I'd like to call to order meeting number four of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and our briefing on the situation in Libya.
To all of our guests, some who have been here before and some who are here for the first time, welcome. Thank you for taking the time to be with us.
From CIDA, we have with us Vincent LePape, director, North Africa and Middle East, as well as Leslie Norton, the director general of the international humanitarian assistance directorate.
I don't believe you have any opening statements, but you'll be here to answer questions.
We also have with us, from the Department of National Defence, Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Holman, assistant deputy judge advocate general, operations, and Brigadier-General Craig King, director general, operations, strategic joint staff.
Welcome. I don't believe you have any opening statements but you're here to answer questions, so thank you very much.
From the Department of Foreign Affairs, we have with us Marie Gervais-Vidricaire--I'm working on my French pronunciation--director general of the stabilization and reconstruction task force, START. Thank you for being here.
That leaves us with you, Ms. Martin. You're the last one. You're going to give us our opening statement for today.
I think all of you know how the committee works. After the opening remarks, we'll have questions from around the room. Again, thanks to all of you for being here and for taking the time to brief us on Libya.
Without more conversation, I'm going to turn it over to you, Ms. Martin, to brief us with your opening statements.
Members of the committee, it's truly a great pleasure to meet with you today against the backdrop of a Libya that has seen tremendous changes in recent weeks. Most of the Libyan people, including those in Tripoli, are now freed from the control of the Gadhafi regime.
Despite this positive progress, there are still civilians under threat in a few cities in which the pro-Gadhafi forces are fiercely resisting the reality of the end of the regime. Fighting is still ongoing around Sirte and Bani Walid, where the pro-Gadhafi forces are making a stand.
Consequently, on September 21 NATO decided to extend its mission, Operation Unified Protector, for 90 days beyond the September 27 end date. Last week members of Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of continuing Canada's leadership role in that mission to protect Libyan civilians and help the Libyan transition to a post-Gadhafi era.
As the loyalist forces retreated over the summer, Canada has responded quickly with a number of steps to support the new Libya.
On August 25, Canada accredited the new Libyan chargé d'affaires appointed by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and committed to interact with the NTC as Lybia's government until an elected government is in place.
On September 1, attended the Paris Friends of Libya Conference where he met with the chair of the executive board of the NTC, Mahmud Jibril, and informed him directly of the lifting of Canada's unilateral sanctions imposed on the Libyan government under the Special Economic Measures Act.
At the same time, Canada approached the United Nations for approval to make available to the Libyan authorities funds frozen under United Nations resolutions 1970 and 1973. After receiving the necessary approvals from the UN's sanctions committee, Minister announced on September 13 that Canada would be unfreezing all Libyan assets held in Canada and Canadian institutions. This was worth approximately $2.2 billion.
The unfreezing is a complicated process because the funds are held in the U.K. branches of Canadian banks and are denominated in U.S. dollars. However, the steps necessary to release the funds are largely complete, and we are in discussions with the National Transitional Council about where they wish the funds to be directed.
Most recently, on September 20 the and the participated in a high-level meeting on Libya in New York, which was hosted by the United Nations Secretary General. This meeting was to coordinate international assistance to the Libyan-led transition. Minister met with Mr. Jabril again at that time to discuss Canada's involvement.
As you may know, on September 16 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2009, which establishes the United Nations support mission in Libya under the leadership of special representative of the Secretary General Ian Martin. The mission has been established for an initial three-month period to support Libyan efforts to, among other objectives, restore public security and order and promote the rule of law.
It also eased the sanctions imposed in UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, including easing the arms embargo to allow importation of items intended for security and disarmament assistance to the Libyan authorities, as well as of small arms and light weapons for the use of UN personnel, media, and development workers.
We are currently examining ways of supporting Libya's transition through targeted stabilization assistance. Consultations are under way with the UN and with the NTC to ensure that Canada's contribution is coordinated with international partners and responds to the needs identified by the Libyans themselves. Canada will align its support and assistance within the framework agreed with the NTC.
We have identified four areas where we believe we could have significant value added and will be developing programming: first, good governance and institution building; second, security and rule of law; third, economic development; and four, human rights and the role of women.
