Member Publications

25 Years After the Indefinite Extension of The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: A Field of Broken Promises and Shattered Visions

VIENNA (IDN) – Attending my second NPT review conference as a member of the Canadian delegation, I can still recall that early afternoon on 11 May 1995 when delegates from 175 countries, after four weeks of hectic negotiations that went late into the night in a small conference room at the United Nations in New York that reeked of an admixture of cigarette smoke, perfume and disgusting body odour, finally came together in the General Assembly Hall to make the world less dangerous from the overhanging threat of nuclear devastation and agreed without a vote to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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From Wargaming to Peacegaming: Digital Simulations with Peacekeeper Roles Needed

A. Walter Dorn, Stewart Webb and Sylvain Pâquet

Originally published in International Peacekeeping, 27:2, 289-310 (2020). (pdf)


Militaries around the world have benefited from computerized games. Many recruits have been attracted to the military through military-style video games. After recruitment, games and simulations provide an important means of soldier training, including before actual deployments. However, electronic games are lacking for UN peace operations. The multidimensionality of peacekeeping has yet to be simulated in serious games to complement the many games that too often depict a binary battlefield of blue-team versus red-team (or, often in public games, good versus evil). Not only could soldiers benefit from nuanced and ambitious peace-related games, so too could civilian peacekeepers, and the public at large. Peacekeeping gaming should not be merely at the tactical level; the operational and strategic levels can be gamed as well. The decision-making in future peacekeeping simulations could help instruct conflict-resolution and critical thinking skills. The paper posits that such digital games could be an important tool for current and future peacekeepers, both military and civilian. Commercial games could also help educate the public on UN peacekeeping. The paper suggests that the United Nations partner with some member states and perhaps the video game industry to provide in-depth training simulations that mirror the challenges and complexities of modern peace operations.

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Overcoming the NPT’s “institutional deficit”: A Canadian saga


Ever since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was indefinitely extended in 1995, Canada has promoted the concept of “permanence with accountability.” Canada led on an ambitious initiative to enhance accountability via a reform package to overcome the NPT’s “institutional deficit.” Launched prior to the failed 2005 Review Conference, the effort was sustained for a decade. The priority goals were to establish annual meetings of states parties; to create a standing body of past, present, and future chairs; and to provide for the convening of extraordinary meetings. These ideas attracted support, but also opposition, from quarters less interested in having more effective tools of accountability put into place. The history of this initiative sheds light on the dynamics of multilateral diplomacy in the nuclear realm and on weaknesses in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty process that continue to threaten the authority of the treaty.

Contact International Journal if you seek full text access to this paper.

Warring parties must lay down weapons to fight bigger battle against COVID-19

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s plea to ‘silence the guns’ would create corridors for lifesaving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.

The Hill Times, 6 April 2020 [version français ici]

EDMONTON—”The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” In one short sentence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the door to a new understanding of what constitutes human security. Will governments seize the opportunity provided by the immense crisis of COVID-19 to finally adopt a global agenda for peace?

In an extraordinary move on March 23, Guterres urged warring parties around the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19 the common enemy now threatening all of humanity. He called for an immediate global ceasefire everywhere: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

His plea to “silence the guns” would create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.

But the full meaning of Guterres’s appeal is much bigger than only suspending existing wars. It is a wakeup call to governments everywhere that war does not solve existing problems, that the huge expenditures going into armaments divert money desperately needed for health supplies, that a bloated militarism is impotent against the new killers in a globalized world.

All the armies in the world can’t stop COVTD-19. It’s a dark and scary moment when a bunch of microbes brings humanity to its knees. We’ve come to a turning point in world history. The old ways of building security—bigger and better weapons—are completely irrelevant now.

So what do we do when a virus blatantly crosses borders and ignores strategic weapons systems? More of the same thinking that deceived people into believing that as long as we had big guns we would be safe won’t do. We have to overhaul our thinking.

