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Wednesday / September 22
HomeBlogCanadian Scholars and Former Diplomats Urge Federal Leaders to Prioritize Foreign Policy

Canadian Scholars and Former Diplomats Urge Federal Leaders to Prioritize Foreign Policy

Image credits: Andrea Hanks; Yvonne Bambrick

40 scholars, experts, and former diplomats have signed an open letter initiated by the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD) urging all federal party leaders to recognize the importance of foreign policy issues and international affairs in the current election campaign.

Here is the full text of the letter (in both English and French) along with the list of distinguished signatories:

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Hon. Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Dear party leaders,

We are a group of scholars, researchers and experts on Canadian foreign policy. We are joining forces to urge all federal parties to recognize the importance of foreign policy issues and international affairs in this summer election campaign. Beyond pocketbook issues, a credible conversation on Canada’s interests and role in the world is a necessary part of what will inform voters.

This election coincides with a critical moment for Canada’s role on the global stage. A series of challenges from near and afar have had direct impacts on the jobs, safety, and livelihoods of Canadians. In a rapidly changing global context, Canada’s security and prosperity will be contingent on how its political parties define and enact its foreign policy.

Turbulence in the Canada-US relationship, which began under the Trump administration but has not entirely abated under Joe Biden, signals the dawn of an era of unpredictability which should overturn traditional Canadian assumptions about foreign policy and the international order. Similarly, the rise of China will have implications for Canada’s interests in ways that will be difficult to anticipate. A multipolar world framed by an accelerating contest between great powers will impose constraints on Canada’s ability to define and secure its interests as a sovereign country. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more clear that Canadian life is inextricably linked to global affairs.

It is imperative that the next government articulate Canada’s voice on foreign policy issues and how it will navigate its international relationships in the years ahead. Canada’s failed bid for a UN Security Council seat, its second in a decade, indicates that its global presence may already be waning. With the international order in flux, Canada needs a strategy to meet the challenges of the 21st century. If Canada continues to marginalize the vital role of foreign policy discussions at home, it risks diminishing its ability to secure its way of life and prepare for an increasingly uncertain world.

Amid this backdrop, we call on representatives from Canada’s federal parties to participate in foreign policy debates, to recognize the importance of foreign policy in securing Canada’s welfare, to raise the relevance of foreign policy issues where necessary, and to express strategically minded visions for Canada’s role in the world during this election campaign.


Chers chefs de partis,

Nous sommes un groupe de professeurs, chercheurs et experts en matière de politique étrangère du Canada. Nous joignons nos voix pour exhorter tous les partis fédéraux à reconnaître l’importance de la politique étrangère et des affaires internationales lors de cette campagne électorale d’été. Au-delà des questions monétaires, une conversation crédible à propos des intérêts du Canada et de sa place dans le monde est nécessaire pour informer les électeurs sur les enjeux d’aujourd’hui. 

Cette élection se tient à un moment clef pour le Canada sur la scène internationale. Notre pays fait face à plusieurs défis qui, de près ou de loin, auront un impact direct sur les emplois, la sécurité et les moyens de subsistance des Canadiens. Dans le contexte d’un monde qui change rapidement, la sécurité et prospérité du Canada dépendent de la façon dont les partis politiques définissent et poursuivent la politique étrangère du pays.

La turbulence dans les relations canado-américaines, particulièrement visible lors de l’administration de Donald Trump mais qui n’a pas complètement diminué sous Joe Biden, marque le début d’une nouvelle ère d’imprévisibilité qui devrait remettre en question les présupposés traditionnels du Canada sur la politique étrangère et l’ordre international. De même, la montée de la Chine aura des implications potentiellement imprévisibles pour les intérêts du Canada. Un monde multipolaire, basé sur une compétition qui s’accélère entre les grandes puissances, impose des contraintes sur la capacité du Canada à définir et poursuivre ses intérêts en tant que pays souverain. La pandémie de COVID-19 démontre encore plus clairement que la vie au Canada dépend fortement des affaires internationales.

