Reshaping the Security Envelope

By Regehr, Ernie | International Journal, October 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Reshaping the Security Envelope

Regehr, Ernie, International Journal


Given that the primary and most immediate experience of insecurity in troubled societies worldwide is through unmet basic needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that invariably accompany these conditions of insecurity, the primary means of achieving security must be through the creation of favourable social, political, and economic conditions-that is, through economic development, respect for basic rights, political participation, control over the instruments of violence, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Hence, Canadian spending in support of international peace and security should be expanded beyond the traditional three Ds-defence, development, and diplomacy-to a more comprehensive five Ds of security-development, democracy, disarmament, diplomacy, and defence-which better reflect the dimensions of human security. Canada is an extraordinarily prosperous and secure country and has a responsibility to increase its commitment to international peace and security. That means an overall expansion of the five Ds security envelope, as well as spending shifts within that envelope to give appropriate emphasis to addressing the social, political, and economic conditions that are essential to durable international peace and security.


The search for a security consensus

Canadian security policy promises to be a significant and contentious subject for national debate for many years to come and for many reasons, including the threat of terrorism and the threatened further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, both of which bring international peace and security concerns directly to Canadian shores. In addition, funding for international peace and security efforts will continue to be crowded out by other urgent national priorities, such as health care, the urban infrastructure, and so on. There is also a widespread view, one that is embraced across the full political spectrum in Canada, that current Canadian defence policy is not workable, either because it lacks resources or because it does not address real security needs, or both. And finally, a changed security environment, as well as changes in understanding of what security policy should encompass, mean that there is no broad consensus on what Canadian security priorities should be; that is, what the threats to security really are, and how those threats should be met.

The lack of consensus concerning the nature and extent of the threats to national and international security and the appropriate means to counter them is deeply rooted. The threat of terrorism, for example, is certainly widely accepted as real but there is little agreement on how imminent or prominent it is, whether it is primarily a policing and intelligence problem, a military problem, or whether it is a social-economic-political problem that requires greater attention to "root causes." The ballistic missile threat is also widely accepted as real, but again, there is little agreement on how imminent it is, which missile threat is the greater danger (e.g., Russia's or North Korea's), or whether the priority response should be defence, counterproliferation, or nonproliferation diplomacy.

The April 2004 tabling of a national security policy by the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin is an effort to guide the development of a national consensus. It is, as the prime minister notes in the preface, "Canada's first-ever comprehensive statement of our National security Policy," and makes the point that "although threats to Canada will change, our security interests are enduring." Three core national security interests are identified:

* protecting Canada and the safety and security of Canadians at home and abroad;

* ensuring that Canada is not a base for threats to our allies; and

* contributing to international security.

The report emphasizes that "Canadian security will be increasingly dependent on our ability to contribute to international security,"1 citing as an example the danger that failed states far away from Canada can become havens for terrorists, thus increasing risk to Canada. …

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Reshaping the Security Envelope


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