For Canadians contemplating our commitment in Afghanistan, Kosovo offers some timely parallels. In many ways, Kosovo was at the turn of the century what Afghanistan is now: Canada’s most significant military commitment and a gauge of the quality of Canada’s engagement with the world. A difficult, long-term mission that involved rehabilitating one of the weakest economies in the Balkans, ensuring security in a volatile environment and rebuilding shattered relations amongst states in the region, the Kosovo undertaking saw the implementation of an early form of 3D – integrated defence, diplomacy and development.

The long-anticipated initiation of talks on Kosovo’s future on February 20 in Vienna offers an opportunity to reflect on our involvement in the conflict and on the future of Canadian policy in the region.

The international community’s continuing presence in Kosovo has brought 3D into play on a deeper, institutional scale, in attempts to ensure Kosovo’s economic development, the fairness of its political system and both its internal and external security in one broad operation. The mission provides valuable direction for Canadian foreign policy in gauging the success of such strategies and points to opportunities for a Canadian contribution to the region’s future.

A region in transition
Contemporary Kosovo, in principle still a province of Serbia and Montenegro, is a mosaic of cultures. Ethnic Albanians form the vast majority of the population, with Serbs constituting a significant minority. While these two cultures had long vied for control, the situation worsened with the rise of Slobodan Milosevic in 1987 and the drastic reduction of regional autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia in 1989, through a referendum in which ethnic Albanians had little voice.

The resulting guerrilla conflict over autonomy between the pro-independence Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian troops plagued the region for years. More widespread violence erupted after a Serbian onslaught that killed thousands and left many displaced. When evidence of ethnic cleansing by the Serb military surfaced in 1999, NATO member states engaged in a three-month bombing campaign that successfully obtained Serbian retreat and the installation of a UN-mandated administration backed by NATO troops.

More than five years after the intervention, Kosovars continue to rebuild. Political institutions and security organizations are operational, but their capabilities can be hollow and their mandate in conflict with that of the international organizations in the region. Economic difficulties, especially unemployment, slow social and political progress. Security remains difficult to maintain in some communities, allowing little freedom of movement outside of narrow boundaries. Many members of Kosovo’s minority populations, particularly Serbs, live apart from the mainstream of society. Driven by suspicion and encouraged by partisans in Belgrade, these Serb areas run unmonitored parallel governments and yielded a lamentable turnout for the latest election.

Much of this unease is tied to the question of status, an issue indefinitely postponed following the intervention. The region is currently governed as a United Nations protectorate, and neither group is happy with the temporary solution. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo want nothing short of independence, while Serbs advocate for strengthened ties with Belgrade. This unsettled grievance weighs heavily over the region, directly obstructing progress in a number of areas. It took renewed violence and considerable pressure for the diplomatic community to acknowledge the region’s paralysis and pursue a renewed effort to open dialogue and explore options for immediate action on its future.

The future of 3D
With the release of the International Policy Statement last year, Canada is setting a new course in its foreign policy, attempting to seamlessly integrate Canada’s defence, development and diplomacy efforts. Though the concept has not yet been fully implemented at an institutional level, results have been apparent on the ground. The Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar forms one example of Canadian International Development Agency, Foreign Affairs and National Defence personnel working together towards common goals.

While Prime Minister Harper’s new government has not chosen to make foreign and defence policy one of its overriding priorities, the 3D approach’s intuitive appeal in improving coordination, reducing transaction costs and better achieving long-term objectives has clear potential to reach across party lines. The success or failure of the Afghan operation, particularly in light of recent, tragic casualties, may well be another catalyst to the implementation of changes in CIDA, DND and FAC.

Kosovo’s political institutions remain in flux. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), intended as a temporary means of building institutional capacity, suffer from a weak mandate and uneven legitimacy. The region’s economy is also a work in progress. The unemployment rate is unacceptably high, while privatization efforts and attempts to build export capacity have progressed slowly. Many critics have alleged that the international community has been too cautious in implementing restructuring plans.

International tutelage did not make Kosovo poor. However, the current administration must do more to help Kosovo reach its full potential. An even more integrated approach premised on 3D would be an effective response to this type of challenge in the future. The multidisciplinary nature of this approach also prepares the mission for the long-term commitment that any successful post-conflict intervention must make. Having achieved an acceptable level of security in most regions, the international mission must now ensure a comparable trend in standard of living.

Given the unproven efficiency of the PISG and the considerable amounts of aid flowing into the region, Canada must be highly selective if it is to resume assistance to Kosovo. Building a market economy will help status, refugee returns and security all at once. 3D provides a helpful means of analyzing the success of such aid operations. Projects fulfilling the priorities of all three branches of the doctrine might merit renewed Canadian development assistance in the region.

To truly address the issues raised by the weakness of Kosovo’s current institutions, pursuing a 3D orientation is crucial. Such an approach allows governments to support all areas of governance, work towards a broad sense of stability and foster cooperation. One may even extend 3D’s scope to include civil society, the private sector and policy actors, who must all be engaged in building Kosovo’s political infrastructure. At the same time, there are obvious, clear limits to 3D: no international mission, however broad its mandate, commitment and capabilities, can adequately replace a government demanded by the region’s population long after the end of conflict.

