Welcome and good morning. This is meeting six of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on Tuesday, December 4, 2007.
Today we will begin a briefing with the Canadian Food Security Policy Group, and in our second hour, after noon, before our committee business, we will continue our study of Canada's mission in Afghanistan and hear from Omar Samad, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Canada.
First, for our briefing, as witnesses we have Stuart Clark, chair of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Canadian Food Security Policy Group. Also, we have Joshua Mukusya, founder of Utooni Development Project. As well we have Mamby Fofana, member of the board of directors, Unitarian Service Committee of Canada; Rachel Bezner Kerr, research coordinator for Soils, Food and Healthy Communities Project; and Susan Walsh, executive director of the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada.
Welcome. We look forward to your presentations.
Mr. Clark, you have some opening comments. Then we will proceed to our first round of questions.
Again, welcome to the committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Sorenson.
I want to express our thanks for the previous times that this committee has heard our testimony. You'll recall that it was just ten months ago that we spoke to you. There was an all-party resolution resulting from that presentation about an agriculture sector priority at CIDA.
We're somewhat following up on that today, which I hope will be made somewhat clear, particularly in light of the negotiations going on in Bali right now concerning climate change.
For those of you who are not aware of who the Food Security Policy Group is, it's an informal network of Canadian development NGOs who work on the issues associated with hunger and food insecurity. We've been working together since 2000, and have been working hard particularly on questions of agriculture, food aid, human right to food, and agricultural trade.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said on November 17 that climate change is the defining challenge of our era. This was on the occasion of the release of the fourth assessment report of the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
All of these initials and long names shouldn't hide the importance of what was being said at that time.
Among the things that were said, the IPCC stated flatly that neither a focus singularly on reducing greenhouse gas, or on climate change adaptation, would be alone sufficient to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change. In fact, there must be both.
Our work as the Food Security Policy Group has been around agricultural development. What we have been seeing and increasingly recognizing, of course, is that climate change is hitting small farmers around the world first and hardest.
But the small farmers are not sitting back and saying “Poor us.” They're in fact drawing on a deep well of traditional understandings of how to cope with climate change, and in many cases making very successful adaptations, at least in these early stages of climate change.
They need help to adapt. I think we come before you today recognizing that four years ago, CIDA made a commitment to increase Canada's aid for agriculture to the level of $500 million per year by 2008. Last year we were at about $200 million, and the target was $500 million, which is all to say that even at the level of simply helping farmers, never mind climate change, we are underperforming.
Therefore, we come before you today to say that in addition to the concern that brought us here last time, for an agriculture priority at CIDA, we want to put before you the need to make assistance for climate change adaptation a part of any integrated comprehensive Canadian climate change response.
To help make the case, we've brought with us three people who work on key issues related to agriculture--soil, water, and seeds.
Dealing with the issue of seeds, I would first like to introduce to you Mamby Fofana from the country of Mali. He is the proud son of a wise but unschooled farmer, and is a graduate agroforestry engineer currently working as a natural resource officer for Swedish CIDA. He also farms a five-acre farm outside the capital, which is a powerful demonstration plot for other farmers looking at how to make adaptations.
After we hear from Mamby, we'll hear from Joshua Silu Mukusya, who similarly is the proud son of a farmer and also a university-trained agronomist, and who has spent the last 30 years trying to help people become drought-proof. Drought, which of course was a frequent occurrence, is now an ever more frequent occurrence as a result of climate change. Joshua will speak about water.
We have also with us Rachel Bezner Kerr, who has been working in Milawi on the question of soil. She will not speak at this time, but she's ready to receive questions.
I'd now like to turn the table over to Mamby, who will speak to you about the adaptation work around seeds.
It is with great pleasure that I come before you as the son of a farmer and a farmer myself. From the youngest age, having been born and having lived and grown in a Saharan climate which is inherently unstable and difficult, I have admired the ingenuity of peasants. They constantly adapt themselves to changes in the climate and to all outside aggressions in order to suit their agricultural practices to reality and feed themselves and their children.
I very quickly decided I wanted to study agronomy and forestry. I was inspired in this by the fact that where I was born and grew up, peasants try to grow on the same land trees, vegetables and grain in order to have production systems that are sustainable and can be controlled in order to prevent the disasters to which we are exposed today.
Having said that, I want now to highlight a bit of the concrete work we have been undertaking with regard to seeds, androgynal seeds and indigenous seeds, which are our entry points.
I have been working for USC Canada for almost 16 years. We discovered in one remote place in Mali that farmers in cases of extreme climatic phenomena are even going to eat the seeds, and they just rely on the seeds found in the market. Sometimes these seeds are coming from very different agro-ecological zones, where the rainfall is better, much better than in Douentza. By growing these seeds, it is a cycle of failure and more failure.
