Thank you very much. I will provide a brief statement on behalf of the department. Then both Shelley and I, obviously, will be very pleased to take any questions you might have.
I will mention off the top that I am assistant deputy minister responsible for, basically, the development assistance aspects of Canada's involvement in democracy promotion. Shelley is more involved on the foreign affairs side, which has to do mostly with our diplomacy and democratic promotion through other means.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss our support, past and present, to democratic development. Promoting democracy abroad, as everybody here is aware, has been a long-time integral part of Canada's foreign policy and international assistance, but as the 2007 committee report noted, despite remarkable progress, in their words, “the continued forward march of democracy is no sure thing, and that in the current environment retreat is threatening progress.
I think this is truer today in 2019 than it probably was in 2007. Indeed, the growing threats to the progress of democratic development 12 years ago have now resulted in an overall retreat in democracy, according to most experts.
Popular discontent has appeared in many countries as a result of the failure of these governments to provide effective solutions to important and legitimate domestic issues such as unemployment, a lack of opportunity, inequality and mass migration. Moreover, malicious actors, including authoritarian regimes and their proxies, have increased their efforts to shape public opinion and perception so as to undermine democracy and more broadly the rules-based international order.
While foreign interference is not new, its impact has grown in scale and speed due to cheaper and more accessible digital technology and data. As a result, we have seen declining citizen confidence and engagement in democratic institutions, growing distress between governments and civil society, and the manipulation and discrediting of political parties and their processes.
Of particular concern is the shrinking civic space, one of the key pillars of democracy. The largest democratic declines have taken place in the areas of civil liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, civil society participation and media integrity. It is in this context that we're working today.
For its part, Global Affairs Canada has adapted. In 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade were merged, which has resulted in a consistent use of government tools to promote democracy.
Canada's and the have now both made the commitment set out in their mandate letter to defend the values of inclusive and accountable governance, including through the promotion of human rights, gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, peaceful pluralism, and inclusion and respect for diversity.
In June 2017, the government adopted its feminist international aid policy, which emphasizes inclusive governance focused on democracy and political participation, human rights and the rule of law for all citizens, regardless of their gender identity or any other aspect of their identity. This policy underscores the Government of Canada's commitment to provide inclusive and human rights-based development assistance as recommended in the committee's 2007 study.
Global Affairs Canada supports a wide range of programs and initiatives in all regions of the world to promote inclusive governance. In working with a wide range of partners, we leverage the expertise of Canadian NGOs, multilateral organizations and international institutions, and the engagement of grassroots civil society. What we do and who we do it with depends a lot on local context; we often have to adapt and seize on opportunities as they arise.
Through a feminist approach, the government is giving priority to the leadership and political participation of women. For example, it is working with the Interparliamentary Union to strengthen women's decision-making in parliaments and increase the capacity of parliamentarians—women and men—to adopt gender-sensitive reforms and laws.
In countries like Indonesia and Kenya, Canada supports the equitable access of marginalized or vulnerable groups, including youth and persons with disabilities, to participate in electoral processes.
In addition, Canada is providing up to $24 million to support electoral observation missions in Ukraine in preparation for the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as to support longer-term and sustainable electoral reform.
Globally, programming focused on inclusive governance in areas such as government and civil society, democracy and political participation, and the rule of law and human rights totalled approximately $293 million in 2017-18, with approximately $170 million channelled specifically to promoting democracy.
As mentioned previously, Canada's efforts in this domain are not limited to international development assistance. As part of its feminist foreign policy, Canada has taken actions to strengthen democracy and resilience in peaceful and inclusive societies, at both the international level and through our work through our network of missions abroad.
In the G7, Canada has been a vocal supporter of democratic values. As part of our 2018 presidency, we spearheaded a joint declaration with G7 members that held up democracy as critical in defending against foreign threats. At the G7 summit in Charlevoix, leaders announced the G7 rapid response mechanism. This mechanism strengthens G7 coordination in identifying and responding to diverse and evolving threats to G7 democratic processes. The coordination unit is hosted in Canada on an ongoing basis.
