Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all of you for making time in your first week back at the House to hear from us.
I have particular thanks for the chair and those of you around the table who have been particularly supportive of giving more attention to the role of small farmers in the business of reducing hunger and poverty.
We come before you today to communicate two messages. The first is that we want to make it clear that appropriate aid to agriculture is an effective—in fact many people say the most effective—investment in reducing hunger and poverty.
Canada made a promising start in providing aid for agriculture a few years ago, but more recently we fear that this is falling off the map. So we took the opportunity to see what Canadian efforts have already achieved, and that's the substance of what we want to say this morning.
The second message we want to send, which clearly is very germane to the question of good governance, is that local communities, civil society organizations, and farmer-based organizations and NGOs are especially important as the starting point for any aid for agriculture. They should not only be the final point; they need to be part of directing what kind of agricultural development takes place.
Those two messages are coming to you from the food security policy group, which is a network of Canadian NGOs working in international development that also includes some farm organizations in Canada.
We say food security is our business, but we're talking to you about agriculture, because we think that particularly in Africa attention to agriculture is essential to doing anything about food security.
Eight months ago, we started a project to give a voice to African civil society on the question of aid for agriculture—its importance and what kind of direction it should take. We therefore engaged consultants in each of three CIDA priority, sub-Saharan African countries: Ghana, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. I believe that you or your staff received the summary report of that research.
Tomorrow morning, we are going to host a half-day workshop at CIDA to discuss the particular findings of that report. But let me say that generally it was very positive about the start Canada has made in this area. The important thing is that this start shouldn't falter.
I mentioned that we wanted to give voice to civil society, so I'm about finished saying what I wanted to say.
I would like to introduce two visitors from Africa. First is Fidelis Wainaina, who won the 2006 African Green Revolution Yara Prize, is an agriculture teacher and the founder of Maseno Interchristian Child Self Help Group. This self-help group seeks to work with local communities to help their AIDS orphans and at-risk young people become strong, viable farmers. So most of her work is spent working with small farmers.
The second person we have with us is Mr. Malex Alebikiya, who is the executive secretary of the Association of Church Development Projects in northern Ghana. This is a network of 40 church-based NGOs that work in the area of agriculture, nutrition, health, and rural livelihoods. Malex is an agriculturalist and has worked in northern Ghana for the past 30 years. He was particularly important in our study, since he oversaw the work we did in Ghana.
I'm now going to invite first Malex and then Fidelis to make brief presentations to you, and then we look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much, chairman of the committee, distinguished members of Parliament, and distinguished members of this committee. On my own behalf, on behalf of the farmers in northern Ghana, on behalf of the more than four million people who cannot feed themselves, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to meet with you and to bring our voice. We appreciate it because by spending this time with us, it shows that you care, it shows that you understand us, and it shows also that you have an ear for what we are going to say. It's particularly encouraging for us, and that's the reason why I have been able to brave this journey and this winter to come at this time to make this presentation.
First of all, I think we are talking here about poverty. We are talking here about four million people who cannot feed themselves. I'm standing here on behalf of the farmers and I'm standing here on behalf of civil society organizations in the north and the south, to add our voice to the many voices that you've already heard, to encourage you, and to ask you to support the agricultural sector particularly and food security for the poor in particular.
When I talk about small-scale farmers, I'm talking about them particularly in the context of northern Ghana. I'm talking about farmers who cultivate three to four acres, farmers who live off these three to four acres. From that land, they are feeding their families, they are paying their school fees, they are taking care of their medical care. That is their livelihood.
The reason why I'm particularly encouraged to come and make this presentation is also that if you talk about development in northern Ghana—and it's not a question of flattery—clearly CIDA has made an impact in the development of northern Ghana. It has made an impact on the side of the poor. I'm talking here about water particularly and its implications in terms of health, Guinea worm eradication, and small-scale agriculture.
Consequently, for northern Ghana, when we got the information that CIDA was going to intervene in agriculture, we were very happy, because that takes the input of the Canadian government further than water and tackling the basic needs and the basic lives of the people.