What we did is to try to make a participatory rural appraisal in order to know the situation of the genetic reserve in the place, in order to keep them not on an individual basis, but through what we call community gene banks, and a community gene complex with two components--one that is a gene bank and another that is a seed bank.
Then you can keep all the genetic reserve of a place. This is very important for small-scale farmers. They are 80% of our population, and they have been developing very adequate systems for keeping alive the seeds by keeping them in the storage and bringing them into the farm the next season, linking then ex situ and in situ conservation methods.
This is a risk management system. Why? Because the seeds were kept by individual farmers, but now through the gene banks and seed banks, there is a collective or community control over of these resources, which are very important as the source or the base of any production system. They have been really adapting themselves to external aberrations like the climate, and the seeds are the result of the interactions between human resources, between soil and climate, and they are adapted.
But why is this type of agriculture now losing ground? It's because of global policies, the global market policies, and also the climate change issues, which are deep. The changes have been very complex, very quick, and very deep.
For instance, they can adapt themselves and the seeds according to interannual changes. This year in Mali, instead of starting on the first week of June, the rainy season started after July 15. Then, with traditional farmers knowing that the season will be short, they have grown what are called photoperiodic varieties, which can adjust themselves to the length of the rainy season. This is very important, and today, if the whole world can learn from this, this is very important.
I don't say that these systems are, today, very relevant, because I've said that they have been affected by external aberrations like the negative policies at the global level and the climate change issues, which have been very deep, and also the floods, because they didn't used to manage floods but they used to manage droughts. It means that the context is changing.
What Canada can do in such a process is help agriculture in other places. In helping agriculture, it's important to help members of civil society and also the governments to work together to know the current situation, to know the limits of traditional systems and how to improve them by putting together traditional knowledge, which is based on wisdom, and also modern knowledge.
Modern knowledge is not able to overcome the problems on its own because this type of knowledge has been developed outside reality, out of the climate, in the research stations. But by putting together the two types of knowledge, the problems can be overcome, and I think the whole world can learn these adaptation systems, which have been developed by the farmers throughout generations.
As has been said, my names are Joshua Silu Mukusya, and I come from Kenya. I am going to talk about the movement of farmers in that region of Africa where we started a movement of farmers way back in 1977 to reverse the effects of drought and to enable farmers to grow enough for their feed and for themselves.
Over the years we have done a lot of work on terracing the land and trying to raise the water table by putting up sand dams or walls across the rivers. The reason we did that was simply because over the years, I looked back to when the colonial government was there; they had a program of soil conservation, which looked at slowing the speed of water. Out of those small points where they did the work, the areas remained very green, and I thought if we could develop that system and make it bigger, we would be able to be self-sufficient in food and pasture for animals.
In a period of about 30 years, we have been putting these sand dams on our dry riverbeds in the hope that we can increase the water table and create springs as well as grading our wetlands for growing vegetables and germinating trees to replace what has gone.
In that period we have had some success. We have also had failures. But mainly we have seen the biggest major problem setting us back as being the effect of climate change. After doing all that good work involving our own free labour and getting support from friends to get the materials like cement and reinforcements, the rains stood us up. They never came.
So we failed to some extent but we still think sand dams and the combination of trees and the terracing of the land is the answer to climate change and the best way the farmers can hold all their ideas to their own areas, improve their own food, with whatever support the governments of Canada and Kenya can give those farmers to improve their own food security situation.
We have seen this as a benefit to the land and a benefit to the people, but we still have a problem with other parts of the world, who have their own way of life and who have not thought about climate change, which we ourselves are trying to adapt to.
I'm thinking of governments, like the Canadian government, supporting the Kenyan government--that's being supported in the same system, doing the dams. Because of the effects of climate, that has a global cost, either in the northern hemisphere or in the southern hemisphere. If people don't take care of that, then we are back to the same problems.
We are improving and we are going back a step, because the climate is not allowing us to get to where we want to go.
It is my hope today, in this gallery, that those listening to us would have a way of finding a system that would enable future generations to enjoy the same soil we have been enjoying for the last 50 years, and to enable the poor farmers, through groups, to do the best they can to improve their quality of life.
I would like to stop there.
Yes. It's a good question.
For sure, everybody knows there is climate change. But people want to make themselves indifferent. They know it is there, but they don't want to do anything.
For sure, our governments are doing their best, as the Canadian government is doing its best. But nobody is showing us the way forward to reverse these situations.
What I would say is that, because we realize that problem is coming.... We used to have two seasons in every 12 months, the long season being from March until June. It's no longer there. You get drizzles, and in some places you get nothing. Now we only depend on the short rains that come in November and December.
