Question, Challenge, and Dispute

By: /
20 June, 2011
By: Jennifer Welsh
Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Somerville College

Hello, fellow members of the Roundtable – and thank you for kicking things off, Roland!  I too am very much looking forward to having access to such a unique forum for debate about international affairs in Canada.

Though I am based at the University of Oxford, I maintain deep ties to Canada and my home province of Saskatchewan. In my 2004 book, At Home in the World: Canada’s Global Vision for the 21st Century, I explored Canada’s role as a model citizen. Since then, many things have changed – including my own views. Last year, I argued that Canadian foreign policy has become a mishmash of contradictory concerns and ill-conceived policies and asked, ‘Can it be fixed?’  The arrival of the first majority government in Ottawa for quite some time presents a new opportunity to assess this question.

In addition to shepherding in a new government in Canada, 2011 has also ushered in dramatic changes to the international system. My own research focuses on issues related to the ethics and politics of military intervention and, in recent years, in my role as co-director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, I have tracked the evolution of the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect.’ Resolution 1973 and the subsequent international military operation in Libya represents a crucial point in the development of this international norm. It will be interesting to follow the interaction of theory and practice as the crisis in Libya unfolds.

I should also note that for the past two years, I’ve been a member of the Premier of Alberta’s Council for Economic Strategy. We recently released our report, which challenges Albertans but also other Canadians to see the province in a new light. For my part, I think this decade will open up new challenges for articulating a coherent ‘Canadian national interest’, and Alberta’s particular agenda and goals is just one example of how the federal government can no longer have a monopoly on foreign policy.

Clearly, Roundtable has a full agenda! Like Roland, I see this blog as an opportunity to push the barriers of my comfort zone, and to trade ideas on issues that I frequently contemplate – but, ’til now, rarely aired publicly. I promise to question, challenge, and dispute – and I hope that André, John and Roland will too.

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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

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