I have been part of the CIDA farmer project steering committee. Unfortunately for us now, it's very worrying that agriculture and small-scale production for the poor is, as Stuart said, dropping off the agenda. It is widely recognized that we cannot achieve the millennium development goals without supporting small-scale farmers and pastoralists. This is recognized in the millennium development goals, it's recognized in the documentation of the Canadian government, and it's also recognized in the document by the African heads of state.
In the comprehensive African agriculture development program, it is clearly articulated that agriculture is going to lead to development, lead to growth and to food security, equitable distribution of wealth, poverty reduction, and rural development in Africa. So it is also an agenda. It is not just the farmers who are saying so, because the African governments are also putting small-scale production on their list of priorities.
We believe that focusing on agricultural development for small-scale production is not just a responsibility, it's the first step to building the basic foundations for economic growth. It's also the first step in meeting the poor at their point of need.
Clearly, to attain the millennium development goals of halving poverty, meeting food security, and meeting the poor at their point of need, to meet the production of small-scale farmers, we are basically asking that the Canadian government show the way, in the ways it has always done. We think there is an alternative agricultural development approach, a proper approach. Once the Canadian government has been able to do this in the area of water, to do this in other areas, it should be able to show the way as far as proper agricultural development is concerned.
We are basically asking the Canadian government to stand on the side of the poor, to stand by small-scale producers, and to demonstrate an alternative agricultural development approach. In sum, we are asking that the Canadian government put small-scale agricultural production, put food security, as the number one item on its agenda.
Let's think about 70% of the rural population in Africa being able to feed themselves, being able to pay their children's school fees from the income they earn, being able to improve their nutrition and improve their health, and being organized in a way that they can articulate their views to the government. As far as we are concerned, organizing the 70% small-scale producers and supporting them to produce will then have a number of impact points other than just in agriculture.
There are many ways in which we can do this. One of the things that we want to believe—and this has been said before—is that it can also be done when we have a long-term agricultural assistance strategy. I think we have said this before.
Talking about proper agricultural development, one of the things I want to believe is that the civil society organizations, the farmer organizations, the NGOs, have been in this field for more than thirty years. We are saying that in doing this we have to consult with and work with these civil society organizations and farmer organizations that have the experience and with the farmers who feel and know what they want to do. We are talking here about looking at sustainable agricultural production strategies that take care of a number of pillars: poverty, food security, and the environment.
Honourable members of Parliament, Mr. Chairman, this is our message. At this point, I would like to thank you again and open the floor to wait for any questions for clarification.
Thank you very much.
Honourable MPs and Mr. Chairman, I am very grateful to be here this morning to reiterate what my brother has said here.
I would like to shift our thinking more to what the African small-scale farmers have to bring to the table, if we allow them. In working with small-scale farmers for the last 10 years of my life, one thing I have realized is that they are great stockholders of the problem facing us today.
I have spent about two weeks in Canada, and I've been asking myself this. What is the leadership of the Canadian government struggling with at this moment?
I have talked to various people, farmers, and members of Parliament. I have had a little interaction with some members of Parliament. I gather that their biggest question is how we solve the problem of global warming. This is at the top of their agenda.
I may be mistaken, and I may be taking this too far, but if we are thinking about global warming and Africa is not thinking about global warming, then we are leaving out a big proportion of our stakeholders, the people who are able to bring a solution to this problem.
In my work in western Kenya, I have realized that small-scale farmers live among the wetlands, the soils that we would very much like to preserve. We would very much like to see that they do the right thing.
My appeal is that as we think about solving this problem, we realize that by investing in agriculture we are in a real sense investing in ourselves. We are investing in the lives of Canadians, because we are one world, and what the Africans do at the grassroots level does in fact affect what happens here in Canada.
I would like to illustrate this. I have been working with communities that would not think of planting trees, for example, because they are thinking about putting food on the table. But in trying to solve this problem of putting food on the table, we are able to engage with them to the extent that they are able to see why they should set aside their land to plant trees.