The UN will be leading a series of seven post-conflict needs assessment missions. Canada has expressed an interest in participating in a number of them, in particular those regarding public security and rule of law; disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; and possibly, electoral and constitutional needs.
In addition to the support for Libya and the implementation of the UN resolutions, the government is also working to return full services to Canadians in Libya through our embassy in Tripoli, including support for Canadian companies. On September 13, following an assessment mission undertaken in early September by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of National Defence, announced that Canada had re-established its diplomatic presence in Libya. This was six and a half months after evacuating all personnel and suspending operations. We deployed a skeleton team to liaise with the NTC and to prepare the way for more staff.
The embassy is currently operating from a temporary location while the chancery is restored for operations. There was no damage to the chancery, per se, but some work was needed and security measures had to be upgraded to enable operations to resume from that site.
The Canadian ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell, who I believe you've already met, has returned to Tripoli. As soon as an appropriate level of security is in place, the embassy will resume operations and will be able to provide services to Canadians.
Given Canada's role in liberating Libya and the ongoing need in Libya to restore the economy and to rebuild governance institutions for the new democratic Libya, the embassy complement will be expanded, at least for the immediate term. This will help to increase its capacity for political analysis, engagement with the NTC, and promotion of Canadian commercial interests.
Canadian officials are in regular contact with companies that were previously active in Libya or that have indicated an interest in becoming so to discuss how the Government of Canada can best support their interests.
Our embassy team in Tripoli has reported important changes on the ground. Traffic jams are back in Tripoli—a sign both that basic commodities like fuel are available and that people have the confidence to leave their homes. The overall atmosphere is almost festive, with the flags of the new Libya prominently displayed throughout the city, and children and adults alike dressed in T-shirts and ball caps of red, black and green stripes. Outside of specific areas where fierce fighting took place, such as Misrata, the infrastructure of Libya is largely intact.
In Tripoli, the precision of NATO strikes over the past months is evident. Some buildings are damaged, but little else. Libya is not a poor country. Its oil wealth is a foundation for the rebuilding that must take place. While there was some damage to oil facilities, repairs are already under way and production is being restored. It will take approximately a year for production to be restored to pre-revolution levels.
Despite these very positive signs, there are real challenges on the horizon. Many of the demands for a better quality of life that preceded the conflict--improved education, medical services, and employment--remain. Expectations for rapid improvement after four decades of stagnation are rising quickly.
The NTC, which has done a good job so far of maintaining order, is still in the process of restoring security forces and decommissioning various militias that had undertaken the fighting to free Libya. It's also in the difficult process of establishing an interim government. While it had ambitions of having this done last month, it has proven more challenging than anticipated. With Libya now free and with the shared goal of ridding the country of the Gadhafi regime, the NTC must develop cohesion among disparate political views and accommodate those with personal ambitions.
There have been ongoing efforts to broaden the membership of the executive council in order to make it more representative and inclusive; however, agreement has thus far proven elusive. Just yesterday the chairman of the NTC announced that its cabinet had been formed, but this was largely a confirmation of most of the individuals who had been in the previous cabinet.
According to local reporting and interviews with Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the current chairman of the NTC, the formation of the new cabinet will now be postponed until after victory has been declared. Victory will likely be declared after the capture of Sirte and Bani Walid. Once this has happened, the current temporary government, the cabinet of which was just confirmed yesterday, will be dissolved and a new transitional government will be formed within a month.
In recent interviews Mr. Jalil has said that it is more important at this stage to have a competent cabinet that can quickly bring the country back to a more normal state. A representative cabinet will be formed after the elections are held. As the one current leader who seems to have the moral authority and leadership abilities that most Libyans seem to accept, his voice is probably the clearest indication of what shape the future political landscape will take.
Other challenges include ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law in a country that has little experience of democracy; reconciling diverse elements and preventing retaliatory attacks so that all find their future in the new Libya; and thirdly, gaining control of the many thousands of weapons now circulating in the country and the young men who carry them.
And of course, Gadhafi remains at large with an unknown degree of influence. These are significant hurdles to overcome. How these challenges are addressed will establish the country's path for the months and years to come.
In closing, I'd like to share that there's a good amount of good will toward Canada in Libya as a result of our decisive action within the NATO mission. The chairman of the NTC, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, in his first public address on his return to Tripoli thanked Canada specifically for its assistance. Given the overwhelming support in Parliament for Canada's continued participation in Operation Unified Protector, Canada will continue to play a key role in protecting civilians in Libya as the Libyan people work together to rebuild their new country.
The team and I would be very happy to respond to your questions.
Thank you for your question.
Indeed, there will be several needs assessment missions. The international community has agreed that these missions be coordinated in large measure by the United Nations. There are several of them. In fact, there are ten, seven of which are being coordinated by the United Nations.
As we said previously, the United Nations has opened an office in Tripoli. However, finding the proper people to talk to constitutes a real challenge for the people on the ground, because determining their needs must of course be done in very close cooperation and consultation with the Libyans themselves.
In light of the situation which prevailed until yesterday when the cabinet was reconfirmed, it was apparently very difficult to find the proper interlocutors. We hope the situation will improve.
Canada hopes to be a part of some of these needs assessment missions. We expressed particular interest in the mission that will be focusing on public safety and rule of law issues, as well as on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
In fact, our Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force—the START—will as of next week send an agent who will be on site and provide liaison with the on-site United Nations office and other partners. I think that will be very useful.
We had hoped that these assessment missions would submit their conclusions around the end of September or the beginning of October. However, I think that they will need a little more time.
However, some needs that are already quite obvious have been identified by the Libyans, such as the need for mine clearance, and what to do with unexploded bombs and ammunition, which remain a threat.
The United Nations demining services are examining the issue. Since this is a very urgent need they are looking at this very closely because this is something that could perhaps be done relatively quickly.
Overall, I think that the operative rule is to favour coordination with the international community through the United Nations and close cooperation with the Libyans. As long as they have not clearly determined what they would like the international community to do, we will have to be patient.
Thanks very much for the question.
I'll share the response with my colleague from the bilateral program, if I may, but I'll begin by saying that I think many of us are aware that in many of the conflict-affected parts of Libya there is a lot of stability right now. On the humanitarian front, Libya is stabilizing, and a lot of our humanitarian partners are starting to think toward closing down their humanitarian response and turning to reconstruction or early recovery and reconstruction. That's the first part.
Canada was there during that humanitarian response phase, was one of the first donors to respond to the UN and the Red Cross appeals. We responded within the total of $10.6 million. Our partners included the variety of the partners within the UN itself, from the World Food Program to UNHCR--the UN High Commissioner for Refugees--and IOM, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Canadian Red Cross.
As we all know, at the outset of the conflict many folks moved. There was lots of movement, a lot of displaced people both within the country as well as outside the country. For the folks who moved outside the country, it was predominantly UNHCR and IOM that were taking care of them, and many of the third-country nationals were returned to their countries of origin.
In-country currently, a fair number of displaced people remain. The totals are estimated at between 100,000 and 150,000. That brings me to Bani Walid and Sirte. In Bani Walid alone, we estimate that there are about 40,000 displaced people. We have reports from the ICRC from the weekend. They had managed to get into Sirte for a first mission, and we understand from the media reports, which I think we're all party to, that they attempted a second visit and assessment, but they were not able to do it because of the violence.
They visited the hospital to do an assessment of what the requirements were, and they found, of course, the need for oxygen and fuel within the hospital itself. There are a lot of people who have been affected by the current besieging of the city and they're in desperate need of medical aid. We understand that there are thousands of civilians also streaming out of Sirte. We also understand that the UN is trying to prepare.... Stockpile is perhaps not the correct term, but they're bringing the assistance in and around the city in anticipation of the movement of people outside the city.
So that's the current context. The remaining humanitarian needs are very localized, and the partners that CIDA Canada has financed are in fact there and they continue to be there very actively. Primarily it is the ICRC within the context of Sirte and Bani Walid, but also UNICEF has been, I understand, distributing water to those who have left Bani Walid.
With the stabilization of the humanitarian situation throughout the country, in some the humanitarian response will be decreasing as the early recovery and reconstruction elements start to pick up speed.
At this point I'll turn to my colleague, Vincent LePape, to speak about the longer-term nature of CIDA's involvement.
Of course, the region itself is undergoing a massive transition. Tunisia was the country where the whole Arab awakening, as we now like to call it, began. Tunisia itself, of course, is working toward the development of a constituent assembly to determine its own constitution as it looks forward. Elections to that assembly will take place later this month.
Egypt, its neighbour on the other side, is also undergoing a massive reform program, a social upheaval that resulted in the removal of President Mubarak and now his trial for the acts he committed. The process there is progressing, I would say, with a few bumps in the road, as frankly could be expected. We experienced the same thing with countries in eastern Europe. It takes a long time to actually rebuild a new institutional and democratic culture within countries undergoing this sort of transition.
Algeria, which hasn't undergone as dramatic a reform process as have others, is nonetheless looking at a certain level of reform within its own environment.
Those are the countries that border Libya on the horizontal plane. Basically, their contributions are in the sense that they too are undergoing these processes, from the deposition of the existing regime to the rebuilding of a new country.
The countries to the south--Chad, Niger, and Sudan--are Saharan countries predominantly, and they have challenges of their own. No doubt you've read reports of members of the Gadhafi family who may have fled across the border into Niger, and the Nigerians seem to be mindful of obligations with respect to the International Criminal Court among others in their management of that. That too is a contribution to this overall effort.
As I said in my opening remarks, Moammar Gadhafi remains at large. We don't know where he is. We don't know what his influence is, and we suspect he has considerable resources at his disposal. There remains a huge question as to where he may attempt to flee to and what assistance might be given by those neighbours.
To my knowledge, Chad hasn't had a major engagement in this process at all. Of course Sudan faces enormous challenges of its own with its recent separation into two countries. It has also experienced an increase in fighting.
In summation, I think the major contribution is that these are all countries facing common challenges from similar but not identical situations, and no doubt there is a degree of comparing of notes.
I would say there are two international processes under way. One is the Deauville Partnership, which was launched by the French presidency at their summit in Deauville and at a meeting held in Paris of that body called the Friends of Libya. A subsequent meeting was held in New York to look at how countries could assist these countries. They are all members of this partnership, so in that sense they engage as equals in a discussion on the way forward.
The second process is the broader Middle East and North Africa initiative, which is managed under the G-8 process.
Mr. Bob Dechert: Do I have more time?
Thank you for your question.
It's difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance when bombs are dropping. That's something we are concerned about—the safety and security of humanitarian workers. They can move in only when the active conflict has stopped.
The ICRC made one foray into Sirte on October 1, and they were able to undertake a quick assessment. I understand Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, was also able to witness the situation. They were both reporting casualties, shrinking water supplies, lack of electricity, and lack of food. So, yes, there are definitely humanitarian needs.
Canada funded the ICRC to the tune of over $3 million when the ICRC launched its appeal. They are one of our most important humanitarian partners. We have a core funding relationship with the ICRC, and they will come back to us and to their key donors if and when they require further assistance. But at this time, they haven't appealed for further assistance. That being said, the ICRC is there and is ready once the fighting stops.
Also, the UN, like Canada, is extremely concerned about the protection of civilians in the Bani Walid lead area as well as in Sirte. They have mobilized their humanitarian assistance, food, and medical supplies to the outskirts of both cities to be able to assist anyone able to leave. We understand that up to 40,000 internally displaced people have fled from Bani Walid, and they are being provided with assistance from the UN agencies posted on the outskirts. Unfortunately, it's one of these tough situations where the humanitarian workers want to go in and provide assistance, but they cannot do so when there is active fighting to the degree currently under way.
If it goes on for a long time, the ICRC will be in active discussions with the military with a view to their letting us know when there's a pause. Then we will go in and assist the people who need it. I understand that in the hospital there are casualties and the locals who are there have made folks aware of what the needs are. We are waiting to go in and address those needs.
I have a few questions in mind.
Since Libya is not a signatory to the Rome Convention, could Gadhafi's collaborators and Gadhafi himself be judged by an international court? How will Gadhafi's collaborators be brought to justice, since the Libyan justice system has yet to be set up?
How will acts of vengeance be prevented, and how will combatants be disarmed? What are the challenges posed by the demobilization of the many rebel combatants and their integration into the regular armed forces, the police or simply civil society?
I have another very pertinent question. Libya is not an isolated country, it is not an island. How will we stabilize all of the Sahel-Saharan region so as to avoid seeing Libya sink once again into chaos?
According to the press, Ambassador Mohamed Loulichki pointed to the absence of transborder cooperation, the lack of security coordination, and to the convergence of various trafficking activities that make the Sahel-Saharan region a crisis point and a grey zone where collusion is taking place among these various non-state actors, arms dealers and terrorist movements such as al-Qaeda, in the Islamic Maghreb region. He believes that any sociopolitical imbalance will perturb the economic dynamics of the area sooner or later.
So what is there to do to fill the void created by Gadhafi's departure, in the sense that he was able to create a certain cohesion? What strategy should be adopted to compensate for the financial support Gadhafi offered his neighbours? We have to find a way of ensuring that there will be peace in the region.
I might add to this that while I am not able to answer the legal intricacies of the statute of Rome and its relationship to the Libyan situation, the International Criminal Court has in fact issued a warrant for Gadhafi's arrest. The question is whether there will be an opportunity to actually exercise that warrant and bring him to justice through that process.
Concerning the legal intricacies that lie behind that, I'm afraid I would have to respond later. I could perhaps consult with colleagues in the department and get back to you on that.
You also asked about the challenges of demobilization within Libya, but also about Libya's situation within the region and the risks of a destabilized environment. You touched on the questions of terrorists and such forces operating through that area.
First of all, the demobilization is a challenge. The fight of the anti-Gadhafi forces was undertaken with various groups of militias who rose up and unified in order to push Gadhafi and his regime from the country. Right now there is the challenge of trying to recover the arms that are in the country.
A number of military bases were captured. The arms stores that were there were taken by various factions in the country, so the country is essentially awash in arms. It is a situation the National Transitional Council is enormously aware of and concerned about. It's one area in which we would be looking to see whether we can help, frankly.
With respect to the broader issue of terrorism through the region, Canada, like many other countries, has been concerned about this for some time. The Saharan region is a vast and unpopulated but also unpoliced region. In the course of recent years we have seen the rise of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in that particular area. It is something on which we work with a number of countries throughout that region to develop programs that will make it less appealing for individuals to join these terrorist groups.
It's an ongoing struggle. Indeed, there is always the risk of destabilization through the region. But we are very hopeful, with the changes beginning in so many of these countries and the reforms to respond to the needs and the interests of the populations, that the appeal of terrorist groups and criminal groups will begin to diminish over time.
That's actually a very good question. It's also a difficult question to answer, because I think we have yet to see exactly how some rivalries or differences of view might play out in Libya.
You're absolutely right that there are different tribal groups, there are different ethnic groups, and there are different religious perspectives in the country as well. And there is an east-west divide, as I described earlier, between the Benghazi and the Tripoli areas. I think the challenges we've seen for the National Transitional Council to form a new cabinet have been in part a reflection of the challenges they face.
That said, thus far we are not seeing the tribal or ethnic issues emerging as predominant in the discussions. The issues are more around what the nature of the country going forward is going to be, to what extent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood would find themselves represented within political structures as they go forward. Those are difficult issues for Libyans. It's clearly an Islamic state, but they are going to have to address exactly what is the colour and the nature of that state.
With respect to water, I think you may be referring to the great man-made river project, which is in fact under way. Elements of that provide water already to Tripoli and a number of major cities around Tripoli. It's a project that is still being completed, and there are more phases to be done. So clearly, negotiations have been under way to allow the pipeline to pass through different groups and parts of Libya.
If you would like, I would be very happy to provide further information to you later on that particular project.