Good morning, everyone. This is meeting number 38 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on Tuesday, January 30, 2007.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome everyone back. I hope you all had a merry Christmas and enjoyed spending the holiday time with family and friends.
I want to say a special welcome back to Madame Lalonde, who has had a long—
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: I can assure you our prayers and our best wishes have been with you, Madame. Madame Lalonde has served on this committee for a long time and is a very valuable member of this committee, so we do welcome her back.
As your chair, I also want to extend a welcome to the new members on the foreign affairs and international development committee. It's good to have new members coming in. I can say with a degree of pride that this committee has always had a very good working relationship with all members of all parties. We've tried in the past many years to work within a consensus, and I think our work has shown that.
We're continuing our study on democratic development. This is the committee's major study on Canada's role in international support for democratic development around the world. Next week our committee will travel to Washington and New York in furtherance of our study. We hope to dovetail on our trip last fall to Oslo and other European destinations. Our committee endures a fairly gruelling schedule when we come back in, yet I'm certain we all place a high value on what we see, learn, and experience on these travels and as we gather here as a committee.
In our first hour today we will hear from the Canadian Bar Association. We have with us Robin Sully, director of international development; John Hoyles, chief executive officer; and William Goodridge, member of the international development committee. We welcome you this morning.
As you know, this is the first meeting back since our break. Hopefully your testimony this morning will help us in our study as we learn more about the importance of the rule of law and the best practices in promoting the rule of law. We welcome you this morning and we look forward to your presentation.
Mr. Goodridge, I understand you have a presentation and that afterwards all members of your group will be open to questions from the committee.
As most of you know, we're a national organization. We represent approximately 37,000 members. Our members are lawyers, judges, Quebec notaries, and legal academics across Canada. We have had considerable expertise in international development.
Since 1990, the Canadian Bar Association has delivered legal and justice reform and capacity-building projects in 29 countries, including across Asia, Africa, Central Europe, and the Caribbean. In all of these projects we bring our commitment of access to justice through the values of an independent legal profession, an impartial judiciary, the rule of law, and the dignity of the individual.
There are many reasons why Canada should have an interest in promoting democracy abroad: greater economic opportunities, strategic foreign policy interests, and even strengthened national security. But from our perspective, the most important reason for Canada to support democracy is to advance development—that is, reduce poverty and hunger, uphold basic human rights, improve health and safety, and protect the environment.
Of the many questions you've put forth, we are going to focus on three questions today: the appropriate nature of Canada's support for democratic development, lessons from experiences in supporting democratic development, and whether Canada can and should do more.
On the nature of Canada's support, our main message is that the best way to promote democracy abroad is to promote good governance. A critical component of that is the rule of law. Without rule of law, a democracy is simply not sustainable. The two concepts are inextricably linked, and a country cannot improve its fate over the long term without good governance.
So what is good governance? It has many characteristics. It has special values, rules, and, perhaps most importantly, institutions that make decisions and exercise power. Good governance is participatory, responsive to the citizens, transparent, accountable, fair, and efficient. There are many adjectives, but all are important to the concept.
The value of democracy is that it is the best form of government that embodies all of these characteristics, but on its own, democracy is not enough to create good governance. We can look at many examples around the world where they have had free and fair elections but lack good governance, and have not magically improved from an overall development point of view despite the free election.
A democracy can't be effective without rule of law. For example, how free or fair can an election be if electoral rules are not applied fairly, equally, and consistently; if the voting is not publicly available; or if electoral disputes are not resolved by independent courts and judges? So in its most basic form, the rule of law means that everyone is subject to the same law—government officials, legislators, judges, businesses, and private individuals. But it also means that the government is bound by the law. All government action must be authorized by that law. The rule of law means that the laws are clear, consistent, stable, and applied fairly and equally without cronyism, corruption, and patronage.
With this perspective in mind I'll move to the second question we'd like to address: lessons learned from experiences in supporting democratic development. In our written submission we have listed some of the lessons the Canadian Bar Association has learned in the field as an implementer of legal and judicial reform projects, so this morning I'll just discuss a few examples. The report has more details.
