I call this meeting to order, seeing that we have quorum.
This is the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we have a briefing session on small arms this afternoon.
We are pleased to have with us a number of different witnesses from a number of different organizations. We welcome Ms. Holguin, the advocacy officer of Oxfam Quebec. We welcome Mark Fried, communications and advocacy coordinator from Oxfam Canada. From Amnesty International, we have Hilary Homes, campaigner for international justice, security, and human rights. From Project Ploughshares, we have Ken Epps, senior program associate.
Many of you have appeared at committee before, so this is not something new to you. We generally give ten minutes for each one who makes a presentation and then go to five-minute rounds of questions.
We have been a little late in getting started because of the votes, so we may try to extend this a little if that's possible.
Anyway, the time is yours, Ms. Homes--or are you going to start, Ms. Holguin?
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I would first of all like to thank you for allowing the members of the Control Arms Campaign and Oxfam-Québec to express their opinion on the subject of the proliferation of weapons and what Canada can do to counter this problem, on the eve of the United Nations conference responsible for reviewing the progress that has been made in the implementation of the Action Plan intended to prevent, combat and eliminate the illegal trade in light weapons in all of its aspects.
We have distributed documents to you in which you will find a report on munitions that was published this week, as well as a press release on a survey we carried out in six countries on the proliferation of arms and other basic information on the Control Arms Campaign and on the Million Faces petition.
The United Nations review conference will take place from June 26 to July 7 in New York. It will assess the implementation of the Action Plan on light weapons adopted in 2001.
Oxfam-Québec works in countries often hit by conflicts and armed violence. Our work has allowed us to ascertain that the trade in arms is out of control and the human cost immense. Today, there are more than 600 million light weapons in the world. Moreover, 14 billion bullets are manufactured annually, that is more than two bullets for every man, woman and child on the planet. Because of a lack of adequate controls, these weapons and bullets find their way into war zones and into the hands of human rights offenders.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Haiti, partners of Oxfam-Québec have told us that even though these countries do not manufacture weapons, they are rife on their territory. In these countries, armed violence has contributed to the exacerbation of poverty, discrimination, illness and malnutrition, and has limited access to social services. We see that every year, African, Asian and Latin American countries spend $22 billion on average on the purchase of weapons. Half that amount would allow for every child in these regions to attend elementary school.
In several countries, Oxfam has also observed that women and girls are the hardest hit by the direct and indirect consequences of the proliferation of arms. In Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape has become a weapon of war. In Port-au-Prince, in Haiti, most rapes that are committed are armed offences.
Our experience has also taught us that it is possible to reduce armed violence through development and human intervention. In Darfur, in several displaced persons' camps, we distribute wood so that women will not be obliged to leave the camp in order to gather any, at the risk of being raped. In Cambodia, Oxfam-Québec provides vocational training to anti-personnel mines victims in order to allow them to earn a living and to return to the community. In Nicaragua, we have worked for the reinstatement of former fighters. In Rwanda, we have contributed to the prevention of conflicts by ensuring that farmers have better access to land.
At Oxfam, we believe that development cannot be achieved in an environment made unstable by conflicts, armed violence and the proliferation of arms. This is why alongside Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, we launched the Control Arms Campaign in 2003.
The goal of this world-wide campaign is to urge states to sign an international treaty on the arms trade that would govern all conventional weapons. The adoption of a treaty based on the principles of international law would allow for a reduction of the human cost of the irresponsible transfer of weapons and prevent unscrupulous arms dealers from finding loopholes in the system.
Almost a million people around the world signed Control Arms Million Faces campaign. These hundreds of thousands of people, including over 10,000 Canadians, some of whom are members of Parliament, are asking governments to make real progress at the review conference in order to fight against the proliferation of light weapons, which is a true scourge on humanity. The Million Faces petition will be presented on June 26 to the Secretary General of the United Nations.
OXFAM and the Control Arms Campaign expect that during this conference, governments will incorporate a development perspective in arms control and will agree on new global principles aimed at regulating both the transfer of light weapons and that of munitions to areas where they risk feeding conflicts and preventing development.
We urge Canada to show leadership at the review conference by ensuring that global principles on the transfer of arms be the subject of discussions and that they be included in the final review conference document.