“Big thinking” is not just a bromide. It’s now essential for survival. We have to build a system to provide common security. In the midst of the Cold War four decades ago, an all-star international panel led by Swedish prime minister Olof Palme established the principle that, in the age of weapons of mass destruction, no nation by itself can find security. Nations can only find security in cooperation and not at one another’s expense. Common security, Palme argued, requires an end to arms competitions, national restraint, and a spirit of collective responsibility and mutual confidence.

Over the following years, the idea of common security broadened out beyond military measures to include new streams of cooperation in economic and social development and protection of the environment.

Suddenly, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union imploded.The Cold War ended. In 1992, the UN secretary-general at the time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali wrote a stunning document, Agenda for Peace, incorporating the ideas of common security into practical programs for peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping.

But instead of overhauling the global security system to provide common security for everyone, governments lumbered on and threw the peace dividend they had in their hands out the window. The Western countries expanded NATO up to Russia’s borders. Russia invaded Crimea. Arms expenditures shot up. Governments squandered a magnificent opportunity to build a world of peace.The culture of war was too strong and the moment was lost.

Three decades ago, the great historian Barbara Tuchman and author of The March of Folly was right when she wrote: “Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of pre-conceived notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs.”

Now, in the current crisis, Guterres is telling us that continuation of the “folly” of war is jeopardizing the security for all—the rich as well as the marginalized.The Trump administration’s call for $46-billion more for nuclear weapons when the country can’t even provide enough masks for health workers in treating COVID-19 is obscene beyond words.

And what about Canada? The government plans to increase defence spending to $32-billion by 2027. Why? To appease U.S. Donald President Trump’s gargantuan military appetite driving NATO states to spend two percent of their GDP on weaponry and all that goes with it. We can beat COVID-19 by spending money on health and development measures, not arms.

Far better to cut Canada’s planned defence spending by 10 per cent and put an extra $2-billion to $3-billion into the UN’S Sustainable Development Goals, the 17-point program centring around huge improvements in maternal health, water systems and sustainable agriculture. But we can’t get there with a continuation of “ordinary” planning. We need truly bold thinking to beat back the threat posed to common security by COVID-19.

The Canadian government wants to show what it could do on the Security Council. Switching political thinking from the culture of war to a culture of peace would be worthy of the greatest health challenge Canada has faced in the past hundred years.

Douglas Roche, a former MP, Senator and Canadian ambassador for disarmament, is the author of Hope Not Fear: Building Peace in a Fractured World.

The NPT Turns 50: a mid-life crisis?

originally published at Centre for International Policy Studies

On March 5, the (Nuclear) Non-proliferation Treaty will turn 50 years old. Whether this will be an occasion for celebration or lamentation is an open question. The NPT’s once-in-five-year review conference will take place at UN HQ, April 27-May 22, and coming after a failed 2015 review conference many observers view the upcoming meeting as crucial for The Treaty’s future.

With 190 states parties, the NPT is the preeminent international security agreement, the “cornerstone” of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. Yet this treaty is currently facing the most serious challenge to its authority since its inception.

The problems facing the NPT are legion. The re-emergence of great power rivalry is undermining its foundations of international cooperation in managing global nuclear affairs.

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A new Canadian peace centre could make a world of difference

The Hill Times | 29/01/2020

Who isn’t concerned about our shared global challenges? It’s hard to miss overlapping crises, many fuelled by militarism, marginalization, and inequality.

Canada provided pivotal leadership and ideas in the past and it could definitely help again. The recently announced Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government therefore is a much-needed step in the right direction.

The details have yet to be finalized, but this much is clear: the new Canadian Centre is part of an effort to “lead by example and help make the world a safe, just, prosperous, and sustainable place.” Mandate letters to cabinet ministers suggest an interdepartmental centre (i.e., within government) is proposed “to expand the availability of Canadian expertise and assistance to those seeking to build peace, advance justice, promote human rights and democracy, and deliver good governance.”

While this is promising, three concerns need attention: is the scope sufficiently broad to address our urgent global challenges; should the centre be within government or independent; and is there a better Canadian model?

The mandate needs to reference peace and security, disarmament and sustainable development, defence and foreign policy, and the deeper co-operation required to address these shared global challenges.