Furthermore, through our broad network of diplomatic missions, Canada engages government officials of other like-minded states and civil society partners to advocate for and provide support to democratic development in those countries. Depending on the context, this is done through quiet diplomacy or through more public and open dialogue. This includes Canada's support for international election observation missions, including the deployment of hundreds of Canadians in recent years as observers, and co-sponsoring resolutions on human rights defenders in supporting their participation in international fora. Our missions are also provided with the “Voices at risk” guidelines to support and protect human rights defenders.
In conclusion, Global Affairs Canada welcomes the committee's interest in what we all agree is an important priority area.
We look forward to taking your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.
We are getting a bit of a thaw down here in Washington, so it's nice to get out of the polar vortex for a few days.
I'm sorry I can't be there with you this morning, but I really am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you all on this topic.
I want to start by giving a little bit of historical context. I see us in three phases of democracy support work. Many of you know that in the United States, the NDI, the IRI and the National Endowment for Democracy were all established during the Reagan administration during a speech at Westminster he gave in 1982. That was the first phase of democracy support. That was during the Communist era, during the Cold War era, and they had very much an ideological bent, but this whole realm of democracy support really hadn't been defined precisely. Our institutes were among those who really sought to define it 35 years ago.
The second phase came with the end of the Cold War, as was mentioned before, the end-of-history phase when it seemed that the tide was coming in and that there was historical inevitability to democracy. It was just a matter, in our view, of working with democratic processes and institutions and with peoples around the world to just let it simmer for a generation or two, and things would naturally come our way. That inevitability was baked into the programming we did. We felt that the expansion of democracy, that the third wave of democratization, was taking off in a very comfortable way for 15 or 20 years.
I think we are in a fundamentally different moment now. I would call it “the autocrats strike back“, the authoritarian learning. Those who have a different view of the way their society should be ordered, and those authoritarians out there who saw the spread of democracy to be a challenge to them and somehow threatening to their very existence found a way to learn and push back in this moment. They took advantage of popular frustration, with expectations quite high that democracy perhaps.... In some societies, they felt that if they just went democratic, then it would be easy. They would become rich and powerful like the west.
It was evident that it wasn't going to be that simple; it wasn't going to be that easy or short term. Economic inequality emerged. Corruption emerged. Mindsets, we found, changed more slowly than institutions and processes. You found folks who would take over, who had the old mindsets, who would use the processes and maybe develop some of the institutions, but wouldn't necessarily ingrain the democratic mindsets in development. You had corrupt environments that people got frustrated with and associated with democracy.
You also had demagogues exploiting the politics of fear. That can happen in any country and in any democracy. Identity politics and immigration, we're seeing that in many different countries, focusing on the other. The general perception that democracy is not delivering became a defining issue for many of these democracies, even those democracies that we felt were entrenched, even our own democracies. That was creating a backlash, a recession.
One other development that was a wild card in all this was the rise of digital technologies, Silicon Valley and the social media platforms that were used and exploited by those who wanted to undermine unity and undermine democracy, to provide platforms for hate and division and to create uncertainty and play with the democratic forums. People didn't recognize soon enough just how pernicious that can be to democracy.
We've learned a bunch of lessons. Our different organizations have learned these lessons, many of which I've already discussed: that building a culture of democracy is not easy; that it takes time and it's as important as institutions and processes; that we need to develop a culture, and culture and mindsets change much more slowly; that we have to be patient and we have to work hard at that; that democracy has to deliver; and that economic inequality, corruption, fear and insecurity all work against democracy.
We have to be alert to it. As Madeleine Albright likes to say, people don't just like to vote, but they like to eat, and I think they also need to feel that the government works for them.
