Address by Minister Cannon at G8 Conference of Senior Officials on Capacity Building to Address Security Vulnerabilities

No. 2010/27 - Gatineau, Quebec - May 4, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Welcome to Gatineau, here in the beautiful Outaouais region.

In this, Canada’s international year—during which we will welcome the G8 and G20 Summits—Gatineau was the capital of international diplomacy when I met my G8 colleagues here a little over a month ago to discuss three important themes:

  • nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament;
  • terrorism; and
  • security vulnerabilities.

We also announced, in Gatineau, last March, that we would hold this conference today to deliver on the security vulnerabilities initiative, which has received a lot of interest from G8 partners.

We all know that many states are incapable of dealing with the many security threats.

They lack the effective institutions that are needed to support the rule of law and democracy—the foundation of stable and peaceful societies.

We need to help these states strengthen the full range of security institutions required to reinforce the states’ stability.

It is a huge and complicated task.

We can be encouraged, however, by the fact that we are making genuine and measurable progress toward keeping communities safe, and toward containing and eliminating widespread forms of insecurity.

Our governments have all invested to help build capacity to manage or recover from conflict, or to increase the ability of states to counter terrorism or fight international organized crime.

Canada has a long history of assisting nations in their efforts to develop security institutions.

In Kosovo, for example, Canadian experts were among the first to start building a correctional service in the post-conflict environment.

In Haiti, Canadian police have for decades helped train and mentor local police.

In Africa, we have helped build up a network of centres offering peacekeeping training to soldiers and police.

We also have specific counterterrorism and anti-crime programs that are global in reach, and teams of professionals who set our policies in motion and see them through.

Our goal is to improve things, to be more efficient and better coordinated.

As you well know, in dealing with security as with development assistance, capacity-building work must begin with recognition and a proper analysis of specific national contexts.

We must avoid imposing international expertise in a complex environment in the absence of clear requests from those countries facing security vulnerabilities.

Our aim must be to tackle security threats by helping to build institutions that are effective, affordable and accountable, and that can carry out their legitimate functions in a manner consistent with national law and international norms.

In so doing, we must not try to recreate our own security institutions abroad, but rather support the development of institutions that make sense in the local context.

G8 countries may determine that a partner should possess a certain capability in order to achieve the security effects that our analysis shows are necessary.

But it will not always be the case that partners will want to invest in those capabilities we see as priorities.

That is why security capacity must be grounded in sustained political commitment by all parties to common approaches.

It is crucial, moreover, that we avoid incidentally harming the nations or institutions that we seek to support.

Too great an international presence in a given sector, for instance, can unintentionally weaken the capacity or legitimacy of the local actors we are trying to help.

In our enthusiasm to “do good” and to do it quickly, there is a danger of duplication or friction among programs from different countries or in different disciplines.

Conversely, focused and priority-driven programs can create geographic or functional pockets of exclusion that do not serve regional stability and security.

It is right for us to be demanding of partners, but we must also set reasonable timelines, and consider the cumulative effect of all our efforts.

As G8 countries, we are firm in our principles and confident in our analysis. But that does not mean that we are perfect or have all the answers.

Our program success will in part be a measure of the mutual trust we build with our partners. And trust requires an openness to new or unaccustomed thinking.

We are also mindful that reform can, by its very nature, be a conflict-producing process, with winners and losers.

Not everyone in partner countries will welcome transparency, modernity, professionalism or accountability, but these are characteristics we need to reinforce.

For example, Iran’s extensive history of undeclared nuclear activities, together with its efforts to acquire the full nuclear cycle without any justifiable reason, have resulted in deep concerns within the international community that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability contrary to its treaty [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] commitments.

That is why Canada boycotted Iran’s intervention yesterday at the non-proliferation treaty review conference in New York.

While Canada remains a strong supporter of the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, this right must be explicitly linked with the requirement for compliance with safeguards obligations.

IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards are a fundamental element of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and Canada believes that a comprehensive agreement, together with an additional protocol, represent the new verification standard pursuant to Article III.1 of the non-proliferation treaty.

In fact, those countries not respecting their obligations should be sanctioned.

That is the case for Iran.

Immediate and complete cessation of Iran’s uranium enrichment and other sensitive proliferation activities, in accordance with UN Security Council and IAEA obligations, would be the only objective indicator of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Yesterday, in New York, Iran did not show a hint of intention to comply and, instead, delivered an aggressive and provocative statement.


I encourage you all to explore new avenues for coordination, for cooperation and for measuring results as we work to address security vulnerabilities. Our nations deserve no less than continuous learning, and refinement of these important instruments of foreign policy to ensure our global security.

We are working together today toward an important collective purpose: to hone the tools our nations have crafted and put them to work for the good of all nations. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his address to the World Economic Forum in January 2010:

“It is incumbent upon...the world’s most developed economies to assist those in the most vulnerable positions.”

We do this not only because we can, but because we should.

And as Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, I truly hope that this conference, held here in Gatineau during Canada’s international year, will allow us to make another step in our perilous but crucial journey toward a safer world.

Thank you.