Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members.
It is an honour for the UN Democracy Fund and for me as a Canadian to be here and to thank Canada for being a donor to UNDEF.
I will make my presentation in English, but I can answer questions in French also.
In the decade-plus since this committee's 2007 report, UNDEF has garnered rich experience relevant to the call for an arm's-length Canada foundation for international democratic development.
In order to keep this presentation brief, I am sacrificing details and examples, but we stand ready to provide further information during the questions session and subsequently.
UNDEF was privileged a few years back to assist the then-nascent European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. It would be an honour to be of similar service to Canada.
Over the past 12 years, UNDEF has helped to design, fund and generate more than 750 projects in more than 120 countries. Our two-year grants amount to between $100,000 and $300,000 U.S. each, and they support partners in countries at various stages of democratization.
UNDEF's work is funded entirely by voluntary contributions. In addition to Canada, we count 40-plus donor countries. Many of these are middle- and low-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their support sustains a staff of seven people at UN headquarters. We're a team of seven people. That's it. We have no field offices of our own. We minimize our staff and operational budget by leveraging the extensive presence and infrastructure of the United Nations and other partners. We help with assessing the viability of applicants in some cases, or monitoring project milestones.
We often find ourselves at the forefront of grassroots struggles against rising authoritarianism and against the closing of space for civil society, yet our experience shows that even in challenging environments, entry points for democratic development can be found.
A government wary of outside involvement in areas deemed political will, nevertheless, consent to a capacity-building project in what is thought of as the social sphere, let's say a project aimed at improving access to local infrastructure and services for people with disabilities or those with HIV. Another example might be a project aimed at stimulating youth involvement in local environmental stewardship. I can give examples during the question period.
While the immediate aim, that is, to meet a community need, is politically neutral, participants come away with skills and capacities they can bring to bear in asserting other rights and in holding duty bearers to account, and therefore to help build a democratic culture.
This is why UNDEF's thematic areas range from more narrowly political ones, like support for electoral processes, the rule of law and human rights, to more foundational ones, like youth engagement, gender equality, community activism, and strengthening civil society interaction with government.
When I served in peacekeeping with the UN stabilization mission in Mali, I saw just how difficult—impossible, really—it was for vulnerable communities to assert their rights and interests where civil society is weak and disorganized. Drawing on those lessons, UNDEF has sought and supported projects that advance freedom of information and speech, and that enable Malian civil society to engage the defence and security sector.
In such challenging environments, and everywhere we work, local partnerships are absolutely critical. The vast majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations, small community groups often passed over by others in favour of larger, better-known entities practised in the administrative business of managing international projects.
By providing advice and mentoring, and by facilitating the exchange of lessons learned among grantees and partners, UNDEF strives to ensure that applicants will have the technical capacity to implement the project they are proposing. We do this because such organizations can make the most of relatively small sums of money, and because for change to be durable, it has to be locally driven. Put another way, we need to invest in the ability of local people to assert their rights and improve their well-being long after our involvement has ended.
I saw this for myself when serving with the UN Development Programme in Afghanistan, where many international actors merely subcontracted to intermediary NGOs rather than working with community groups and leaders who were addressing locally identified needs and priorities.
Of course, UNDEF also works with international NGOs, including Canada's own Journalists for Human Rights, which has done groundbreaking work in South Sudan and Syria and now is a partner in Mali, but UNDEF goes beyond operational collaboration with international civil society organizations. We include them in our governance structures where they serve alongside donor and recipient member states, eminent individuals and UN agencies. Because of this diversity of donors, advisers and governance partners, and because being a largely autonomous member of the UN family gives us multilateral bona fides, UNDEF often has an edge in situations where bilateral interests might be regarded with suspicion.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, much has been said about the difficult times in which we find ourselves and the challenges confronting the democratic experiment. I hope my remarks on behalf of the UN Democracy Fund will prove useful to you. I look forward to trying to answer your questions today, and we at UNDEF will be honoured to answer any questions you might have subsequently.