We have seen orphaned children and orphaned young people, people you would call the least of the least, engaged in such an important agenda as global warming, in a way that they may not know, by planting as many as a thousand trees, after overcoming what is really holding them back. And those are issues to do with food and putting food on the table.
I would like to say that as a result of this we have been able to mobilize our communities to plant as many as 50,000 trees in western Kenya in the last year.
I am not sure there is an option for us to leave out these people who have such a big contribution to make in solving that which is holding us and that which is facing us. In doing this, I would propose a few other things.
We need to begin to see ourselves as partners. We need to be not only increasing aid to African agriculture, but rather we need to change our thinking on where it should go. We are saying that it matters.
If it ends up in the grassroots, we would be able to solve problems that we have struggled with in the last many years, and that is leadership of the African people. We will be able to engage the majority of the farmers, and these are women. We know they form 80% of the farming population. We know their votes count. But if they are preoccupied with putting food on the table, then they are not thinking about good governance.
We will be able to change the way the people engage their own governments by not passing the money just through their governments but by making sure it goes to the people who deserve it, and who then can hold their governments accountable. In this we are also bringing up healthy children. We have seen this. I have worked with malnourished children and mothers, and we have seen that an increase in agricultural production and the way the mothers engage with available resources does indeed reduce malnutrition. So if we are talking about healthy nations, if we are talking about health—I know there are doctors here—we'd rather work prophylactically rather than curatively. So we are saying that in engaging with agriculture with a majority of the people, especially women, we will be able to solve the primary problems that face us.
Finally, I would just urge us to understand that when we bring our resources to Africa, that is not all that is needed to solve these problems. Therefore we know that an increase in Canadian aid to agriculture is an important step, but it is not all that is needed. We are calling for greater involvement of the African people. We are calling for a greater voice for the African people in determining their future, in determining and developing and bringing forth the biodiversity and the strength that Africa brings to the globe, which is so needed because we are one world. I feel that when Africa is happy, Canada is happy, because you will not be so cold.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Guests, thank you very much for coming here today.
Before I got into politics I worked with small farmers in Central America with the same sorts of problems. They were small farmers, and they were barely feeding themselves and they needed to go that next step. I helped with irrigation, varieties, and things like that.
There was a big success in Asia—I don't know if you mentioned it—with its green revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. It helped Southeast Asia become an economic powerhouse in a way because they could feed themselves.
Definitely Africa has a bigger challenge. Asia was mostly rice and dealing with varieties, and it was mostly wetland production. One thing about Africa, and you're well aware of it, is it has many different types of crops and livestock, and it's a vast continent, so each region has different needs.
There are many private foundations helping also, or wanting to help, in Africa. We have the Gates, the Rockefellers, the Soros, and the Buffetts.
My question would be, how are we going to be successful with this green revolution? The wish of the western world is to help, but to roll it out, because each region is different and has different needs—different types of irrigation, different types of crops, societies are different, some are more cattle farmers—how do we organize that aid? Do you see this going mostly toward the governments? Should we be going more to the UN? How should we organize our aid in these regions?
Those are my two questions. How do we have different types of approaches throughout Africa, and what kind of vehicle can we use with our aid if other private NGOs want to help?
Thank you, and thank you for coming. Karibu.
I grew up in Africa, in Kenya and in Tanzania, and I'm well aware of all the dynamics that take place with small-scale farming in Africa. I have been back to Africa many times in reference to small-scale farming and everything. I know the need for more aid. I know the need for this.
What is really, in our point of view, one of the most serious barriers is good governance in Africa. There is also the poor infrastructure, which has never been developed, and the poor irrigation. There's absolutely no system of irrigation. We rely on the rains, and if the rains fail, you have famine. You have deforestation that's taking place. In the area I grew up in, and this relates to the question of trees you talked of, there's an absolute deforestation taking place because of the increase of livestock, which is one of the wealths that the Africans see. There are strong structural problems before it can go.
Now Ghana has had success, because of good governance to some degree in Ghana as well. But ultimately it falls on them.