As I left home on the 18th, there was nothing. Probably they will start coming, but if after all the work we have done trying to prepare some communities that expect rain and get water, it does not turn up, they will have another, extra year of problems, not getting water and not getting food.
If experts could show us the way forward to reverse the situation, which we know is there, by telling us this is what we have to do to change the situation we are in, then we would be heading somewhere.
But as Mr. Clark mentioned, it is tied to many other things. And out of these many other things, as a nation and as citizens of the world, we need to find a solution as a team, because everybody has a nephew and another friend living somewhere. Even if it's in Africa, it will probably end up affecting Canada at one point in the process. Because there's a very gradual change, a lot of people don't see it.
Yes, the government is doing its best to tell people to plant trees. But just telling people to plant trees and not acting is not enough. We need to do the practical part of it: stick the plant in the ground, water it, and make sure it lives above the height of destruction by small animals.
Thank you very much for coming. It's always good to hear from you.
I returned from Mali only two weeks ago and I met with our CIDA officials there who are doing a pretty good job of trying to meet the challenging needs in Mali.
I was also in Nairobi last year. Coming from east Africa myself--I grew up in Arusha--I am aware of the complexities that are in Kenya and in east Africa in reference to the challenges faced by farmers.
Today you have alluded to climate change and its impact on food security, which you have eloquently illustrated. But one has to understand that climate change affects everyone, including Canada. So Canada itself has the same challenge that Africa is having but we have a stronger capacity to deal with it. There is less capacity in Africa to deal with it.
Hence, it's a cooperative effort between NGOs, the government, the farmers and everybody working together, as you rightly pointed out. So it is not an easy solution that is to be addressed tomorrow. On climate change, it's a longer-term solution that will highlight it.
I'm looking at the immediate impact here and saying that one of the factors on this, Mr. Clark of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, is helping the food security in Africa. We send food from here and we tie it down.
We are thinking of what might happen if we untied the food aid and allowed the aid to be addressed internally. Sometimes there is a bumper crop and sometimes there is a low crop, but using the internal economy of the country itself to address the security need rather than coming from here, would the Canadian Foodgrains Bank think this could be one of the positive features addressing a long-term security issue?
My second question is this. Specifically coming from east Africa, corn is a very important staple in the African diet. A report that came from the UN talked about using corn and everything for biofuel, having a negative impact on food security, specifically for countries in Africa and in Latin America. What do you think of that?
I would like to hear from you on these two questions.
I'll speak briefly to the question of untying food aid. In fact, if some of you were here when we spoke before 2005, it was an issue that we frequently brought as a desirable policy change.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, indeed the farmers who support the Canadian Foodgrains Bank--and there are many thousands of them--were solidly behind the idea of further untying Canada's food aid budget.
So in 2005, in a deal I would have to say struck a little bit between the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank in the negotiations around this, Canada untied 50% of our food aid.
I believe there have been subsequent internal moves within government, to look at further untying that food aid budget. I'm not sure where that stands.
But I do want to say that there's a sense in which procuring food aid in developing countries is seen as the gold standard. I think we need to stop and listen to what we've just heard about climate change, because in the past when there's been a food crisis it has usually been possible to obtain food somewhere fairly close by. During the Ethiopian famine in 1984, that was definitely the case.
However, with the kind of seasonal variations we get now, it's very likely that we will have regional crop failures. We don't want to slam the door on the possibility of being able to send food from those areas whose agricultural productivity is expected to rise in the short term, including Canada.
So while there is often good sense untying this food aid because it has a good benefit in developing countries, we need to keep the possibility of sending food aid from Canada in the tool box, because there will be times when that will fit.
Concerning food aid, I think planning food in advance has to be avoided, because in cases of good production internally that can negatively affect food prices and farmers' incomes. In cases of extreme food shortage, food aid is compulsory because it can help, but the best way to help people is to help them grow their own food.
I was saying that 80% of the population is dealing with farming—not as a food source only, but as employment, as a source of life, as a source of recovering their dignity. If you are no longer able, as in the case of a Douentza elder, to provide food to a family, this is a shame. You lose your dignity. It is important to make people recover their dignity by helping them to grow their own food. This is better than food aid.
Concerning biofuel, I can go not for biofuel but for some native trees such as the gum arabic tree, which is native to the Sahelian countries and which can be planted and can help sequestrate carbon, even if our problem is not emissions. All the emissions are sequestrated, and we are even helping other places--like Canada--to sequestrate carbon. It is important in that case that Canada reduce its emissions, but help us also to develop family-based farming—for justice, because if you are helping 80% of the population, this is justice.
