With pleasure. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. And thanks to all of you committee members for inviting us to appear before you today.
The mission in Afghanistan is one that has a high profile in Canada, that is dear to the hearts of Canadians because so many resources and so many principles are on the line. But it's also one in which the interests and the capabilities of some of the world's principal international organizations are heavily engaged.
It's a real pleasure to be able to appear before you with my colleague James Appathurai—another Canadian, representing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—and in my capacity representing the United Nations, which has a long and proud history in Afghanistan. It dates back to the late 1940s, when some of the very first United Nations programs, particularly for specialized agencies, were rolled out in Afghanistan.
I would argue—and I'll say more about the UN role in Afghanistan later—that the UN's role in the world and its effectiveness in the world as an agent of change, as a network supporting the project of nation building in Afghanistan, is very much being tested--being put to the test, and in many cases, I will argue on behalf of my United Nations colleagues, passing the test.
But obviously the United Nations is only as good as its constituent members. The same goes for NATO. Canada, with its long history of heavy involvement both in framing United Nations mandates and in helping to achieve results for the United Nations, has a very key role to play. The sorts of investments that were announced yesterday by the government in reconstruction, in development, and in capacity building are exactly the sorts of commitments that the United Nations needs from its key member states in order to deliver for Afghans and to deliver for the international community in Afghanistan today.
So I'd like to start by congratulating Canada, and here I mean not just the Canadian government but Canadian society, for its substantial and growing commitment to one of the great international causes of our time: the development and rebuilding of Afghanistan after a quarter-century of conflict.
I speak of Canada as a society because you are there in all of your guises. Canada's government agencies responsible for international policy are there obviously in a big way, but so are Canadian NGOs, so are Canadian experts, so are Canadian private sector companies, and so are Canadian families. So is Canadian civil society, which has strong connections, obviously, to Afghanistan, rebuilding shattered lives, helping to rebuild communities, helping to relaunch a process of development, peace building, and institutional renewal in Afghanistan today.
It's a very proud occasion for me as a Canadian to be able to report to all of you that this role within the United Nations family, for Canada and for Canadians, remains extremely prominent and extremely well appreciated at all levels in Afghanistan as a society.
This was never simply a mission to disrupt terrorist bases. It has become a key proving ground for the challenge of nation building, a test of the will of the international community both to support poverty reduction and to back the emergence of new institutions in a country that quite frankly, after 25 years of acute conflict, richly deserved both.
It's important to start out by observing that our achievements in Afghanistan to date are already substantial. In 2001, access to health care was negligible--in some parts of the country non-existent. Today, over 85% of the population has access to a basic package of health care services.
The economy of Afghanistan amounted in 2002 to approximately $3.4 billion U.S. That's the estimate from international financial institutions of the scale of the legitimate economy, the non-poppy economy, in 2002. In 2006 it was estimated at $7.9 billion U.S. In other words, the legitimate economy has more than doubled in size in only five years. That growth has actually outpaced the growth of the illegal economy, which is nevertheless very worrying and a question to which we should return during this discussion.
Per capita income in Afghanistan was only $150 U.S. per year in 2002. That's the best estimate. Today it stands well above $300 U.S. Trade with neighbouring Pakistan and Iran has burgeoned.
Let's take just the case of Pakistan. Under the Taliban, in the final year of record keeping, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was $25 million. That's a paltry sum for countries that have a border of over 2,000 kilometres. Today the total trade between the two countries, for 2006, stands at over $1.5 billion, and probably in 2007 it will reach well over $2 billion, or even $2.5 billion.
The Afghan currency has been reformed and remains stable. Inflation is low. The Afghan budget is balanced, and revenues have grown by over 30% in each of the past three years. Thousands of schools have been built or reopened, placing 5.4 million children in education, which is a historic high for the country and, above all, a historic and internationally important record for the number of girls in school in Afghanistan today.
Afghanistan has experienced the most ambitious road building period of its history. New transmission lines are now under construction. They will bring power to Kabul in the necessary quantities by 2008 and to the main cities of southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar, by 2009.
The poverty that remains such an abject barrier to advancement for so many Afghans often blinds us to the scale of this progress. It is, to our mind, one of the minor tragedies of the Afghan story to date that this forward movement, these substantial achievements, improvements to the lives of Afghans, are under-recognized in the outside world and under-recognized, quite frankly, in the constituencies that deserve to know that their intervention has made a difference most of all.
