SSWG e-Conference Series Archive:
"The Future of Fighting"

Conference III Transcript:
"Military Relief "

Original e-Conference date: May 17, 2012
(oldest comments first)

Hi everyone, and welcome to the CIC and CDFAI's Future of Fighting discussion, "Defending Abroad," with Elissa Golberg, Canada’s permanent representative at the UN and Rahul Singh, the founder of GlobalMedic. I am a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa and the moderator of the Future of Fighting Series. I will be moderating this discussion - and the five that follow. We’re looking forward to bringing in questions from the online public, so please add them to the live-chat or, for those on Twitter, use #CICLive.
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:02 AM

Hi there
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:04 AM

Let's start with a question for each of our guests.
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:05 AM

Rahul, you've asked up to rethink the role of the Canadian military in the world, with an aim toward encouraging a focus on humanitarian interventions. Could you tell us what steps you think we need to take in order to arrive at this different view of our military and what it can contribute to global affairs?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:07 AM

The first step is to step is to realign units within the military to make them responsive in this way i.e. logistics airlift capacity, water units etc.
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:08 AM

Second the government offers out the services as part of its package to a country when disaster strikes
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:09 AM

The US uses this very effectively as part of its strategy
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:09 AM

From your perspective, Rahul, why have past governments not embraced this idea? Why has combat capability remained at the forefront of Canadian military force structuring and defence policy?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:10 AM

I think part of the political shift to the right has contributed. Prior to this shift, we lacked some of the strategic airlift capacity.
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:12 AM

add to that the number of humanitarian interventions has increased due to media coverage, the internet, and social media raising awareness of what is occurring. In the past it was easier to turn a blind eye
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:13 AM

Would you say that there is a public desire for the Canadian military to focus on these types of humanitarian missions instead of combat? If so, are you hopeful that a different government might embrace the idea in the future?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:15 AM

From the folks I chat with in the public, it is all about humanitarian
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:16 AM

intervention, but I do a biased group of people I chat with I am hopeful to see a different approach from the government
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:17 AM

I read Elissa's piece about the whole of government approach and agree that we need comprehensive responses. the main issue or shortfall that I would like us all to overcome is the lack of speed, agility and quickness of our response. I think these changes could have a positive impact
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:18 AM

Yes, I think there is a general consensus around the idea that rapid reaction and greater agility is needed.
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:19 AM

i do think that part of the Canadian spirit is helping and doing our part to provide aid which should naturally transform into using the military to provide this assistance
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:20 AM

Part of the problem is we get stuck thinking inside the box. We apply solutions that worked in one conflict zone or humanitarian crisis to another even though they may not be appropriate
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:20 AM

Good afternoon Philippe and Rahul. I believe that the Canadian government has greatly enhanced its timelines and agility - through the use of both civilian and military assets. Look at Haiti, where an initial assessment team was on the ground in 18 hours, and the embassy had already begun to respond.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:21 AM

Your piece suggested that the military could help NGOs mobilize more effectively to various crisis areas. Do you think some NGO groups would resist that idea? If so, how would you help to convince them that it's worthwhile?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:21 AM

by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:21 AM

Welcome, Elissa!
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:21 AM

That's a good point, Elissa.
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:22 AM

Elissa, could you tell us what challenges remain to improve Canada's whole-of-government approach to international interventions? How could
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:22 AM

I think if the military was used to the heavy lifting than the NGOs would accept the help of getting their gear and personnel in
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:22 AM

Hi Elissa welcome. I do agree that we were quicker as a nation to get into Haiti but there is a difference to being in country and fully operational.
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:23 AM

How could Canada further enhance it's whole-of-government approach?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:24 AM

We need to continue to train together, to enhance our common assessments, policies and processes in order to act comprehensively, we need to remain flexible, and build on lessons from our recent experiences (recognizing that each engagement requires an engagement requires an approached tailored to the specific regional context). We have done this well in Haiti and Libya building on our experiences from Afghanistan. We also need to enhance the early, substantive and sustained engagement of civilian experts.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:26 AM

Rahul, would it also be important for the Canadian military to help protect NGOs when providing humanitarian assistance in conflict zones? Or should we avoid missions where there is still violence on the ground?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:26 AM

Protection is a key issue. Every situation is different but as a general rule it is hard to deliver humanitarian aid without protection
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:27 AM

Elissa, your piece focused on Haiti. Could you tell us more about what lessons Canada learned from the whole of government mission in Afghanistan?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:28 AM

I would be more cautious here - it very much depends on whether the NGOs wish to be affiliated with the military. The are many organizations that would not wish the military to provide support, such as escorts, as they fear it may inhibit their ability to operate due to local perceptions.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:30 AM

Rahul, should the Canadian military provide that protection or would it be better to focus on the logistical aspect alone, while allowing UN forces or allies to concentrate on protection operations?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:30 AM

Our forces have their limits. They were stretched with Afghanistan. I think the support roles are easier to deliver and showcase more tangible results
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:31 AM

Afghanistan taught us a number of key lessons, not least of the need to train, plan and implement our efforts jointly, taking advantage of each organizations strengths.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:32 AM

There isa big difference between attaching military units to NGOs and stabilizing a nation. The US marines were assigned to foot patrols to provide general security. That general security in Haiti made it easier to deliver aid. I agree that military escorts is not always appropriate for NGOs but that general security is a need
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:34 AM

Elissa, building on your earlier point about Canada's response time in Haiti, could you identify ways to further strengthen the 3Ds ability to address complex humanitarian emergencies? And do you agree with Rahul that this could become a Canadian niche?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:35 AM

