Thursday, May 7, 2020

CDSN COVID Response Briefing Note, Security

Last week, members of the Canadian Defence and Security Network, along with networks funded by the Department of National Defence (SPNET [Concordia-based group of engineers working on tech-related policy, like AI], the Defence and Security Foresight Group,and the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network) met via zoom to discuss a series of questions that DND gave us and some we developed.

This week, I am discussing day by day a part of the briefing note we produced (available in English and French here). Yesterday, I discussed Operations.  So, today, I will focus on Security.  The Security Theme of the CDSN focuses on some of the bigger questions--what are the threats to Canadians?  Do Canadian defence efforts make Canadians and those we seek to protect elsewhere more or less secure.  There is some overlap with Operations, but the perspective is somewhat different.

The first question was: How has COVID-19 changed the geopolitical landscape? What are the likely short-term impacts of the pandemic on international relations, defence and security?
Gives hostile players—Russia, China, Iran, etc—additional leverage in their regions with more fodder for cyber/hybrid efforts.
Create openings for cooperation and institutional adaptation of the WHO where Canada can offer leadership & promote civil-mil expertise development for pandemic collaboration.
Human security dialogue shifting – a non-military threat is creating great harm. Global and national level social inequalities will be exacerbated by the crisis, given that women, minorities and poorer individuals appear to be among the most affected.
Globalization threatened as local production of PPE, vaccines, treatment become imperative.

I won't discuss the first one since it overlaps much with yesterday's discussion.  The second one reminds me of something I learned in grad school thanks to Peter Gourevitch--that crises shake things up, especially coalitions, providing opportunities for reform.  The WHO is facing a firestorm of criticism for its handling of the pandemic, so it might just provide some opportunities for Canada and other countries to push for reforms.  Of course, what those reforms might be is not clear.  I did discuss this with Kelley Lee, a scholar of the globalization of health, for next week's #BattleRhythm podcast.  To preview, she points to the lack of teeth the WHO has.  I am most doubtful that the WHO will get World Trade Organization-like panels that have some heft to them.  What Canada should do is figure out what reforms it wants and start building a coalition of like-minded countries.

Human security has been a different way to think about security issues, focusing on the security of people rather than countries.  Its adherents have often had a tough time driving international agendas, but this crisis may finally change minds about what are the greatest threats to countries and to people--conventional war and insurgencies or pandemics and climate change.  Canada's diplomacy has focused at times on human security--the fight to ban landmines and then cluster munitions and more recently, the efforts to deal with Child Soldiers.  The Canadian Armed Forces has a new Centre of Excellence, the Dallaire Centre for Peace and Security, focused on the Vancouver Principless that aim to address the Child Soldier challenge.  And, yes, this centre is the latest to join the CDSN!

This crisis threatens globalization as countries are acting unilaterally to develop their own production to supply themselves with medical gear and medicines.  While global supply chains have been controversial for causing job losses, they have also been instrumental in reducing the costs of various goods and in reducing global inequality.  Some friends of mine have started arguing that Canada should be less dependent on the US, and I have no idea how that is possible. 

The second question was: If deployment is increasingly ‘local’ how might this impact the relationships that CAF has with other ‘security providers’, such as local police, academics, the public, health officials, etc.
There should be a standing committee or task force for dealing with CAF deployments in Canada so that provinces, federal departments, and other relevant actors have familiarity with CAF capabilities and procedures and for the CAF to have similar understanding of its partners with a Deputy Minister responsible for reporting to the Prime Minister. Canada might want to consider developing a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency] type organization within Public Safety or create a new agency.

It surprised me to learn that there is no Canadian FEMA.  While the American version gets lots of criticism for failing during/after Katrina and more recently in Puerto Rico, most of the time, it is a pivotal actor, moving into handle post-disaster relief.  In Canada, there does not seem to be a similar capability.  Instead, in any crisis, people call the military to help, and it is not clear how much pre-disaster coordination, communication, and such is done.  Given the increasing pace of operations, thanks to climate change, there should be more direct political attention paid to this.  We borrowed from the Afghanistan mission, where the government developed an inter-agency task force and had a deputy minister report direction to the Prime Minister.  It didn't always work great, but it was certainly better than not having it.
Again, crises can lead to innovation, so perhaps it is time for the federal government to innovate so that it can respond more clearly, more decisively, and communicate better with local agencies the next time.... because there will be a next time.

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