Finally, we ask Canada to support the negotiation of an international treaty on the arms trade to show proof of its commitment to peace, development and human security.
I'm going to elaborate a bit on the human rights impact of small arms.
The supply of weapons is an international problem with local consequences. Small arms are present in every country of the world. They are used in every single armed conflict, and exclusively in most. Unfortunately, the problems arising from an unregulated arms trade are not limited to times of war.
We've seen widespread abuses of human rights that are both directly and indirectly attributed to the proliferation of weapons. That's why Amnesty International joined with our NGO partners for the control arms campaign, which Lina described.
When used according to international law, arms can have a legitimate use, and we're not disputing that. But far too often international and regional embargos are violated, or export controls fail, and arms are misused.
Arms, including some those collected through DDR--that is, demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration--programs, flow through regions as conflicts subside in one area and flare up in another.
We found that the availability of arms itself helps to fuel violence. Many small arms can be used by anyone with very little training, including child combatants, and the lack of training contributes to misuse, including excessive use of force.
As weapons have developed in sophistication, their lethality has increased. A few well-armed individuals can now cause death, injury, and fear on a massive scale. Killing becomes easier; it can be done from a longer range, with greater detachment, and less effort. This is powerfully demonstrated in the armed violence that often persists after conflicts have officially ended, but in situations where security remains elusive.
Arms remain or get into the wrong hands—be they criminal elements, warlords, rebels, the ever-expanding private security firms, or corrupt officials within the state security forces. In this context, it is difficult to convince individuals to turn in the weapons, when they see them as their only form of security.
The culture of violence ends up feeding on itself. It becomes a truly vicious circle, as everyone seeks to take matters into his or her own hands. In short, arms in the wrong hands do not give human rights and development a chance. Instead of creating space for dialogue and tolerance, they help keep the setting both hostile and tense.
I'll run through a few patterns of human rights violations.
More than half a million civilians are estimated to die every year from the misuse of conventional weapons, and that's timed out at one person every minute. More are killed and injured by small arms than by heavy weapons.
While much of the discussion of small arms focuses on killings and injuries, the human rights impact is actually far broader. Weapons are used for torture, either literally as the means for torture, or by threatening the use of force through small arms.
Armed sexual violence is widespread in heavily armed environments. Weapons can be used to facilitate systematic rape, which Lina mentioned in the context of Darfur. It's a war crime that is used to hasten the expulsion of national groups, by degrading women and spreading terror, fear, and humiliation in the general population.
Those who find themselves in refugee camps or camps for internally displaced people may not see an end to fear and armed violence, because many camps have become increasingly militarized. They are sometimes used as hubs for arms trafficking, or they are used as a source of recruitment for rebel forces or in fact national forces.
Small arms are also used in thousands of disappearances over the world. For example, in the former Yugoslavia there are still over 20,000 people whose fate is unknown. They disappeared in a context where small arms was being used to facilitate that disappearance.
Political activists, journalists, trade unionists, and peaceful demonstrators are frequently attacked by governments or other armed forces seeking to deprive them of their freedom of expression and association. For example, elections have been disrupted by armed violence in Zimbabwe, Kashmir, and several other countries.
Arms in the wrong hands also impact on a number of social and economic rights. They prevent access to hospitals and productive land, thereby effecting livelihoods, education, and marketplaces.
In this context, we see short-term effects, such as malnutrition and higher rates of child mortality. In the long term, you see broader pattens of illiteracy, higher risks of disease outbreaks, and tremendous impact on poverty. Indeed, this extends to poor governance.
Lastly, armed violence, whether actual or threatened, prevents aid from reaching those who desperately need it.
Warring parties may purposely block humanitarian assistance, using food or medical supplies as a military tactic. Sometimes aid workers, their convoys, their offices, and their programs are specifically targeted. Right now, the example of what happens in Darfur fits this pattern considerably. Of course, I could go on with a very long list.
I'm going to pass it over to Ken to talk about some of the solutions we're proposing.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the committee for inviting us to speak here this afternoon.
Project Ploughshares is an ecumenical peace centre of the Canadian Council of Churches, based in Waterloo. We have advocated and worked to advance stricter controls on the international arms trade since our founding 30 years ago. We are a founding member of the control arms campaign.
