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FAAE Committee Report

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Government Response to the Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

A New Focus on Democracy Support

Introduction

On July 11, 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development tabled its Eighth Report, entitled Advancing Canada's role in International Support for Democratic Development.

The Government appreciates the thoughtful assessment and recommendations of the Standing Committee in this critical area of international policy and thanks its members and the senior officials and experts that testified before the Committee for their valuable inputs.

Supporting freedom and democracy is a key priority of the Government of Canada. The Committee's Report provides valuable advice on what Canada can do to increase the impact and effectiveness of its investments in democratic development abroad.

There are a number of important issues and recommendations raised by the Committee. The Committee recognized the challenge of evaluating the effectiveness of Canada's democratic development and called for an independent evaluation of all public funds provided for this purpose. The Committee recommended the development of a clear and comprehensive policy on Canada's democracy support and called for Canada to invest more in practical knowledge generation and research. Lastly, the Committee identified the need for new institutions that would enhance Canadian leadership in this field.

The Government views the Committee's report positively and will take steps to add a greater degree of focus on democracy support as a key international priority. These measures will target five areas:

  • A focussed policy
  • Improved knowledge
  • Improved coordination of Canadian organizations
  • Improved evaluation and communication of results
  • Strategic assessment of Canada's capacity

The Government will maintain its approach to investing in the broad area of democratic development that also includes human rights, the rule of law and accountable public institutions, and enhance its focus on the specific area of democracy support.

The Government of Canada will introduce:

1. A Focused Policy
  • Develop a Whole-of-Government Policy Statement for the specific area of Democracy Support (within six months of the tabling of this Government Response).
2. Improved Knowledge
  • Establish a Canadian research program on democracy support and a Democracy Partners Research and Study Program to generate knowledge on the challenges to democracy in specific country contexts.
  • Carry out comprehensive country-level governance assessments to inform our major bilateral international development programs.
3. Improved Coordination of Canadian Organizations
  • Support the expansion and formalization of the Democracy Council of Canadian government and non-governmental organizations that are active in democracy support.
  • Establish an Annual Democracy Dialogue to strengthen the Canadian community of practice
  • Establish a Democratic Transitions Fund in the Glyn Berry Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) for diplomatic efforts in support of democracy.
4. Improved Evaluation and Communication of Results
  • Publish a new CIDA Annual Report on Development Results and a new Annual Report on Democracy Support that report on the results Canada is achieving.
5. A Strategic Assessment of Canada's Capacity
  • Commission a panel of experts to assess the capacities of existing organizations that are active in democratic development and democracy support and identify how to improve Canada's performance. Their study will also consider the Committee's recommendation to create new institutions for international democratic development and review both Canadian and international models.

Democratic Development: A Priority of the Government of Canada

Democratic development is a priority of Canadian foreign policy and development assistance. Freedom and democracy are values that give people the world over the hope to dream and the courage to defend what they believe in. The Government's commitment to these values was affirmed in the October 2006 Speech from the Throne.

Democratic development advances Canada's interests because it offers the best chance for long-term stability, prosperity and the protection of human rights. Democratic development also contributes to poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development.

Canada's international reputation as a country that supports democratic values, processes, and institutions around the world is informed by Canada's experiences with federalism, pluralistic legal traditions, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our approach to bilingualism, inclusion, and multiculturalism. It is also informed by the principles of freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

Unlike other countries, Canada is neither perceived as advancing a particular agenda nor to be pushing one version of democracy over another. To the contrary, Canada is seen as a facilitator and supporter of local efforts. This reputation makes Canada a valued partner in international efforts to support democratic development.

Canadian Support is Making a Difference

Consistent with this priority, Canada is making a significant contribution to democratic development.

Through our diplomatic relations, often in cooperation with other like-minded countries, Canada uses its influence to support democratic development.   For example, in the former Czechoslovakia and apartheid South Africa, Canada supported dissidents, monitored human rights abuses and stood in solidarity with citizens working to build democracies.  More recent instances where Canada has stood up for democracy include Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

As the Committee noted, supporting the emergence of democracies in fragile states such as Afghanistan and Haiti is a long-term investment and we must stay the course for Canada to help make a difference.

Canada is particularly active in hemispheric efforts to promote democracy, exemplified by Canada's leadership and support to the Organization of American States (OAS) and its Inter-American Democratic Charter. The Democratic Charter is a milestone not only because it articulates the essential elements of democracy but also because it signals commitments of OAS member states to the collective promotion of democracy. In March of 2007, the Government of Canada announced a grant to boost OAS work in promoting electoral democracy to build on the notable achievements in the region.