The first experience—Wherever we have worked we needed local engagement and ownership to be effective. Canada must support programs that are responsive to local needs and have local ownership. In our view, without these features the programs are likely to fail. Local stakeholders must be involved also in the planning, the implementation, and the monitoring of the programs. In our experience, the most successful approach is one where the local stakeholders are empowered to make choices. An important component of our assistance must therefore be directed at capacity building. Enabling citizens in their own country to voice their position is a far more effective and powerful force for change within that country than having outside foreign advocacy groups or a foreign government attempt the same.
A related point to the local ownership and local empowerment is the need for regional cooperation. I'll give you one example we've experienced through the Canadian Bar Association. In east Africa, the Canadian Bar Association has worked with the law societies of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya since 1998. Part of the work there was to build capacity of their law societies so that they could engage, among others things, in more effective advocacy for law reform.
The Canadian Bar Association's regional capacity development workshops drew together participants from east Africa and southern Africa partners. By bringing our partners together, they were able to share experiences, learning from each other as they learned from Canadians, and as we learned also from them. Through these workshops, the Canadian Bar Association has facilitated the development of relationships that have led to continued collaboration among these African law societies. The regional approach gives them a stronger voice than could be achieved individually.
In 2005 the law societies of east Africa and southern Africa joined together in this collaboration and supported the Law Society of Zimbabwe in making a complaint under the African Charter of Human and People's Rights. The complaint was against amendments to Zimbabwe's constitution that violated the right of equal protection of law and the right of freedom of movement. Specifically, in that case it was a law that allowed confiscation of passports by residents of Zimbabwe.
The second lesson the Canadian Bar Association has learned is that we cannot assume that one model will work best. There are many models of legal and justice systems, and different models may work in different places at different times. For example, in most countries, including Canada, the vast majority of people only ever use the formal justice system at the lower court level, the entry level. In fact, most people usually avoid courts completely and use other types of dispute resolution. Paradoxically, at present the majority of Canada's aid aimed at improving justice systems goes into the supreme courts, the law ministries, and other places that actually have little impact on the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged.
The third lesson the Canadian Bar Association has learned is that the reform cannot be successful without champions in the country. In some cases, the best approach is from the top—that is, through strong political commitment and working with the government and the related government institutions. In other cases, civil society organizations or bottom-up organizations is the better starting point. But in the long term, neither strategy can be successful without engaging the whole range of actors. Activities such as training judges, improving management systems, and supplying computers to courts won't advance justice unless they are accompanied also by bottom-up approaches. The bottom-up approach could include public education about rights, and legal aid to enforce those rights.
As a result, we, the Canadian Bar, recommend that Canada provide more support for NGOs and for civil society development partners overseas.
Let me give you a concrete example of why building the capacity of civil society is so important. In China, the criminal justice system remains rife with incidents of torture, arbitrary detention, and denial of due process. Criminal defence lawyers are on the front line of the defence of basic human rights, and the Canadian Bar Association is currently working with the All China Lawyers Association to mobilize and engage their members in criminal advocacy and reform.
The All China Lawyers Association has used the knowledge of the Canadian justice system and the knowledge of international legal standards, which has been gained through the CBA project, to call on the Chinese government for significant reforms in the criminal justice system, reforms that will directly and positively impact on human rights. It has made proposals to the Chinese government to reform criminal procedure and enhance protection of criminal suspects and defendants. The association is also drafting a death penalty defence guideline that will create a role for defence lawyers in reviewing death penalty cases in higher courts.
So lawyers today in China are a new class of advocates that are using the country's legal system and are fighting for social justice. They are making a small but meaningful change and having meaningful victories that were unimaginable only a few years ago.
A fourth lesson we've learned is that we must keep a long-term outlook. Establishing the rule of law in Canada didn't happen overnight, and we shouldn't expect it to happen any more quickly in other countries, especially countries that have faced conflict or social, political, and economic challenges. Building values takes longer than transferring technocratic skills. The impact of donor supported activities may not be evident for 10 years or more, so we must adjust both the way we plan and design projects and our own expectations. We need to set realistic goals, and we need to ensure that performance measurements reflect that understanding.