That includes, obviously, Canadian public opinion, where, quite frankly, the story has not been told. The reports of your committee, of the government, helped to tell the story. Media, quite frankly, have not helped us as much as we would like. This is a continuing challenge that we could perhaps discuss in the course of today's session.
It's not everyone who chooses to celebrate the fact that they now have $30 per month rather than $10 per month to live on. But this is, for Afghans, a fact of life. They are poor, but they have two or three times the resources, in many cases, that they had four or five years ago, and for them it is a cause for celebration. This advancement, this improvement, after 25 years of deterioration is a sign that things are changing.
No one is satisfied. No one in Afghanistan will tell you they have received enough. No one will tell you that all of the assistance or even most of the assistance has been effective. We're still learning. But we have had an impact and we do have results to show.
For Afghan men and women these numbers count. They have created and maintained a level of hope within the Afghan population, and this is one of the essential ingredients in our involvement. They are proof that peace and a better life are truly possible for Afghans, and it is our hope that we will be able to continue improving their lives, in cooperation with the international community.
Nonetheless, there are still groups intent on proving that the end to this conflict is not yet in sight. In 2001, the Taliban regime was not dismantled; it was simply pushed back beyond Afghanistan's borders and somewhat forgotten until 2002-03.
In the intervening five years, the Taliban have recovered and to some extent reconstituted themselves. They have found new funding sources and reconnected with old allies.
Last year in southern Afghanistan, with a transition under way from U.S. to NATO leadership, the Taliban set out to challenge government authority in Kandahar. It set out to show that Afghanistan's clocks were once again turning back to 1999--or even to 1994, the first year the Taliban phenomenon really became known in Afghanistan--to a time when girls were barred from school; when summary justice was meted out across Afghanistan with blatant disregard for due process and human rights; when, quite frankly, terrorists took charge of this very important country and extended their influence over the region of South Asia and the whole world.
In September 2006, the response of the international community to this threat was Operation Medusa, a conventional military response to a stubborn enemy of peace. It was the first brigade-level combat in NATO history. It was a battle waged and won primarily by Canadians, with the strong support of allies and the sanction of the United Nations Security Council.
Medusa changed the insurgent landscape in southern Afghanistan. It restored hope. It rallied the tribes. It devastated Taliban morale. In the end, it brought roads, jobs, and rural development projects to Panjwai and Zherai districts, which at this time last year were starting to become sanctuaries for the Taliban and places from which they were able to operate in other parts of the country. In short, Medusa allowed the Government of Afghanistan to regain the advantage in its deadly contest of wills with the resurgent Taliban.
In the month of December in Kandahar province, President Karzai spent a total of five days, the longest period since he took office. His rural development minister visited battle-affected communities. In the intervening weeks, the Afghan national director of security made inroads against suicide bombing facilitation networks in Kandahar, Khowst, and Kabul. Also in December, Mullah Akhtar Usmani, the number three leader of the Taliban, was killed in a NATO-led operation.
So Medusa has been a pivotal moment in the recent history of security in Afghanistan and in the south. Those who stood behind Afghanistan in those operations, behind Afghan National Army soldiers and behind the Afghan government, deserve an enormous amount of credit for showing a tough enemy that NATO means business, that security will be brought to southern Afghanistan whatever the cost, and that our commitment across the board, from the United Nations to NATO to member states, remains extremely strong.
Security is not the whole story. The success of operations like Medusa has cleared the way for a development process that is very much on track. The Afghanistan Compact, which was agreed to in London during January and early February 2006, is a unique framework for organizing the effort of 60 nations, all the principal international financial institutions, all the principal organizations, in support of a nation building process. The benchmarks and the objectives outlined in that Afghanistan Compact have been shown over the past year to be the right ones, to be ones worthy of being pursued, to be emblematic of the nation building project that everyone is trying to achieve in Afghanistan.
It is no accident that many of those involved in post-conflict situations in other parts of the world have sought to emulate the Afghanistan Compact to bring together, to orchestrate, international efforts--in Haiti, in Iraq, in other parts of the world--on the same sorts of principles as we are now trying to observe and to implement in Afghanistan.