I think what we've done, though, is provide some resilience that international networks like NDI, IRI and others have developed. They actually work, and we're seeing push-back in many countries with the expectation of democratic process. Even if there is a recession of democracy, in fact, the expectation of democratic process is there and there are resilient networks that exist that we can work with.
We need to be working on technology. We're slow to understand that the impact of technology is a lesson.
We also need to recognize inclusivity. Democracy and democratic societies must be fully inclusive. As Secretary Albright, our chair, says, democracy without women is impossible. We've learned over and over that, when women are engaged in politics, democracy is more resilient, development is more sustainable, compromise is more likely and peace processes are more lasting. Likewise, all segments of society must be part of democracy—youth, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTI, and people with disabilities.
Without that inclusivity, you don't have the grounding, the foundations of democracy, and I have to say that—and I hope it's not a partisan thing to say—in the United States I think democracy will win out. We are being saved by women, people of colour and others who are going out and fighting for democracy in the United States. I think it's our wild card, and I think it demonstrates lessons learned for other countries. We need to be focusing on that.
I think this is absolutely a critical time. This is a critical moment. I think it's actually the defining issue of our time. When we look at national security and we look at our national well-being, what are the defining values, norms and rules of the international system in the 21st century? How will we define it?
I heard a question in the previous session that China talks about white supremacists or western egotism. In fact, what we had created in the previous century had worked for everyone. It had actually tied the hands of the west to allow everyone to grow. We've seen a remarkable development in the world in the past 50 years, a remarkable development, even for China and even for the underdeveloped nations.
It works. Democracy has worked. Freedom has worked. But now, there are challenges to that system and to those rules, values and norms that I think will have an impact on our own security and the security of others, and to human dignity, frankly. When I talk about some of the headwinds we have seen in recent years, the push-back of autocrats, I have to say that, in recent years, the last several years, the United States has been AWOL. There has not been leadership. But in fact, all countries need to be playing this.
This is not simply a western thing, or certainly not just a U.S. thing. We need Canada. Canada has been playing a strong role just in the past few weeks on Venezuela, in an exemplary fashion. This is not a U.S. assignment. NDI is a U.S. organization, but we have networks of people all over the world, and we represent something that works for people around the world.
I would very much encourage Canada and other countries to be part of that. We're trying to encourage Japan to be part of that, and anyone else who stands for these values, norms and rules as others try to shape them in their image going forward.
Very quickly, I don't want to take up much more time, because I do want to hear from Dan and the questions, but as for recommendations as to how you should think about this, I think there are things you're already thinking about in Canada, such as women in front. You have a feminist foreign policy. I think that's great. That is strategic, not just a nice thing, but it's a strategic thing for all of us and our security. I think you're in a good position to lead.
Number two, political parties need help. I think you have very strong political parties and activists who can share skills and strategy.
Number three is the youth bulge. Do not ignore the youth bulge. Young people under 30 are a majority in many of the countries in play around the world: in eastern Europe—they're on the move—in Africa absolutely, in Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. This is a critical asset to invest in over the long term. This is not a short-term game but a long-term game we're talking about when it comes to democracy. They are also most at risk of radicalization, of extremism, so they are a point of opportunity but also a challenge, if we don't address that.
In terms of technology programs, Canada has great internal capacity through your Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. We have been working at NDI with your Citizen Lab. Technology programs are very important.
As for citizen education and civics, you're already taking the lead on that. Focusing on Latin America, if you're thinking about a particular area, I think what you've done with the Lima Group is outstanding and exemplary.
In terms of connecting to economic aid, you're in TPP and CETA, and you are otherwise well placed to ensure that democracy delivers, that trade agreements and such are done with values, that we're working to build a common set of rules and norms, and that it is delivered to marginalized populations and regions equitably. This is all extremely important going forward. I think you are very well placed.
If we are now in a moment of democratic recession, it requires a democratic stimulus. Now is the time for us all to reinvest, recommit, and not succumb to fatalism but to lean forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope I didn't go too far past my time.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's wonderful to be here with you.
