We really need a global human security reset

What is “The Great Reset” and why does it matter?

As Rachel Gilmore explains in a recent quite comprehensive Global news article entitled: ‘Playing with fire’: How politicians can perpetuate baseless conspiracy theories, the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced (in conjunction with HRH Prince Charles) the following in June of this year:

The Great Reset will be the theme of a unique twin summit in January 2021, convened by the World Economic Forum.

The Great Reset is a commitment to jointly and urgently build the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable and resilient future.

Among the many who commented favourably on this proposal was the UN Secretary-General, who stated:

The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. We must build more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global changes we face….

This proposal soon became the subject of baseless conspiracy theories on social media alleging this was really a plot by “global elites” who had orchestrated the pandemic to take control of the global economy. (If you have the stomach for it, go on Twitter and input #thegreatreset.)

Enter Justin Trudeau

In a speech to the UN in September, Prime Minister Trudeau stated in part:

This pandemic has provided an opportunity for a reset. This is our chance to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts to reimagine economic systems that actually address global challenges like extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.

The video of his remarks went viral with “conspiratorially-minded social media users” focusing on his use of the term “reset” and, elsewhere in the speech, “build back better” (also used in the WEF press release) as validation of their global elitist plot theories.

Enter Pierre Poilievre and Erin O’Toole

Conservative M.P. Pierre Poilievre and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole echoed these lunatic conspiracy theory themes in their attacks on the Trudeau proposal, with Poilievre even going so far as to start a petition on his website to “STOP THE GREAT RESET”.

In the words of the BBC Reality Check team, Jack Goodman and Flora Carmichael:

The WEF recovery plan has been interpreted as sinister, first by fringe conspiracy theory groups on social media, and then by prominent conservative commentators – prompting tens of thousands of interactions across Facebook and Twitter.

The Global news article outlines the author’s unsuccessful efforts to secure concrete denials from Poilievre and O’Toole about deliberately stoking the conspiracy theories, as does Aaron Wherry writing for the CBC on the same topic.

In a quietly devastating take-down of Poilievre and O’Toole and their ilk, Russell Muirhead, a professor at Dartmouth University who co-authored the book A Lot of People Are Saying, which explores the impact of conspiracy theories on democracy, tells Gilmore:

Public officials have a responsibility not to play with fire, and this kind of misinformation, conspiracy misinformation, it’s so potent and has such a long half-life and is so devastating to democratic institutions that public officials do have a responsibility to refute it….

For the full Global news article see: ‘Playing with fire’: How politicians can perpetuate baseless conspiracy theories. (Rachel Gilmore, globalnews.ca, 26 November 2020).

Meanwhile Aaron Wherry in his article observes that Poilievre’s petition, while highlighting certain words from Trudeau’s speech, omits altogether the PM’s stated purpose for a reset — namely, to address:

the global challenges of extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.

For the full CBC article see: The ‘Great Reset’ reads like a globalist plot with some plot holes. (cbc.ca, 27 November 2020).

Where is Canada on its Foreign Policy Reset?

Against this backdrop of Canadian neocons using wild and dangerous conspiracy theories to thwart efforts for urgently needed fundamental economic, social and security reforms, it is time to revisit this issue, a Rideau Institute preoccupation that well predates the pandemic, but which found new urgency and global support when the pandemic started to wreak its havoc.

We can and we must learn from this global catastrophe

In our 30 March blog, at the onset of the lockdown during the first Covid-19 wave, we highlighted part of a Talk to Aljazeera  interview with Dr. Michael Ryan, the head of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, where he stated:

When this is done, we need to sit down and see what kind of society we want to have in future…. Are we to be defended from foreign armies, [or] are we to be defended from viruses; where are we putting our investment in society… our civilization and way of life…?

To build on this comment, we jump to our 28 September blog, which began:

In his centrepiece address to the historic and unprecedented 75th session of the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “today we face our own 1945 moment”, and like the post-war generation that sought to build a new world order, we too must summon the “collective will” to address the “world of challenges to come”. The Secretary-General added that the COVID-19 crisis is a “wake-up call” and a “dress rehearsal” for those challenges.