Among our publications, Project Ploughshares produces an annual report on armed conflict, the latest edition of which will report that in 2005 the world endured 32 armed conflicts in 27 countries. From our conflict research, we know that irresponsible arms transfers are a proven catalyst for conflict. They increase the incidence of conflict, they prolong wars once they break out, and they increase the lethality and worsen the human and environmental costs of war. As noted by my colleagues today, irresponsible weapons trading also undermines development and feeds human rights violations worldwide.
Despite these dire impacts of the weapons trade, especially the trade in small arms and light weapons, there are no global agreements to control transfers of conventional weapons. Governments bear the primary responsibility for weapons trading, and it is governments that must agree to proper controls. The control arms campaign is calling for government action, including Canadian action, along two tracks.
First, at the UN review conference on small arms--referred to earlier--that begins in New York on June 26, governments must agree to a set of global principles to govern each state's authorization of small arms transfers. These principles should be based on states' existing responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law. These principles, when included in the UN program of action on small arms, would hold all governments to the same standards when they approve the transfer of small arms.
Second, the campaign is calling for governments to begin negotiations on a treaty on the transfer of all conventional weapons, preferably through a resolution of the United Nations First Committee later this year. As a treaty, the convention would be legally binding on all states. With the assistance of international legal experts, the control arms campaign has created a draft of such a treaty, which we're calling the “arms trade treaty”, based on the same global principles we are advocating for the UN review conference.
It is important to note here that we see these two tracks as separate but mutually reinforcing. The expectation is that the legally binding convention on the trade in all conventional weapons will involve establishing a new UN process, and an arms trade treaty may take years to negotiate. In the meantime, we want to see government action on transfers of small arms and light weapons within the framework of the existing process on small arms--hence the attention of the control arms campaign toward the introduction of global transfer principles into the UN program of action on small arms. Moreover, if such principles were adopted by the review conference that's beginning next week, they would strengthen the case for including the same principles in the negotiations of a convention for all weapons transfers.
The Canadian NGO members of the control arms campaign are calling on Canada to take a leadership role along both these tracks. We are urging Canada to press for global transfer principles at the UN review conference and to co-sponsor a UN First Committee resolution in October to begin the negotiation of an arms trade treaty.
We were very pleased to note that last week the standing committee approved a motion calling on the government to support both these initiatives.
Canada is well placed to take the leadership on arms transfer controls because it is party to several multilateral agreements and conventions that, taken together, commit Canada to the core principles of the proposed arms trade treaty. These commitments range from the European code of conduct on arms transfers, to which Canada has agreed in principle, to the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions, which legally obligates Canada to reports arms exports and imports each year. Canada would thus be calling on other states to make commitments it has already made and to adopt standards to which it has already agreed.
At the same time, to strengthen a call for stricter universal standards for the transfer of conventional weapons, Canada needs to make improvements to its own export controls. Indeed, although Canadian military export controls are stricter than many, they currently do not meet all the standards of its multilateral commitments. In particular, Canada needs to adopt arms export control criteria that recognize and are consistent with its responsibilities under international law, such as its obligation to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity.
Canada could also make significant improvements regarding the transparency of its arms exports, including a more detailed and a more timely official annual report on the export of military goods. It is of concern that a country with Canada's arms-control advocacy record last reported arms exports for 2002.
Perhaps most importantly, Canada could address the most gaping hole in its arms export controls by requiring export permits and documenting the sale of military goods to the United States. The U.S. is by far the largest military export market for Canada, but it currently does not appear in official records of the sales of Canadian arms.
Members of the standing committee, the arms control campaign has brought together hundreds of civil society organizations and a million individuals worldwide to call for action on the global blight of irresponsible arms transfers. We believe it is time for Canada to work with other governments to do the same.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I know the time is short.
I want to congratulate all three, Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Project Ploughshares, for the real leadership you provide around increasing public awareness.
I have some quick questions, as I know we're going to need to wrap up
With respect to the upcoming UN review conference, is there an NGO component, as is traditionally the case with most UN conferences like this one, and will your four organizations be represented?
