Federal elections 2021 | Canadians demand a foreign policy for a leaderless world

The disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is another event in which the United States is losing the priority it once had in international affairs. Both Presidents Biden and Trump have demonstrated a faltering determination in global leadership. America’s commitment to working with its allies to uphold the international order is more questionable than ever.


Ben Roswell and Lloyd Axworthy
President of the International Council of Canada, President of the International Council on Refugees and Migration and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2000, and three other signatories*

Without effective American leadership, the responsibility to deal with more pressing international issues falls on the rest of us in the democratic world. The rise of anti-liberal nationalism and authoritarian regimes, the resurgence of protectionism and trade blocs, the rampant proliferation of nuclear weapons, the global health and climate crises – these are the issues that countries like Canada must face now if the great powers are not willing. to me.

But in the Canadian election campaign that kicked off on the same day as the fall of Kabul, foreign policy does not appear to be on the agenda of our political parties. The government has called elections to give Canadians a say in the choices they face in health, social policy and economic recovery. With geopolitical rivalries intensifying, climate change accelerating, and the international economy transforming in unpredictable ways, how will our country engage in efforts to create greater stability and more international solutions? So far, the election campaign has not given any voter response.

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However, recent efforts have shown that voters care a lot about Canada’s greater global involvement. Last spring, a representative sample of the entire population of Canada, 444 people from all walks of life, gathered for 12 hours to deliberate on the major choices facing Canada in the world. As part of the deliberative democracy exercise titled “Canadians’ Foreign Policy,” co-organized by the Canadian International Council, the Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health (CanSFE) and Canada Global, citizens demonstrated a principled and pragmatic approach to international affairs.

When they were presented with the facts and given the opportunity to interview experts, they had little difficulty seeing how heavily dependent core interests at the national level are on developments abroad.

They have seen clearly, for example, that we cannot protect Canadians from future variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 if poor countries remain barely immune. Now that the vast majority of our citizens have had two doses, is Canada rushing to distribute vaccines globally?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued the “Humanity Red Code” because of its clear documentation of the fastest warming in 2,000 years. How fast can we switch to clean energy sources to limit further increases? And with climate change opening the Arctic to marine traffic and exploration of the sea floor, how will Canada establish a greater presence in the Arctic and improve the lives of our citizens in the Far North?

Then there are the questions raised by the fall of Afghanistan. The sad spectacle of civilians fleeing the return of an intolerant regime is just the latest wave of migration brought on by economic insecurity, climate and civil wars.

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Over the years, our country has taken the lead in issuing the Protection of Civilians. The risks to these most vulnerable victims are increasing. There are stark gaps in health, nutrition and education. What contribution is Canada willing to make to meet these urgent needs?

Can Canada help find new ways for citizens of other countries to hold their leaders accountable for the kind of corruption that has undermined public trust in the Afghan government?

Canada has devoted more resources and efforts to defending women’s rights in Afghanistan than anywhere else. With the uselessness of this pillar of Canada’s feminist foreign policy, how should Canada fight discrimination against women?

For three generations, Canada has had the luxury of having a strong neighbor responsible for maintaining the international order, even though we did not always agree with the goals and tactics of the United States. Canadian Foreign Policy has shown us that Canadians understand that simply relying on the United States is not a viable approach.

Instead, Canada must build on the important relationships we have developed over decades of diplomacy, and forge new ones, to exercise collective leadership. By working with our allies and partners, we can pave the way for a more effective and equitable international order. Our citizens demand it.

* Co-signers: Jean Charest, Federal Minister of the Environment from 1991 to 1993 and Prime Minister of Quebec from 2003 to 2012; Jennifer Welch, Director of the Center for International Peace and Security Studies at McGill University; Jeremy Kinsman, Ambassador of the European Union, Italy and Russia and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

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