NOTES FOR AN ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE LLOYD AXWORTHY MINISTER OF
FOREIGN AFFAIRS TO THE WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 16, 2000 (9:00 p.m. EDT) In the nearly five years
that I have been Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, a shift has occurred
in what it means to be secure. As a result, the language of
international affairs has begun to change. No longer are we limited to
discussions of states' rights and national sovereignty. Protecting
civilians, war-affected children, the threat of terrorism and of drugs,
open borders and infectious diseases are now among the integral aspects
of the dialogue.
This shift in language reflects a change in perception - a recognition
that the needs of individuals must be our principal concern. We arrived
at this point via the broader realization that there is a changing world
This recognition has resulted in the evolution of Canadian foreign
policy and the formulation of the many aspects of what we have termed
our human security agenda.
What does this mean? Why have we done this? What is different?
During the past decade we have witnessed the eruption, reigniting or
intensifying of civil conflicts on five continents. From ethnic
cleansing in Bosnia to mass displacement in East Timor and Kosovo, to
the genocide in Rwanda, sovereignty has protected the perpetrators, not
the millions of victims.
Many of today's wars are fought within rather than between states; they
are often conducted by ragtag groups of irregular forces; they are most
likely waged with small arms and light weapons; and they have had a
devastating impact on civilian populations, especially the most
* abIn the First World War, civilians accounted for 5 percent of
casualties. * abIn Mozambique, they accounted for 95 percent. * abIn
Sudan they accounted for 97 percent.
These figures are not a revelation to any of you in this room, nor even
to the non-expert outside. By simply reading the newspaper or watching
the news, it is clear that civilians are increasingly the victims, if
not the primary targets of conflict. It became just as clear to us,
then, that the practice of foreign policy needed to change to include
Times have changed in other ways too. More people, more of them poor,
live in areas prone to disasters. And climate change brings those
disasters with increasing frequency.
In response to this new global reality, Canada began to develop a new
foreign policy, replete with a fresh set of priorities and initiatives.
These would become the basis of our human security approach.
It is not necessarily a new concept. The term "human security" was used
first by the United Nations in the early 1990s. The concept itself
predates even that. A recognition that people's rights are at least as
important as those of states has been gaining momentum since the end of
the Second World War. The UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the genocide conventions all recognize the inherent right of
people to personal security.
What Canada has done is focus the concept on protecting people from acts
of violence and helping to build a greater sense of security for the
A major milestone of this new agenda was the Ottawa Convention banning
anti-personnel mines. The indiscriminate carnage they inflict upon
civilians during and after conflict makes these weapons unacceptable.
This campaign succeeded despite the fact that some said this ban was not
practical or politically possible.
We pressed on with our allies in civil society and had a ratified treaty
in record time.
Since 1997, the 137 signatories and 96 states that have ratified the
Ottawa Convention have destroyed 20 million stockpiled mines. Of the 54
states previously known to produce mines, only 16 continue to do so. Of
the 34 countries known to export mines, all but one have instituted
moratoriums or full bans on any further export. Casualty rates have
dropped by more than 50 percent in Cambodia, and by 90 percent in Bosnia
U.S. demining and survivor assistance efforts and the U.S. government's
intentions to adhere to the Ottawa Treaty are very welcome. I hope that
the United States will be in a position to join us before the 2006 date
set by President Clinton.
The landmines treaty also represents a new kind of global politics - one
in which governments, civil society and non-governmental organizations
work together to effect positive change for people. The Government of
Canada has actively sought the partnership of civil society. This new
diplomacy, engaging citizen diplomats, is integral to human security.
Just a few years ago, no one was talking about human security. When I
delivered my first speech to the United Nations General Assembly
outlining the concept as a "protection for civilians," few understood or
accepted it. Today, at the UN, the G-8, the OSCE [Organization for
Security and Co-operation in Europe] and in many other forums, issues of
human security are front and centre.
This centrality is evidence that human security is not "a one-trick
At the time that landmines were being addressed, the idea for a
permanent international criminal court was emerging. As these issues
were being developed, we were examining the plight of the world's young
people and started to put together a framework on children's issues.
Each of these initiatives has produced substantive results, including
the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional
Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on minimum ages
for the deployment of soldiers.
On the establishment of the Court, Canada's House of Commons has just
passed ratifying legislation enabling our country to comply fully with
the Rome Statute. And as each day goes by, whether in Kosovo or Sierra
Leone, the need and necessity for a permanent court become more
U.S. support of this new institution is important.
As Chair of the Preparatory Committee under way now in New York, Canada
will continue to work with you to find a way forward that addresses U.S.
concerns while maintaining the essence and purpose of the Court.
We believe that a country-specific exemption is not the way forward; it
might very well undermine what could be a truly innovative institution
for this new century. It could also reduce others' commitment to the
Court and weaken its ability to carry out its sole purpose - to hold
those responsible for the worst acts of inhumanity accountable for their
It is a court of last resort. National court systems are the main line
of protection when they are fit and able. The Statute as it stands
contains ample safeguards against politically motivated prosecutions.
Americans have nothing to fear from a permanent international criminal
court; only the likes of Radovan Karadic and Foday Sankoh need worry.