While Canada was once an eager participant in the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR), only a handful of Canadian advisors remain in the international headquarters. For once, military resources are not the principal problem. Kosovo has a significant number of troops on its territory, and there is no immediate need for more. However, Canadian Forces, who truly made a difference in Kosovo, should stand ready to intervene should there be fallout from the resolution of the status question.

Like KFOR, the United Nations police force has shrunk considerably, but new Kosovo Police Service officers trained in the new Kosovo Police School are replacing it. Intensifying the training of security forces would allow for an eventual pullout of KFOR troops, a possible transition to an EU-led force and more responsibilities for the Kosovo government. As a result of long-term involvement and a developing domestic security capability, violence has largely stayed beneath the surface in Kosovo.

Although international police forces are not as crucial as trained Kosovo ones, Canada can make a significant contribution on the ground with its experienced police units. The RCMP has been involved in peacekeeping operations for well over a decade. As a member of the OSCE, the organization responsible for the Kosovo Police School, Canada could further support the development of significant home grown police capabilities. At the same time, it will have to monitor very closely the ethnic composition of the Kosovo Police Service to ensure its neutrality. Optimism must be balanced with concerns that the police service may lack the capacity for managing crises, both because of their shortage in equipment and because of their occasional conflict with KFOR.

Canada was left out of the Contact Group, the informal six-nation body that oversees Kosovo’s situation, and will have little direct input in decisions pertaining to the region’s immediate political future. Nevertheless, it can make a difference by showcasing the potential impact of 3D on international relations.

The most important initiative for Canada to back is the further integration of Kosovo in the international community, assuming it is allowed to pursue eventual independence. Status, of course, is crucial for full membership in any international organization, but it appears increasingly as though these issues should be tied together and addressed simultaneously. Given the proven benefits of engagement on the European continent, the EU and NATO ‘carrots’ are essential to reform.

Canada can focus its support through NATO, the United Nations and the OSCE. Serbia’s international status must be taken into account at the same time, as its integration through international structures is only marginally more advanced than Kosovo’s. A United Nations and Contact Group-backed plan for rapid status resolution would magnify efforts to improve the economy, strengthen the provisional government and curb tension between diverse groups. Such a plan would work best when combined with incentives for integration into NATO and the EU, even if only on a distant time horizon.

The 3D approach is premised on the assumption that no single agency or organization can be expected to do everything. DND alone cannot fulfill Canada’s objectives. NATO intervened without the UN’s blessing, only to have the UN head the reconstruction effort together with its EU and OSCE partners. The UN is a valuable partner, but it should not be assumed to be the only valid one in guaranteeing a bright future for Kosovo. It will be impossible to complete the region’s transition without engaging a broad, multilateral effort, similar to original intervention that saw the United States acquiesce to multilateral action. Ottawa thus faces a crucial challenge: to convince its allies to engage Kosovo and situations like it with an open-minded, 3D-like approach.

At the time of writing, Kosovo’s independence appears a near certainty. As the Harper government considers its foreign policy priorities, it should endeavour to help finish what a previous administration started almost half a decade ago.

Embracing a 3D approach entails involvement with a new range of allies, as broad as possible while remaining relevant, as well as agencies tailored to the situation. Such missions are best carried out with a diverse coalition of national, international and non-governmental actors. Kosovo allows Canadians to reinterpret 3D through a broadened lens. It is more than an approach; it is a goal – addressing all the challenges presented by a post-conflict state in the context of the American-led War on Terror, in a world that now acknowledges a responsibility to protect.

A truly integrated approach should seek to place a region on a suitable footing to resume its cultural, economic and political life unhindered. It also enlists allies and organizations to adopt and implement its approach. Most importantly, it symbolizes the long-term commitment Canada intends when it becomes involved in a region. Beyond short term military involvement and medium term stabilization operations, 3D is a comprehensive partnership with regions in recovery from conflict, tailored to their economic, political and security needs.

Resources must be allocated accordingly. This may mean sacrificing interventions favoured by current public opinion for the sake of Canada’s longer-term interests and commitments. It also points to the need for a well structured procurement scheme built around the capabilities called for by this strategy, including the ability to airlift troops and equipment, as well as to sustain a robust force for a considerable amount of time. Forces must be trained to conduct ‘three-block’ wars, the tactical counterpart to the 3D strategy.

Institutional stovepipes must be broken. The move to bring Foreign Affairs Canada and the Department of International Trade together anew is a positive sign. Common pools of resources for particular missions may be an effective way of addressing the wide breadth of problems existing in such regions.

Kosovo’s current situation suggests that, whatever the results of renewed dialogue, true stability in the region may be years away. A single decision in Vienna will not alone make for an optimal outcome. Canada’s integrated policy may provide a useful guide to the resolution and to the fallout from a decision, providing an opportunity for Ottawa to lead in a region where it has already obtained considerable success. At the same time, it can only be taken so far. The 3D policy may only be a catalyst to change and no substitute for genuine stability and the home grown political infrastructure demanded by Kosovo’s citizens.

Tough decisions lie ahead, both on the political status of Kosovo and on the allocation of scare Canadian government resources.

Julian Wright was research assistant to Hugh Segal, the president of the IRPP, from 2004 to 2005. A McGill University graduate in economics and history, he has conducted research at NATO headquarters and at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He is currently working toward a degree in law at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law ( For a more detailed version of this article, please see