The United Nations remains at the heart of this effort. There are upwards of 5,000 UN personnel in Afghanistan. This is a fact that is little known in Canada and the outside world, where the focus tends to be on NATO, on the military mission. But these are civilians, and they are part of the largest political mission the United Nations has. It's also an integrated mission, where the expertise of over 20 UN agencies, programs, and funds is brought to bear on the challenges of Afghans, particularly in rural communities, where most Afghans live on a daily basis.
The United Nations has delivered up to one-fifth of all the assistance that has gone to Afghanistan in the past five years. We have overseen the holding of elections. We have implemented rural development projects. We have implemented, even in the conditions of insurgency this year, inoculation programs for the most devastating diseases that have affected children in Afghanistan, even in the war-affected south.
These achievements have not come without cost. Like all of those who work in Afghanistan today, United Nations staff face security risks. But those risks are judged by all of us to be worth taking, given the results we are able to achieve, given the presence across the country, including in Kandahar and neighbouring provinces, that the UN and other civilian agencies are able to maintain and indeed strengthen now, at the beginning of 2007, as a result of the military success in 2006 that we were all so pleased to observe.
There remain enormous challenges in Afghanistan today. Security is foremost among them, and we should spend the necessary time in this discussion literally going over the shape of that challenge and what the possible solutions are today.
The development challenge remains enormous. Despite a doubling of GDP, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It is really surpassed in the acuteness of its poverty only by a few countries in Africa.
Governance, however, above and beyond the security and development challenge, will be the key to unlocking success in the future. Institutions have been built in Kabul. Ministries are functioning effectively at central level, at least in one out of three government institutions, I would say by a rough reckoning, but they are not always functioning at sub-national level, at provincial level, or at district level. This must be a major focus of international engagement if we are to succeed in this great project.
Establishing the rule of law is another major overriding priority for 2007. This goes to the heart of the reform now taking place in the ministry of interior, but it also has to engage much larger, more substantial forms of support for the attorney general's office and for the court system in Afghanistan. We hope Canada and other nations, with the sorts of commitments announced yesterday, will be part of shaping that agenda. That agenda obviously is deeply related to the challenge of counter-narcotics. The drug industry is the greatest illustration there still is today of the weakness and fragility of the Afghanistan state, of the legacy of failed statehood in Afghanistan, and of the incompleteness of our achievement to date.
Mr. Chair, I will leave my opening remarks there and hand it over to my colleague, but I look forward to your questions.
I'll try to stick to the time. At NATO, we're more disciplined than they are at the UN.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Allow me also to thank you for having us this morning. This is a great pleasure for me. This is the first time that I have visited your committee.
As Christopher, my friend and colleague, stated, this is a very important issue for Canada. It is also very important for NATO: it is our main priority. As an aside, I would say that this is proof of how much NATO has changed.
My notes, about 50% of them, contain the same statistics that Christopher quoted on education, and infrastructure that has been built. Every week we receive two pages on development progress. In my office I have plans and maps. Five years ago I only had the Balkans. All of a sudden I have all of Southern Asia.
We have a very intimate relationship with the UN. That is security in the 21st century.
Let me make four brief points, please. I think it'll be more fun to talk together than have you listen to me.
There are three or four questions that we have to answer. First, do we still have a national interest in being there? Is the national interest that we had in signing up to this as strong as it was? I think it is absolutely clear that it is.
I did a little research five years ago, before the Taliban was removed from power. Afghanistan had become the sanctuary for extremist groups from at least 24 countries, all training in well-manned, well-funded terrorist camps. We can't ignore this. There was al-Qaeda, of course, with its 3,000 fighters from 13 Arab countries. There were extremist groups from Russia, Pakistan, China, Burma, Iran, Central Asia, and several countries of the Far East. All of them fought for the Taliban while carrying out their political agendas at home. Afghanistan was the Grand Central Station of terrorism, with extremists arriving every day and leaving better trained and more extreme.
These are the same people we're fighting today, and that is a point that we cannot forget. They would love to be back in power. This is 20:20 hindsight, and it has only been five years. That's a point that I continually make, certainly as a NATO spokesman. It's easy to forget, but we can't forget it. As NATO, we took on the mandate from the UN to help prevent that from happening, and that is what we are doing.
