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Projecting Canadian Values Abroad

Notes for the keynote address by the Hon. David Kilgour,
Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa),
At the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Annual General Meeting,
June 25, 1999, Prince of Wales Armory, Edmonton

It is a great pleasure to join you this evening and have the opportunity to speak to you about issues that are close to all of us. As an Albertan I take pride in the work you are doing and appreciate opportunities such as this to learn more about the excellent work your organizations do internationally. As Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa I travel across those regions and see results of the cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Canadian government.

The world is a rapidly changing place. One only has to look at the NATO action in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and the recent installation of an elected government in Nigeria as examples of shifting values and priorities. Traditional structures/responses are no longer the only answer. We are constantly exploring new options and recruiting new players to add their expertise in solving global problems and projecting Canadian values abroad.

The much-respected Czech President Vaclav Havel said when he addressed our House of Commons in late April: "I believe that in the coming century most states will begin to transform from cult-like objects, which are charged with emotional contents, into much simpler and more civil administrative units, which will be less powerful and, especially, more rational and will constitute merely one of the levels in a complex and stratified societal self-organization."

The changing role of the nation state that Havel mentions is not simply a prediction for the future, it is under way as we speak. The idea of governments as the sole actors in foreign policy is being rethought as a growing number of international organizations, including NGOs, prove their ability to deal effectively with situations that require cooperative resources.

Post-Cold War

Since the end of the Cold War, most have come to realize that the world does not operate in isolation. We must now react to events that do not respect borders drawn on maps. Issues such as mass migration, crime, disease and the environment, do not limit their effects to one country; they affect us all. The safety of people from these threats, both violent and non-violent, is what we’re now calling "Human Security". Over the last two years Canada has been active in bringing this human security agenda to the table and it has become a major focus in our foreign policy, most recently perhaps at the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala City.

This approach involves actors from across the spectrum -- states, international institutions and NGOs One only needs to look at Canada’s efforts to secure a treaty banning landmines and the role NGOs played in that process to see how we all benefit from the action and support of civil society participation. Governments and NGOs worked together -- the former mobilizing political will, the latter, public opinion.

It was not just the consultation of NGOs active in the field, but a full partnership between the groups and governments. The Ottawa Convention on Anti-personnel Landmines is an excellent example of the importance of the emerging partnerships of NGOs and governments in tackling global issues.

NGOs make a vital contribution- working here and in developing countries as advocate and implementing agencies, raising funds and delivering assistance. Your community has become a significant part of Canada’s presence in the world. Work with respect to peacebuilding and human security relies heavily on partnerships with NGOs, both in Canada and internationally.

In 1996, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and CIDA Minister Diane Marleau launched the Canadian Peacebuilding Initiative. It provides assistance to countries in conflict in their efforts towards peace and stability, but also promotes Canadian peacebuilding capacity and Canadian participation in international peacebuilding initiatives. The success of the Peacebuilding Initiative rests partly on partnerships with our NGO community.

The primary goal of peacebuilding is to enhance the indigenous capacity of societies to manage conflict without violence; it consists in essence of a set of measures that create a sustainable environment for human security.

There are a broad range of activities associated with peacebuilding. It may involve conflict prevention, conflict resolution, as well as various types of post-conflict reconstruction. These activities can take the form of community level projects to prevent conflict; informal peace dialogues; support for the reintegration of refugees and displaced persons; demobilization of former combatants; and human rights training programmes.

In the Horn of Africa, a region that has been the scene of large-scale human suffering and conflict for decades, the Peacebuilding Fund has been able to assist a Canadian NGO , Project Ploughshares to hold workshops with local civil society and leadership. These workshops led to a constructive dialogue between the local government and the civil society leaders aimed at breaking the historical cycles of violent conflict and border disputes.

Children’s Rights

Children’s rights -- the protecting and promoting the rights of society’s most vulnerable -- has remained a priority for NGOs and Canadians generally. Your community has played a very active and important role in dealing with the growing phenomenon of war-affected children in many areas of the world.