Next, following the 2001 conference, there was the customary report from the Canadian government about its current position. I know I should really be asking the government this question, but I don't get to ask the government, so I'll ask you whether you've been consulted on that, which is also a fairly traditional approach.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Canada is a big manufacturer of small arms and light weapons. What I believe we are, though, is a big manufacturer of a lot of bullets. I'm just wondering if you could speak to that issue about whether the ammunition is fully captured in the discussion about treaties and controls and so on, and whether there are things that Canada should be taking more seriously in that regard.
Finally, I wonder whether there is a possibility of your supplying some further information to the committee. I'm very concerned about your brief comment concerning Canadian exports to the U.S. escaping all transparency. I would ask you to comment and enlighten us in any way you can on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I thank the members of the committee for having invited us to participate here today.
First of all, I would like to say, on behalf of the members of the board of directors of the Canadian Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, the CECI, that we strongly support the efforts of our organization to assist Haiti in its sustainable development. CECI is the most committed Canadian NGO currently in Haiti. From the perspective of the board of directors, this position includes certain risks, because it is very difficult to do sustainable development in Haiti, but we unconditionally support it and I wanted to say so today.
The second thing I want to mention—and I am speaking as an individual—is that in a past life, I was a CIDA vice-president. For a four-year period, from 1993 to 1997, I was vice-president for the Americas. I was therefore personally involved in the whole crisis that resulted in the landing of the American Marines, the return of Aristide, and the election and swearing in of Préval. These are all events that I experienced.
At that time, when I was responsible for the implementation of a Canadian program of cooperation with Haiti, the challenge was enormous. We were not altogether sure how to handle the dynamics. Even today, now that I have somewhat left those issues behind as president of the CECI board, I ask myself the same questions. It is extraordinarily difficult to carry out sustainable development projects in Haiti. It is possible to offer humanitarian aid. We are able to do that almost anywhere. But to do sustainable development, that will bring about the transformation of Haitian society and its values in order to create a society that will move towards sustainable development, is extremely difficult.
However, I do not think that Canada can choose not to act in Haiti. We have an aid program, and Haiti is the poorest country in our own hemisphere. I believe that Canada has particular obligations as far as Haiti is concerned, of which we cannot free ourselves. We are in a difficult situation where we are trying to find a way to help Haitians to develop sustainably. Based on my 30 years' experience at CIDA, I believe that the only way to do so is to be patient, because there are no shortcuts. We will have to work quietly with the people in order to try and empower them. In English people talk about empowerment, and I believe that word best expresses my thinking. Through a slow partnership process, we will be able to get them to see the capacity that they themselves have to take the situation in hand and very slowly establish a true democracy.
We currently have in Haiti the mechanisms of a democracy. However, we do not have a real democracy in the sense that the people do not have a broad enough base of knowledge and the capacity to get information. They do not feel empowered to vote, to make decisions, to do what we as a civil society are doing by meeting with you today and answering your questions. This does not exist in Haiti, and it is something that NGOs like CECI can contribute. This is why the board of directors unconditionally supports CECI's efforts in Haiti.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have just returned from Haiti, where I was providing training on negotiations to farmers in a particularly violent area. I have been going to Haiti since 1965. So it is a country that really speaks to me and that very often requires having the courage not to lose hope. I would like to talk about the political environment and stabilization, as well as some development challenges.
As regards the political environment, I would like to start by saying that there is currently a disagreement or some ambiguity about Canada's relations, or the perception Haitians have of Canada, and the perception some Canadians have of Haiti.
There are two aspects. Canada has always been well perceived in Haiti, but there are two aspects that are perhaps the nature of the perception, or of the decision-making, that have led some people to think that Canada played a role in what they call the coup d'État that forced Aristide out of power. So for some people, it was a coup d'État, and Canada does not normally act that way. Perceptions are very important in Haiti, and that is something we will have to manage.
I ran right into the second area of disagreement when I was in Haiti, when I was told that Canada was going to accuse Jacques Édouard Alexis of crimes against humanity. I think Canada should clarify those aspects. As a human rights activist, I find that we must avoid misusing the term “crimes against humanity”, as it is a very strong term. Yes, we must pursue people who have committed crimes against humanity, but we must be very careful when using terms like that. So that should probably be clarified, as there are people who are going to throw that back at us in the context of our relations with them.
