Canada’s Calling Card to a Troubled World

Photo credit: The Loop

So Donald Trump has bombed a Syrian airfield — twice. Now what? So much has been written and discussed regarding what comes next, but in reality, no one knows — no one. It’s the tale of three presidents — Trump, Putin, and Assad — and the collective volatility of their temperaments confound pundits and average citizens alike.

While copious amounts of attention are spent on this growing concern, little has been covered regarding other crises going on in the world that, though not merely military in nature, increasingly reveal the tearing of the fabric of modern civilization.

An alarming new report published by the World Food Program — the world’s foremost organization fighting world hunger — states that in 48 countries in the world, 108 million people face crisis-level food insecurity. That’s serious, especially since only two years ago the number stood at 80 million. Much of this is taking place in just four nations — South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. Each is facing serious armed conflict and, like Syria, each endures poor governance and man-made humanitarian emergencies. Some 20 million people in those countries are in immediate threat of starvation, with the UN reporting that by July — just three months from now — half of South Sudan’s population — some 5 million — will be at risk of famine.

The rising age of populism in affluent nations is quietly eroding the historic desire to assist the oppressed around the world with long-term development funds — almost everything now is about domestic concerns or global security fears. Just how bad is it? In the first four months of this year alone, global humanitarian organizations, with the UN being the primary partner, have asked for $21 billion (US) to deal with the crises. But disillusionment with such ventures has meant that, so far, only 17% has been donated and giving appears to be ebbing.

Whether or not governments or their citizens believe in needed humanitarian assistance, the effect of this decline can only result in more international emergencies, many of which will result in ever more violence, heightened regional instability, and a global challenge to the world powers. In such a world everything becomes political and military and not diplomatic or humanitarian. Donald Trump has said he will cut the State Department’s budget from $52.8 billion (US) to $37.6 billion — a decrease of 29%. At the same time, he will raise the military budget by $54 billion (the equivalent of the State Department’s entire new budget) and bring total defense spending to $603 billion.

This will be the future direction of the world affairs unless renewed commitments are made to development, diplomacy and foreign aid. Poverty remains the foremost recruiting tool for terror organizations like ISIS and those that suffer the most under such predicaments are women and children. If conditions on the ground remain dire, the opportunities for physical insecurity and violent response are assured.

In such a world, Canada possesses remarkable potential that will never be affirmed if we just provide muted support to Donald Trump’s design for military intervention or corporate dominance. While America has historically been viewed as the world’s policeman, Canada, and its people, have proved more comfortable with playing the role of peacekeeper, accomplished diplomat, or able development worker. There is now more need for such skills in this turbulent world than ever.

Yet when it comes to international development, little has changed since we learned that Canada was the 16th most generous donor among Western industrialized nations. As Stephen Brown noted in writing for the McLeod Group a year ago:

Even a 50% boost in the aid budget wouldn’t get us to the OECD’s average country effort. It will be very hard to achieve the budget plan’s goal of ‘strengthening Canada’s place in the world’ if we refuse to contribute even an average share of development assistance, let alone lead by example.

While Syria remains a remarkably complex and troublesome problem nation in which to consider development initiatives, Canada could play a pivotal role in calling for a global development conference to begin the plans for rebuilding the region once the military option has played out. Just as a missile attack on an airfield is no military strategy, neither is merely reacting to the millions of people who continue to be the fallout a true development policy.

Regardless of Trump’s precarious military policy in moving ahead, the world community has to develop a concentrated plan for all the regions already in peril, including humanitarian corridors, capable security protection, and, yes, the funding to go along with our rhetoric. Canada is just as qualified to spearhead a non-military approach as anyone, but it will take more than goodwill or fine rhetoric.