FIRST PRIZE: The Failure to Protect: Human Security and Canadian Foreign Policy in Afghanistan

Wilfrid Greaves


This paper will examine the prima facie case that Canadian policy and practice in Afghanistan have not been consistent with the principles of human security and the protection of Afghan civilians. The failure to protect human security is twofold: first, international forces have inadequately addressed the threat posed to civilians by the Taliban insurgency and associated terrorist groups. Second, the tactics employed by international military forces have failed to adequately discriminate between civilians and combatants and have directly resulted in increasing numbers of civilian casualties. These failings indicate that Canada’s practices in Afghanistan do not to cohere with its own policies regarding the protection of human security, violate the emergent international doctrine of human security, and seriously question the validity of official claims that Canada and the international community are protecting the human security of civilians in Afghanistan. This paper argues that the effective application of the principles of human security to the conduct of counterinsurgency by international military forces would greatly improve the likelihood of success in the long-term Afghan state-building project.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.