For instance, Jatropha curcas is a plant that is now being permitted, but it is very exigent. It is not soil-tolerant or drought-tolerant. This means that it could compete with cereals to occupy the very fertilized lands. This can be problematic. We can go with drought-tolerant tree species that are native, but not Jatropha, for instance, which comes from Latin America.
Thank you very much to the Food Security Policy Group once again for your ongoing leadership, and to our partners from the global south for bringing living, breathing examples of why we need to take seriously the kinds of recommendations you've placed before us yet again today.
I'm not sure whether you all are familiar with the fact that there was, for a time, a Canadian climate change development fund specifically crafted to focus on the punishing effects of climate change and remedial mitigation programs...on developing countries where agriculture, as you've pointed out, is 80% of the economic base—for example, in countries that you represent.
That program, I think, was considered to be quite visionary initially. Unfortunately, the previous government allowed it to expire, and it now no longer exists. I'm wondering whether particularly our guests from the global south had any experience with that program in their countries and whether one of the things we should be doing is looking at relaunching a similar program.
Secondly, thank you for pointing out the really quite alarming reduction in the resources allocated for the agricultural programs under CIDA that have been seen in the past, I think, to be quite important. I'm wondering whether you can comment specifically on whether it is your feeling that the recommendations from this committee to the government should be around stepping up those specific funds or whether your recommendations would be primarily around particular programs that we should be advancing and advocating.
Honourable members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, thank you very much for your invitation and for having organized an hour of discussion and dialogue with an Afghan.
I believe it can be useful, from time to time, to engage Afghans who have experienced the modern-day history of their country and who have also devoted a great many efforts to trying to resolve the problems of Afghanistan. I am grateful to you for this opportunity.
I'm going to use my time to highlight what I call strategic imperatives and also the critical human factors involved in the Afghan case.
Afghanistan, as you know, is a country in a recovering state that wants to put behind it the failed-state model and mode it encountered over almost 25 years during a period of instability, conflict, and destruction, some of which was caused by factors beyond the Afghan reach.
We are in the process of rebuilding a state within a strong and traditional nation. We are in the process of building peace, a constitutional order based on democratic principles according to Afghan wishes, a functioning economy and civil society, and a foundation for human rights and the rule of law.
To do so, the international community, including Canada, has joined hands and committed itself to helping us provide security and protection, build institutions, strengthen capacities, and fund social and economic development work under a United Nations mandate.
The Afghanistan Compact of 2006 became the binding blueprint for achieving defined benchmarks and timelines by 2011, as you know. Your country is a major contributor toward several of the compact benchmarks, a fact that, in my opinion, all Canadians can take pride in.
This process also includes internal and external countercurrents that create obstacles and challenges; seek to halt progress; disrupt the strategy that I just mentioned; instill fear; and use various tactics to create the conditions in Afghanistan and in contributing countries for failure or an alternative course that suits their strategic purpose.
What is clear to us Afghans, though, is that we do not seek regression or a return to pre-2001 conditions. Afghans do not want to be ruled by ruthless oppressors. As your multicultural society clearly demonstrates, people have differences in terms of tradition, history, and cultural traits. But in today's globalized world, Afghans are instinctively preoccupied with the same daily issues that preoccupy most of mankind and families across the globe at varying degrees of development.
As three different polls conducted across Afghanistan over the past three months demonstrate, most Afghans are relatively hopeful about their future. To encapsulate the findings, Afghans support their elected government and the presence of foreign forces, while they oppose the Taliban and do not want them to rule the country again.
Polls also suggest that Afghans are slightly less optimistic than a year ago, and are frustrated at the slow pace of reconstruction and security efforts, including mounting civilian casualties. Although approximately 14,000 small- and medium-scale projects have been on the board for implementation over the past five years and are being implemented, there's increasing dissatisfaction with the availability of jobs, roads, infrastructure in general, clean water, and electricity.
Among other key findings, almost 70% of Afghans are critical of Pakistan's role in allowing the Taliban to operate, while 60% want the government to talk to willing Taliban. The same number are opposed to growing poppies for opium. This can be explained by the fact that only 6% or so of the country's arable land is used for poppy cultivation, mostly in the insurgent-infested south and east of the country.
With few exceptions, Afghans are voicing the desire to move forward. They are seeking new opportunities and better lives for their children by tackling the difficulties and challenges we face. But they want to do so with vision, with a long-term perspective, and in partnership with countries such as yours, whose support and sacrifices we honour very much.
Currently we are facing increasing violence and brutality on the part of radical groups with support bases inside and outside of Afghanistan. They are using asymmetric warfare in the form of suicide attacks, IEDs, beheadings, and bombings to disrupt the democratic rebuilding process. Some do it for narrow ideological purposes, others for financial interests entangled with the drug business, while some are in need of an income or are dissatisfied with authorities for some reason or other.