The 30 March blog also looked at the world’s grossly misplaced spending priorities with American Daryl G. Kimball, head of the prestigious Arms Control Association, writing:

If we are to survive well into this century, there must be a profound shift in the way we deal with global security challenges and how we align our scientific, economic, diplomatic, and political resources to address the health, climate, and nuclear dangers that threaten us all.

And we quoted renowned peace and security expert Paul Rogers:

What is actually required is a human-rights dimension to security, the need to see it as a common right to freedom from fear and want, rooted in socio-economic and ecological awareness.

Our 8 June blog added to the discussion on rethinking security with proposals for distinguishing national from global security and putting military security “in its place” alongside many other equally important priorities.

Resource reallocation and conversion to non-military production in the age of pandemic

In our 3 April ceasefire blog we wrote:

But just as climate change is driving calls for a radical reorientation of the global economy toward sustainable, eco-friendly options, so too is the coronavirus pandemic encouraging a second look at how to re-tool military enterprises.

This brings us to Canada’s defence budget, where the government announced on 7 June 2017 a whopping 70% increase over ten years, with most of the new funds being delivered after 2021.

Yet, for at least the last ten years, the Department of National Defence has been unable to spend the annual monies allocated. At least $2 billion per year has thus accumulated since the 2017 budgetary increases were announced. RI President Peggy Mason comments:

It does not take a genius to figure out that these unused funds are ripe for redeployment to address urgent human security needs.

Next steps for Canada in rethinking national and global security

In our blogs since March we have outlined a series of steps Canada should take, including:

Action to shore up our lagging commitment to Palestinian human rights is all the more urgent in light of the Government of Canada’s utterly disheartening announcement that Irwin Cotler will be Canada’s new Special Envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism. In a statement issued on 25 November, the National Coordinator of Independent Jewish Voices, Corey Balsam, stated in part:

In appointing Irwin Cotler to this position, the Canadian government further aligns itself with the highly controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism, which is being weaponized to portray supporters of Palestinian human rights as antisemitic, and to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.

The Feminist Foreign Policy consultations

As we noted last week, Global Affairs Canada is in the midst of civil society consultations on its Feminist Foreign Policy, with a view to issuing a While Paper in early 2021. The government’s background paper can be obtained here.

The Rideau Institute worked with the Canadian Pugwash Group to develop a brief, and each organization submitted a copy (as the somewhat awkward process for uploading comments does not easily allow for joint inputs).  The submission begins:

Conceptual Understanding:

It is important that a FFP is situated in a broader context of an approach to peace and security defined by the concepts of sustainability and commonality. This in turn is rooted in active commitments to a rules-based international system, the peaceful settlement of disputes, global cooperation, respect for human rights and a security concept that places the security of humans at its core.

A FFP should progress beyond the focus on increasing the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace operations, to devise policies that promote sustainable peace and common security. In this way the threats to women and girls as well as humans generally can be mitigated or eliminated.

The full submission can be obtained here. For all those wishing to associate themselves with these policy inputs in whole or in part, we urge you to 1) complete this Government of Canada form (including inputting your submission) and then email it to < FFP-PEF@international.gc.ca  >.

Whither Canada?

We urge Global Affairs Canada to use the White Paper resulting from this initial consultation as a stepping stone to a far broader examination of how a Feminist Foreign Policy can play a central role in redefining global and national security priorities to meet pressing human security needs.

Endnote: For a surge of hope and optimism, we urge you to read the Hill Times opinion piece entitled: In new book, Roche offers recovery for a wounded world in the new Biden era (Jim Creskey, 23 November 2020). And then go online and buy the book itself: Recovery: Peace Prospects in the Biden Era, by Doug Roche (Amazon.ca in Kindle and paperback).

Photo credit: Wikimedia (anti-Trump and far right rally)

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