The bulk of Canada's effort to date, however, has been made by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through development assistance in collaboration with other federal departments. CIDA supports democratic development through a wide range of executing agencies that include other federal departments, arms-length agencies, Canadian and international non-governmental organizations, national governments and multilateral institutions.  CIDA's democratic development assistance has grown over the years, rising from $223 million in 1996 to $477.9 million in 2006, an increase of 114%.

Our support for democratic development has achieved real results.

Canada will continue to provide its international assistance through CIDA and a broad approach to democratic development that complements democracy support with measures to strengthen accountable public institutions, human rights, and the rule of law, including measures to combat corruption and poverty reduction.  Democratic governance programming will be a feature of all CIDA's major bilateral programs. This will be done in partnership with other donors to advance aid effectiveness. Canada recently pledged $1.8 million over three years to a multi-donor coordination initiative called the Partnership for Democratic Governance.

This will be combined with important actions being taken to refocus Canada's international assistance in fewer countries where Canada can make a real difference.  We envisage that Canada will be a top donor in those countries, enabling us to concentrate our development investments in areas where Canada's assistance can be most effective.  We have also placed a renewed emphasis on promoting democracy in the Americas. The new Americas Strategy identifies democracy as a central feature of Canada's re-engagement with the Americas, along with prosperity and security.

The Need to Focus on Democracy Support

While the Government is making a significant contribution to democratic development, it has heard the Committee's call to do more.

Since Canada first developed policies in support of democratic development, the international environment has changed.  Over the last decade, the growth in the number of democracies has levelled out. Evidence shows that many countries are sliding back to non-democratic forms of government. While progress is being made in some countries, in others democracy is up against very significant obstacles and its fragility is increasingly apparent.  Economic development and good governance do not necessarily result in a transition to democracy.

This Government will do more to focus on democracy support as a distinct area of policy and programming. Canada's democracy support will strengthen democratic processes that give citizens a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives, with a focus on elections, parliaments, independent media, political parties and civil society. Our support will be tailored to address the challenges democracy faces in different country contexts and pay particular attention to quality and sustainability.

1. A Focussed Policy on Canada's Democracy Support

Greater focus on democracy support will require more than these immediate measures. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Cooperation will develop a Whole-of-Government Policy Statement on Democracy Support abroad. The policy statement will identify objectives, results and the role of key Canadian agencies involved in this area and help ensure clear direction and coordination of efforts.

New Measures
  • Develop a Whole-of-Government Policy Statement for the specfic area of Democracy Support (within six months of tabling this Government Response).
2. Improved Knowledge

History shows that democracy must be built from within and led by the people in the countries where it is being established. This is even more important in fragile states and post-conflict environments. Experience over the past 15 years demonstrates that all too often, democracy support is delivered through generalized, ill-fitting models of democracy to countries in very different situations and circumstances.

In order to tailor its support to the specific challenges democracy faces in different countries, Canada will require greater knowledge and research capacity. The Government recognizes the Committee's recommendation in this area and will take steps to establish a Canadian comparative advantage in knowledge-based democracy support.

CIDA will ensure that governance assessments inform its multi-year international development programs in all major aid recipient countries. These assessments will help us better understand the governance system in countries where our support can have maximum impact.  CIDA's assessments will be conducted in close consultation with DFAIT to ensure coherence with the political analysis of our missions abroad and our foreign policy objectives.  Assessments will also be coordinated with other like-minded donor countries in line with the principles of aid effectiveness.

Canada will continue to make effective use of its diplomatic presence to understand local realities and exercise influence. Our bilateral relations with states and Canada's network of missions abroad provide Canada with an important base from which to understand the political dynamics of emerging democracies. As the Committee points out, having an accurate and up to date picture of what is going on in places where Canada is active in democracy support is essential. Canadian diplomats are important sources of information, ensuring a close fit between on-the-ground analysis, management of bilateral relations, and advocacy efforts.

Canada will build new capacities outside of Government. As a first step, the Government will establish a Democracy Partners Research Program, located within an existing research and/or policy institution, to support local research in democratizing countries, and generate information to better understand the local dimensions of democracy support. This will be coupled with the establishment of a Canadian research program  on democracy support that will deepen Canadian expertise and knowledge.

New Measures
  • Establish a Canadian research program on democracy support and a Democracy Partners Research and Study Program to generate knowledge on the challenges to democracy in specific country contexts.
  • Carry out comprehensive country-level governance assessments to inform our major bilateral development programs.
3. Improved Coordination of Canadian Organizations

The Government has heard the Committee's call to improve coherence and coordination of democratic development assitance both within donor countries and on a multilateral basis.

