UN needs strike force says Canadian peace advocate

  • September 12, 2014

The United Nations should create a permanent, rapid-response peacekeeping force for rapid intervention in emergencies, said Canada’s elder statesman of peace and disarmament.

Speaking in New York at a UN forum on culture in peace, retired Conservative Senator Doug Roche said a highly trained UN peacekeeping force has "become essential" to protect civilians and contain regional conflicts.

Roche, a former Canadian disarmament ambassador to the United Nations, addressed hundreds of delegates convened by the UN General Assembly on the 15th anniversary of a 1999 resolution on the “Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.” He was the lone Canadian speaker at the forum.

He told The Catholic Register his proposed strike force for peace would primarily be involved in humanitarian interventions in sudden and quickly deteriorating security situations.

“If we have 16 peacekeeping missions with 100,000 UN peacekeepers deployed around the world in trouble spots on an ad-hoc basis, why can we not have a permanent peacekeeping force,” Roche said prior to the one-day Sept. 9 conference.

The Islamic State which now spans the border between Syria and Iraq, displacing over one million people, threatening Christians with a convert-or-die ultimatum, shows the need for a permanent peacekeeping force under the control of the Security Council, said Roche.

“So we’re not held captive by these barbarians whom we can’t even talk to,” he said.

Ever since the UN launched its culture of peace program in 1999 the ambitious concept has been overwhelmed by events, said Roche. 

“And then 9-11 and everything just turned around,” he said. “There was a resurgence of militarism and the culture of peace had trouble being heard all those years.”

Roche objects to the notion that peace is a vague artifact of wishful thinking.

“The movement to the culture of peace, however soft it may appear on the surface compared to the hard decisions of warfare still lingering in the militarists’ offices, is the real power of the 21st century,” Roche told his New York audience.

In his address to the Culture of Peace forum, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon didn’t sugar coat the obstacles blocking a global culture of peace.

“We join forces here to promote a culture of peace, and yet all around us we see a spreading virus of war,” Ban said. “Of conflict, extremism, violence, hatred and terrorism.”

In Catholic social teaching, the concept of a culture of peace traces its origins to Pope Pius IX. Pope Leo XIII developed the idea with a proposal he made to the 1889 Conference for Disarmament in the Hague. But it was really Pope Benedict XV who, during the First World War, made repeated proposals for peace in Europe based on the idea of a culture of peace.

The idea that the UN should have an independent force of its own, ready to act in the name of peace, is based on historical Canadian efforts counter outbreaks of war and terrorism around the world, Roche said. Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson invented UN-sponsored peacekeeping in response to the unresolved conflict between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai in the 1960s. It was former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy who championed the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine after the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, establishing the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2000.

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