Thank you for this opportunity to be of service. Merci beaucoup.
Good morning, everyone.
I feel very honoured to be here with you today.
On behalf of the international community, I'd like to thank you for your clarity of insight to be looking at this issue today, because if this report that you're reviewing was important in 2007, it's arguably absolutely critical today. If history has taught us one thing, it's that authoritarians who attack the rule of law at home are more inclined to undermine the rule of law abroad. This is not just a human rights and a diplomatic issue; this is a rule of law and international security issue.
I was president of CIDA when the original report came out in 2007, and then spent many years at the World Economic Forum where I was able to observe first-hand the decline of democratic governance around the world, and speak privately with literally hundreds of people from different stakeholder groups in those countries.
Today, I'd like to share my perspectives in three areas: first, why is this deterioration taking place; second, what actions could Canada take; and third, what can this committee do in a unique way to ensure that this time their recommendations lead to real impact.
First, why is this occurring? Many of the people who came before you have underlined the role of almost an “authoritarians are us” club, sharing best practices on how to dismantle systems of rule of law in their various countries. An important question is why those authoritarians are there in the first place. In the vast majority of cases they were elected, and often they were elected through processes that were reasonably transparent, so it wasn't the elections; it's what happened after the elections that is most disconcerting.
To understand why so many authoritarians have been elected, even in countries that had a certain degree of democratic consolidation, it's important to acknowledge that there is a wave of democratic disenchantment or disillusion among citizens in various countries around the world. People who rejected authoritarianism in the 1970s and 1980s, such as in Latin America, end up finding themselves disenchanted with the reality of what democracy does or does not deliver.
Three areas come up in many surveys. First is deep, pervasive corruption. Unlike other indicators that tend to get better as countries get richer—like poverty or health care issues—corruption often gets worse as there are more rent-seeking opportunities. Second, there is crime and lack of security in cases where the police are the predators rather than the protectors, and there's no justice. Third is weak institutions, systems that do not constrain leadership and do not deliver services, hope, prosperity and opportunity. Where the world is not just, it's not fair.
Polls in Latin America have shown that dissatisfaction with democracy has increased from 51% in 2009 to a stunning 71% recently. More than half of Latin Americans still believe in the concept of democracy even though the support for that has dropped by 13%. But the overwhelming majority right now are saying, “We believe in this, but we're not seeing it.”
Let me underline once again the incredibly important role of corruption as a corrosive element on democratic systems. Transparency International came out with a key report last year which concluded that as long as corruption continues to go largely unchecked, democracy is under threat around the world. Patricia Moreira noted, “Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption”.
I'd humbly suggest if your report does not address the need for a concerted push against corruption, we will not be providing an up-to-date perspective on what we need to do to enhance democratic promotion and resilience around the world.
More broadly, if we look at these issues of corruption and crime and hypocrisy, if we don't put more emphasis on the governance part of democratic governance, we may lose the democratic part. I think that is the key learning of the last decade. The importance of governance has been underlined more recently by a World Bank development report in 2017 that focused on governance and the law. It was a breakthrough with sustainable development goals in 2015 when, for the first time, STG 16 notes peace, justice and strong institutions as critical to development. There is an international recognition of this gap. The challenge is that there is no systematic filling of this gap with capability and support.
Bilateral development agencies, if anything, have reduced their support for democratic governance over the last decade, for two reasons.
One is the unintended consequence of the understandable focus on short-term, concrete deliverables—showing results. You can show how many babies you've vaccinated and you can show how many children you've put in school. You can't show in an electoral cycle the impact you've had in building an effective public sector, putting in place checks and balances, or helping to strengthen a generation of public prosecutors in Latin America, and so it tends to get less attention.
The second reason is that many of these countries have what is called “graduated”. How development works is that it appropriately focuses on those most in need in the low-income countries. Just to remind ourselves: you move to lower-income countries at less than $1,000 per capita; then you graduate from the World Bank's IDA program for subsidies at about $1,145; then, by $2,000 per capita, there is very little development support, which makes sense, in that countries can support their own education or health care.