Rahul, what role do you see for DFAIT and CIDA in your framework?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:36 AM

Other key lessons from Afghanistan included the importance of having clear metrics, priorities and sober assessments of progress; having flexible machinery across departments; and the need to have access to the right people with the right skills ready to deploy.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:37 AM

I think a solution that would help the whole of government approach is deploying a small package of aid with the initial teams. The assessment teams should be expanded to include some basic intervention teams that could be up and running so initial aid is delivered while the assessment teams look around to see what else is needed
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:37 AM

I think DFAIT and their representatives would offer the package to nations in need. Once accepted, CIDA would offer the assistance of airlift to its partners including NGOs to ferry in some of the aid that it undoubtedly funded
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:38 AM

Canada is already extremely effective in responding in a whole of government manner to complex crises, and we have built on our experience since the Balkans to use a range of tools from the whole of government kit to aid us. I actually don't like to use 3D, because there are so many more departments and agencies that can play an essential role - such as the RCMP and Corrections Canada.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:39 AM

Good point, Elissa. Do you think that Ottawa is well structured to undertake whole of government operations? Or should we be considering a permanent version of the Afghanistan Task Force that oversaw Canada's whole of government mission in that country?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:41 AM

In 2005, the government created START, which provides a focal point in Government for enhancing our ability to analyze, react and deploy to complex crisis drawing on the whole of government team, as well as linking in with international organizations and NGOS. This approach remains a work in progress, but has positioned Canada well with respect to our international partners.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:42 AM

Rahul, based on your experience, would it also be useful for the CF to look at enhancing it's medical teams, alongside the logistical side of things. Or are NGOs already well equipped to handle the medical component?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:43 AM

Surge capacity during the acute phase of the crisis is critical, having those added medical teams during the first few days would be very beneficial
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:45 AM

There are different models that will be required depending on the nature of the crisis at hand. The Government has established different Standard Operating Procedures and capacities which it can turn to depending on the scenario. A stand alone Afghanistan Task Force may be appropriate in some circumstances, but not all. They key is to ensure that there is a nucleus of whole-of-government people and capabilities that are pre-trained and able to respond effectively when crises strike.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:45 AM

I think we do a good job as a nation overall but we are weak on our initial intervention. Those early hours and days are crucial and we need to improve our response to them
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:45 AM

Elissa, what about civilian personnel? What could be done to make it easier for them to deploy and stay in theater for longer periods of time?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:45 AM

There is tremendous capacity within the NGO community. There is the work that Rahul's team does; there is also MSF and national Red Cross Societies. CIDA funds the Canadian Red Cross hospital. The Canadian Forces medical staff are tremendous, but are drawn on really for those catastrophic circumstances where civilian capacities are overwhelemed.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:48 AM

Rahul, would it be wise for Canada to focus its relief response to a particular part of the world, relying on partners and allies to take the lead in other regions? Or should Canada try to ensure that it has a truly global capacity and reach?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:48 AM

Modern technology makes it easy for us to reach most parts of the world in a day, so we should stay ready to respond to the world's needs
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:49 AM

In terms of government of Canada civilian expertise, let's not forget that we already have people around the world, operating in very challenging environments at our embassies, or through international organizations such as NATO or the UN. In instances where there is a catastrophic event or a conflict, we can supplement those personnel.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:50 AM

perhaps we could take more of a lead with nations closer to home like Haiti since we would be in first
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:50 AM

Beyond that, the government has been working on developing a wider roster of civilian expertise, and enhancing the pre-deployment and in-country support that we provide. We learned a great deal here from our experiences in Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti and Pakistan. In addition, we have been working on increasing the global capacity to rapidly identify and deploy civilians.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:51 AM

Elissa, is whole of government enough or should we be thinking more seriously about whole of governments, namely integrating departments, agencies, and militaries in a multinational fashion to further strengthen the international community's ability to act and to make the best use of the resources that are available in the current economic climate?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:52 AM

Rahul, looking beyond the Canadian government, what are the main challenges you see among the NGO community? What should they be doing to better their ability to react and respond?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:54 AM

We do indeed think about whole-of-system responses, and the importance of plugging in Canada's whole-of-government capabilities (and frankly whole-of-Canada capabilities, as we shouldn't provinces and territories or Canadian civil society) into larger international efforts. We do that through the UN, through NATO and through multinational efforts.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 9:55 AM

The NGO community needs to work together more. Different agencies with different skills sets need to work together to deliver aid more effectively. This is hard. It is a territorial realm, people want to defend their funding sources. But it is getting better and more agencies are collaborating
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 9:56 AM

Elissa, does that happen in a systematic fashion or is it done in a more ad hoc manner? If it is the latter, could you point us to certain initiatives?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:57 AM

We're into our last few minutes. Could you both provide us with some closing thoughts?
by pmlagasse May 17 at 9:58 AM

My last words. We as a global community need to be better at responding more quickly. At GlobalMedic, we try to do our part and make our teams better and more responsive. I feel that the Canadian government needs to improve this area and put more focus on how we can help those in need right away, immediately in the hours and days following the disaster.
by Rahul Singh May 17 at 10:00 AM

The reality is it is both. On the one hand there is a great deal of longer term policy work that we are doing internationally to reduce the ad hoc nature of our collective responses. But in parallel, we do still have to respond to situations as they occur. In such circumstances we must determine who has the most appropriate knowledge of the country in question and the expertise - whether military, civilian or police - to bring to bear.
by Elissa Golberg May 17 at 10:02 AM

Thanks so much to you both! See you next week!

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