The second question is whether this is winnable, and whether we are winning. I think that is a critical question for the populations in the 37 troop-contributing nations. Certainly I can speak for them, because that's the question the public has asked. Can we do it? I think Chris has quite clearly indicated that on the indicators that matter, there is traction. People's lives are getting better. They have more money in their pockets. The level of access to health care is higher than in every country of Africa except South Africa, and that is saying a lot when you consider where Afghanistan started from five years ago. It's at 83%. My wife runs an NGO, and she tells me this is unheard of. The progress the UN has made in rolling this out is absolutely dramatic.
You've heard the other statistics. To put it in clear terms as to where we are now, our information is that there are 17,000 reconstruction and development projects under way as we speak, 1,000 of which are being carried out by NATO. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent.
Focusing on security, we have built the Afghan National Army up from zero five years ago to 30,000 soldiers now, deployed and fighting all over the country. This is absolutely relevant for us because the Afghan national security forces are our exit strategy. There will be a long fight in Afghanistan. The Taliban will not be crushed to nothing in the next three years. There will be an insurgency issue for a long time to come, for all the reasons we've mentioned, like the narcotics issue and the border issue with Pakistan. But the Afghans need to be able to fight their own fight. When they can, we can step back. Until they can, we can't. That's the reality.
As NATO countries, we have now contributed tens of thousands of small arms, millions of rounds of ammunition, 110 armoured personnel carriers, and a dozen helicopters. We've put small teams into the deployed Afghan battalions to help them do their jobs. The U.S. has pledged, as you know, $8.6 billion to help develop the Afghan national security forces. This is our exit strategy. We are aiming for 70,000 in the Afghan National Army.
The Afghan National Police are a big weak point. Part of the attraction, if you want to call it that, of the Taliban is that they walk into ungoverned areas where there is no structure, no law and order, and no effective police. As a result, people say they don't much like the Taliban, but they like structure better than they like anarchy, so they'll take the Taliban because it's all they have.
So we need to help establish a local government presence, and that means police. The army moves to fight. That's not your community policing. This is something, of course, that the EU and the UN are working on, not NATO, but it definitely affects us as NATO.
So the first conclusion is that our efforts to help the Afghans build a better country and better future are paying off, but it will certainly take a sustained and well-coordinated long-term effort. That's what Chris is doing.
There is a high level of expectation among Afghans about seeing the benefits in a concrete way. They've heard of all the pledges of billions of dollars, and they want to see the results. We have to do our best to do that.
The second question is whether we have enough forces and whether the other allies are pulling their weight. I know this is a very sensitive subject here in Canada. Our answer at NATO is, in general, yes and yes. Taking into account the political realities in all of the 37 countries, yes and yes.
Do we have everything we want? No. You'll never hear a satisfied NATO official. But we have dramatically increased the combat power available to the commander of ISAF this year.
Since the Riga summit three months ago, we have added over 7,000 troops to the overall ISAF mission. Virtually all of these are what we would call uncaveated--in other words, they don't have geographic restrictions on their use. Most of them are devoted to the south.
Of course the U.S. has made the most substantial contribution, with the 10th Mountain Division, followed by the 183rd Airborne
The U.K. just announced another 1,500 troops on top of the extra 500 that they had added.
Those are the big-ticket items. You also have Norwegian special forces, and special forces from other countries that have not made this public, so I'm not at liberty to do so. The Danes will add more. The Germans will likely approve the deployment of six Tornados, with the 500 troops that go with them. We also have more UAVs coming online, and we have more transport aircraft and so on from different countries. The Australians are going to double their contribution to 1,000, with another 250 special forces and transport.
I list all of this to tell you that the yardsticks have moved dramatically in the last three months. The Canadian government has been a vocal, intense advocate behind closed doors with the allies to do more, and they have moved the yardsticks. Canada has earned a lot of credit in NATO for what it's doing on the ground. We have a bigger voice than we had when I joined the alliance. People listen when Canada talks, because we have paid where it counts. I think we are using that credit very intelligently to get what we want focused towards.
In terms of the reconstruction and development funding, as Chris said, the government's announcement yesterday is exactly what we need. Do we need more? Yes. We need more helicopters and more fixed-wing transport aircraft. We will keep pushing. But you heard Minister O'Connor and General Hillier both say that they're broadly satisfied with what is now on the ground. They have been pushing hard, so if they say it, it means something.