The last lesson is that we must develop better evaluative techniques. It is easy to evaluate the impact of a new bridge or a new dam in a developing country, but it is hard to evaluate the impact of legal and justice reform projects. The art and science of performance measurement must be improved. A good first step here would be more sharing of experiences among organizations funding projects and organizations implementing them.
So from some of our experiences we've learned that local ownership and engagement are important, that we need both top-down and bottom-up approaches, and that we need strategic long-term plans and better evaluation.
I turn to the third question we'd like to address, and that's whether Canada can and should do more. And where should it concentrate its efforts?
Canada has a lot to offer. We're a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of parliamentary government and strong democratic traditions. Our constitution, including the charter, has been upheld as a model for other countries. Our legal system, with our mix of common law and civil law, is well regarded. Our lawyers and judges are well respected internationally. Canada has experience in issues such as participatory civil and criminal justice reform, land registry and aboriginal title issues, and restorative justice. These are all examples of the expertise we can share with the world. Most importantly, Canadian organizations have demonstrated the ability to work successfully in a field that requires both political and cultural sensitivity, and it would be a shame to waste these assets and not use them to promote democracy and rule of law around the world.
In terms of how we can go about doing more, we believe that no one existing or new organization can or should do it all. Promoting democracy, building the rule of law, and supporting good governance requires doing a lot of different things in a lot of different areas.
A number of first-rate existing institutions excel in all of the areas we need to work on. Therefore, we recommend that the best approach is to increase the capacity of these existing Canadian organizations to take on a greater international role. This includes improving knowledge and expertise within the Canadian government to produce more effective programming.
Although Canada has the potential to do more in this area, Canadian institutions are significantly hampered by a lack of resources. While the need for resources and expertise continues to grow, funding for Canadian organizations has remained stagnant or fallen in recent years. This lack of resources makes it impossible to follow through with the best practices, which I discussed earlier, such as improving research and evaluation, sharing knowledge, and engaging strategically.
Thank you all for your time.
Our written submission is obviously more detailed, but we are here to answer any questions as best we can.
I find this really interesting. I wasn't aware of this effort that the Bar Association has, and I applaud you for it. I'm sorry we didn't have this presentation about two weeks ago, because some of us, Alexa McDonough and I and two others, just came back from Kenya. We were there for a week, and it was a very educational experience. But most of the focus there is on health care, governance, and education. I don't think we heard anything about the justice system. Now, after hearing your presentation, it was obviously an omission on our part not to spend some time on it. I do agree absolutely that one of the key parts of democracy is a justice system that works, and also a free press and an elected government.
We met with the World Bank representative there, Colin Bruce, and we had a long chat with him. But again, there was a lot of discussion about governance and a lot of discussion about corruption. There were cases where governments or donor countries have either withheld money for NGOs and for good work or delayed the money or found a way around the government. I find your presentation fascinating. I applaud what you're doing, and I hope that we can help you do it.
In the case of education, it was fascinating to me that Canada, Britain, and some other countries have created a bank account in 18,500 elementary schools into which we put money directly into the bank accounts of the schools. It is run by the trustees of the school, the parents of the students, not the school executive, not the government. We've actually found a way to go around everything and go directly to the schools to make sure they buy books and instruction materials. I don't know if you can follow that model or not, but it's an interesting model, a way to make sure you get good value for the money.
Mr. Wilfert asked you how you judge your accomplishments. I'd like to start at the beginning. Where do you start? If you're working in a country—and I'm not referring to Kenya—where there is a lot of corruption in the government, how do you start your process?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Just before I raise a couple questions I'd like to take the opportunity to welcome back Madame Lalonde, whose participation was very much missed over the last while. I'm sure all members share the same feeling.