We are also faced with an economic surge that has not reached all regions and all people. We also face weak institutions and government services, mixed with corruption, and at times a dysfunctional judiciary, which in our opinion will take a long time to reform. The enemy, however, is exploiting all these fault lines while we attempt to maintain our equilibrium.
As we are a fragile state, we cannot always expect quick fixes and immediate solutions that can satisfy all the stakeholders, domestic or foreign. Given the Afghan traditions, the rebuilding process is a long-term mission, with many pitfalls along the way, and it will require statesmanship, strong political will, sacrifice, leadership skills, perseverance, and sustainable support to attain its objectives.
In addition, we realize that a military component is a critical part of the equation, but it is not necessarily the only option for the final outcome. That is why Canada and other partners have adopted a multi-pronged approach to dealing with all the aspects of the situation on the ground. However, we cannot ignore the fact that security and relative stability are prerequisites for the successful implementation of sustainable development. Better coordination and management of the daunting tasks at all levels are equally important.
We cannot separate Afghanistan and the region in which it is situated from strategic considerations in the same manner that we cannot ignore the human protection and human security responsibilities. We cannot address the global security concerns and threats that are embedded in my region of the world without looking at the issues of education, health, the plight of women and children, and human rights.
Also, we cannot take for granted the ideological and radicalization challenges we face without addressing poverty levels and, for example, reliance on poppy cultivation in poverty-stricken areas, as well as the possibility of welcoming and accepting those Afghans who give up on violence and seek a constructive role.
As you can see, honourable members, Afghanistan is not a unidimensional matter, nor is it an isolated concern. It cannot be defined in simplistic sound-bite terms, since we are dealing with a serious and complex matter of strategic importance. I have to say that Canada is, fortunately, engaged at the most critical levels and adjusting well to the dynamic environment. Canadians in civil and military affairs in Afghanistan are indeed serving a noble cause and deserve all the support you give them.
We all need to contemplate for a minute what the consequences of failure would mean to Afghans, to the region, to the forces of oppression, and to those in the family of nations who have invested in blood and in kind. What message do we send to friends and foe? What legacy do we leave behind for today's children and future generations? What does it mean to multilateralism and post-conflict engagement? What does it mean in terms of civilizational and cross-cultural relations?
I am happy to see that a prominent independent panel of Canadians is carefully studying the case, with the task of providing you and all Canadians with balanced recommendations that will help your nation decide its future role in my country. Whatever the decision, I urge you beforehand to contemplate strategically, using broad analysis and grand perspective.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity you have given me. It will be a pleasure for me to answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador, it's always good to see you.
I have three quick points. I know we can't do this justice, but certainly I'd like your quick comments.
First, in Canada we have the largest diasporas outside Afghanistan. In my view, we're not utilizing them effectively. Do you have any suggestions in that regard?
Second, on the issue of opium, you talked about 6% of the land use. As you know, the Senlis Council has proposed the Poppy for Medicine approach in its report, dealing particularly with the issue of seed to medicine tablets, again trying to respond to issues out there around drug use.
Your government has opposed it, our government has opposed it. Maybe you could elaborate very briefly as to the alternative, because it's getting worse.
Finally, what blueprint do you see needs to be in place in order to “Afghanicize” decision-making and management and achieve that buy-in from both Afghans and your allies?
You have touched upon three very interesting topics that are also close to my heart, in one way or another.
Yes, Canada has a strong presence of Afghans. Our Afghan Canadians have been here for 20 to 25 years in most cases. The numbers run somewhere between 100,000 to 120,000 people, mostly concentrated in the greater Toronto region.
As an expatriate myself, who in 2001 left exile and decided to go back and serve my country, I can tell you that one of the most effective ways to build capacity and transfer knowledge and skills to this newly redeveloping country, and to be a bridge between the new home and the old home, is to reconnect the Afghans, who had to leave their country under duress over the past 25 to 30 years, to their homeland.
I have talked to my colleagues within the Canadian government on many occasions, especially in CIDA, about looking at ways to facilitate the return of some qualified Afghans who are willing to go--and spend whatever period of time they would like--and be of help. I think that help will not only go a long way to assist Afghanistan, but it will also go a long way to assist Canada and other countries where we have large communities of Afghans.
On the opium cultivation issue and the Senlis Council proposition, as you know, our government does not think it is the best and most effective way of tackling this humongous problem. I have to tell you that 30 years ago, prior to the Soviet invasion, and the subsequent crises it underwent, Afghanistan was not a major opium-producing country. As I mentioned, even today, 6% of our arable land is being used by less than about 15% of the farmers for this cash crop. Interestingly, they do so in the most volatile regions of the country. They do so, to a large extent, as a result of war weariness, of poverty, and because they have no other alternatives.