As a Canadian NGO, we have always benefited from Canada's good image, but we can also suffer from ambiguous perceptions that Canada is encouraging with this message. Therefore, Canada must clarify its position, and that is perhaps a challenge for it.
The CECI did a two-year political dialogue project, in 1997 and 1998, with the leaders of the most important political parties in Haiti. That enabled us to become quite familiar with the political class in Haiti and the existing challenges. If it is possible to highlight something positive following the recent elections, it is the stated willingness to include different political parties. I think that is a positive aspect that we can support. Even if there were 30 presidential candidates — finding 31 potential presidential candidates in Haiti seems like quite a challenge to me — we saw several political parties merge for the election, which is already a step in the right direction. At least five or six political parties are now represented in cabinet. That is something that the Canadian government and Canadian cooperation should encourage.
The Parliament does not have well-established customs and a political operational culture. That is another challenge, and we should support the Haitians in their efforts to deal with it. Since we have supported the efforts for democratization and since Haiti is returning to constitutional normality, it is important for us to put in place the necessary means for that to succeed. In a democracy, that must mainly be done through the jurisdiction of the elected officials in the Haitian Parliament. And that is an invitation to do development work.
I would also like to talk about what I see as the greatest challenge in Haiti: stability. The previous group spoke with great expertise about security in Haiti, but I believe that the greatest barrier to security is poverty. That is why development programs must have objectives that include justice for the poorest people, who are manipulated from elections to coup d'État, who are always targeted by charismatic speakers. The time has come to take that action, as I do not know how long they will remain peaceful. Haiti has a culture of violence and the poorest people are still subjected to it. It is very important, for the long-term security of the country, to work on curtailing the causes of violence.
There are also armed gangs. The situation in Haiti is quite paradoxical. There are lots of weapons in circulation, and it became an “attractive” industry in about 1995. The industry is doing quite well. When your business is to provide security guards, it is to your advantage for there to be insecurity. It creates jobs. That must also be looked at. It is linked to the issue of job creation and the challenge of finding employment. The job is interesting and stable and comes with some power: security guards wear a uniform and carry a gun. So insecurity leads to job creation, but there is always insecurity. I would say that even if there are a lot of weapons in circulation, very few people have them. There is considerable insecurity in Haiti, but do not be led to believe that the majority of Haitians are the source of insecurity. It is a small group. We know where they are and what their interests are. That is the big paradox.
Under MINUSTAH, armies from around the world are there but have not yet started disarmament. What are we waiting for? It is very important. And we know where the gangs are. There are even streets that are points of entry in these neighbourhoods. I am not saying it is easy, but these people are prepared for war. What are they waiting for? What mandate have they been given? That is the big debate among the police forces, who are frustrated. The international police force intervenes, and the national police force is doing its best. It has gone through different stages and is now well supported by the international police force. Canada has done good work in that area.
What mandate has MINUSTAH received, and what are people waiting for to take action? The ambiguous role of MINUSTAH is one of the things that is discrediting the international community, including Canada. People are wondering what they are doing.
We saw that here, when a Canadian citizen was killed and someone from MINUSTAH was photographed at his side. That is a source of shame here, but imagine it there, in that country, when people see MINUSTAH's lack of authority every day. I think we must ask ourselves some questions, and we can come up with the answer. It is the duty of the international community to intervene to protect the people, and it is a good thing that the United Nations is doing that, but one might wonder if it has not just become a manpower placement industry for the poor countries that send soldiers. Regrettably, I must say that these are people who, in their own country, are not efficient and who have now been given the mandate to protect the Haitian people. Haitians must not be considered less than nothing. They deserve security as much as anyone else. We must send them competent people to do that job. In summary, MINUSTAH must have a clear mandate, and the personnel assigned to the task must be competent. So with political will, there is a way of stopping the armed gangs.
One of the issues that must be considered in the short term is integrating the Famille Lavalas into politics. We know that Aristide is abroad and that he still has substantial amounts of money to keep lots of people busy. Some members of the Famille Lavalas think they have come out ahead with the current government. Even former President Aristide believes that, even though another person, Mr. Bazin, was supposed to represent his party. There is ambiguity among Aristide's supporters: they wonder if this government is theirs or not. They will find out when the decision is made regarding Aristide's return.