You see why Derek Mitchell is such a terrific colleague for us at IRI. Our teams at NDI and IRI work very closely together, so despite any judgments you may make about American politics, it's working in the democracy space, our bipartisan ethic.
I would like to begin by thanking all of you for Canada's terrific leadership. On Venezuela, on Ukraine, on women's empowerment, on so many issues in the world today, Canada remains a principled voice. We're just very grateful, at a period when the west—and the community of democracies writ large—is under so much pressure from within and without. Really, I would argue that our democratic way of life, the way Canadians and Americans live, is put at risk by a world in which authoritarian forces are on the march and playing offence. There is a strategic value to this discussion that you are having about modernizing democracy assistance for this new world that Derek sketched out.
Let me very quickly set the scene by talking about what has changed since you, this committee, really looked closely at democracy assistance over 10 years ago. I have four quick points.
One is the re-emergence of great power competition, which is real. I don't need to tell you. Russia and China, in different ways, are projecting authoritarian influence. They are trying to build a world that is more safe for authoritarian forms of government and for their leadership, elements of which are highly inimical to western interests and our way of life. That is a big difference from 2007. That includes Russia's disinformation assault on open societies, including the United States, Canada and our European allies. It includes the corruption and other forms of malign influence associated with China's belt and road initiative and other forms of global engagement, not all of which are insidious, but some of which do undercut our alliances and open societies.
Two is we're living in a world of refugees. I'm sorry to tell you, but you know this. There are more refugees in the world today than any time since 1945. It's worth reflecting on that. More than at any time since the end of the Second World War are people displaced by conflict in this world we live in today. Frankly, that's a failure, and we know why these people are trying to flee. They are trying to flee conflict-ridden societies that are not governed by law and institutions. They are driven by desperation. Migrants out of Central America, for instance, are trying to escape gangster societies where they and their families are not safe. This requires a greater level of engagement from all of us.
Three—Derek mentioned this very articulately—is the digital revolution that has done many great things, but has also empowered and amplified extreme voices in our societies, and created new forms of fragmentation. This is something we do need to come to grips with, because it foundationally affects our democratic order.
Four is the hollowing-out of democratic order by strongmen who preserve some forms of democracy but use their standing to concentrate executive power at the expense of other institutions: parliaments, free media, active civil societies, political competition.
That's the quick assessment. What do we need to do? I'm going to be quite brief here, but I do have five ideas, not inclusive.
One is to realize that we actually live in an increasingly middle-class world. When we think about development assistance writ large, the absolute focus on ending poverty was an appropriate target, I would argue, 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. Today, given what we are working with in terms of this enormous rising middle-class in the world, I would argue that development assistance should focus on democracy, rights, governance, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. It should focus on helping governments deliver for their citizens, so that we don't need to keep helping desperate people—migrants, refugees—and we don't need to backfill governments that are not meeting basic commitments to their citizens.
I would argue that democracy assistance actually should supersede other forms of assistance, because other forms of assistance are not very effective where you have a kleptocratic strongman in power, or a failed state.
Two is to really embrace a mission—Canada, America, the west—in helping our partners out there in the world build political resiliency to not only be effective democracies but also to avoid succumbing to insidious forms of influence from authoritarian actors, including China and Russia.
We travel a lot, all of us. I've never been anywhere where anybody wanted to be part of a new Russian empire or part of a new Chinese sphere of influence. People everywhere care so much about their sovereign rights and are very anxious about threats to their sovereign independence from authoritarian great powers. So, helping our partners out there build resiliency, including strong civic institutions, effective media, free courts, etc., to help them maintain their independence, should be a strategy.
The third is to expose corruption. Tom Carothers, who is a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, has done research showing that over the last five years, 10% of all governments in the world—sometimes through election, sometimes through street revolution—have changed due to civic activism against corruption and that the driving civic force out in the world today is anti-corruption sentiment. You see it today on the streets of Iran, where people are striking. You see it in Venezuela, where Venezuelans are fed up with living in a kleptocratic narco state where the elites live very well and everybody else cannot get enough to eat. This is a powerful force.