When we're looking at issues around supporting freedom of the press, human rights, civil society and institution building; when we look at some of the countries that have had challenges or opportunities—Ukraine, Tunisia, the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Malaysia, Turkey, Hungary—we see that these countries are all outside the box of traditional development.
So you have a situation where, in Canada, of the $5 billion a year we spend on development, very little of it can be programmed to meet moments of opportunity in Tunisia. In South Africa, where there's a special commission looking at state capture, and there's a real need and an appetite for them to get international support on reinforcing their institutions, it's outside the box. We've boxed ourselves in by defining the need for support based on per capita income. It was understandable in the past, but it's at odds with the learnings of the last decade.
A second structural challenge is that there is no central multilateral organization dealing with this. UNDP has been playing an important role, but it's not its central focus. There's no World Health Organization for good governance. There's no place the old president of Malaysia could call to say he wanted to get the best international capabilities to help deal with an outbreak of corruption. Who does he call? If it's an outbreak of disease, you call the WHO. Who do you call? There is no central organization on this critical issue.
There is a global structural challenge. In fact, it's like the situation facing the international community in the 1990s with infectious diseases. With HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria there was no sufficient funding, structure or strategy, and there was a whole set of new initiatives, including the Global Fund, GAVI and others to deal with that. That's the situation we're in today with this infectious disease of authoritarianism.
What should we do? Canada can play a leadership role at this point. First of all, we have huge credibility. The Freedom House report that talked about the rise of authoritarianism also noted that Canada has the highest rating for freedom in the G7. We also have, by various other criteria, a view in the international population that we are one of the most benevolent countries, in terms of actually engaging to do good. We have credibility, capability and self-interest in terms of trying to play a leadership role on this critical issue.
What can we do? First, before talking about new institutions, we can shift how we're doing our existing development from an I-shape to an L. This would mean that although the vast majority of our aid goes to the poorest countries we also recognize the underlying foundational support for democratic governance and the need to build explicitly into our policies the ability to continue to support the democratic governance of countries as they graduate, as will Vietnam or Bangladesh in the next few years, from our traditional aid. This would recognize the need to keep those governance engagements.
Second, when there are moments of opportunity, as in Tunisia, Malaysia or other places, we can engage in a meaningful way for an extended period of time.
This shift from an I to an L—you can call it L for liberty, after the underlying freedom that comes from doing this—actually seems simple. It would be pioneering in developing the role we could play. That's the first recommendation I would make.
The second is that there are unique Canadian assets for us to deploy.
The Canada foundation for international democratic development was a good suggestion in 2007. I think it's an essential recommendation today and I hope this committee supports it, not to copy or compete with the NDIs and the Westminster Foundation, but to complement and complete them.
We can actually go beyond that. We have a set of unique Canadian assets we can deploy more fully. I call it the justice corps, but it really is doing three things under that justice corps recommendation.
The first is to take the Canadian police arrangement, which is a unique institution that allows us to deploy some 200 RCMP provincial and municipal officers into fragile states and conflict situations around the world. It's made a huge contribution. We should increase that to 500 per year and we should be using it to help build the rule of law not just in the fragile states, but in the consolidating democracies. We should complement it by leveraging the assets of our justice department and our highly respected judges, to help build justice systems around the world. We should also provide for all the clerks of superior and supreme courts—our best and brightest young people—the opportunity to spend a year or two abroad, immediately after their clerkships, working with justice institutions around the world.
Through that, we could actually deploy unique Canadian capabilities on this rule of law issue. Those are ways we could deploy unique Canadian assets.
The third element is that we can create that global hub for SDG 16, for peace, justice and strong institutions. In the 1970s, we created the global hub for research and science that was applied to development with the IDRC, with the first chair, Lester B. Pearson. We need an IDRC for good governance. This is actually mobilizing the best thinking around the world on this from a Canadian hub.