Maybe I'm just suffering from such culture shock as a result of having spent the last two weeks in Kenya and Uganda that I'm having a really hard time relating to where you're coming from. I have to be very honest about that. I agree with you absolutely that the absence of infrastructure of many kinds in sub-Saharan Africa is just a mind-boggling obstacle to making real advances, whether it's with respect to millennium development goals or any number of other indices that you might want to adopt. But I guess that after the trip that some of us have just taken, when you're looking at the absolute total absence of infrastructure for safe drinking water and sanitation, where World Bank policies have resulted in the annihilation of such education and health programs that were in existence, it's a bit of a leap to try to really grasp the application and the relevance of what you're proposing, maybe because it just seems fairly abstract from what we've been seeing.
I have a couple of very specific questions. You've made references to there needing to be a higher priority on rule of law. It's absolutely clear that there need to be measures taken and progress towards elimination of corruption, no question. I guess the issue is how best to do that. You've indicated that advocacy groups from outside just aren't going to cut it. So what you're really talking about is capacity-building through strengthening the rule of law. It worries me a lot if we're talking here about either/or.
I'll ask a couple of quick questions, because I really want you to take the time to address them.
My first question is where you think Canada is now in terms of meeting its international obligations undertaken again and again and again as part of the millennium development goal process and meeting the minimum—not the maximum, but the minimum—that has long been seen as the international standard for 0.7% of national income to be devoted to official development assistance.
Secondly, you've spoken about how putting in place rule of law will empower the poor and be a very effective poverty reduction tool and ensure access of the poor to legal representation. But actually what we've seen in Canada over the last dozen or more years is a significant erosion of programs that would actually give people living in poverty the opportunity to assert their rights, serious erosion to the point where now we're looking pretty bad in the world among developed countries in that regard. So I'm wondering if you could comment. I don't know whether there's a legal counterpart to “Physician, heal thyself”, but I would think the bar society would want to play a role in addressing that.
Thirdly, sometimes it's important to look at your neighbours as well as just within. One of the things this committee has been very aware of, and particularly the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, is that in Colombia, for example, we have people being outright murdered for engaging in any kind of political activism, labour leaders assassinated by the thousands. I'm wondering if what you see is the relevance of what you're proposing, for example, to the situation in Colombia today and whether you've had any involvement in Central or South America around some of these obviously very serious legal requirements, or whether you would see the kind of thing you're proposing as having a relationship to that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the committee.
You were very kind in noting my career change that is coming up, but I wanted to briefly give people some understanding of my background. You noted that I've worked with the National Democratic Institute. I've done extensive work in Kosovo. I've also done work in the People's Republic of China, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, and Cambodia. As you noted, starting in March I'll be working with the UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, on a full-time basis, in Hanoi in Vietnam.
My work has been mainly in the areas of governance. When I talk about governance, I mean parliamentary and executive. But I've also done work with political parties, with election monitoring, and with civil society. I wanted to start by saying that I come here not as an academic but as a practitioner. I'm someone who has done this work for a number of years, and obviously, with my change in career I'm committed to it.
So my perspective is one of someone who, on the ground, has been doing this work with governments and with civil society. I wanted to give you that perspective, and hopefully your questions will reflect it.
I want to talk particularly about what's wrong with the current approach of the Canadian government.
One of the things I want to say from being in the field is that Canada is not a serious player in the area of democratization development. When you look at countries such as the United Kingdom with its Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Americans with NED, NDI, and IRI, the Germans with their Stiftungs, and others, most people would say that Canada has not even begun to present itself at an international level in the areas particularly of parliamentary and executive and political party development.
I say that, but I would also want to note that Canada does have—and I think I heard this from the last group as well—a lot of excellent individuals who are doing incredible work, wonderful work. I think that's something we need to appreciate. The other part of it is that there are a lot of organizations within Canada that are receiving money from CIDA and from the government and that are doing good work. I just think it's not being properly presented or sold, and that may be part of the issue as well. From hearing some of the testimony earlier and reading some of the testimony from your earlier hearings, I think those groups are doing good work, but I'm not sure it's being presented in a manner that is being respected.