When I talk about removing caveats, restrictions, we got a commitment at the Riga summit. All 26 allies—in fact all 37—committed to the principle that if another ally is in danger anywhere in the country, if Commander ISAF calls, they will go. That is a critical demonstration of solidarity. I can tell you that the French deployed Mirage aircraft in close air support for Canadian troops just a few weeks ago. They killed a lot of Taliban to save our soldiers' lives outside of their area. So they have proven that they are willing to do it; that's good.
I'll skip all the things that Chris already said. Let me highlight three areas where we are obviously going to focus our efforts as an international community, or where we need to.
One is on governance, and as Chris said, it's absolutely critical.
Second is Pakistan. Until we deal with the issue of support coming across the border, we will be not getting enough traction. I know that the Canadian government, the American government, and many others are working very closely with the Pakistanis. They have to be part of the solution.
I think I saw that Minister MacKay offered the Pakistanis Canada's expertise in how to defend a long and dangerous border.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. James Appathurai: Finally, there's narcotics, which is a cancer in this country. They are fuelling the Taliban, because the Taliban, like any mafia, is protecting the industry and taking their cut. This is of direct security interest to us, and therefore we have an interest in helping tackle it. But it is doable, and I want to give one statistic.
In the 1980s Pakistan was the world's biggest producer of heroin, and 70% came from that country. They were producing 900 tonnes of poppy per year. In 1997 Pakistan was producing 24 tonnes of poppy. In 1999 it was 2 tonnes. This is right next door; it's doable.
So you certainly shouldn't come to the conclusion that we throw up our hands and say, let's just let them grow it and we'll buy it, because you don't think the narcotics issue can be tackled. It can be done, as it has been done in Turkey and Thailand.
One other point is the comprehensive approach, as we call it in NATO--the three Ds. In other words, the narcotics issue shows that you can't just go after the crop and expect to be successful. You need a justice system, a police system, and alternative livelihoods.
Getting all the different pieces to work together, like NATO and the UN—this is all new for us—is like legislating love: it's a good idea, but you can't just write it down. It's a nice goal, but it's hard to do.
So this Canadian approach of balancing all the different parts, but also integrating them, is absolutely essential. We're learning as we go in NATO. I think the UN is a bit more ahead on this, but we're getting there.
The final point is on poll numbers. There is a perception in the press--and I'm the spokesman, so I know how the press can get things wrong--that the Afghans don't want us, that they like the Taliban, or that the government is losing support. There have been three major polls taken in Afghanistan in the last five years, only three: Altai Consulting, the Asia Foundation, and the BBC. If you average them out, about 75% of the population still welcomes foreign forces, strongly. And I think Chris can certainly support this. About 80% support their elected government, and that is a big deal. They accept a democratic system now, after only five years, as being the way to go. And 3% want the Taliban back--3%. That is, in other words, statistically insignificant. Nobody wants the Taliban back in Afghanistan. Most people think their lives are getting better.
These are encouraging numbers. We have traction, and we can make it work.
I have other points to make, including on what this means for NATO. But let's open the floor for questions, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairperson.
As already introduced, my name is Gord Steeves. I'm actually the acting president now of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, just by virtue of the way things have worked out.
I'm joined by Brock Carlton, who's our director of international policy and development. Also in the room are our acting CEO, Jean-François Trepanier, and Richard Smith, our policy director.
As you may or may not be aware, members of the committee, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is an organization that represents about 1,500 municipal governments from coast to coast to coast in Canada. Our membership represents, by extension, around 90% of the Canadian population. The way our organization is structured, our primary purpose is policy advocacy and development on behalf of municipalities in Canada. We also have two other main arms of our organization, which are sustainable development and obviously international development, which is the purpose for our being here today.
The process I'd like to follow today, Mr. Chairman, is for me to make some comments and then pass the baton over to Brock Carlton to finish up, if that pleases.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to appear before your committee today.
Democratic development is an important concept that requires reflection and understanding. Democratic development in foreign countries requires diligence and commitment, as well as a focus on practical issues that can improve people's lives and give them an opportunity to see, in practical terms, why democracy improves quality of life.
As acting president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and as a councillor from Winnipeg, I am, as we all are at this table, an expression of the Canadian democratic experience. In the next short while, we'd like to share with you our views on democratic development. Particularly we want to share with you our belief that democratic development cannot be achieved without attention to local government and local governance.
In the next few minutes, we will talk about what local government does, the trends that affect our world view, and how Canada, though FCM, has responded and could respond better to the need to focus on local governments as a key factor in democratic development overseas.