My recommendation is that we set up an international centre for peace, justice and strong institutions, based in Ottawa, and maybe housed within the IDRC or with a similar leadership structure. One of the elements we should do is, every year, in the week before the United Nations General Assembly, when heads of state are travelling to this part of the world, they should stop in Ottawa first because every year there should be a global conference on key issues of justice and the rule of law.
Let's talk about anti-corruption. Let's talk about indigenous governance. Let's talk about reform of the police. Then we are shaping the agenda every year the week before the United Nations General Assembly and we're putting a maple leaf flag on this important issue.
Those would be the set of recommendations. They're bold, but I think they're timely and they're doable.
The challenge is making it happen because—
I have to say that personally I find you the most important witnesses we've had here, and I wish we could have you all day.
Some committees have expanded into six hours as of last night, but I don't think this one will, unfortunately.
Whatever entity might be set up, I think it would be very valuable to continue dialogue with both of you and your organizations.
There are many questions. The first is—and we talked at the beginning about this—whether the answer to Canada's providing more assistance in building effective democracy and human rights and justice and anti-corruption is to create yet another organization or whether we should be flowing the money through the number of entities we have already in Canada. That's the first challenge we have to face.
If the decision were that we recommend yet another organization, where did we go wrong with the last organization we had?
The third question is: If we create an organization, should it be an organization that directly helps to deliver this knowledge and support, or would it become a funding entity like Mr. Lamarre's organization? We've heard from both.
I welcome your advice on this. Frankly, I think it would be good to follow up, if you're willing to send to us your best advice, because obviously Mr. Lamarre's organization simply funds.
Mr. Lamarre, I'm very interested in the process you follow. I used to work for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. We were established by Canada, the United States and Mexico. We had a program with a slush fund, and funds were given out to local organizations.
I know that Canada already does some of this work—building judiciary and so forth. Some of the groups we've talked to actually have bases in some of the receiving countries, and that helps them to identify appropriate organizations. You, however, seem to have a unique process whereby the local organizations themselves apply to you for funding. Could you speak to me about why you've chosen to go in that direction?
Good morning to both of you. Thank you very much for coming in.
Mr. Greenhill, I'll start with you, because I think you gave voice and eloquence to something that has troubled me over the last few years.
Part of the issue is that right now there has been a vacuum in leadership in the United States. You've seen recently the engagement of eastern Europe, especially Hungary and Poland. The Visegrad nations are becoming more populist, although they are somewhat established democracies. You also have nascent democracies in Africa, where you have an entrenched history of clans and tribes. You have an internal geopolitical issue and you have an external geopolitical issue.
Leaving that aside, of everybody we've spoken to, nobody has yet stated the economic argument. If we're going into a country and developing democracy, side by side I think there should be a development of the economic system also. I don't think you can have one without the other.
If we go back in history and look at Bretton Woods in 1944 and the development of the IMF and the World Bank, part of the reasoning was to stabilize Europe, to make sure there was financial stability so that further complications would not arise because of financial issues. I know there is important work to be done on democratic governance, and I think it's great, but so far, nobody has said that we should also develop the economy side by side.
You've raised some very interesting points, points that are actually very profound, when you talk about deep corruption, crime, lack of security and weak institutions. All of that is pervasive because the economic system is not in alignment. When you have a lack or scarcity, you're going to have economic issues that will further impact and corrode democratic institutions. That's why democracies don't always work for everyone.
Where is Canada going to be aligned with stabilizing societies not only on the democratic side but also on the financial and economic side?
Mr. Chair and members, thank you for the opportunity to address the committee.
CANADEM has been doing democratic promotion for two decades. I've been doing democratic promotion for three decades, starting with my diplomatic posting to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, England, in 1989—a long way back.
I've circulated a short brief on just one aspect of CANADEM's two decades of democracy promotion work, specifically our election observation work. I hope it makes it clear that already, in CANADEM, Canada has at least one strong and very competent platform for international democracy promotion, and I would suggest that there are others.