That is not a decision that Haiti can make on its own. It is not that the Haitians are unable of making that decision alone, but the international community will undoubted get involved.
Canada must give considerable thought to integrating all Haitians into Haitian political life without provoking renewed chaos. In that regard, the whole issue of impunity must also be examined. It is very important to take steps that are justified, and law-based, and not to take sides. Impunity has reigned in Haiti for a long time. The justice system is very weak. Therefore, for the security of the country, it is important for people to know that the decisions that made are based on the law.
And then there is a former prime minister, Mr. Neptune, who has been rotting away in prison for more than two years, I believe, and who has not yet been tried. We must look into that. Is he paying for others? Are there valid reasons for keeping him in prison? To stabilize the country, justice must be done to the Famille Lavalas and to the people who stand accused.
Allow me to go back to the issue of development challenges. When we talk about development, we talk about social and economic development, which is important, but we forget about culture. When we talk about development, we think about change. Sometimes, some aspects of culture must also change. Mr. Racicot said that we had to stay in Haiti for the long term. I would say that we will have to remain there for the very long term. We are thinking about reinforcing government institutions and state institutions. That is important, but we must also work on structural attitude change. I will venture an interpretation of some cultural aspects in Haiti. Haiti is proud, rightly so, of having been the first black republic to be emancipated, and the first country in the Americas, after the United States, to have achieved independence. But the winning strategy has become mythical over time. What was, at one point, a good strategy has become a myth. It was based on what we call marronage, in other words and escape. If we want to build democracy in Haiti, we must first build on trust, on the trust of people who talk to each other, who tell each other things even if they disagree. What has become mythical, what we call marronage, is the art of evasion, and that is highly valued in Haiti.
Imagine the challenge! If we want sustainable development in Haiti, we must also deal with certain cultural structures, and that will be dealt with in the longer term. I said that one of the causes of instability and insecurity is poverty and that we therefore need to work on development. Decentralizing to focus on local development, which is one aspect of the plan introduced by the new prime minister, appears to have some advantages. Decentralization began in Haiti several years ago, but the necessary material resources were not allocated to it. It is very important for the local governments have the resources they need to take action and show the people in their communities that changes can be made.
I think that we must also have a long-term approach to education, both to train the trainers and for primary education. We have projects like that. For example, we help children to resolve their own conflicts in school; children act as mediators among each other. We are trying to develop a culture of dialogue, a culture of trust, a culture of openness, and a culture of negotiation.
I am going to make four recommendations.
Here is the CECI's first finding. Since the 1970s, we have been present in Haiti continuously, and we have seen four rounds of bilateral negotiations between Canada and Haiti. When the government is elected and legitimate, all of the attention is focused on the relationship with the government. When the country is in crisis, the attention is focused on civil society. We are taking the liberty of telling the Canadian government that it must recognize that a long-term relationship with Haiti must include both the government and civil society. We must stop thinking that the country is not in a crisis because there is an elected government. Haiti is a country in crisis, and it will continue to be that way for a long time. Electing a government will not change anything. That is our first finding, and I would like us to discuss it.
Secondly, real action must be taken at the local level. Despite the embargos and the crises, CECI has always been successful in Haiti, because it made a decision to act at the local level. It is very important to maintain action that supports local development. That is also where you find the training grounds for democracy. In the short term, it is not Parliament, but organizations that will enable people to develop self-esteem, a sense of cooperation, and, projects. These are organizations that are currently involved at the local level. That is a dimension we are proposing.
Thirdly, we must focus on women. Based on our experience, our involvement in support of women's organizations has been much more successful, even during times of crisis.
Finally, there must be an economic project; Haitians must have employment. Too much attention is given to politics and not enough to employment. Therefore, in the short term, let's support the strategies of the government, that wants to put in place a program for social appeasement, an employment program — we have already talked about security — and let's put in place measures to support and protect the Haitian economy.
We work in Artibonite, in the area where rice is grown. As long as the United States continues to dump subsidized American rice, appeasement and peace in Haiti will be impossible. Transposing the international economic model on Haiti will lead to failure, to an economic disaster. Special measures are required to protect Haiti's economy.
Thank you very much for being here.
My first question is to the three representatives from the CECI. You got some help from Luck Mervil, who raised money in Quebec, during the natural disaster. Can you provide the chair of the committee with a list of all the locations where you work in Haiti, in all areas?
