Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands

Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles

Colin Robertson  The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Jul. 22 2014

The tragic fate of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, apparently downed by a surface-to-air missile, has sparked global public sympathy for the victims and condemnation for those responsible.

Our best hope of containing this threat to air travel is to act quickly by tightening international covenants on access to weaponry that takes down aircraft.

The source of the missile and launcher that downed Flight 17 appears to be Russian but there are other potential sources for would-be copycats. The sources for the Hamas rockets against Israel likely include Iran, Pakistan and China. The arsenal of the new caliphate, declared by the Sunni-led rebellion against the Iraqi government, now includes captured weapons made in the United States.

Since Cain and Abel too many still subscribe to the quip by the amoral arms merchant, Undershaft, in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, that “Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.”

The arms industry is big business. Given human nature, it’s also a necessary business.

The Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI) estimates the global arms trade to be worth at least $43-billion (U.S.) and likely much higher because many states, notably China, do not release data on arms exports.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department reports that our exports of military goods and technology are worth $635-million (Canadian). Most of it goes to fellow NATO allies, but also to countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Ukraine and Yemen.

Like most countries, we have in place elaborate export controls and safeguard agreements to ensure our weapons are “not prejudicial to peace, security or stability.” We don’t export to nations on the UN sanctions list or those with “a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights.” All goods destined for North Korea or Belarus require a permit.

Even then, no system is fail-safe.

India developed their nuclear weapons capacity in 1974, sourcing from CANDU reactors. It chilled Indo-Canadian relations for decades until Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded a nuclear co-operation agreement in 2013 under safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the arms bazaar, nuclear proliferation is the greatest danger.

Like his predecessors, President Barack Obama, is working to contain proliferation through negotiation, sanctions and international law. Slow and frustrating, there is discernible progress.

Notwithstanding current tensions, Russia and the United States completed a new nuclear arms treaty (START) in 2011, setting out new limits on intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

Sanctions have brought Iran to the bargaining table in Geneva. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has concluded there is sufficient “tangible progress” to extend discussions beyond the July 20 deadline.

North Korea remains a problem, still firing missiles and rockets, despite continuing condemnation from the UN Security Council.

A series of international nuclear security summits – Washington, Seoul, the Hague – were initiated by Mr. Obama in 2010.

They have resulted in minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium, higher security standards at nuclear facilities and measures to detect and prevent the illicit trade in nuclear materials.

Canada has pledged funds to help non-proliferation efforts, ratified international covenants on suppression of nuclear terrorism and protection of nuclear materials.

There are similar efforts to curb and control conventional weapons, like that which brought down Flight 17.

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, to which Canada was a founding contributor, obliges governments to voluntarily supply data on their imports and exports. Seventy nations, including Canada, have done so consistently.

The Wassenaar arrangement of 41 states, including Canada, aims at preventing transfers of conventional weapons or dual-use goods to illegitimate end-users.

As with nuclear non-proliferation, containing conventional weapons remains a work-in-progress.

Given previous Canadian leadership to curb land mines and small arms, the Harper government’s refusal to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty is perplexing. It deserves a rethink.

Concerted international action, abetted by technology that improves detection and attribution, can work “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN Charter says.

Chemical weapons killed and blinded tens of thousands during the First World War. Popular revulsion led to the Geneva Protocols proclaiming that “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases … has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world.”

The prohibition against chemical weapons endures. When breached – most recently by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – there has been sanction and remedial action.

Every day, an estimated 5.4 million people board airplanes. By midday, air traffic over Canada and the United States alone reaches an estimated peak of 5,300 flights.

Confidence in global aviation safety obliges action by the international community. Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles.

More Related to this Story

U.S. President Obama piles pressure on Russia's Putin to force Ukraine's separatists to cooperate in crash investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Video: Obama pressures Russia, Putin in Ukraine crash probe


Video: Recording may show attempt at crash cover-up
Secretary of State John Kerry expresses disgust over the Russian rebels' mishandling of victims' bodies at the Malaysian plane crash site. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Video: Kerry: “Drunken separatists are piling bodies into trucks”

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Canada and Refugees

Canada got it right on immigration. Now it’s time to lead on refugees

The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Jul. 08 2014

The international refugee system needs a hand.