Before turning to our presentation, I would like to leave you with one thought. As you may be aware, the very first expressions of democracy in Canada can be found in our municipalities. Saint John, New Brunswick, our first constituted city, was founded in 1785, and Montreal held its first local election in 1833. A Canadian expression of democracy, our values and principles have been built through the experiences of cities and towns across the land and throughout our history, and as you will see, a focus on local government and local governments is a practical and successful way of sharing our democratic values and our Canadian principles throughout this world.
When talking about international development, we need to first talk about local governments and local government as it relates to democratic development. UNESCO defines governance as the rules, processes, and behaviours by which interest, resource, and power are exercised by society. Our belief is that local governments have several features that are key in any democracy. As you may be aware, local government--and I'm sure we have some former members of local government representing even on this committee--does create a public space for citizens to engage in the decisions that affect their community.
We think that at its base it does a great job of promoting the inclusion of women, ethnic minorities. and other under-represented groups in the democratic process. We think because of the closeness, it helps build trust and confidence in its local institutions. It helps ensure the relevance and sustainability of local institutions to people's daily lives, and it creates an enabling environment for development. It also provides for stronger local partner and intergovernmental dialogue coordination and cooperation.
We also believe that effective local governments cannot be realized without a strong, transparent, and accountable local government to help create the rules and processes locally and to act as a facilitator amongst local groups in channelling resources and power for local governments.
Local government, as opposed to other levels of government, has the ability to engage local power holders, policy-makers, practitioners, community groups, and local governments. It has deeper roots into the social, political, and economic reality of these communities, big and small. We believe it's a little more accountable, transparent, and representative of the local communities. It helps to mobilize resources and assets from within the communities and delivers concrete services and results on-the-ground in areas that have the most direct impact on people's lives. It also has the ability to replicate successes for community-wide benefit and creates municipal networks for knowledge sharing to replicate those successes across other regions and other nations.
Having established that local government has a key role to play in local governance and therefore democratic development, we turn our attention to these issues within an international context, and what we are seeing is that rapid urbanization places tremendous pressure on local governments to deliver all sorts of different services. We find the capacity of local institutions to deliver services is critical to achieving a lot of the UN millennium development goals, and cities and towns are proving to be valuable assets and key drivers of national and international prosperity. Cities and towns, however, are aware that the greatest social challenges are situated. Effective local government is critical for the strong social and economic interdependence between rural and urban areas.
The environmental footprint of urban areas is expanding. In urban areas, which represent only 2% of the land mass, we're actually seeing that about 78% of the GHG emissions are coming from those small areas.
There are some key issues that characterize how the municipal government is responding to this context. I think it is important that the committee be aware of some trends that we've been noticing.
The first is in policy and program coordination. Local government networks are springing up to facilitate a lot of the global action. United Cities and Local Governments--or UCLG--Commonwealth Local Government Forum, and the Association of Francophone Mayors are just some examples of these organizations that are sprouting up to improve the networks amongst local governments.
We're seeing greater sub-national support for governance. Donors--the World Bank, InterAmerican Development Bank, UNDP, and DflD--are increasingly supporting sub-national levels of government, and I think we saw a pretty stark and graphic example of that in the tsunami-affected areas of the world, post that tragedy.
Municipal governments are proving to be international actors. Cities worldwide are acting by themselves and going global in terms of trade promotion, attracting investment, immigration, innovation, cultural and political exchanges as well as international cooperation. You've seen the examples of cities like London, and what they're doing in terms of becoming world leaders in transportation; and cities like New York, and some of the things they've done in terms of security without the assistance of state or federal governments. Even in our own country, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are becoming entities unto themselves.
The Canadian response to this international context has been to work with our municipal governments through FCM for the past 20 years. We currently manage 10 programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Our annual program budget is currently $12 million, employing 35 staff. In 20 years we've worked in 44 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and we are currently working in 18 countries as we sit here now. We are involved with more than 2,500 municipal volunteers and, currently, 15 volunteer municipal practitioners for each calendar day.
I can tell you anecdotally right now that in addition to municipal volunteers, our projects also bring in community resources. One example I would leave you with is Drayton Valley, Alberta, where they're working with the country of Tanzania. In addition to building capacity for municipal government, the community groups from Drayton Valley are supporting an AIDS orphanage and are helping to establish a community foundation so that others can channel money to the community with the security that it will be managed in a transparent and accountable manner.