Improvements in the coordination of Canada’s democratic development efforts are already underway.  The creation of the Office for Democratic Governance (ODG) at CIDA in October of 2006 is enhancing the effectiveness of Canada's aid in democratic development by increasing the engagement of Canadian expertise, promoting a coordinated approach to CIDA and the Government and, expanding the base of knowledge and best practices in Canada and around the world. The Office has already become the hub for CIDA's institutional support to a range of key Canadian and international organizations engaged in democratic development.

DFAIT will establish a Democratic Transitions Fund within the Glyn Berry Peace and Security Program to support Canada's diplomatic efforts in support of democracy.

Through DFAIT and CIDA, the Government will support and help expand the Democracy Council, a group of key Canadian organizations (IDRC, Elections Canada, Rights and Democracy, the Parliamentary Centre, the Forum of Federations, and the National Judicial Institute) that deliver Canadian democracy support abroad. The Democracy Council will organize an Annual Democracy Dialogue and other key events to bring the Canadian community of practice together to discuss key issues and themes in the field of democracy support. Over time, the Council will be encouraged to expand its membership to include other Canadian and international actors that will help place Canada firmly at the forefront of global knowledge on democracy support.

New Measures
  • Support the expansion and formalization of the Democracy Council of Canadian organizations involved in the delivery of democracy support
  • Establish an Annual Democracy Dialogue to strengthen the Canadian community of practice.
  • Establish a Democratic Transitions Fund in the Glyn Berry Program at DFAIT for diplomatic efforts in support of democracy.
4. Improved Evaluation and Communication of Results

The Committee has made a series of recommendations calling for Canada, and particularly CIDA, to provide better reporting on democratic development investments and results. The Committee also called for a full independent evaluation of Canada's democratic development efforts.  Donor nations in general are faced with the difficulty of measuring the direct attribution from investments in this area. Outcomes are often less tangible and can be set back by a range of external factors, including political change, that are beyond our control. However, we acknowledge that more needs to be done to capture information about Canada's successes and failures and report this to Parliament and Canadians.  Improved evaluation will be an important aspect of Canada's approach.

Budget 2007 laid out a three-point program for enhancing the focus, efficiency and accountability of Canada's international assistance efforts. From this base, the Government is developing a comprehensive strategy, benchmarked against other donor countries, detailing how we will improve Canada's aid program.

As part of this strategy, the Government will explore options to ensure the independent evaluation of Canada's aid program, providing parliamentarians and Canadians with an objective assessment of the results we achieve with our international assistance. It will also help the Government make more effective choices about our aid spending. In addition, beginning in 2008, CIDA will publish an Annual Report on Development Results that will highlight performance in democratic development. CIDA will also ensure that country level results in democratic governance feature prominently in its Departmental Performance Reports to Parliament and Canadians.

DFAIT will also publish an Annual Support to Democracy Report that will document the results achieved by publicly funded investments in democracy support. It will feature countries where Canada is making significant investments.

In order to connect evaluation with policies and programs, the Annual Support to Democracy Report will be presented at the Democracy Council Dialogue to stimulate discussion and reflection by Canadian practitioners about the effectiveness and impact of Canadian efforts.

New Measures
  • Publish a new CIDA Annual Report on Development Results and a new Annual Report on Democracy Support that report on the results Canada is achieving.
5. A Strategic Assessment of Canada's Capacity

The Committee's call for the creation of three new institutions, including a Canada Foundation for International Democratic Development, is a substantial recommendation that requires further study. The Government will commission an expert study of Canada's current capacity to deliver effective, high-quality and responsive democracy support. It will assess the capacities of existing Canadian organizations in terms of their roles and niche areas.  The panel's assessment will help inform the implementation of a Whole-of-Government Policy Statement on Democracy Support and advise Government as to the need and feasibility of creating new institutions. 

The strategic assessment will help advise the Government on how best to increase Canada's collective impact and maximize results. It will identify strategies for strengthening the capacities of existing organizations and identify how to improve Canada's performance. The study will also consider the Committee's recommendation to create new institutions for international democratic development and review both Canadian and international models.

Conclusion

While half of the world's countries have made significant progress in establishing democratic systems of government, the path to a more democratic world is filled with obstacles and success cannot be taken for granted. The Government Response to the Report of the Standing Committee sets out a series of commitments and activities that will focus and maximize Canada's efforts in the field of international democracy support. In doing so, we can make a real difference in supporting democracy and improving the lives of citizens around the world.