Our aim is to bring them and others like them to justice and to deter
others from perpetrating similar crimes.
If the Court fails to receive the necessary support, what message does
that send to the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity
about what they can get away with? More importantly, what message does
this send to their victims?
We will continue to work with you to find a productive and mutually
acceptable way of bringing the United States on board. We have come a
long way already, and major safeguards are now in place. There is room
to negotiate further, but efforts of late in the Congress concerning
proposed U.S. actions are troubling.
It is hard to imagine a case in which such a great democracy would not
be part of bringing war criminals to justice.
Differences on some aspects of each other's agendas are more than
balanced by our common purpose. On the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, discussions between Prime
Minister Chrétien and President Clinton laid the basis for an approach
that accommodated U.S. interests.
In the end, an important new protection for children was hammered out by
our delegations in Geneva and accepted by the international community.
This has led to the beginning of a worldwide effort to deal with the
plight of war-affected children. In April, Canada and Ghana brought
together West African countries in an effort to develop practical
actions to make a difference to the lives of children in that region.
This September, Canada will host a global conference of like-minded
governments, international agencies and civil society to develop a
global strategy. The horrors of Sierra Leone must be a reminder to us
all. They should strengthen our resolve and commitment to action.
Canada and the United States act together on issues of human security on
our own continent as well. We co-operate on border-related issues, such
as immigration, counter-terrorism and drug-trafficking interdiction.
We have rededicated ourselves to the shared defence of North America
through NORAD [North American Aerospace Defence].
Each of these initiatives has at its heart the protection of our
respective populations. There are differences of opinion, priority and
procedure, but these are not the huge gaps that some portray them as
Even where we have our differences, we use dialogue and consultation to
understand and influence each other's positions on important issues. On
National Missile Defence, our concerns relate to approach. Our discourse
is focussed on whether or not such a system will undermine the nuclear
disarmament and non-proliferation regime, a concern expressed by many
others in Europe and, indeed, in this country.
Just recently at the OAS [Organization of American States] General
Assembly, held in Canada, Canadian and U.S. officials made strides with
our hemispheric partners on issues of human rights, drugs and
corruption. We also worked hard with them on an appropriate response to
the situation in Peru, and agreed to dispatch a mission aimed at
improving democracy in that Andean nation.
Does Canada see human security as an alternative to state or national
security? Is human security foreign policy on the cheap? The short
answer to both questions is no. We are not arguing that we are seeing
the beginning of the end of the nation-state.
Even in the emerging cyberworld (as Joseph Nye has observed), order
requires rules, rules require authority and authority is exercised on
behalf of people mostly by states, the EU [European Union] Commission
Nor would we be so naive as to suggest that human security is
exclusively about intrastate conflict. Interstate conflict is,
unfortunately, not going to disappear any time soon.
In a sense, we see national security and human security as two sides of
the same coin.
Human security means building security from the bottom up. To use an
analogy from economic theory, it is micro-security.
Looking down the road 30 or 40 years, one can imagine the emergence of
another mega-threat or two.
But at least for now, it is the myriad of micro-conflicts that demand
our attention. These are the conflicts of the warlords, fought over
diamonds. These are the wars of the ethnic cleansers, where killing is a
matter of colour, race or religion.
None threatens global stability, but each entails unacceptable human
suffering. And they all engage our conscience and our responsibility.
Let me say a word about 'humanitarian" intervention. In the past, when
the international community has decided to intervene, its efforts have
often been too late, its mandate insufficient, the resources and
One could argue that each case adds to our experience, and each time we
learn our lessons and further develop our capacity for response.
Unfortunately, the evidence does not support this argument. The
continued pitfalls of a system not quite ready, not quite willing or not
willing at all are the too-consistent result.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan raised the issues in 1999, when he called
for the international community to examine these questions. Since then,
the negative reaction of many countries and timidity on the part of the
Secretariat to push the envelope have resulted in a loss of momentum.
We made substantial efforts as a Security Council member, particularly
during our presidencies, to begin just such a serious review. Issues of
civilian protection, the effectiveness and use of sanctions, the role of
non-state actors in the illicit trading of arms and diamonds continually
point to serious gaps in international law, convention, understanding
Canada has been advocating the establishment of an International
Commission on Humanitarian Intervention as a way of furthering the
debate surrounding these fundamental questions.
Without honest inquiry and reasoned recommendations, we will face an
unending sequence of ad hoc, sporadic decision making, which will do
little to increase people's security or their faith that the
international community is willing and able to uphold the basic dignity
We all need to become involved in this dialogue. And we all need to work
to reform the UN's capacity to act.
Obviously, as Canada has long held and as Dick Holbrooke has recently
said, we can and must do so. We firmly believe, as do a majority of
Americans, that an effective UN is in the interests of all of us.
I have tried to explain today what we mean by human security. We are
convinced that peace and security - national, regional and international
- are only possible if they are derived from people's security. That is
the keystone in this global age. And it is a central pillar of Canada's
We hope we will persuade you to bring your enormous democratic
significance, your great moral authority and your incomparable resources
to this new security imperative - human security.
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