Let me talk about what I see as a new approach and some of the benefits of a new approach. One is, if we truly invest in governance development, we would have access. As a part of a foreign policy, of foreign affairs, I don't think we can overestimate the importance of access. By providing funding for development in the areas of political party development, civil society development, parliamentary development, executive and judicial development, we would be creating programs that would directly impact the leaders within certain countries.
Of course, in return that creates access. That access would obviously bring leverage on issues of trade and human rights, if we have disputes on a bilateral or a multilateral basis. If for no other reason, consider democracy development as an ability to open doors when we are doing work in those countries, if we need their support in other areas.
I also want to say that it can be very cost-effective. I know from being in the field that for about $2.5 million a year per country, Canada can be not only a major, but the most significant player in a country. That's based on my experiences in post-conflict societies, Kosovo to be specific.So $2.5 million per year per country can give Canada a very good program, probably the best program in many countries. For $25 million a year, for example, Canada could be a serious player in ten countries around the world. If we pick those countries appropriately, based on our history, based on our diversity, I think we can have a lot of impact in those countries.
And of course the obvious one that others have noted in the past is freedom and security. Any benefit, any investment in this area can result in better democracy and more security.
When I talk about this, what is it that I, with my short time, wanted to note? There are two things.The structure that I would recommend is twofold. First, I think Canada needs a funding agency that specifically deals with democratization, that would provide grants and funding to organizations, much as the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States, the NED, does. I think that is a good way of doing it. You'd have an organization that is specifically focused on democratization development, and I think that could work.
Secondly, I'd like to see something like the Westminster Foundation in the UK. Whereas the Germans and the Americans have moved to partisan-based groups, I would recommend a multi-partisan group like the Westminster Foundation, one that would create a situation whereby all the parties could come together to do executive, judicial, and parliamentary development, and election monitoring and political party development. I think that would be good.
Also, I think, through the Canadian version of the NED, there could be smaller contractors or subcontractors as well who could be involved in the process. And I think that is also something that would create competition and would allow for smaller organizations to have an opportunity to provide their expertise as well.
In conclusion, I want to say that Canada needs a made-in-Canada approach to foreign policy. If we're going to do that, then we need democratization development. We need to be able to have the funding that gives us access to the higher levels within government, civil society, political parties, and the judiciary.
Finally, I would like to say that there are a lot of Canadians who are doing this work on a full-time basis. They're doing it for British organizations. They're doing it for American organizations. They're doing it for the UN. They're doing it for the Commonwealth. There is a vast array of Canadians who've built up a lot of experience in this area, and listening to them, talking to them, I know that they often say they wish they could do this for a Canadian organization, that they wish we could have a Canadian version of NDI or the Westminster Foundation.
In conclusion, I would ask you to consider the possibility of a Canadian version of the other organizations. I think it could have a great impact on the world and would allow Canadians to do the work they do so well, which they'd be proud to do for a Canadian organization.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I believe my remarks have been distributed in both official languages.
First, let me congratulate the committee on its timely study into a subject that is of the utmost importance today.
We are learning again from our experience in some parts of the world that democracy does not come out of the barrel of a gun, nor can we say that democracy has arrived when elections are held that do not produce a parliament and a government that enjoy the confidence of the nation.
You will note that I said “a parliament and a government”. They are two separate and distinct institutions, parliament being the very heart of democracy. Government is the executive, and the executive power is vested in a prime minister or a president with a cabinet chosen by him who serve at his pleasure. Tremendous power is invested in a prime minister or a president; however, in a democracy there is a constraint on his powers: he can only exercise his powers with the consent of parliament, which represents the people.
Parliament is an institution of accountability, not an institution of management. It does not run the government, but it has authority to approve government plans, oversee government actions, and hold government accountable for its performance. Parliaments need to be strong, because strong leaders can only be constrained by strong institutions.
I illustrate this relationship with my hourglass theory. We are all familiar with the standard triangle of an organizational structure. In sovereign nations the people at the bottom of the triangle are served by the public service. The public service in turn is accountable to and takes its direction from cabinet ministers, who serve at the pleasure of the prime minister. This is the standard organizational triangle, which I call the service triangle. There is one person at the top, and it gets wider and larger towards the bottom. But without democratic accountability or constraint that person is a dictator, and society serves the dictator.