I would argue, when we think of Russia's assault on the west and our open societies, that with regard to Vladimir Putin who apparently is worth $95 billion, it's worth investigating, understanding and helping Russian citizens understand where that money came from because, actually, a lot of it was their money before the Kremlin oligarchs consolidated a form of power that made them all very rich.
Innovating in the democracy space to expose and to help partners on the ground expose corruption in their societies is a very powerful tool, including in countries that, frankly, may not be pro-western, pro-American. People care so deeply about this issue.
The fourth is to invest in recreating political balance in societies where politics have become imbalanced through strongman forms of control. That's stronger parliaments. That's more engaged women, youth and other marginalized communities, getting them much more involved in politics in their countries. That's free media. That's legal assistance and other forms of assistance. It's all to try to recreate the balance that has been lost through strongman forms of control.
An important part of this is investing in the next generation. In countries like the Philippines and Turkey, young political leaders, and young leaders writ large, do not want to live in a country that's run by one man in perpetuity. That's also true of young leaders in the ruling parties, leaders who actually want some space to emerge in their own right. Investing in young leaders as part of an effort to create balance is valuable.
Finally, invest in citizen security. Rather than build a wall on the southern border of the United States, I would argue that it would be much more effective to spend that money helping Central American societies govern themselves in just and effective ways so that all these desperate people don't want to leave. The same is true in the Middle East. The conflagration that has been Syria and the conflagration that has been Yemen are driving desperate people away. We've seen it in Southeast Asia in Myanmar: the Rohingya crisis. I could go on and on. Really, at the end of the day, we should be addressing the problem at the source.
The U.S. ambassador to Nigeria told me when I was there that there are going to be 400 million Nigerians by the year 2100. He said that if Nigeria cannot effectively govern itself and provide opportunity, 100 million of those people will leave. Guess where they will want to come? So, this is a big task for us, including in Africa.
Let me wrap up, in 10 seconds, by just arguing that we're in a competition with authoritarians—authoritarians externally and authoritarians within open societies. They're using what the National Endowment for Democracy has called sharp power. They're not using military instruments. They're using sharp power, which is like a malign form of soft power—a set of sharp power tools to erode, hollow out and assault democracies and democratic institutions. It's time for us in the west to modernize and revitalize our democracy assistance tool kit to try to level the playing field.
Thank you very much for that question.
I do think the fact that it has been under Congress has been a benefit to us. I think the fact of bipartisanship.... We get that question a lot, even from those in Congress. Why is there a republican institute and why is there a democratic institute? We were patterned after the German stiftungs, which divided their work according to ideology, but the NDI decided not to do its work based only on ideology. It was based on small-d democracy, on democrats, whatever their ideology, going forward. I think it helps that we have two institutes when it comes to Congress, because it switches back and forth between different partisan or party leadership.
I suppose it can be a double-edged sword in a way, but it has worked out well for us overall. We have had consistent support because of Congress, which traditionally has been the repository of national norms and values in the country. The executive can get overwhelmed by big picture policy, realism and how to get along with other countries, and values can get lost or downgraded in the list of important interests, but the legislature is always the one that says, “No, we have a certain meaning behind our country that the American people want to maintain.”
If we didn't have Congress in the past few years...this administration was cutting us drastically, by 30% to 40%. It would go up to the Hill and the Hill would say, “Thank you for your interest in national security, and we do the budget, so we're putting back all this money and in fact increasing it a little bit.”
We can't rely on that. We have to be able to explain to the American people why we do what we do and why it's important, and not rely on individual senators or staff members, but it has worked very well so far that it has been in Congress.
Good morning to both of you. Thank you very much. It's been very informative today.
Mr. Twining, I'll start with you.