This, Mr. Chairperson, is the model that's been replicated in city after city, town after town, community after community right across Canada. The federal government is using municipal resources to leverage all of the capacity those municipalities have to offer, communities that are teaming up with local Rotary Clubs, Jaycees, and Knights of Columbus and providing all of those types of resources to developing regions in a concentrated, accountable, and very real fashion.
With that, I would ask Brock to say some words as well.
Thank you. I'd just like to spend a few minutes talking a bit more about how we actually work, and offer a few comments about some lessons learned. Then, as requested, we have some recommendations that we think the committee should consider.
Gord was talking about some of the community-to-community relationships, but I'd like to stress that the work we do is more than just about communities and municipalities working together. We approach a country and we work with that country at a national level in terms of a strategy and then build the community-level and municipal-level initiatives within that strategy.
If I may, I will paint a bit of a picture of Ghana as an example of a country where we have a focus. FCM as a national association in Canada has worked with the national association in Ghana. Together we have developed a strategy for local development in Ghana. It's not our FCM strategy; it's the national association's strategy in Ghana. Then within that strategy we would work with our members, and the Ghanaians would work with their members, to identify specific municipalities that would work together in the kinds of municipal partnerships that Gord was just talking about a few minutes ago, where municipalities, within the context of the national strategy, would establish formal relationships on a two-year cycle. And they would work on very practical issues, such as financial management, solid waste management, any of the key issues that municipal governments do in their communities.
What's really important here is that we don't build stuff, we don't build roads, we don't build bridges or solid waste sites; we're really working on the governance elements. So we'd be working with the municipal government, with the council, on how to manage a municipal government more effectively, how to engage their community in more effective local democracy and local governance, so that what the municipality actually does is in concert with the objectives and interests of the society at large. It also is really an important element for creating some equity and engaging the impoverished and the marginalized groups in the discussions about how a municipal government works in those communities to serve their community interests.
All of this is done within the national framework, so if a country--for example, Ghana--has a poverty reduction strategy paper or a national development strategy, our work fits within that national context as well. As Gord said earlier, inevitably as municipal governments in Canada are engaged with partners overseas, the communities in Canada get involved and they work together with the communities in Ghana or in the other countries where we work.
We've done this for 20 years, as Gord said. We've learned a lot of lessons and there are some lessons we would like to point out to this group.
First of all, for effective democratic development, for effective governance, one has to work within the system that exists. So as I was describing a few minutes ago, we come in, we're working with national and local partners, we're working within the context of national government programs and strategies, so that it's inside the system. It's also working with the existing institutions, so that we as Canadians are not creating new institutions; we're supporting the strengthening of existing institutions and supporting their capacity to respond to the needs of their community.
We also believe this kind of work is not fast. It takes time. You have to build relationships, so there are long-term commitments required. When our municipalities get involved in their development work, as I mentioned earlier, it's a two-year cycle, but typically these cycles go several times over. So at the end of two years there's an evaluation process, there's a realigning of that partnership between the two partners, and then they continue. And some of them have continued for 10 or 15 years. It's very much a long-term approach to development.
What's really fundamental in this, however, is that we are talking about partnerships between practitioners, between sectors. So in some of the development language, one could call it communities of practice related to municipal government. We're bringing the sector of municipal government in Canada to work with the sector of municipal government in Ghana, or Guyana, or wherever it happens to be. It's not just about technical assistance of someone with a particular expertise coming like a consultant to do some work. It's about the municipal government and its community working with that municipal government in that community. These relationships are much more than technical exchanges. They're really about partnerships between Canadian practitioners and overseas practitioners to solve problems that are identified amongst themselves as priorities.
Another element of this is the peer-to-peer approach. When we are working overseas, we are not bringing development professionals who go to Uganda for two weeks, do a nice report, and then they're on an airplane to some other place for another report. We're bringing the folks who do the work here in Canada, and they're volunteering their time to go and sit down with the folks who do the work in Kampala, or in Nairobi, or anywhere else where we're working. They're the people who really do the work. They are bringing the real Canadian experience. They're not saying, we do it in Canada the way it should be done and you should follow what we do. What they're saying is, we have a certain experience and we in Canada have come to a certain place in our development because of that experience, and because it's so practical, we can work through and help solve your problems in your context in the way that makes sense in your community. It's very much a practitioner-based approach.