To provide democratic accountability, parliaments have evolved as institutions with constitutional authority to hold the prime minister or president accountable for his or her actions. Therefore above the service triangle there is an inverted triangle, which I call the governance triangle. Government reports to parliament, which in turn is accountable through open and independent media to the people at the top.
Parliament, in a democracy, has four fundamental responsibilities: first, to approve on behalf of the people legislation proposed by the government; second, to approve on behalf of the people the budget proposed by the government for it to raise through taxation the revenues needed to run the country; third, to approve on behalf of the people the estimates, which are the line-by-line expenditures giving government the authority to spend specified amounts on specific programs; and fourth—and I think the most important, Mr. Chairman—government reports to and is accountable to parliament.
Given these four responsibilities of parliament, it is easy to see that parliament should be in the driver's seat. In fact, in a properly functioning democracy, ultimate political power is vested in the people. They delegate responsibility for oversight of government to parliament, but retain the right to discipline the members of parliament at election time.
In an open public forum, parliament approves legislation, budgets, and estimates requested by government and holds government accountable for its actions. Parliament also retains the right to withhold consent, to dismiss the government, or to impeach the president.
Government in turn uses the civil service to deliver services to the people and holds the bureaucracy accountable for its performance and delivery of services.
Mr. Chairman, that is the management model, the service triangle, and the accountability model—the governance triangle—of a democratic nation.
Ultimate political power is widely distributed to minimize the opportunity for improper abuse. However, in many countries that profess to be democratic, corruption and abuse of power are out of control. Why? It is because parliament fails in its obligation to be an independent overseer of government and instead becomes co-opted by government into accepting its agenda. The democratic accountability model of the governance triangle cannot work when parliament is shuffled off to the side or is subverted by government.
Too many parliamentarians in the world, if they cannot be won over by government through reasoned debate, can be bought. If they can't be bought, they can be intimidated. If they cannot be intimidated, they can be defeated at the next election through manipulation. If they cannot be defeated, they can be imprisoned, and for the obstinate few, Mr. Chairman, who steadfastly refuse to be co-opted into a corrupt regime, there is always assassination and elimination.
Strong leaders need to be constrained by strong institutions, and the strongest institution in any country should be its parliament, the voice of the people.
Only parliament has the constitutional authority to constrain leaders and governments, demand accountability from them, and dismiss them if they deem it appropriate to do so. No other organization in any country has that kind of power. But too often parliament is a parliament in name only, a puppet of the government, allowing its society to suffer.
It's a simple concept. When parliament fails in its responsibility to hold government accountable, government will fail in its responsibility to run the country. When government fails in its responsibilities, society fails. Therefore parliament is the bedrock. Make parliament work well and society will prosper.
But when parliament fails in its duty of oversight, government will lose its moral fibre, and corruption will set in. They will serve themselves by taxing the poor for their own benefit. They will steal the cash allocated to build schools and hospitals. They will demand bribes from their citizens. They will manipulate the courts and the regulatory agencies for their own benefit. They will suppress legitimate democratic dissent. They will intimidate the media. They will fix elections and thwart the democratic process. They will even change the constitution to keep themselves in power.
The lack of oversight by parliament allows corruption to flourish, and we all know that corruption kills economic prosperity. If you look at the Transparency International corruption perceptions index, you will quickly see an inverse relationship between corruption and prosperity. Economic development, respect for human rights, and the application of the rule of law are all responsibilities of government, but when Parliament fails to hold government accountable, government fails to serve its citizens. Therefore it is up to us as parliamentarians.
Parliamentary independence and democracy around the world are in dire need of some help, and I am pleased to tell you that help is on the way. In October 2002, 170 parliamentarians from around the world gathered in our own House of Commons to create the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, GOPAC. They adopted a constitution and elected a board and executive. I was elected the chair of the organization.