So before the Government of Canada increases its aid and everything, we have to address some of these main issues that go hand in hand. I've been to small-scale farming operations in Nairobi, outside of Kenya, in the Rift Valley, where Canada gives its aid, to see how small things do impact quite a bit. But I still think, ultimately, these good governance structural problems need to be resolved before there is any kind of green revolution in Africa.
Of course, we've put a lot of our emphasis and hope in the Doha Round, which would open up the agricultural market for Africa in the rich countries, which is also one of the strongest barriers for Africa.
So in terms of the NGOs that you are asking for and all these things, I agree with you one hundred per cent that the leadership has to come from Africa, from the NGOs, and I think Canada would need to work with the NGOs to work towards achieving these things here. So I think before we start saying yes, let's increase all aid, yes, let's do all these things, we need to also look at these factors to assist here to see that it goes. Am I right?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I want to welcome all three of our guests, especially our guests who have come from Africa to share their experiences. I have to say your timing is perfect from three points of view, given the thrust of your presentation.
One is that you're quite right that this country is finally seized with climate change as a really serious issue, and I think you have helped to elucidate some of the relevance of your case for small-scale rural farming being at the heart of the strategy, from the African perspective.
Secondly, you may or may not know that this committee has been very much seized for two years now with the issue of directing our international aid particularly to poverty reduction, with that being very much the priority.
Thirdly, a number of members of Parliament have been in Africa over the last couple of weeks. I have to say, as one such member, that it was thrilling to visit both Kenya and Uganda to see the clearly overwhelming challenges that are faced, but also to see the very strong, impressive leadership coming from civil society, coming from local village councils and provincial governments and so on, around the very issues you're talking about.
I really also want, and I think we would be remiss not to do so, to recognize the leadership that has come from the food security network. Mr. Clark is a voice that is heard among others around the very fundamental issues you're talking about, again and again before this committee and directed to all members of Parliament of all political parties.
You have spoken particularly about understanding the connection between sustainable rural livelihoods and healthy ecosystems, but what we also saw, particularly when visiting, I would say, some of the projects in Kenya, was the very close connection between healthy rural agriculture and healthy bodies, in terms of adequate nutrition and of recognizing the double challenge faced by people struggling with HIV/AIDS. We were blown away by the numbers of people who are living positively with HIV/AIDS because nutrition was being addressed in a very serious way.
Also, I was extremely impressed in a number of cases in which young people were being brought into agricultural training opportunities that were turning their lives around. Some of the projects I saw in Uganda, as well as in Kenya, were directed at young people who in some cases were HIV/AIDS orphans and who were getting really good agricultural training for a lifetime; in some cases, in northern Uganda—unbelievably—children whose lives were being turned around, because they had been abducted as child soldiers and forced in some cases into child sex slavery and were now being reintegrated and rehabilitated, with agriculture as the solid base to help them turn their own lives around and to also rebuild their communities.
So I want to commend you on the presentation you've made, but also on the display of leadership. It won't surprise you to know that all members of Parliament don't agree on all matters, but I think it is not so much for you to say as it is for us to reaffirm our commitment to meet our millennium development goal obligations and our ODA obligations to climb out of the basement, where we are now, at 0.32% ODA, to at least meet the minimum of 0.7%.
The committee has also just come back from Europe, where we met with five European countries, all of whom are way ahead of where Canada is in this. I do not think you should take either/or for an answer; it has to be both/and. It has to be our meeting of those basic obligations for ODA, but also working at respect and knowledge, working in partnership with local leadership.
I have a very specific question that I want to ask.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Alexa McDonough: It is a very specific question about marketing. You can see I'm very excited about what we learned, and I want to make this connection.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for inviting me to be here today.
I want to talk a little bit about democratic development and how it has evolved in Canada, how our thinking about the promotion of democratic development has evolved. I want to talk a little bit about what it is, why we promote it, and how we do it. And I want to talk a little bit about some of my own experiences as well in this area.