You talked about negotiating with farmers. You also talked about training. Can you tell us what specific areas you are involved in in all regions of Haiti? I do not want to know that today, because it will take too much time, and I want to ask some questions.
My second question is for Ms. Bouchard. You talked about two aspects of the perception of Canada. You talked about Aristide. Was it a coup d'État or not? We know full well that Aristide filled his pockets well and that especially in the greater Montreal area, he is supporting people who are advocating his return to Haiti. You said that we should support the Famille Lavalas' return to politics. These people ran in the election, and only some members were elected. They are not part of the government, because they did not elect enough members. You said we should think about the return. Do you not think that if Aristide were to return to Haiti, to Port-au-Prince, it would instead represent a return to chaos?
Secondly, regarding Prime Minister Jacques Alexis, you said that we needed to be careful with the way we use human rights. Given the way that you stated that, I gathered that you disagreed with Canada's decision to not allow him to come to Canada, not as prime minister, but as a citizen to visit his family in Montreal. I got the impression that you disagreed with the government's decision. I do not know why he was not allowed to come. We made that request two years ago, and it was refused. Do you know something about that that we, as parliamentarians, do not know?
I will try to be brief. The CECI works mainly in the Artibonite, Gonaïves, and Saint-Marc regions. These regions, along with Port-au-Prince and the northeast near the Dominican Republic, are part of the hottest regions in Haiti, politically speaking. We also work in Port-au-Prince.
We work primarily on local agricultural development programs with groups of agricultural producers. We are also working on the local governance plan with local elected officials and various local governance structures. That is our range of activities. As part of this range of activities, we also sometimes provide humanitarian aid, if there are crises. We do major campaigns at that level. Each year, we mobilize considerable resources for Haiti, in other words, money and volunteers to work in Haiti. These volunteers provide assistance not only for local development but also to Haitian institutions. One of the strategies is to support civilian organizations and decentralized state institutions in regions that are extremely impoverished and very weak.
We are also involved in the areas of democracy, culture, peace, mediation, and conflict prevention. We work primarily with human rights advocacy organizations. Moreover, we also work within structures that provide training, like Université Quisqueya.
Our third area of activity is health care. We work in particular on AIDS prevention and developing the Ministry of Health.
Our action is quite diversified and broad-ranging, since we work with funding from various Canadian sources, the World Bank, funds from Europe and the government. Our NGO is very operational.
I would like to conclude by saying that we often do short-term reconstruction work as part of what we call the Employment Intensive Investment Program, or EIIP, to create jobs in the short term for the people. That has enabled us to do rural infrastructure work and work in the area of building social infrastructure.
The CECI's action is highly symbolic. The theme of our annual report this year was Haiti. Our patron and the main spokesperson for our work is a Haitian-Canadian, Luck Mervil. Haiti is extremely important for us. The work that we do there inspires what we do elsewhere, and what we do elsewhere inspires our work in Haiti.
For example, we have done work in community security in Central America, and we hope to be able to repeat that in Haiti. The military approach to security in Haiti has proven a failure. It did not work with MINUSTAH and others, but it will perhaps work with the people.
I would like to make a few quick comments, if I may.
I was in Brasilia with a Haitian delegation. We were meeting with the Brazilian heads of the MINUSTAH of the time. I will share two comments with you. First of all, the Haitian civilian organizations unanimously stated that they needed this intervention, but that the MINUSTAH did not intervene. We have therefore done important work in pressuring MINUSTAH to act. The Brazilians responded that they had a vision for the role of MINUSTAH according to which they had to further development and security at the same time. Unfortunately, the international community did not respect its financial commitments, particularly in the area of development. They therefore stated that their hands were tied. They said they were waiting and did not wish to act only in the area of security.
I can testify that the international community, having committed to reviewing its aid mechanisms in Washington, in order to deliver assistance rapidly to Haiti, was not successful on the ground. The major international banks, amongst others, were not successful in delivering assistance to Haiti quickly.
Canada was the most effective, in other words the most rapid, in delivering assistance.
That is one of the explanations. The other is the will to act differently, but that did not work. We did not want to push people, but Haitians were waiting for such action. That is the message we are here to send, and it is not the CECI's message; it is the message of civil society stating that this action needs to be taken.