One of the solutions we are seriously looking toward with our partners, especially the U.K., which has the lead in this field, and now the Americans, who are playing an important role, and many other countries, including Canada, which, for instance, provides a certain amount of assistance toward alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan, is a strategy that works for Afghanistan. It could work for a region that is also affected by it, and the world at large, because the product ends up on your streets as well. It is a shared problem that we need to tackle together. There is the supply-side issue and there's the demand-side issue. We hope that everything between the supply side and the demand side can also be addressed and that not all the pressure is put on the supplier.
As a result, we think that the new approach we'll be taking, which will also be backed by very large amounts of monetary support, will provide the Afghan farmer with a clear decision--namely, if you continue, these are the consequences. We do not want to punish you right away. The purpose is not to punish you. The purpose is to help you move to other crops and an alternative means of livelihood. Of course you need certain things from us, as the government or as the international community, to be able to make that move. Whether it's rural development, roads, schools and clinics, agribusiness, and access to markets, we will do our share.
Now, when we say that we will do our share, we need to deliver. On a couple of occasions in the past few years, we told the Afghan farmers, “Here we are, and we are going to help you move to a licit means of livelihood”, but then we failed to deliver.
That would be the disastrous scenario for all of us, to promise and not be able to deliver.
This is the way we are going to take. We are looking at all kinds of alternative crops. They are things that may not compete with opium or heroin on the markets, but they will come close to it. I am of the belief--and the latest polls show--that the Afghan people are opposed to poppy cultivation as a matter of principle, and almost 70% of Afghans are opposed to it.
In our culture it is prohibited. In our constitution it is prohibited. So the first answer I have for Senlis is that...why are you trying to impose something that is illegal--culturally, legally, constitutionally, religiously--for the Afghans? That would be a recipe for many other problems.
Let's not take that route. Again, their little amount of work in Afghanistan has shown that wherever they went and proposed this idea, we saw a sudden surge in poppy cultivation.
Is that the answer to Afghanistan's problems? From all sides, the answer to that is, no, it is not.
If you do not mind, I will answer in English.
To be ready today means reaching certain objectives and benchmarks. Some of them are clearly defined under the Afghanistan Compact, clearly, and some of them are evolving in a dynamic as the situation on the ground changes.
Look at our region. We are sandwiched in quite an interesting, fascinating, yet dangerous region of the world. It's a dynamic region. Things are changing on the ground that are having a direct impact on conditions in Afghanistan.
If you ask Afghans—and I told you about the poll that was recently taken—most Afghans think that insecurity has external roots. Yes, there is a component that's internal, domestic, and we know there is some dissatisfaction by some groups here and there for this reason or that reason. But the core of the armed groups that are facing us and your soldiers today, and the soldiers of many other countries, is fighting there for an ideological reason, a very narrow ideological reason.
Take the person who commits a suicide attack. First of all, in most cases they are non-Afghans. They are trained outside of Afghanistan, they are equipped outside of Afghanistan, and they learn their skills outside of Afghanistan. Then they are exported to Afghanistan. As a result, we suffer. All of us suffer.
This means that you have to look at the larger context. You cannot only look at what happened today in Panjwai district. You have to look at what caused an incident in Panjwai district to happen. How did it happen? How did they reach that region? Who provided the logistics? Where did they get the training, and so on and so forth, including the funding eventually. Where did that come from?
As you can see—and I tried to put this in my presentation to you—that is what makes Afghanistan strategic, or it's one of the reasons. It goes beyond simply one district, one province, or even one country. That's why, as we are building up the national army....
The latest news I have received is that the acceleration that we have put into this effort has actually yielded some very positive results in the sense that we now think that the army that is targeted to be at 70,000 trained men and women will be formed sooner than we expected, hopefully before 2009. At the same time, our government is of the opinion that 70,000 is not enough for Afghanistan security, given, again, the changing dynamics on the ground. We may be now thinking about engaging everyone on adding to this number, because Afghanistan needs to go beyond having an army of only 70,000 men.
The same with the police. As you know, for a while attempts were made to create a new police force. It did not result in satisfactory forces. There were all types of issues. But right now, as we are speaking, there are hundreds of millions of dollars from various countries and donors, including Canada, that are being allocated and spent on the reform of the police, including increased salaries, which was a huge problem, and improving the quality and the quantity of training and equipment.
Once we reach some of these benchmarks...and again, the sooner the better. I want to emphasize that. The sooner Afghans can be fully in charge of these issues, the better, so that, not only for Afghanistan's sake but also for the regional complexities, we can handle the situation. Then we can talk about other options that exist.
Thank you, Ambassador, for coming. It's always nice to hear your perspective.