We have proven ourselves adept at scaling up and performing well in difficult situations, as we did in Afghanistan as early as 2002. When we were suddenly asked to deploy police and legal reform teams, we did. Then again, in 2008, with just a month's notice, we were asked to set up a free-standing, permanent team of governance capacity-building experts in Kabul, including with the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan. In both instances, not only did we have the right experts, but we were also robust enough to find our own compound, provide our own security, vehicles, food services, admin and logistics, in a rather challenging environment.
You, in Canada, already have at least one strong democracy promotion agency, CANADEM, and we are capable of much more. We have over 48,000 people on our roster, and 8,000 of them have democracy credentials.
You've posed three questions. The first was how the field of democratic development has changed since 2007. As you've been hearing, it has changed substantially. Various agencies outside of Canada have become very much stronger, including various NGOs based in countries outside of Canada. This is very positive for democracy promotion worldwide, but it has also narrowed the scope for Canada to easily re-enter direct hands-on democracy promotion and capacity building.
Your second question was about Canada's role and effectiveness within that landscape. Over the past decade, Canada has cut back its direct hands-on involvement in international democracy promotion. For example, as you know, Rights and Democracy in Montreal was wound up. Funding for democracy work by Canadian NGOs, like the Parliamentary Centre or CANADEM, was reduced to almost zero. Election observation involvement was curtailed and then cancelled completely in 2016. It has only come back partially with regard to Ukraine. At the same time, Canada's indirect involvement, the funding of non-Canadian NGOs and other non-Canadian agencies, has continued but seemingly at a reduced level. I say “seemingly” because the lack of transparency as to how Global Affairs Canada spends its money has only increased.
I would urge the committee to press Global Affairs to make it clear to all of us what it funds and whom it funds. All indications are that Canadian NGOs are receiving less and less funding while non-Canadian NGOs still receive some funding, and UN and other multilateral agencies receive substantial non-accountable and unexamined funding, for which they are not audited as to how well they make use of Canadian funds. Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of the UN.
The third question that you've posed was forward looking, how Canada can best support democratic development internationally. This, of course, is a much harder question. Your deliberations will shed light on why Canada, since the late 1990s, has been so limited in its direct hands-on democracy capacity development work, and why, over the past decade, Canada has even reduced its direct hands-on democracy promotion. Clarity on that stepping back will help shed light on if and how Canada might move forward.
As my final point, do we need to create a new Canadian democracy promotion agency or is the first step to fund and scale up existing Canadian NGOs, followed by an assessment as to which ones are succeeding and can be even further scaled up to become Canadian democracy champions internationally? Are existing Canadian NGOs not capable of scaling up to that extent, and does Canada need to pursue the costly and time-consuming option of creating a new Canadian democracy promotion agency? I'm really not too sure which way to go on this.
Thank you. I'm pleased to respond to any questions you may have.
Thank you very much. It's a real honour to appear before you following some distinguished witnesses prior to our visit.
The witnesses have made three persuasive arguments, which I think we need to highlight: the increased global need for democracy development, the need to regularize the funding and resource allocation, and the opportunity for Canadian experience and expertise to bloom. We will speak briefly to each, based on our 50 years of experience working in 70 countries on more than 120 projects.
In terms of the increased need for international democracy development, I would like to quote Dr. Derek Mitchell, who referred to challenges posed by economic inequality, corruption, the mindset changing more slowly than the institutions, and the resulting frustrations and backlash that we see throughout. He also pointed out the role of digital technology, which we believe amplifies that backlash.
Other witnesses have mentioned the United States pulling back from its leadership role. Dr. Twining, the president of IRI, testified that development assistance should focus on democracy, on rights, on governance, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. We agree. At the Parliamentary Centre we believe all citizens have a right to participate meaningfully through democracy and that effective parliaments are crucial to that governance. Our projects work. I will give you a couple of examples.
The Parliamentary Centre has been involved in more than 30 countries in Africa implementing 50 projects in the last 20 years. Its support has focused on strengthening committees for oversight and law-making purposes, supporting regional interparliamentary networks and building the capacity of parliamentary secretariats.
