Group of 78’s Story

G78 early conference 2 copy

The Group of 78 is civil society organization of Canadians to promote Canadian and global action for peace and disarmament, equitable and sustainable development, and a strong and revitalized United Nations system.

It began in 1980 when a small group including Andrew Brewin MP and Peggy Brewin, Murray Thomson of Project Ploughshares, Robert McClure, former Moderator of the United Church, and King Gordon, formerly of the United Nations Secretariat, drafted a statement on how best Canada could contribute to the building of a peaceful and secure world. In November 1981 that statement, Canadian Foreign Policy in the 80s, was sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and released publicly. It was signed by 78 prominent Canadians- a group of 78.

The statement set out three inter-related objectives:

1) removal of the threat of nuclear war;

2) the mobilization of world resources to achieve a more equitable international order and bring an end to the crushing poverty which is the common lot of the majority in the Third World;

3) the strengthening and reform of the United Nations and other global institutions designed to bring about a pacific settlement of disputes, foster international cooperation, promote the growth of world law and the protection of basic human rights.

That was the beginning of a dialogue between the Group of 78 and the Canadian government.

Many of the original 78 signers, with others who shared the ideals, came together for a discussion two years after the statement, launching both the Group itself as an organization and the tradition of annual policy conferences.

From this start grew the two connected lines of activity for the Group in succeeding years: dialogue – serious and in depth discussion of international issues and Canada’s place among them, and advocacy – the representation of conclusions and recommendations to government policy makers.

In the following years, members of the Group discussed, and made their views known, about new issues facing Canada in international relations and their implications for the central and universal objectives of policy already mentioned.

While the original objectives, as set out above, remain valid, the Group is conscious of the need to adapt these objectives to meet the new challenges of the 90s and beyond. Examples are: beyond sovereignty (1992 report), the global refugee crisis (1993 report) and Canada’s relations with the Pacific Rim (1994 report). The Group believes, however, that these and other aspects of international relations, such as the global environment, human rights, and UN peacekeeping, cannot be treated as isolated phenomena. Governments have to establish foreign policy priorities in accordance with their domestic and other circumstances. Moreover, trends and conditions overlap; for example, conflict breeds refugees and damage to the environment.

The Group attempts to keep in focus two sets of overlapping considerations about foreign policy. Since 1945, Canada has had compelling reasons of national interest, and of obligation as a good world citizen, to attribute particular importance to its role in the United Nations, related multilateral agencies and world financial institutions. The objectives on a global level remain constant. At the same time, for closely related, but diverse and changing reasons, Canada has also maintained, or sought, associations with particular groups of nations: NATO, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie, the Group of Seven, the Organization of American States, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, among others.

The Group of 78, in reviewing different sectors of our involvement in world affairs from year to year, assesses the ways in which our policies support, or fall short of constant goals, particularly in relation to global conflict management, development and equity and institutional governance.

In the following years, members of the Group discussed, and made their views known, about new issues facing Canada in international relations and their implications for the central and universal objectives of policy already mentioned. While the original objectives, as set out above, remain valid, the Group is conscious of the need to adapt these objectives to meet the new challenges of the 90s and beyond. Examples are: beyond sovereignty (1992 report), the global refugee crisis (1993 report) and Canada’s relations with the Pacific Rim (1994 report). The Group believes, however, that these and other aspects of international relations, such as the global environment, human rights, and UN peacekeeping, cannot be treated as isolated phenomena. Governments have to establish foreign policy priorities in accordance with their domestic and other circumstances. Moreover, trends and conditions overlap; for example, conflict breeds refugees and damage to the environment. The Group attempts to keep in focus two sets of overlapping considerations about foreign policy.

Since 1945, Canada has had compelling reasons of national interest, and of obligation as a good world citizen, to attribute particular importance to its role in the United Nations, related multilateral agencies and world financial institutions. The objectives on a global level remain constant. At the same time, for closely related, but diverse and changing reasons, Canada has also maintained, or sought, associations with particular groups of nations: NATO, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie, the Group of Seven, the Organization of American States, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, among others.

The Group of 78, in reviewing different sectors of our involvement in world affairs from year to year, assesses the ways in which our policies support, or fall short of constant goals, particularly in relation to global conflict management, development and equity and institutional governance.

 

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