Further, a centre within government will be inclined to represent government policy and priorities without providing independent analysis, constructive criticism, and innovative policy options now needed.

This is not how issues of peace and conflict are approached in other highly recognized national centres in Sweden (SIPRI), the United States (USIP), Norway (PRIO), Switzerland (GCSP), Japan (JCCP), Austria (IIPS), etc. Being independent and at arm’s length from government is crucial for the credibility and the capacity of the centre. Canada once led in this respect, too.

In 1984, the late Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau provided a very good model in the Canadian Institute of International Peace and Security (CIIPS). Bill C-32, at that time stated:

“The Purpose of the Institute is to increase knowledge and understanding of the issues relating to international peace and security from a Canadian perspective, with particular emphasis on arms control, disarmament, defence and conflict resolution, and to: a) foster, fund and conduct research on matters relating to international peace and security; b) promote scholarship in matters relating to international peace and security; c) study and propose ideas and policies for the enhancement of international peace and security, and; d) collect and disseminate information on, and encourage public discussion of, issues of international peace and security.”

When initially proposed, the throne speech noted: “Reflecting Canada’s concern about current international tensions, the government will create a publicly funded centre… Fresh ideas and new proposals, regardless of source, will be studied and promoted.”

CIIPS initially focused on four priority areas: arms control, disarmament, defence, and conflict resolution. As new needs arose, it responded with projects on UN peace operations, internal conflicts, confidence building, and conflict prevention.

The approach of creative and innovative research, education, outreach and policy proposals targeted four priority audiences: the public, the scholarly community, the government, and the international audience.

Within just two years, CIIPS was widely recognized and central to collaborative projects with other national institutes and international organizations, as well as numerous universities and centres of expertise. In providing support for civil society and academia, it was also appreciated on the home front.

CIIPS helped elevate discussions on international peace and security in a period of high-risk and high anxiety. As the late Geoffrey Pearson and Nancy Gordon wrote, CIIPS’ demise in 1992 was effectively “shooting oneself in the head.”

The underlying rationale for the former CIIPS remains relevant. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau recognized the growing risks to global security and the lack of independent analysis, facts, and policy options available to the Canadian government.

Twenty-five years of austerity has drained and depleted much of Canada’s independent expertise on peace and security. Most of our foreign and defence policy think tanks rely heavily on funding from DND and the defence industry.

There is also considerably less institutional memory and enthusiasm to explore what might be doable on the key global issues of peace, security, and sustainable development. These include the prevention of armed conflict and its peaceful resolution, protection of civilians, and UN peace operations—all of which should be central to a feminist foreign policy. Instead, we see a focus on new means and methods of warfare from “hybrid conflicts” to offensive cyber operations to space war.

Canada had a positive model in CIIPS; one that may now be emulated and modified in support of a new 21st Century Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government.

The Rideau Institute and other leading Canadian NGOs, in the context of the 2016 Defence Policy Review, recommended: “As one of the few leading OECD members without such an institution, Canada should establish an expert, arm’s length, non-partisan, domestic institute for sustainable common security, with long-term financial viability… Its Board of Directors should be diverse and include academic, non-governmental, and international expertise.”

In light of the new CPOGG proposal, the Rideau Institute went on to say that first and foremost, the focus must be on enhancing Canadian capacity for analysis and policy development on international peace and security, as the only solid basis for “lending expertise to others.” It also suggested that to be credible and sustainable, the mandate must ensure the centre’s independence, diversity, and long term-financial viability.

Finally, the work of the Centre must be firmly grounded in the principles of international co-operation; peaceful conflict resolution; and inclusive, sustainable common security that underpin the United Nations Charter. Canada cannot help to build international peace and security by seeking to impose on others an inward-looking version of “Canadian values”. Instead, our work must be fully and transparently grounded in global principles as reflected in international law and in respect of which Canada has played a key role in developing and strengthening.

In short, for this recently proposed peace centre to be worthwhile, let’s reflect on what is now urgent so we can aim higher.

Peggy Mason is the president of the Rideau Institute and a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the United Nations. Dr. Peter Langille specializes in peace research, conflict resolution, and initiatives to improve UN peace operations.