GOPAC has one mission: to make parliaments more effective as democratic institutions of oversight of government. The organization has three pillars to support this mission statement. First is peer support for parliamentarians who are travelling the difficult and sometimes dangerous road of standing up against corruption. Second is education for parliamentarians. We send our young people to university to become lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants, but who trains the parliamentarians in the skills of oversight of government? Third is leadership for results. Talk is not sufficient. It is time that we as parliamentarians demanded accountability from our governments and took a leadership role in fighting corruption to ensure honesty and integrity in governance.
Last September, in Arusha, Tanzania, GOPAC held its second global conference, with approximately 250 parliamentarians from around the world in attendance. To provide substance to the organization and demonstrate that we want to provide leadership for results, the conference adopted eight resolutions. Each resolution called for a global task force of parliamentarians to animate debate and promote its adoption around the world. These resolutions range from the institution of parliament, to promoting anti-corruption legislation and international financial transparency.
If we want development, prosperity, peace, respect for human rights, and a serious reduction in corruption around the world, it will only come from internal development of democratic principles within a nation. That is why GOPAC is so important. GOPAC seeks out the reform-minded parliamentarians who are committed to honesty and integrity, to build their skills and political capacity to hold the government accountable.
Development agencies may offer assistance but cannot do the job for them. I am pleased to say that the development community is now seeing democratic development as fundamental to building prosperity. The Government of Canada is also recognizing the same, and I thank them and the Canadian International Development Agency for their support to GOPAC.
I therefore ask that you recognize in your report to Parliament the importance of parliamentary independence in a democracy; that democracy can only be built from within a country, albeit with the help from outside; and that GOPAC is perhaps the best vehicle to reach parliamentarians around the world who are committed to a democratic agenda of ethics, oversight, and probity.
Thank you very much.
Very quickly, first of all to John Williams, of course I'm well aware of GOPAC and your contribution. Good job. I just want to say that. Carry on. We're very happy that you've taken on this task from this organization.
It's having an impact. In my talks with parliamentarians, both in east Africa and the rest of the world, they are recognizing the importance of the role of parliament as you have stated and their own responsibilities, which they have to do. Of course they are facing insurmountable odds at times, corruption and everything, but slowly and surely we'll climb the mountain. We have to take those steps, which your organization is doing. So I want to commend you, John, on that.
To Kevin, while I'll agree with you that some changes are required to some things, I will not agree with you at all in saying that Canada's policy and work by Canadians has not been done in the past. I have sat in this committee for almost seven years and I've seen a tremendous amount of work being done by Canadians, whether they are inside Canada or outside, on foreign policy. We came back, and contrary to that, because we don't have 0.07%—which Alexa will keep saying—I will tell you, we do have the respect of a lot of countries around the world and a lot of aid organizations for our expertise and the way we have been delivering it.
You mentioned something, and I agreed with you before, that there were 104 countries. CIDA is now focused on 25 countries to make sure that there is what you want to call this thing.
So I think we should pat ourselves on the back too. We should not constantly say that we haven't done it. We have done a great job, and it is recognized. But there's always room for improvement, so we'll carry on with this room for improvement and with the study of democratic development. There is room for improvement, so we'll move in that direction on this thing.
That said, I don't have much more to say.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Casey is right: many countries that call themselves democracies are that in name only.
Democracy means that a government is held accountable. That's the fundamental concept. Here in Canada corruption is under control because governments are held accountable. All through the developed world there are parliaments that hold governments accountable. That is democracy. It's not the fact that you have a building where people meet and vote to give their president or prime minister what he wants. It's the fact that they're held accountable publicly before the people through an independent media. When that doesn't work, the whole system falls apart.
Therefore, in my opinion, Mr. Chairman—and I agree with much of what Kevin has said—we should be supporting the democratic development of the institution. Strong leaders can be constrained only by strong institutions. We have to build the institution of parliament, which is the only institution that has the power to fire governments and so on.
Therefore, I think we should, as Canadians, be putting money into organizations such as GOPAC that identify the reform leaders in any parliament. No matter how much corruption there is, I believe there is somebody in every parliament that believes in honesty, integrity, ethics, and probity. We need to help them.