On the question of what democratic development is and where it came from, historically we've actually been very late to the idea of promoting democratic development in developing countries. Many countries in the west and in the Eastern bloc actually supported bad governance for many years in support of Cold War objectives and regimes that were acting in anything but the cause of good governance. I'm thinking of countries like China, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Liberia, and Indonesia. It's only in the last 25 or 30 years that we've actually begun to think more seriously about how we can promote good governance.
The first foray into the idea of good governance was in the area of human rights. It was probably the Carter administration in the United States that started to talk more openly and more directly about the need to promote human rights through aid programs and informed policy, followed by the Netherlands, and then gradually by other countries, including Canada. So human rights was the beginning of this discussion.
Then in the late 1970s and into the 1980s we talked about economic governance, because we were beginning to see that many countries, especially in Africa, but not exclusively, were running double- and triple-digit inflation. Currencies were worthless, and the economies were in a state of free fall. Structural adjustment became the watchword of the 1980s.
During the 1970s there were approximately 10 structural adjustment programs a year. In 1980 there were 28, and by 1985 there were 129 more. Structural adjustment was a pretty tough cocktail of economic remedies that developing country governments were asked to swallow. Many did. The results, in some cases, were successful. In many cases they were not.
We moved to the idea of more democratic governance. We began to think about that more clearly and more forthrightly during the 1980s. During the 1980s, many of the military governments in Latin America began to fall, partly because of the economic conditions they found themselves in, and you had a return to democratic elections in many Latin American countries. Then, with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, we could talk much more openly about democracy and how to promote it.
The promotion of good governance, as I said in the paper I submitted to you, is essentially about building effective institutions and rules imbued with predictability, accountability, transparency, and the rule of law. It's about relations between institutions and processes, governmental and otherwise. A UNDP report says it's also about protecting human rights, promoting wider participation in the institutions and rules that affect people's lives, and achieving more equitable economic and social outcomes. Governance for human development must be democratic in substance and in form.
Why do we want to promote democratic governance? Democratic or good governance, depending on how you define it or term it, is a key to poverty alleviation and long-term sustainable development. It's important to conflict prevention and conflict resolution. And it's very important to the better management of human, natural, and environmental resources.
In my paper I talk about some of the difficulties we've had in promoting this. I said that some critics of Canada's approach to governance lament the absence of coherent policies tying all aspects of the agenda together. A patchy project-by-project approach, with no obvious central policy and no central management, they say, is unlikely to yield coherent results. This may be true, but given the overwhelming size of the governance agenda and the limited track record in its promotion by any donor, healthy doses of humility and caution are warranted, along with a good set of brakes in the expectations department.
Given the complexity of the challenge, a case can be made for selective interventions in concert with other donors, aimed at learning what works and what does not. The apparent absence in Canada, however, of a place where the lessons can be rolled up, spelled out, shared, and remembered works against the learning that is so badly needed in this field.
I'd like to talk about three examples of how governance is applied or thought about from my own experience. The first is the Canada Corps that came onto the scene a couple of years ago with a lot of flourish. Through Canada Corps, we were to promote good governance and democracy, primarily by sending young people overseas on short-term assignments.
At the time, I was a lone voice on this. It was kind of odd that nobody said it, but we actually had a Canada Corps called CUSO, the World University Service of Canada, Canada World Youth, and Canadian Crossroads International. We had 12 or 13 volunteer-sending organizations in Canada, and over the last 20 years, all of them have been starved for funds.
When I left CUSO in 1993 as the outgoing executive director, we had a budget of $26 million. Today, in 2007 dollars, CUSO has a budget of $13 million. All of the volunteer-sending organizations have had serious cutbacks. I don't think we necessarily needed a new organization. What we needed was a rejuvenation and rededication of what was already there, unless of course you see sending young people overseas as the cutting edge, in terms of the promotion of good governance and democratic development. The problem with that idea is that those in developing countries who want good governance know what it is. Those who don't are not likely to be persuaded by young Canadians on three-month assignments.
The talk about Canada Corps has gradually subsided, and it's been folded into something called the Office for Democratic Governance at CIDA. It's too new to say what this actually is—it just started—but at least the title is more appropriate to the challenges.