It also very much stimulates a collaborative learning experience. In the networks that Gord was referring to earlier, the United Cities and Local Governments and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, etc., there are a lot of venues for this global sharing of learning and exchange that creates the mutual benefits that are so important in this kind of partnership.
In closing, Mr. Chair, we're suggesting four recommendations for this committee to consider.
One, there needs to be recognition that sub-national groups, municipal governments in our particular case, are really important in democratic development. Democratic development isn't just about parliaments and legal frameworks at a national level; it's about the system and local governance, and municipal governments that are an important part of that system.
The second recommendation is that we think it's important that the programming done through the Government of Canada via CIDA empowers Canadians to be involved in this work, so that Canadian municipal governments or Canadian practitioners in democracy can be working with their colleagues overseas in very practical ways. This is really important.
The third thing we think is important is that not only is it necessary to engage Canadian organizations in what happens overseas, but we think CIDA and other departments of the Government of Canada that work internationally need to be ready to engage Canadian organizations like FCM in some of their thinking and strategies and policy development about Canadian positions on these issues with respect to overseas development and other Canadian interests. FCM and other organizations have something to contribute to the Canadian debate about Canadian positions on these issues.
The last recommendation I would like to bring to your attention is a document that has been circulated to the committee. We call it the global program for local governance. We're suggesting that this is an approach that would enable FCM and the Government of Canada to work together in a much more coherent collaboration around sharing Canadian municipal experience, local governance, and local democracy internationally, as opposed to the current arrangement, where we're working with CIDA on a variety of projects, but there's no continuity over the long term. Projects come, projects go, but there's no long-term strategy or long-term perspective on how to engage the municipal sector in Canadian interests overseas. We're suggesting that supporting this global program would facilitate a coherent approach to engaging Canadian municipal government and Canadian international interests overseas.
Perhaps I can pick up on that question and say that if one steps back from the local level and looks at the projects we end up doing or the different countries we end up working with, a lot of those decisions are made around the analysis of the context within the local countries. What does the democratic set-up look like? Do municipal governments have a sufficient mandate to do things, so if we're going to work with them they are able to take that capacity and then deliver effective services? There is an analysis. It's not unlike the analysis CIDA would go through in identifying the countries it works in.
As for the question about the biggest obstacle to achieving the global program for local governance, in a nutshell the biggest obstacle is CIDA, but I have to caveat that, because I can't leave that unexplained. Part of it is that CIDA isn't organized in a way that easily accommodates this kind of idea. We're suggesting we take all the different work we're doing for different countries and bring it together under one coherent umbrella. This is very difficult for CIDA to do, because it's so divided up into its regional desks and its country programs. Even right now we're trying to work a deal with CIDA that brings some Africa work into a broader framework, and it's a very difficult conversation with CIDA.
The second part of the response is that CIDA doesn't have this kind of money within the partnership branch for local government. CIDA is still very much a rural-based organization, and they're trying to make this shift, but it's very slow.
On the comment related to the $12 million, this global program for local governance is an attempt to rationalize some of the work we're doing into this coherent program, as I mentioned. The $12 million is built on an understanding of the existing budgets, where we're assessing the amount of activity required through travel, etc., but not covering volunteer time. It's built on our experience of how to knit together a global network and work locally in the municipalities, work nationally with the national associations in selected countries on each continent, and then bring these players together to a global level to help that sharing.
We're going to Europe in a week and a half for a meeting with other organizations like FCM that do this work--typically the Dutch, the British, a little bit of the folks from Belgium, the Norwegians, the Scandinavians, and to some extent the French. But there are really only two countries in the world that do this significantly, and that is Canada, through FCM, and the Dutch, through FCM's equivalent organization called VNG. When we get together anywhere, it is understood and recognized by all our peers and the World Bank and others that Canada and the Dutch lead in this field of engaging municipal government in international cooperation.
The last question was about youth. There is some work done with youth, particularly through the HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. We're working with some local programs that engage youth in soccer leagues or other kinds of sports activities that then could be used as venues for education on HIV/AIDS, in one particular case, but there is also some work done on other ways of integrating into the communities. As much as possible, we run an internship program where, through CIDA funding, we can get people in their mid-twenties who are aiming toward careers related to our work--urban planning, architecture, that kind of stuff--and engage them overseas as interns on six-month placements in the places where we work.