Speaking Notes of the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan at the International Peace Institute, New York, New York, United States, 24 May 2017


On May 24, 2017, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan spoke in front of the International Peace Institute. He discussed the future of UN peacekeeping operations and the role of the 2017 UN peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in support of improving such operations. The Conference will be hosted in Vancouver on November 14-15 2017.

Opening remarks were provided by Mr. Atul Khare, UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. The event was moderated by Dr. Adam Lupel, Vice President, International Peace Institute.

  • Under-Secretary-General Khare…
  • Your Excellencies…
  • Dr. Lupel… 
  • And members of the International Peace Institute,

Thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality. I am delighted to spend the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers with those who are so committed to preventing and resolving global conflicts. 

I am reminded that the best way we can honour the dedication and courage of our peacekeepers is to take up their cause with renewed determination. It is clear to me that the International Peace Institute does that every day. 

I applaud IPI for its leadership in advancing global peace and security. Your work is inspiring. It is work that has contributed enormously to our understanding of conflict prevention, mediation and post-conflict reconstruction.

The increasing complexity of the UN’s engagements, has reinforced that fact that, now more than ever, we must collectively work toward the common goal of spreading peace and stability throughout the world.

No nation can rest on its laurels or just repeat what worked in the past. 

Peace operations today are more complex than they were during the early days of the ‘Blue Helmets’. So our response to this new reality must evolve, as well.

We know we must reform UN peacekeeping to meet the demand for it now and in the future. The challenge, as always, is in deciding what those reforms should be and how we implement them.

Over the last two years, the UN has begun answering these questions. Several major reviews from across the peace operations spectrum have produced recommendations of how we can progress.

Secretary-General Gueterres has also set high standards in his initial steps to increase coherence and effectiveness in the UN system. 

He recently said that the interconnected nature of today’s crises requires us to connect our own efforts for peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. Not just in words, but in practice, as well. 

Canadazagrees and is encouraged by his ambitious reform agenda. We also recognize that the reform agenda is but one piece of a larger puzzle. 

As Member States, there are practical ways we can work together to better orient the future of UN peacekeeping.

One way has been the annual pledging conference, which was first hosted by the United States in 2015, and most recently by the UK in September 2016.

To date, these conferences have been successful in garnering pledges for increased Member participation in UN Peacekeeping operations. 

We owe a great deal to the Members who have co-hosted this great initiative alongside the UN.

The conferences have also significantly diversified the pool of troop and police contributing countries on UN peacekeeping missions.

I am heartened by the fact that so many troop and police contributing countries carry the UN peacekeeping mantle, and I am encouraged by how much we can learn from each other.

As I have announced, Canada will host the 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial on November 14th and 15th in Vancouver, British Columbia. We are proud to take a leadership role in advancing the UN’s peacekeeping agenda.

Today, I am pleased to announce further details on this important initiative. We have established ambitious objectives for the forum. 

As always, the plan is to maximize our time together. We will review the progress achieved since we last met in 2016, and focus on the best way forward. 

I am eager to hear your thoughts on how best we can support meaningful reform in the UN system.

From my perspective, one important aspect of this will be to broaden the discussion at the upcoming Defence Ministerial in Vancouver. 

During the Conference, we should consider our work in the context of the impressive and progressive work you are doing here in New York. 

We must also consider the trends we are seeing in the field of global peacekeeping. For instance, it is Canada`s belief that addressing the root causes of conflict is a necessary precondition of success. 

The father of modern peacekeeping, Lester B. Pearson, once said, “The best defence of peace is not power, but the removal of the causes of war.” 

But make no mistake, we must understand the reality of conflict today and address the threat of radical groups in conflict. 

Also, we maintain that a range of activities - from training to humanitarian assistance, development and education – are needed to increase our chances of building a lasting peace. 

During the Ministerial, we will strive to identify pragmatic and innovative solutions to global conflict. We will build on the “3Ps” — pledges, planning and performance, as highlighted at last year’s Ministerial in London. But more than that, we will put a new spotlight on partnerships. 

This focus will be important, because the UN system has the greatest impact when it enables others to do great work. 

To do that, we must build meaningful and sustainable partnerships with governments, regional organizations, and civil society actors, so that peacekeeping can be more effective.

In Vancouver, we will continue encouraging pledges from Member nations, particularly in areas where the UN faces gaps, such as rapid deployment.

We will explore ways to accelerate innovations in training and capacity building, and to encourage partnerships between the UN and countries that contribute troops and police officers.

We will explore a variety of ways of protecting vulnerable populations, including the use of force in protection mandates and engaging with local populations.

But I am also struck by the Secretary General’s conflict prevention agenda, and I am eager to explore the intersection between conflict prevention and peacekeeping. 

Building on the great work that was done at the London Ministerial, we will, once again, emphasize the importance of integrating gender perspectives into Operations planning. 

The London Defence Ministerial endorsed ways to improve the planning and performance of UN peacekeeping operations by increasing the participation of women. 

We, in Canada, feel strongly about the integration of women at all levels and in all roles, in the promotion of peace and security. We know that local conflicts and crises often affect women and girls differently and more severely than they affect other demographic groups. 

We believe that a diversity of perspectives in operational planning and implementation is essential to improve the circumstances for the most vulnerable populations.

Women maximize our collective efforts against gender-based violence. They play a key role in engaging youth and preventing the recruitment of child soldiers. They are actors of peace that can make agreements last in their communities. 

Many of you here today are troop and police-contributing countries, host nations and regional partners. Ultimately, the goal of our dialogue today as we head to Vancouver, is to benefit from your first-hand experiences. We will learn from you and build concrete proposals and commitments.

I look forward to hosting Members in Vancouver and hearing your thoughts about how we can meaningfully contribute to the future of UN peacekeeping. Thank you.

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