Secondly, I wanted to mention the Pakistan environment program I was involved in for five years. CIDA ran this project for more than 10 years, and by 2002-03 it had become the leader among donors on environmental issues in Pakistan. Canada had promoted the development of Pakistan's national environment policy and brought together government, the private sector, and Pakistani civil society to talk about these issues and to promote change.
This area was and remains extremely important in Pakistan, but in the early part of this decade, governance rose to the fore in CIDA's agenda. CIDA decided it needed to have projects in governance. Today CIDA is supporting a project on the devolution of governance: decentralization in two districts of Punjab and Pakistan. That may be a very good project—I don't know anything about it—but it was done at the expense of everything we knew about the environment.
Our work on environment was about the governance of a very badly underresourced sector in Pakistan. We were the leaders. We were not a large donor in Pakistan, but we were the largest in that area. We had a voice, leverage, and the ear of government. Now we can't actually remember what it was we did in Pakistan on the environment.
The third area is diamonds. For the last seven or eight years I've been working on the issue of conflict or blood diamonds, which are the diamonds stolen by rebel armies in Africa and used to pay for weapons to prosecute wars. Over the last 15 years, the diamond-fuelled wars in Angola, the Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leon have directly or indirectly taken the lives of four million people. That's not an exaggeration; it's a fact that's backed up by a lot of study--four million people.
When the issue of conflict diamonds came to the fore in 1999 and 2000, the Government of Canada became very much involved and took this very seriously. We had what I would call a joined-up approach.
The Department of Foreign Affairs led on the negotiations for the Kimberley process, which is a certification scheme to control the movement of rough diamonds. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was involved because they are in charge of diamonds in the Northwest Territories. Natural Resources Canada was involved.
We received support from IDRC, very generous support, and from CIDA in our work both on campaigning and in the creation of the architecture for the Kimberley process certification scheme.
About two years ago we began to talk about the development issues behind all of this. The Kimberley process is up and running and working fairly well. It's not perfect, but it's working fairly well. But the Kimberley process is a regulatory process. It's not about development.
In Africa there are more than a million, probably 1.3 million, artisanal diamond diggers. These are people who dig with a shovel and the sweat of their brows to dig diamonds out of the earth. They earn on average about a dollar a day. It puts them into the category of absolute poverty. These people were the source of the conflict diamonds. They are vulnerable to economic predators. They are still vulnerable to military predators.
What's needed on top of the Kimberley process in addition, now that we have the regulation in hand, is a development process. My organization, Partnership Africa Canada, and some others, along with the diamond industry and the governments of the countries affected, have created something called the diamond development initiative to work on the development challenges here.
The minute development came into the equation, our funding from CIDA ceased. We had received very generous funding, but from one year to the next, it simply dropped off the agenda and we had nothing.
It is very odd that we get support from the governments of Britain and Ireland, from a number of other sources, and from the industry itself, which is very worried about this issue, and not from our own development agency.
This is a governance issue as well, the governance of a very important natural resource for Africa. Seventy per cent of the world's gem diamonds are produced in Africa. Diamonds have never been regulated in any way at all in the past. Here is a challenge and an opportunity.
We need to be a lot clearer about what we mean by democratic development and good governance. We need to understand why we're doing it, and we need to learn and apply what we've learned.
I finish my paper, which I submitted to you, in this way.
I agree, however, with the admonitions found in all thoughtful critiques on governance programming: good governance does not drop from the sky; it is not a gift; it cannot be imposed. Good governance is unlikely to flow from a collection of disparate, time-bound projects offered by a dozen ill-coordinated donors. It cannot be transferred holus-bolus like pizza from a delivery truck. It must be earned and learned, not just by those for whom it is intended but by those who would help them. Effective application of the full governance agenda as we now understand it is still pretty much undocumented, untested, and uncoordinated. And it is far too young for dogmatism and certainty. It is old enough, however, that mistakes should not be repeated, and it is important enough that lessons, both positive and negative, should be documented, learned, remembered, and applied. Aid agencies have a problem with this sequence, in almost everything they do. But for democratic governments that want to promote their values elsewhere, doing this well is a test of their own understanding of and commitment to principles of democratic good governance.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I do understand the need by the committee to discuss the mission in Afghanistan. It is important to recognize that Canada does not work in a vacuum; Canada works with other nations to be more effective, to be more of a voice, and to produce results.