Today, there are probably more than 300 000 girls and boys serving in armies and rebel groups around the world as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, labourers and sex slaves.

To illustrate the importance of the issue of children’s rights for the Canadian government, I can give some examples. Last autumn, a joint Committee on War-Affected Children was formed, bringing together NGOs and the government, and chaired by Senator Landon Pearson. Through our Peacebuilding Program at Foreign Affairs, ours was the first government to provide resources to the international NGO Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The Coalition is working on a region-by-region basis to raise awareness about the issue of the recruitment of child soldiers.

Through CIDA, Canada is allocating fund to community-based projects in Liberia aimed at demobilizing and reintegrating children there into their communities. In Uganda, Canada is supporting UNICEF’s project aimed at stopping the abduction of children and advocating for the release of children already kidnapped. In Algeria, Canada is supporting programs to strengthen the local capacity to counsel children traumatized by the country-wide massacres.

Human Rights Generally

Human rights is an area where Canadian NGOs have done tremendous work You carry out much of the work, especially on the ground and act as additional avenues for Canada to strengthen the international human rights system and increasingly integrate human rights into other areas of international society.

The Canadian Resource Bank for Democracy and Human Rights, CANADEM, has developed a substantial roster of Canadians with expertise in peacebuilding- related fields. One result is that Canada was able to respond quickly to the need for a range of civilian skills in the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission.

As Canada deepens its relations with Latin America, there are opportunities there for growth in NGO participation..Canada is now discussing with our hemispheric partners issues that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago -- good governance, corruption, human rights, civil society and landmines, to mention only a few. Democracy and economic liberalization are here to stay in our hemisphere. Governments have been transformed, regional institutions are being revamped, and new mechanisms are being created to meet today’s challenges.

Drug Dialogue

One of the priorities of the human security agenda in our region is fighting the illicit drug trade and alleviating its consequences; Canada is promoting a dialogue among all 34 Foreign Ministers on this issue. I have personally been actively involved on this issue, travelling to Latin America and the Caribbean to meet with Foreign Ministers and others concerned about the drug problem.

Much has already been done. Many governments already have national anti-drug strategies as well as programs to reduce illicit drug demand through educational and health programs, to reduce supplies through eradication or alternative development, and to control trafficking through interdiction, law enforcement and measures to reduce money laundering. Building on existing mechanisms and agreements, foreign ministers can provide political support or guidance where required. However, there is also a need to involve NGOs and further pursue an integrated response that would include the contributions of many.

African Opportunities

My second area of responsibility is Africa, where Canada’s traditional official approach has been through CIDA development programs. We have worked to alleviate poverty and promote human rights and development in the world’s poorest region. Over the last 30 years, CIDA has built an impressive reputation based on generous and intelligent aid. Africa today accounts for 45% of Canadian bilateral development assistance and close to half out humanitarian relief.

We have come to realize that there are other concerns in the region and other means of promoting growth and stability. Peacebuilding, democratic development, conflict prevention and conflict resolution mechanisms are all requirements for sustainable prosperity in Africa in the 21st century.

Despite the common media view, there are many encouraging signs. Only last month, I had the honour of representing Canada at the inauguration of Nigeria’s President-elect Obasanjo. The ceremony was a joyous event, marking the end to many years of authoritarian military rule. Canada supported the return to democracy by providing electoral support. Channelled through the UN in order to co-ordinate international observers and through Nigerian NGOs in order to allow their own involvement in the monitoring process, our goal was to ensure a free and fair election.

In closing, I’d reiterate the value of Canada’s close ties with NGOs. The challenges we face working to ensure human security require the contribution of many actors. Canadians generally, like you, embrace the contribution your community is making to further Canadian human security objectives and the work they do assisting in global situations.

I wish you continued success in your important endeavours.

Thank you.

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