Some people are putting their lives on the line here. I think of the chair of the anti-corruption commission in Nigeria. When I talked to him, I asked whether he was a little apprehensive. He said that yes, he would be assassinated, but that it's better to die young for a good cause than to die old and have done nothing.
These people need support because they're trying to do something: build democratic accountability. That is why with GOPAC, which is reaching right into the parliaments and finding these people, bringing them together, and giving them tools, education, support, and so on, something can be done.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
There are three questions I'd like to ask, and there's never enough time. But I really want to thank Kevin Deveaux for making it clear that we're talking here not about either/or but about both/and.
I think it's quite frightening, actually, if we would envision an allocation from the existing pathetically, woefully inadequate allocation to meet our ODA obligations redirected to the projects you're here talking about. Yet it would be absolutely ridiculous for any of us who have had the privilege, as elected members, to travel and see on the ground what's happening in many countries not to recognize that corruption is a very serious problem. There's no question about it.
To try to get at this a little bit, I'd like to take the example of Kenya, where we have just visited. The single biggest devastation to that country today is the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Bill Casey, help me here. There is a parliament of I think 314 members—it's roughly the same as ours--in which there is not a single member of parliament who will have the words “HIV/AIDS” come off their lips, let alone advocate on behalf of a devastated population, most of whom are dying of HIV/AIDS or are living positively with HIV/AIDS or are seriously affected because someone in their family is. Certainly many in their community are. Yet not a word is uttered. It is never mentioned in parliament.
Meanwhile, you have funds allocated on a constituency-by-constituency-by-constituency basis for constituency-related programs and services that are absolutely 100% at the discretion of parliamentarians. We heard accounts—and I met with people on several occasions who gave testimony--of how those funds are 100% controlled by the elected member, with no accountability. And in many cases it is not even made known to the constituents. Where the constituents have tried to get at the money and ask for transparency and accountability, they've clearly been shut out. In one case, I was told by a very reliable source whose testimony was confirmed by others, where the constituency funds were made available in some cases, the elected member asked for a cut of the money as a condition of getting the money.
I guess my question, in that scenario, is this: Where do you get started on the relationship-building to move forward with democratic development without a single, solitary person in Parliament who's prepared to speak about transparency and accountability or to speak about the single greatest devastation that's happening to people's lives in Kenya?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. McDonough is right that it's very difficult. In Kenya, for example, I believe members of parliament are paid $165,000 U.S. a year. That's enough to get anybody along quite well in Kenya.
John Githongo, as you know, was the chair of the anti-corruption select committee. He had to flee for his life, and is now supported by IDRC here in Canada, and will be here later this year.
Where do you start? I believe that in every parliament there is always somebody who believes in honesty and integrity. They may have their head down, because it will get shot off if they put it up too high. I remember Musikari Kombo, who is going to be running for president in Kenya and is a member of GOPAC. He is trying to speak out for honesty and integrity. The previous president, Mr. Arap Moi, tried to discredit him by giving land to his son so that he could show that he was involved in corruption.
It's a very difficult situation. When there's one person wanting to stand up against a whole government, with all the powers that government has, it is a dangerous game, truly a dangerous game. That is why they need to know who their friends are, not only in the country, but around the world.
There's a big difference, as you know, between elected members and the support mechanisms that we have in a parliament. They both have to be improved. This is why GOPAC focuses on the elected members. There are many other programs, and perhaps there should be more, to support the technical support of parliamentarians so that we have the resources.
Musikari Kombo, when I first met him from Kenya, and he was a member of the opposition at the time, said his total resources were access to one of two telephones on the wall in the hall, and most of the time they don't work. That's it. You think about what we have so that we can hold the government accountable: we have access to information, the right to call witnesses, and so on and so forth, all in a public domain, reported when necessary. Contrast that with access to two telephones for the whole country--no stationery, no office, no staff, nothing.
Now we have a president who ran on an anti-corruption agenda, and it's falling back. But we cannot afford to not keep trying. We must keep trying.