Canada signed the compact in January 2006 with the democratically elected Government of Afghanistan. The United Nations and 60 other nations around the world are a part of this compact. We have an integrated approach with this compact, to help Afghanistan do that.
In November I was in New Delhi for the regional conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We are not talking about the military one; we are talking about the reconstruction. Every other country surrounding Afghanistan was there, and all these countries committed with Canada and the compact to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
We all understand that reconstruction is a priority—no question about it. If you don't do reconstruction, and the Afghanis don't recognize there is value to these things, they will of course feel they have been left out. We recognize that very crucial part.
We also recognize that security has to be provided. You saw the report that came out the day before yesterday. Over 1,000 Afghans died—the majority killed by the Taliban. Insurgency is there. It is very important that we do not have just one view, that we can only do this in Afghanistan, the reconstruction only, without taking other factors—number one is also the security aspect. That is why NATO is there.
But, thirdly, most importantly, we have to also promote the democracy in this country. We must support the government of Karzai. If there is no government of Karzai, then you have a failed state.
So is the Canadian approach to Afghanistan on three levels? It's not. It is a balanced approach, working with the international community to get the results we all want. As far as the Government of Canada is concerned--and this is the first anniversary of the compact--we feel we are providing a complete and balanced approach to Afghanistan. That is why we can't support this motion unless the word “balanced” is removed.
This is to my new colleague here.
Yes, I know you are very enthusiastically working for this, but you'll get your chance.
Mr. Chair, to Alexa, to this thing, we don't have a problem with listening to people coming and telling us and talking about this mission. It is a Canadian's right to come and talk to us about this mission. So to have a debate, as you are saying, is not a problem. The debate has been going on in the defence committee as well. What Madame Lalonde also said about listening to the people, and the argument she has made in reference to supporting the government of Karzai, and all the other things that would take place should we not support this mission.... It's a UN mission, and as we stated, it's through a compact that we have gone down there. It is the largest Canadian foreign assistance program now in the world, with close to a billion dollars committed for the next 10 years. This is an important aspect. Forty-five of our soldiers have died. Our soldiers are out there. So it is an important point, and there is no problem in having Canadians from all aspects of...coming and telling us.
The problem we have with this is when you say “rebalancing”. That is presumptuous on your part, before hearing from any.... It's in the motion. It says “balanced”, that “can be balanced”. We're saying that it is this thing. A lot of debate has gone into this up to now. A lot of people have come here and talked. In working with our international partners, who also have these debates in their own countries...nobody is talking about the fact that at this given stage this is not a balanced approach. It is a balanced approach.
The motions that are coming forward, both from Mr. Dosanjh and from Madame Lalonde, are talking about doing a balancing, and we are not talking about a.... Further on down the road, when we listen to the witnesses--and we have all kinds of witnesses--then we can decide. To come beforehand and say, “We want to balance something”, when Canada is committed, working already with its international partners.... That is saying this is a balanced approach right now. But there's nothing wrong in hearing from anyone.
So we have a serious problem. Let me be very clear from the government's point of view. We are not opposed to listening to Canadians. Canadians have a vested interest, so they can come and talk. This whole idea that we want to balance it is sending a wrong impression by saying things are wrong right now. Let's hear from the witnesses. We will bring witnesses; you will bring witnesses also, who will say that it is a balanced approach.
We also point out that this is part of the compact and what the United Nations and 60 other countries have agreed to do. That is a very powerful statement, when the United Nations and 60 other countries in this compact are working with us to ensure that Afghanistan does not go back. To say that is why we have a problem...because this motion calls for an assumption that things are wrong right now, which is why we are having difficulty. We want to make it absolutely clear that we are not opposed to listening to Canadians.