Canada offers to train troops for peacekeeping

Invitation open to Asean Regional Forum nations.

CANADA has offered its training facilities to soldiers from the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) countries in a move to encourage them to take part in United Nations peacekeeping activities.

A senior Canadian official made the offer at an ARF peacekeeping conference in Brunei last week.

He said yesterday that training would involve studying peacekeeping logistics; finance and administration; election planning, implementation and monitoring; and investigation of war-time atrocities.

“What we are trying to do is to pass on our experience to other countries in the region to ensure that our burden is shared in the UN,” he told The Straits Times.

Since 1947, more than 90,000 Canadians have participated in UN and non-UN peacekeeping operations. Currently, 2,900 Canadians wear the blue helmet.

The official, who did not want to be named, said that 14 of the 18-member ARF countries were involved in UN peacekeeping exercises, adding that only Papua New Guinea, Laos, Vietnam and Brunei did not have any experience in such missions.

He said the training would be held at Canada’s newly-opened Lester Pearson International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Clementsport, Nova Scotia. The centre is funded partly by the country’s National Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Trade departments.

Besides looking at case studies of UN operations worldwide, military and civilian participants would go through simulation peacekeeping exercises. A 10-day course costs C$2,000 (S$1,980).

The official said that ARF members had shown interest in attending the various courses offered at the centre, adding that they would help increase the level and quality of future peacekeeping efforts.

He added that the UN found it difficult to get countries to despatch peacekeeping units instantly in the event of a crisis because many were not sufficiently equipped for missions.

Some countries took as long as three to four months to organise their forces, he noted.

The official, who was on a one-day transit visit to Singapore after attending the conference in Brunei, said countries like Japan and South Korea had pledged a greater role in peacekeeping efforts at the three-day meeting.

He said that the 90 government officials, military officers and academics at the conference also discussed the possibility of having a “mother-arrangement” in future operations.

This entailed one country taking the lead in peacekeeping exercises by providing money and ground troops and others playing a supportive role.

“The whole aim is to get as many countries to take part financially and physically,” he said.

Canada, Australia and South Korea have submitted papers on various confidence-building measures to the ARF, which held its inaugural meeting in July last year.

Canada’s Foreign Minister, Mr Andre Ouellet, had said then that his country had considerable experience in peacekeeping missions and was ready to share its expertise.

ARF members

The Asean Regional Forum comprises Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, China, Russia, Vietnam, Laos and Papua New Guinea.

Of these, only Papua New Guinea, Laos, Vietnam and Brunei do not have any experience in UN peacekeeping missions.

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