We are committed to offering tools for measuring results. We developed the African Parliamentary Index, measuring individual parliamentary performance. We are committed to inclusivity and gender equality. In Indonesia, our award-winning pilot project Our Voice used innovative technology—an SMS polling platform—to allow women to use their cellphones to register their opinions on public services. It helped break down traditional barriers to women's participation in decision-making and in bringing tangible changes to work at the village level.
We collaborate with other organizations. For example, in Indonesia we co-operated with women and youth development institutions. We are willing to support them. We collaborate also globally. Canada funded a very forward-looking project in Burkina Faso to fund the strategic plan for the National Assembly of Burkina Faso. The European Union, the Swedes and the Swiss have decided to fund the implementation of this for $10 million over the next three years.
The parliamentary secretaries and both spoke on the Burkina Faso project as an example of international co-operation. This took place at an event hosted by the European Union ambassador, the Swiss ambassador and the chargé d'affaires of Sweden.
We want to continue to create, innovate, co-operate and partner to promote international democracy, specifically to sustain our efforts in strengthening the capacity of parliaments and individual legislators. Canada provided substantial funding for elections monitoring. This has sometimes left the parliamentarians who were elected without any tools, so we have to think about complementarity of the efforts. We want to build a governance component for every military involvement that we have abroad.
A democratic development plan should include strengthening the oversight of the security services by the country's parliament. We need to train leaders, support leadership schools, engage youth and promote inclusivity. We need to work with new technology, including artificial intelligence, to develop tools and promote strengthening.
To do that, we need money and multi-year funding. This speaks to the second area where we agree with previous witnesses that we need to nationalize and regularize funding in our resource allocation. From 2006 to 2016, our resources to support the strengthening of governance declined form the Canadian government.
I would be happy to discuss more specifically all these facts and how we compare with other countries.
Anita Vandenbeld spoke about IRI and NDI flourishing because there's an endowment fund from Congress allowing them to build resilience, consistency and a permanent presence to support democracy. We don't have an endowment fund. We don't have core money. We don't have any guarantees of multi-year funding.
Christopher MacLennan, assistant deputy minister of global issues and development, spoke earlier to you. He said that there was no dedicated envelope of spending and that, instead, there are the bilateral programs and there are other programs to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. He said that was the reason we see numbers up and down depending on the year.
That is, in a nutshell, our problem. The problem for Parliamentary Centre and other NGOs is we never know where the money is and when it is coming. The centre and the NGOs need a faster decision-making process so we can rapidly respond to situations that are volatile, like Ukraine and Venezuela. However quick and predictable decision-making is, it will make it irrelevant if there's no funding. That's the importance of funding.
Our third area of agreement is how we can get more Canadians involved. As Tom Axworthy mentioned, “Canadians everywhere are advising on a charter of rights, on the court system, on federalism, on party development. The whole world is employing Canadians on this except Canada.”
Even while individual Canadians are finding work, there are situations in which we co-operate with other governments, but those governments do not permit Canadian organizations to access those funds.
The real question is: Why would Canada not want to benefit from the Canadian brand? We're world renowned for our excellence in public service, in the justice system, legislative bodies, and civil society, including political parties. Our Canadian way is pluralistic and inclusive. I think we are ready to do the job, and we want to do it.
Thank you very much.
As Jean-Paul said, I'm the volunteer chair of the board. My day job is director of Carleton University's initiative for parliamentary and diplomatic engagement.
In addition to offering orientation to newly elected MPs and annual orientation of foreign diplomats to Canada, I've organized more than 20 policy panels. One of them was Promoting Democracy Abroad, which I co-sponsored with the democracy caucus and with the Parliamentary Centre nearly a year ago. Our panellists, by the way, were three Canadians who work for non-Canadian organizations abroad.