In 1944 part of the reason for the Bretton Woods conference was to maintain a stable world order. Fast-forward about 70 years and that's beginning to fray. You've written quite forcefully that there should be trilateral co-operation between Asia, Europe and America, and that now the compact would be useful in bringing back the liberal international order.
My question for you is simple in a way and complex in a way. You mentioned Russia and China. When you have two countries that are implicating themselves in the domestic affairs of other countries, either through force or economically....
I'll give you one example right now, and that's Venezuela. People may not realize that the biggest investor in Venezuela right now is China. The only three countries that are supporting the current regime are China, Russia and Turkey. I'm just pointing out one example, but if you look at Latin America, at Africa, or at parts of Asia, the economic implications of certain countries are so strong that half the economies are dependent on that one country or the investment of that one country.
If we go into those countries, the ones that need the most help, where there are no free and fair elections, where you have corruption, where you don't have freedom of the press, how do we change the nature of that country or promote democratic institutions when that same leadership is profiting from non-democratic institutions?
It's a hard question. I'll begin where you did, with North American co-operation with Europe and Asia. We talk about the west these days, but of course the west is actually global. It certainly includes Japan as part of the G7 and core rich democracies, but I would argue that over time, it increasingly should include India. India is the world's biggest democracy.
Frankly, they may have a lot more to offer developing societies as they come up in terms of their own level of development than obviously rich countries like Canada and the United States have. Thinking about the challenge, the Indian system is more acutely aware of the China challenge writ large, I would argue, than many of us are in the west. The Japanese have so much at stake because they are marooned in this region with these rising autocracies, powerful autocracies, in Russia and China. When we think about democratic co-operation in new ways, that should mean a core group of big democracies acting in concert together, because we are all dealing with the same challenges.
That's one. Two, the Venezuela thing is very interesting, because it is exposing Russia's interest in controlling oil prices by sustaining the Maduro regime in power. It's exposing China's enormous investments in this kleptocracy in the form of bonds and energy resources. Frankly, part of what we see in the IRI and NDI work around the world is resentment in countries—in Africa, in the Pacific, in the Indian Ocean—of foreign countries' claims to their resources through corrupt political dealings with their leaders.
In the Maldives there was just a democratic transition a few months ago. You had an elected dictator who took power and abolished the Supreme Court and consolidated all control. He held an election because he thought he could win it, as these people often do, and 90% of voters turned out and deposed him. It turns out that they are now swimming in a sea of Chinese investment and infrastructure crooked dealings, just like the new Malaysian government is swimming in a sea of crooked dealings and trying to get out of it.
I think the more we collectively can expose some of these deals that often happen behind closed doors—behind, say, the Maduro regime and Beijing, or the Maduro regime and Russian oligarchic interests—the better, because citizens really resent that in those countries.
Thank you both very much. You were very informative. This is a study that all members, all sides politically, have a lot of interest in.
The big problem the Trudeau government has had on foreign policy has been where there are countries that don't share our values, but we may share interests. This is the balance we see in foreign policy. China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and the Philippines.... There are a number where we don't share values and we've had diplomatic rows. Those are the countries where we have to be promoting democratic reform, human rights and a range of things.
Mr. Mitchell, you talked about how building a culture of democracy is not easy. It's a slow-going process.
My question is for both of you. How is the challenge...? I'll use this as an example. In Canada, we didn't legalize same-sex marriage until 2005. I think we all agree that's a positive thing. The U.S., at the federal level, is still really having that debate. How can we best advance bare-bones democratic rights to liberty, freedom of association and expression, those sorts of things, when we also import a number of our progressive values, as we might say, to countries that are in the Stone Age, comparatively, on a democratic level? Sometimes I worry, with the Trudeau government, that a lot of their progressive agenda on trade and all these sorts of things are far more for their domestic political audience than they are for the countries for which they are intended.
I'd love to hear you both on this, because I'm wondering whether that will slow the process of democratic reform in some of these countries.