I'm very happy that you did mention the London compact and the benchmarks that need to be reached to rebuild Afghanistan. As you rightly pointed out, it's not one single approach to building Afghanistan. It's a multi-level approach that requires all players, including the governments, NGOs, security components, all of this to rebuild Afghanistan. You can't have a one-track mind...and which is the London compact. So all this attention that says we need to concentrate on only one aspect and stop the other aspects is not going to work. You rightly pointed out about the region.
What I find amazing regarding an organization like the Senlis Council is that we still need to know what its objective really is. It comes out with reports that are so narrowly focused and so narrowly defined, giving a totally wrong picture of what is actually happening, then that gets picked up. Today's article by Nipa Banerjee in the Ottawa Citizen very rightly gives the whole picture of what is wrong with Senlis Council's narrow approach of coming out and saying that things are wrong here, and let's do this here, and not taking into account.
What I find quite interesting in the Senlis report is the suggestion that NATO should now move into Pakistan. I don't understand why, all of a sudden, this organization is going to urge a move into another country. To do what? Getting into this debate, to solve the problem of Afghanistan? Yet it comes in front of the committee on this thing.
Now, the dynamics in Pakistan...and I'm not trying to put you in conflict. Obviously you have to work multilaterally with Pakistan and and so on. But what I would like to hear from you is an assurance that all multi-faceted aspects of development in Afghanistan are moving forward, not as the Senlis report comes out, cherry-picking here and there, to say that this is wrong and this is not.
We never hear about the northern part of Afghanistan. We never hear of the regions, what they are doing and what is happening there. All we hear about is what is going on around here.
So perhaps you want to give us what the international community...and where, and how assuring it is to the Canadians that...thinks that Canadians put money down in development, all these things, is working for Afghanistan.
Canada has pledged and is delivering on providing Afghanistan $1.2-billion Canadian worth of development aid in a ten-year period. Afghanistan is the largest recipient of Canadian aid ever. We are very grateful for this, and we appreciate every dollar. I, as an Afghan, have said many times that I want every dollar of Canadian aid to go as far as it can in changing and improving the lives of Afghans, whether it's for children and women, whether it's for infrastructure, whether it's for governance or rule of law or human rights.
For example, yesterday, we were very happy to hear about the $80 million additional dollars pledged over four years for demining. A couple of months ago, education again became a priority for Canada. Canada is going to be a leader amongst nations in helping us create the new Afghan education system and build schools and train teachers.
These are real changes, real facts, which one may not see because of the way the changes are implemented over time. But they have made, and continue to make, a difference in the lives of the Afghan people.
This doesn't mean that everybody's happy and satisfied. This doesn't mean that the job is complete and finished. This doesn't mean that the needs of Afghanistan are met. This means that this job, as I mentioned in my remarks, is a long-term mission of rebuilding a country that was destroyed over 25 years. Just imagine any society, whether developed or semi-developed or under-developed, being hammered politically, militarily, economically for 25 years constantly. What would happen? Do you expect that to rebound over five years? It doesn't happen. It has never happened in history. Why do we have such expectations for Afghanistan?
The question is whether we have the political will to understand this and then to commit long term, not only to the military aspect of this mission but also on all the other fronts that exist.
As you said, the Afghanistan Compact is a blueprint, and one that we have signed on to, which means that we have to meet.... For example, yesterday, we announced to the world that we destroyed, under the Ottawa treaty, all the mines and explosives that have been stockpiled in Afghanistan over the last four years. We signed on to the Ottawa treaty in 2003. We had an obligation to destroy tens of thousands of mines that were collected and stockpiled, and we did. That was an Afghanistan Compact benchmark that was met.
So where do we stand? Does this mean it's the end of the mine problem in Afghanistan? No. We know for a fact that we have millions of mines still buried under Afghan land, and every day—every day—at least two Afghans, mostly children, lose a limb or lose life as a result of it. Every day.
So you see, this is one issue that Afghans have to face, and one issue that you, as our friends, are helping us resolve, amongst hundreds of issues that we have to face. That means you have to be patient with this issue. You have to have a long-term perspective. You have to send the right message, not only to the Afghans, not only to the foe, which is sitting there trying to undo everything we're trying to do, but also to your own people, who expect you to deliver with their tax money.
When I say we are grateful for Canada's help, I mean we are grateful for every dollar, every soldier who serves in Afghanistan. They will be remembered for eternity in our history. They are now part of our history, as we are part of yours.
So are we going to give up on this mission halfway? As we see, there is real potential for success, because you have the backing of the Afghan people. Why throw away a mission, or change mid-course the dynamics of the mission, while what we could be doing is strengthening it? We could look at ways to strengthen it to better accomplish the goals we all have together.
