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HomeCanada’s Role on the Global StageA Multi-Partisan Consensus on Canada’s National Interests?

A Multi-Partisan Consensus on Canada’s National Interests?

The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD) is pleased to announce our upcoming panel ‘A Multi-Partisan Consensus on Canada’s National Interests?’ The discussion will take place on April 12th from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST and can be watched live on Zoom.

At least since the premiership of Stephen Harper, foreign policy debates between Canada’s political parties have centred on rival visions of the country’s national identity. In other words, the Liberal and Conservative parties have not only advocated for different policies, but have also advanced clashing interpretations of Canada’s role in the world. Liberals consider contributing to multilateralism and peacekeeping to be important national aims, while Conservatives are more likely to deride the United Nations as a dysfunctional club of dictators. Justin Trudeau has tried to toe a careful line when it comes to China, while Erin O’Toole has argued for a much more muscular approach.

In short, Canada does not merely face a question over whether to prioritize its interests or its values in an increasingly uncertain world. Rather, there is no objective consensus in Ottawa on what Canada’s national interests actually are. The failure of Canada’s political class to develop a consensus vision of the national interest comes with several risks, particularly at a time when the international order is shifting. Inconsistent engagement and wild swings in foreign policy positions with every change in government will hamper Canada’s ability to ensure that the future international order aligns with its core imperatives on the world stage. In other words, Canada risks becoming an effective bystander where its interests are at stake. The absence of a substantive, consistent and multi-partisan foreign policy has already begun to damage Canada’s influence in global affairs, having lost two consecutive bids for a UN Security Council seat under governments of differing stripes.

There is clearly a need for continuous and constructive analysis, debate and dialogue on the nature of Canada’s long-term national interests. This panel will discuss the state of play in Canada’s partisan foreign policy discourse, elaborate upon the necessity for Canada’s political parties to forge a consensus understanding of the national interest, and explore what some of the contours of such a national consensus might look like.

This event will be conducted primarily in English but will feature some commentary in French.

Registration is required to attend. Reserve your spot for free, here.

Panelists

Dr. Ann Fitz-Gerald, Director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Professor in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Political Science Department

Dr. Ann Fitz-Gerald has worked at both King’s College, London University’s International Policy Institute, and at Cranfield University, where she was the Director, Defence and Security Leadership. During her time at Cranfield, Ann led the UK-Government funded Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform and Cranfield’s Centre for Security Sector Management. Ann is widely published on issues concerning conflict, national security and security sector governance. She holds Visiting Professor at other universities including Nkumba University (Uganda), Jimma University (Ethiopia), Njala University (Sierra Leone) and Queen’s University (Canada).

Dr. Chris Kilford, Director of the Canadian International Council

Dr. Chris Kilford is a Fellow at the Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy, a Research Fellow with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and President of the Canadian International Council, Victoria Branch. During his 36-year military career in the Canadian Army, Dr. Chris Kilford served throughout Canada and in Germany, Afghanistan and Turkey in various command, instructional, staff and diplomatic roles. From July 2009 until July 2010, he was posted to the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan as the Canadian Deputy Military Attaché and then to the Canadian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey as the Canadian Defence Attaché from July 2011 until August 2014. His articles and book chapters focused on Canadian defence and foreign policy issues, plus Turkish and Middle Eastern security matters, have appeared in numerous Canadian and international publications and he is a frequent media commentator.

Dr. Jean-Christophe Boucher, Assistant Professor at University of Calgary

Dr. Jean-Christophe Boucher is an Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy and Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary. He is currently a director of research in civil-military relations at the Canadian Defence and Security Network funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. A fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; a research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Security and Development at Dalhousie University; Senior Fellow at the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur les relations internationales du Canada et du Québec. He specializes in international relations, with an emphasis on Canadian foreign and defence policies, international security, and methodology.

Jocelyn Coulon, Advisor at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy and Research Fellow at the Montreal Centre for International Studies (CERIUM)

Jocelyn Coulon is an analyst, author and researcher, specializing in peace operations and Canadian foreign policy. He was a foreign affairs advisor for Justin Trudeau in 2014-2015, and a senior policy advisor to foreign minister Stephane Dion in 2016-2017. He is the author of Canada is Not Back: How Justin Trudeau is in Over His Head on Foreign Policy, Lorimer, 2019. In the past few years, he has published a number of books, including, in 1998, Soldiers of Diplomacy. The United Nations, Peacekeeping, and The New World Order and in 2020, À quoi sert le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies? He is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI).

Moderator

Dr. Zachary Paikin, Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy

Dr. Zachary Paikin is a Researcher in EU Foreign Policy at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels (CEPS). He is also Senior Visiting Fellow at the Global Policy Institute in London, UK. Paikin is an expert with the Canada-Russia Research Initiative based at the University of Victoria and a collaborator with the Network for Strategic Analysis, part of the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) programme of the Department of National Defence of Canada. He is an affiliated expert with the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations, as well as a member of the Cooperative Security Initiative, a project co-launched by GLOBSEC and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Vienna office with the support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

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Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  

Panelists:

Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security

 

Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.

Panelists:

Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.

 

Panelists:

Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 

Panelists:

Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 

 

Panelists:

Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.

 

Panelists:

Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor