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FAAE Committee Report

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The Government of Canada has carefully considered the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled "The Organization of American States: Strengthening the foundation of Canada's Multilateral Engagement in the Americas."

The Government would like to thank the members of the Committee for the opportunity to participate in the hearings, as well as the opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the report. The Government would also like to thank the Committee for its efforts in preparing the report and welcomes the continuing interest of the Committee in the Organization of American States (OAS) and Canada's multilateral engagement in the Americas.

The Government is pleased to note that many of the Committee's recommendations are consistent with Canada's whole-of-government Strategy for Engagement in the Americas. The Committee's recommendations are particularly relevant in the context of current work on institutional reform and the elaboration of a Strategic Vision which is underway within the OAS. The Government of Canada is actively participating in this process.

The OAS is the hemisphere's premier multilateral political forum and a crucial vehicle for pursuing Canadian interests in the region and advancing the goals of Canada's renewed Strategy for Engagement in the Americas. This priority commitment is clearly articulated within Goal 3 of the Strategy "To build a stable foundation for Canada's engagement and increased influence in the region", which identifies the OAS and the broader inter-American system as a key channel for advancing Canadian interests.

Beyond being the only political forum open to all independent states of the Western Hemisphere, the OAS plays a valuable role in developing and promoting common standards and norms for the hemisphere related to democracy, human rights, security and development (reflected in the legal instruments, charters, declarations and resolutions agreed by members such as the Declaration on Security in the Americas). The OAS and its affiliated bodies also seek to support the application of these standards and norms, through a broad range of activities, such as peace building efforts, providing scholarships, investigating human rights abuses, sharing best practices, and observing elections. As such, the OAS is central to Canada's multilateral engagement in the hemisphere and key to the pursuit of Canadian goals in the region, as well as being an important complement to bilateral relations.

Canada is the second largest contributor of regular funds to the OAS (with an assessed contribution of US$ 9.76M in 2013, or 12% of the total). Canada is also among the largest voluntary contributors to the OAS (nearly US$20.6M in 2012), through which it helps to support specific, results-oriented OAS work in areas like security, sustainable economic growth, human rights and democratic governance. Our contributions to the OAS further complement and leverage the impact of Canada's bilateral initiatives in the region. Several provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, are following closely the activities of the OAS and support and value Canada's engagement. The Government remains committed to a strong and effective OAS, and we look forward to continuing to work with partners to foster a positive and constructive dialogue on hemispheric issues of common interest.

Below is the Government's response to the specific recommendations made by the Committee, including relevant measures which the Government of Canada will undertake to implement through its engagement with the OAS and hemispheric partners.

Recommendation 1:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to support the OAS as the premier multilateral organization in the Western Hemisphere.

The Government of Canada supports this recommendation.

Canada's participation in the OAS has yielded significant gains and allowed Canada to make important and lasting contributions to the OAS' collective achievements. This includes the establishment of an Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC), the adoption of the Social Charter of the Americas, the elaboration of a declaration on Security in the Americas, a highly-regarded electoral systems strengthening and observation program, and a long-running program to promote corporate social responsibility. In 2015, Canada will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its OAS membership. Canada's leadership to reform and support the OAS over the years has helped the OAS to safeguard stability and democracy in the hemisphere. The OAS remains a valuable tool for the implementation of Canada's Strategy for Engagement in the Americas and can play an important role in achieving Canadian objectives for the region.

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to push for reforms to strengthen the OAS with its like-minded partners through the OAS General Assembly and Permanent Council.

The Government of Canada supports this general recommendation.

Canada is committed to promoting the enhanced accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of the OAS in order to increase its capacity to deliver on its mandate and address the key challenges facing the hemisphere.

Through development assistance funding, Canada has supported a number of initiatives at the OAS to improve its business processes and thereby enhance accountability and promote greater transparency.

Canada is also leading reform initiatives by chairing the Committee on Budgetary and Administrative Affairs (CAAP) including the introduction of an omnibus Resolution on "Progress towards Accountability, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Results" which was adopted at the June 2013 OAS General Assembly. The content of the Resolution included the OAS Human Resources Management Strategy, Business Modernization, Budget Review Process and procedural elements such as the proposal for a biannual budget.

In July 2013, Canada's term as the Chair of the CAAP was unanimously renewed for another year. Under Canada's leadership, the CAAP has further expanded the reform agenda into a comprehensive administrative and management reform strategy under the name of "Management Modernization Initiative" (MMI).

A Working Group on the OAS Strategic Vision, chaired by Mexico, was created by the OAS Permanent Council in October 2013 to initiate political dialogue among member states in order to establish a strategic vision and key priorities for the OAS. Canada continues to support the strategic vision exercise and, in November, Canada, as Chair of the CAAP, presented the concept of the MMI to member states in the Working Group as a first step to preparing an implementation strategy that would be part of the Strategic Vision report.

The Strategic Vision working group aims to complete its work by the next General Assembly in June 2014, when the issue of the OAS' reform and renewal is likely to feature high on the agenda. Canada will continue to participate in and encourage this process.

Recommendation 2 a:

Canada should support reforms that return the organization's focus to its core areas of work, namely democratic governance, human rights, security, and development;

The Government of Canada supports this recommendation.

Canada supports ongoing efforts to prioritize OAS mandates to better focus and align with the four core pillars of OAS work which include democracy, human rights, security, and development. These core areas of work at the OAS are consistent with Canada's whole-of-government Strategy for Engagement in the Americas which supports a vision of a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere and advances three goals: (1) Increasing mutual economic opportunity; (2) Addressing insecurity and advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; and (3) Fostering lasting relationships throughout the hemisphere. This alignment with Canada's priorities in the region makes the OAS a natural partner in the implementation of our Strategy for Engagement in the Americas.

Many of the over 30 federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations who implement the Strategy work through the OAS for cooperation initiatives, technical dialogue, and funding and implementation of projects.

Canada is actively participating in the OAS Strategic Vision exercise aimed at establishing a strategic vision and key priorities for the OAS to better streamline and align its work with the areas that constitute its core strengths.

Recommendation 2 b:

Canada should support reforms that result in a substantial reduction in the number of existing OAS mandates, principally those that fall outside of the organization's core areas of work (as listed above);

The Government of Canada supports this recommendation.

Through its role as Chair of the CAAP, Canada is leading a process to propose a prioritization of mandates taking into consideration the input from the Strategic Vision exercise. The overall objective is to sunset unnecessary, redundant and obsolete mandates to allow for greater focus and alignment with the OAS' core areas of work, and for effective management.

Recommendation 2 c:

Canada should support reforms that lead to a formula for increasing member states' assessed quotas to the OAS regular fund to a degree that is at minimum sufficient to cover annual inflationary and personnel costs;

The Government of Canada takes this recommendation under advisement.

The Government recognizes that the OAS continues to face serious financial challenges due to mandate proliferation, inflation, and mandatory cost-of-living adjustments. As a major contributor to the Organization, Canada supports efforts to put the OAS on a solid, long-term financial footing, within the parameters of Canada's positions on its assessed contributions to international organizations and its broader policy of fiscal discipline.

As an overarching objective, the Government of Canada continues to advocate budget discipline and good management practices within international organizations. Canada believes that institutional reforms to transform the Organization into a results-oriented, effective and efficient body are essential to the long-term financial health of the OAS. In this regard, Canada actively promotes measures that are linked to this reform process, including the modernization of the Organization's accounting procedures to bring them to international standards, the implementation of results-based budgeting and management, and the development of strategic planning.

Canada has a long standing policy of zero-nominal growth for international organizations' regular fund budgets. Zero nominal growth implies that there is no change in the actual numerical total costs in approved budgets from one year to the next. However, on a case-by-case basis (most recently in 2009 and 2011), Canada has not opposed consensus among member states for modest and reasonable budget increases at the OAS.

The Government of Canada will continue to carefully assess and consider options to help ensure the financial sustainability of the OAS.

Recommendation 2 d:

Canada should support reforms that encourage consideration of the proposal to reduce the United States' quota to 49% of the OAS regular fund, so long as doing so would not result in a reduction in the regular fund's total budget;

The Government of Canada takes this recommendation under advisement.

The proposal to decrease the US quota from its current level of 59.5% to 49% without reducing the regular fund's total budget would necessarily require an increase in the assessed contributions from other member states, including a possible increase in Canada's quota. Such a proposal would have considerable implications for Canada as well as other OAS member states and would need to be agreed by all 34 OAS member states, in the context of a wider debate on OAS quotas and funding mechanisms.

Canada continues to urge the OAS and its member states to establish clear priorities for the Organization to control its mandate load and give it the tools necessary to balance its budget and stabilize its financial situation. The Government of Canada believes that any consideration of significant changes to OAS funding mechanisms should occur in the context of a successful renewal and reform process.

Recommendation 2 e:

Canada should support reforms that institute a process whereby new mandates cannot be added to the OAS' portfolio of work without funding sources being identified, accompanied by an analysis of the rationale for OAS action in the relevant area; and

The Government of Canada supports this recommendation.

The CAAP has adopted a "Costing Process for Resolutions" which includes a Costing Form that describes information to be included with each draft resolution referred to the General Assembly for consideration, if the resolution will be financed by the Program-Budget of the Organization. A 2011 resolution adopted by the OAS Permanent Council further urges that draft resolutions that require OAS funding include the following text: "Execution of the activities envisaged in this resolution will be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources." Although Canada views this a useful step in the process, Canada continues to press for the inclusion of funding implications and clear identification of sources of funds for any new or additional activities proposed in draft OAS resolutions.

Recommendation 2 f:

Canada should support reforms that ensure that all reasonable OAS activities related to the promotion and protection of democratic governance and human rights are fully, consistently and predictably funded.

The Government of Canada supports this recommendation in principle.

Canada promotes measures to help ensure that key OAS activities in its core areas of work, including democratic governance and human rights, are consistently and predictably funded from the quota contributions of member states. In that regard, it has worked closely with member states and the OAS General Secretariat to support the development of medium and long-term plans to promote sustainable funding practices. During the annual budget negotiations, it has also worked with member states to identify appropriate funding levels for these areas and to resist efforts to unnecessarily reduce or eliminate funding provided to them.

In keeping with its overall emphasis on budget discipline and good management practices, Canada has also promoted the adoption of results-based planning, to ensure the most efficient use of scarce resources.

In addition, the Government has provided voluntary contributions to support specific, results-oriented and time-bound activities undertaken by the OAS, including in the areas of democratic governance and human rights.

On democracy, for instance, Canada has contributed financially and/or in kind to over 47 OAS electoral observation missions throughout the region since 2009. It is also supporting OAS efforts to strengthen the capacity of electoral management bodies in the hemisphere through the 2012-2015 $CAD 20M OAS Cooperation Plan, which is financed through the official development assistance envelope. Canada also supports the full implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and continues to play a leadership role in co-sponsoring the OAS' annual resolution on democracy, among other democracy-related initiatives.

Canada also has a strong record of promoting respect for human rights in the Americas, particularly those related to gender, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and has consistently supported the inter-American human rights system. Canada would like to see the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights supported in a coordinated and predictable manner which is better aligned with their respective strategic objectives. It is important to ensure the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of the system while safeguarding its autonomy and independence. To that end, Canada has taken a leadership role in putting forward proposals for financial strengthening of the system, including a proposal for a technical working group to look at future financing options, and will continue to pursue such efforts. Canada has also committed $CAD 4.8 M over six years (2008-2014) to support the Commission's work (notably in reducing its backlog of cases) and training provided to public sector professionals and civil society through the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.