anti-personnel (AP) landmines. To achieve its objective, the Ottawa process proposed a "fast-track" diplomatic process that challenged all states to negotiate a treaty to ban AP landmines by December 1997 by working in partnership with a coalition of like-minded states and non-governmental organizations (Cameron, 1998).
Canada's involvement in the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) also earned high marks. In 1998, Canada chaired a coalition of supportive states called the Like-Minded Group that sought to create a strong international court capable of bringing criminals to trial for committing crimes against individuals. The goal of the ICC as Axworthy (2004, 252) observed was to create "a world that is free from the Milosevics, the Idi Amins, the Pol Pots, the Suhartos, the Pinochets, the Hitlers, and all others who wield political power for the benefit of themselves and the destruction of others rather than for …
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Publication information: Article title: Canada and Human Security: From the Axworthy Doctrine to Middle Power Internationalism. Contributors: Bernard, Prosper, Jr. - Author. Journal title: American Review of Canadian Studies. Volume: 36. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2006. Page number: 233+. © 2008 Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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