Il est impératif que le prochain gouvernement articule une position cohérente sur les enjeux de politique étrangère et sur la manière dont le pays compte gérer ses relations internationales dans les années à venir. L’échec de la candidature canadienne à un siège au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU, le deuxième au cours d’une décennie, suggère que la présence internationale de notre pays pourrait déjà être en déclin. Dans un ordre international changeant, le Canada a besoin d’une stratégie pour relever les défis du 21e siècle. S’il continue à marginaliser la place des discussions sur la politique étrangère, le Canada risque de diminuer sa capacité de protéger sa manière de vivre et de se préparer pour un monde de plus en plus incertain.

Dans ce contexte, nous appelons les représentants des partis fédéraux canadiens à participer à des débats à propos de la politique étrangère, à reconnaître l’impact de celle-ci sur le bien-être du Canada, et à exprimer une vision stratégique de la place du Canada dans le monde pendant cette campagne électorale.


List of Signatories:

Jeremy Kinsman: Former Canadian High Commissioner/Ambassador and Distinguished Fellow, Canadian International Council.

Peggy Mason: Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament and President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs.

Ben Rowswell: President, Canadian International Council; Former Ambassador to Venezuela.

Guy Saint-Jacques: Former Canadian Ambassador to China and Fellow, Institut d’études internationales de Montréal.

Henri-Paul Normandin: Ex-Ambassadeur du Canada auprès des Nations Unies, Fellow à l’Institut d’études internationales de Montréal.

Paul Meyer: Adjunct Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University; Former Ambassador to UN.

Ferry de Kerckhove: Former Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia and Egypt and Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Haig E. Sarafian: Former Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon and Libya.

Thomas Axworthy: Chair of the Public Policy Program, Massey College.

Jack Cunningham: Program Coordinator, Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, Trinity College, University of Toronto.

Hélène Laverdière: Former Member of Parliament and NDP Critic for Foreign Affairs.

Margaret Cornish: Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Asian Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia.

Colin Robertson: Vice President, Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Stephen Saideman: Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Carleton University.

David Dewitt: Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics, York University.

Kim Richard Nossal: Professor Emeritus, Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen’s University

Chris Kilford: Director, Canadian International Council.

John Packer: Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC), University of Ottawa.

Michael Byers: Professor, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law.

Andrew Cohen: Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University

Marie-Joëlle Zahar: Director, Research Network on Peace Operations, Université de Montréal.

David Carment: Professor of International Affairs, The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University.

Jonathan Paquin: Professeur, Département de Science Politique, Université Laval.

Srdjan Vucetic: Professor, Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa.

Piotr Dutkiewicz: Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Governance and Public Policy, Carleton University.

Amal Attar-Guzman: Associate Editor, The Hub Canada Media.

Stephen Smith: Postdoctoral Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Andrew Thomson: Adjunct assistant professor of political science, University of Waterloo and Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

John Foster: Author, Oil and World Politics.

Stéphanie Martel: Assistant Professor, Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University.

Michael Manulak: Assistant Professor, The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University.

Joseph Debanné: Chair of Advisory Council, Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine.

Marie Lamensch: Project Coordinator, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University.

Jacob Fortier: Emerging Scholar, Network for Strategic Analysis (NSA).

Pierre Colautti: Emerging Scholar, Network for Strategic Analysis (NSA).

Jeremy Wildeman: Fellow, Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC), University of Ottawa.

Wenran Jiang: Advisor, Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD), Asia Program; President of Canada-China Energy and Environment Forum.

Younes Zangiabadi: Executive Vice President, Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD).

Zachary Paikin: Research Fellow, Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD).

Bijan Ahmadi: Executive Director, Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD).

All signatories have signed the letter in their individual capacities and their stated affiliations do not constitute institutional endorsement of the letter.

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