As you know, the Parliamentary Centre began more than 50 years ago by providing support to the Canadian Parliament. Later, as more support was given to committees and to individual parliamentarians, the Parliamentary Centre shifted its focus to serving legislatures abroad, but we value our excellent relations with members of Parliament and senators who participate in our projects abroad and with foreign delegations here.
We know we're appreciated. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last March with an honorary reception committee composed of every former prime minister and every former governor general. There were 300 guests, with remarks from Speaker Regan, David Johnston, the acting Minister of Democratic Institutions and a trio of female parliamentarians including MPs Vandenbeld and Laverdière and Senator Andreychuk.
The Parliamentary Centre is preparing for the next 50 years. We've revitalized our board of directors. David Johnston is our new honorary patron. New members include Allan Rock, president emeritus of Ottawa U; Catherine Cano, CEO of CPAC; Graham Fox, CEO of IRPP; Audrey O'Brien, Clerk Emerita; Fen Hampson, director of CIGI's global security and politics program; and our vice-chair Yaroslav Baran, among others.
This is a strong and determined board, and we have a lot of initiatives planned. We want to reconnect more closely and strengthen relations with Parliament. We've created a group, Parliamentarians for the Parliamentary Centre, that endorses our objectives. We hope that those of you who have not already joined will do so today. We want to move into the area of thought leadership.
Other witnesses mentioned the need to encourage democracy at home. We agree. We want to engage Canadians, and in particular youth. We're organizing a hackathon later this spring that we're calling “Democracy Rebooted”, bringing together youth, government and the private sector to prototype 10 to 15 new tools and policies for a healthier democracy.
I'd like to take one moment to thank our CEO, Jean-Paul Ruszkowski, who has led the Parliamentary Centre for the last nine years but is stepping down this fall. Our application process for a new CEO starts next month, and I would encourage parliamentarians to let us know if they have an outstanding candidate they'd like us to consider. We will have a new CEO in place for the new Parliament.
In 2007 the committee called for the establishment of a new arm's-length Canada foundation for international democratic development or equivalent. We already have that equivalent in us right now—an organization that already can do this. We have an impeccable brand of 50 years' standing and we are committed to serving international democracy development for the next 50 years. Use us.
Mr. Ruszkowski, it’s always a pleasure to see you. Thank you for being here today.
Maureen, it's such a pleasure. I feel like I should have met you somewhere before this week, when I finally had the opportunity to meet you. I always start by saying I'm very proud to have been with Global Affairs Canada for 15 years, on numerous postings, the last one being as deputy consul general in Dallas, Texas.
I'm not a permanent member on this committee, so it's very interesting for me. This is my second time here on this study, to sort of take a peek into the different approaches that are being explored. From what I've seen, the focus here is definitely at the civic level, of course, which is going into these nations and making a difference on the ground.
I'm always very interested in the bigger picture, the leadership aspect. We had someone from a UN agency in the last panel. I recently read Madeleine Albright's book, which frankly, I was disappointed in. I felt it kind of gave an overview of every dictator in history and then went on to say that the current U.S. President is a dictator, which certainly many agree with. I preferred the recent book, How Democracies Die by Ziblatt and Levitsky, which spoke of the gradual degradation of democracy within the world.
Given that, I'll start with you both, Mr. Ruszkowski and Madam Boyd. What are your thoughts as to the role the UN should take in terms of preserving democracy internationally? Certainly we focus on the civics, and should I have time, I have more specific questions for Monsieur LaRose-Edwards in regard to the nuts and bolts of how we do this.
We go, we create these institutions and we try to do good in the world, especially Canada, which these studies have shown is a world leader in this area. I can't help but feel that if our leadership isn't going into the world at the highest levels with these same messages of strength on democracy, particularly in regard to relationships with dictators and dictatorship nations, what good really does that do to the rest of the work we do?
Could you please comment, first of all, on how you see the role of the United Nations in democracy building, since our previous panel mentioned there's no central organization for democracy? I wish there were. That's what the UN should be in my opinion. Also, how important is the messaging of the leadership of Canada for promoting democracy internationally?