“Humanitarians can help as a palliative but political solutions are vitally needed,” remarked Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in recently releasing the UNCHR annual report.

It is a challenge that fits “no longer just to go along and get along,” the Harper government’s bumptious mantra for multilateral affairs. Useful lessons can be drawn from our experience and recent reforms to the Canadian migration and refugee system.

Not since the Second World War are so many displaced peoples – 51.2 million – sloshing within national borders and streaming across international frontiers.

These unfortunates are driven by strife, famine, disease, climate changes, or hopes of better economic prospects. Their description – refugees, asylum seekers, illegal aliens – reflects the receptivity of their temporary hosts.

As part of the liberal international order constructed in the wake of the Second World War, the United Nations 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees enshrined a basic humanitarian principle in law: the right to leave one’s country for sanctuary elsewhere when facing life-threatening circumstances.

Today, their situation is complicated by the changing nature of conflict. Increasingly, in failing states like Somalia, South Sudan and Syria, they are victims of intrastate turmoil rather than inter-state war.

The traditional recipient countries face growing public resistance to refugee resettlement.

No country has been more generous to the dispossessed than the United States. But with an estimated 11 million undocumented people within its borders, the welcome mat is wearing thin. Facing an influx of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America, President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more billions to deal with the new migratory wave.

Europeans are no strangers to displacement and the original UN Convention was designed to address their post-war movement of peoples. Today, there is a pronounced anti-migrant attitude reflected in the success of nativist parties in recent national and European Union elections.

Canadians, by contrast, still see migrants as vital ingredients in our continuing nation-building. We endorse multiculturalism, but without special privileges. We expect newcomers to blend into our society.

We want a migration system that is fair but disciplined.

In government, Stephen Harper resisted the Reform instinct to curb immigration. Appointing Jason Kenney energized the portfolio. Not without bumps, Mr. Kenney brought innovation, reform and order, resetting citizenship and multiculturalism policy.

Canadian immigration expanded with the stress on employable skills. The Gordian Knot of backlogged applications was cut. Citizenship criteria were recast to emphasis our values, our history and the responsibilities of being Canadian.

Our refugee determination system is more expeditious, with improved tracking and information sharing.

No system is perfect. A few jihadists holding, even burning, Canadian passports fuel headlines, but our risk-management system works. One in five Canadians is foreign-born. The visible diversity of our cities defines what the Aga Khan describes as our “robust pluralism.” Mackenzie King’s “none is too many” refugee policy has been exorcised, but as historian Irving Abella reminds us: “A nation cannot move forward without recognizing the darker parts of its past.” With the courts to protect against the “cruel and unusual,” we are finding our way.

Successful integration is hard work. Settlement within Canada means continuing skills development. Acceptance of legitimate credentials earned overseas is still a major hurdle. Accreditation through out guilds is still too protectionist.

We have both research and practical experience in re-settlement.

Canada pioneered the Metropolis research project on urban integration. This network now extends to 70 countries. Community programs like Success and HIPPY set the standard for successful integration by newcomers.

In 1986 the “People of Canada” were awarded the Nansen Medal for our “major and sustained contribution to the cause of refugees.”

Key to the successful integration of successive migrant waves – Eastern Europeans during the fifties and sixties, Ugandans during the seventies and the Indo-Chinese “boat people” during the eighties – was the active involvement of all levels of government as well as churches, unions and community groups.

Marion Dewar, then mayor of Ottawa, launched Project 4000 to resettle Vietnamese refugees. As she said at the time “Four thousand. We’ve got almost 400,000 in Ottawa. Surely we can handle that.”

Ms. Dewar inspired others. Canada would subsequently welcome over 200,000 from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Let’s renew our leadership in refugee resettlement.

Kick-start our 150th anniversary by giving a home to 1.5 million refugees. Make refugees our standing issue on the international circuit.

Canadian self-definition draws from our actions on the international stage. The plight of the refugee is a cause to which Canada brings expertise and experience.


Video: UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres asks Canada to accept more Syrian refugees

FFor a counterpoint to this piece see

Douglas Todd: Compassion for refugees means more than just letting them in

More effort should go into reducing situations that create world’s poor and desperate people

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun columnist July 26, 2014

Read more:

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