It's going to be really tough, because I think we have an awful lot of unanswered questions that we'd like to pursue.
The first question is a straight factual one, and maybe anyone around the table could answer.
There was to be an international donors conference, where there was hopefully going to be a serious commitment and engagement by the international community to do what I think was identified by President Préval when he came to Canada recently.
For those of us who went to Haiti on a parliamentary mission, the same thing was identified as the critical pressing priority, which was major economic activity and movement for people to have a sense there was a possibility of actually getting up off their knees economically and making some genuine progress to improve people's lives. Can you tell us whether that has happened and with what results at this point?
Secondly, Madam Bouchard, you spoke about how perceptions matter. I have to say that one of the things I found extremely difficult to deal with when I was in Haiti was on two perceptions. One was what I would call the “elephant in a room syndrome”, where everybody knew there were huge problems that were unanswered, unattended to, and unresolved around political prisoners and other kinds of prisoners who are detained, incarcerated, face no charges, and people don't even know what they're doing there, and so on. Again, there was a sense that somehow this problem was going to resolve itself.
But you have the political leadership from Lavalas still imprisoned, in some cases, and Mr. Neptune himself, the former prime minister, instead of seeing some progress in dealing with this, which I would broadly characterize as a kind of truth-and-reconciliation process. Talk about a perception problem.
Canada is closing the door to the new prime minister coming into Canada. Why is that? Is it because of close ties to Lavalas? We haven't heard any allegations on why we've taken this position. So we become implicated in that.
What can Canada do and what does Canada need to do? What must Canada do to deal with these perception problems, if not international legal problems? They must be addressed if our hands are going to be clean and if we are going to be seen as an honest broker and a genuine partner with a new Haiti under new leadership, elected with an amazing and a very strong mandate.
I have a very quick question. We have heard here in this committee that in an environment where there is endemic corruption, endemic violence, things are getting much worse, not better.
I know, Madame Bouchard, you said you must have hope. Hope is one thing, but we have to be able to move things forward.
I would submit to you that the crux, one of the issues that absolutely has to be dealt with, as we've heard, is corruption. That is the fulcrum upon which we can do development: security.
What suggestions can you give us, with your vast experience, specifically, that Canada can adopt to be able to deal with the corruption issue and ensure that the aid moneys we're putting in there are going to have long-term traction and we will see improvements on the ground in terms of education, in terms of development, in terms of the economy, and in terms of the millennium development goals, which we've signed on to?
I must first tell you that Haiti is the most difficult country that we are involved in.
Second, one of the countries where we have been most successful is Nepal. We managed to work in the areas under Maoist control. How did we manage? Two reasons. First, our programs are based on the needs of the people, are something that the people want, and in which they are willing to take part. That is what good development is all about. A good approach to development is also possible in Haiti.
I explained the problem earlier: the aid structure destabilizes programs that have been successful at a local level, because they are constantly aligned with ever-changing governments in crisis. In Nepal, we managed to work with local communities while influencing national policies, government crises notwithstanding. But it requires a great deal of continuity in our actions.
So we need local participation and a strategy, along with what I would call policy feedback. How did we manage this at the local level? For example, this experience allowed us to influence the national irrigation credit policy. Our success also helped us to influence the Asian Development Bank in its approach to Nepal. I would say that the secret to our success in Nepal lies with the people, including the Maoists, who acknowledge that the project works well and provides results, and who want it to continue.
Were the people of Haiti allowed to tell the international community that a given local project is important and that they wanted it to continue? No. The dialogue is always with the governments whose agenda is very different and who shut out the local communities.
That is what I would like to impress upon you: the success of the CECI, throughout the world, can be attributed to its close link to the communities. Over the long term, that is what ensures development and builds civil societies and provides for reasoned development, and a return to government. These populations eventually have something to say to their government. They have gained a means to influence and to dialogue and are worthy of consideration. That was accomplished through literacy programs for women.
I will tell you a brief story. In Nepal, a woman told me that she really began to exist after she learned to write her name. That is what I am talking about. That is development, and not economic growth. We are talking about developing the people. I think this recipe can be used in Haiti. It is possible to work in Haiti if the international community allows it.