Thank you, Your Excellency, for making yourself available to the committee today.
As was mentioned, it is helpful to hear your perspective, because we can read papers and we can watch television, but having a firsthand account from your perspective is most helpful.
I just want to be clear about my party and where we stand. We have said that we want to withdraw from the counter-insurgency mission in the south. Let me just confirm to you that this is not a position that requires us to withdraw from helping Afghanistan. I want to underline that, because there have been some concerns that we were simply suggesting that we extricate ourselves entirely from Afghanistan.
I should point out that in 1998-99, many of us--my party and other people involved in the social democratic movement--were actually trying to get the attention of the world when the Taliban were doing what we now know they did, and they didn't respond. I think it's a horrific situation that the world community only responded after it affected them directly. I certainly understand your concerns about not losing sight of that. In other words, if we see quelling and we say, “Oh, great, fine, everything's done”, and put a ribbon on it and go home....
So I get it. I understand it. That said, we heard from members of the Canadian development community last week, as well as from those who are looking towards other solutions in Afghanistan, and working with Afghans. The suggestion was that we're not quite getting the balance right.
I've noted that you've commented in the public domain on a similar concern, that right now the emphasis on the military vis-à-vis the development isn't quite in balance, and that we need to find a better balance. I have to say that I was a little surprised, to be polite about it, that when I asked officials from foreign affairs and CIDA if three D was dead, they said they don't use that term any more, they have one D, and it's all working well.
So I leave you to read the record on that.
In your opinion, what is out of balance? Do we need more diplomacy? Do we need more development? Or maybe we need more defence?
First of all, thank you for expressing your support for Afghanistan. Having spent almost three years here, I know that, overwhelmingly, Canadians care about Afghanistan, and they are over time becoming much more informed about Afghanistan and the realities of Afghanistan. They want to do something, and they are doing it. I hear every day of Canadians across this vast country, on their own initiative, doing something to help an Afghan in Afghanistan, whether it's organizing dinners and collecting money for education in Afghanistan or collecting teddy bears. So many things are being done. I appreciate that very much.
I hope I have a chance sometime, maybe not in this context, but with members of your caucus and party, to have a more in-depth discussion as to why the counter-insurgency issue is--unfortunately is--a real issue that we have to deal with. When an insurgent, or whatever you want to call him, comes into our country or is given money and told that this will take him to heaven, for example, and he kills a school teacher or beheads a woman activist or attacks schoolchildren going to school, we have a problem. We have a problem that needs to be dealt with. They're not wearing uniforms like my soldiers or your soldiers. They're not abiding, or trying to abide to the extent we can, by all the international norms and regulations and laws that organize warfare. They're doing it, of course, outside our norms, and they're doing it in a ghastly manner and in an opportunistic manner.
Well, do you know why it is getting worse? Because in 2003-04 we failed to fill the vacuum and failed to build on the achievements and accomplishments we had, and they came back. That doesn't mean that now we have to accept it, but they used that opportunity to come back to Kandahar.
If it were not for your soldiers and ours, and the soldiers of other countries, Kandahar in 2005-06 would have fallen. The fall of Kandahar means the fall of the south, the south means the fall of the west, and the west means the fall of the rest of Afghanistan. That's how history is played in Afghanistan, and they know it. That is why they targeted Kandahar.
Anyway, let me go back to the balance issue, and I hope, again, I have an opportunity someday to sit down and go into much more detail about this, if you're interested.
The balance, I think, is an issue that has to be evaluated by Canadians first. You are an advanced democracy. You have institutions that can go in and evaluate how you are doing and whether it is meeting your criteria.
As I said, you are one of the top donors. You're in the top six donors, and you are moving into the top four donors toward Afghanistan. That is a proud place for Canada to be, and I'm not talking about the military aspect. You have to be extremely proud, as tragic as it is, of the fact that your men and women are serving courageously and with professionalism. They are respected by the Afghans, and we all share in the grief that your people have whenever tragedy strikes.
As far as development is concerned, there are times when the problem is not how much money is being given; it's mostly how it's managed and implemented. We are now looking at new concepts, including, for example, how to empower Afghans even more so that they can make decisions about their priorities and needs without having some consultant from a third country who is contracted for three months to come and tell all of us how to spend millions of dollars.
We have learned many lessons over the past six years in terms of how to disburse funds towards development and reconstruction. One of the lessons is to go to the communities, go to the Afghans, engage the Afghans, engage the communities. Afghanicize the process, listen to them, get them involved. They will protect your money and they will protect the school you build.
Every project that has been implemented in such a manner has not been destroyed, because the locals in the communities have protected it. The Taliban and the terrorists have not been able or not dared to go into those communities to try to create problems for themselves.