Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for inviting us to speak here today. I'm pleased to provide an update on the situation in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. I am accompanied by my colleagues you've just introduced: Susan Greene, Director for the South Sudan Development Division; our Canadian ambassador for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicolas Simard; and Mr. Jean-Bernard Parenteau, Director for the West and Central Africa Relations Division.
I would like, first, to outline the broader context and some key developments in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, Africa will have six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies in 2018. A number of countries have made significant progress in areas such as health, education, and poverty reduction. Sub-Saharan Africa also has the world's youngest population. With the right policies, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the continent could realize a demographic dividend that increases per capita GDP by up to 50% by 2050. In short, there is immense potential.
Stability and security are needed in order to fully tap into this immense potential. In the case of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia, ongoing challenges include protracted conflicts resulting in humanitarian needs, high levels of gender inequality, governance shortcomings, human rights violations, corruption, the impacts of climate change, forced displacement, and food insecurity.
South Sudan is the most fragile and among the poorest countries in the world. In 2013, only two years after the country's independence from Sudan, the country broke out into civil war. More recently, in December 2017, South Sudan's parties to the conflict signed a ceasefire as part of a revitalization process of a stalled peace agreement. However, violations of the ceasefire have been and continue to be far too frequent.
As a result of the protracted conflict, South Sudan is now the second largest source of displacement in Africa, after the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 4.3 million people have been forced from their homes, representing a third of the country's population, with more than half taking refuge in neighbouring countries. More than seven million people remain severely food insecure. Despite the extraordinary humanitarian response when pockets of famine were identified in 2017, similar or worse conditions are expected in 2018.
Widespread human rights violations and abuses have been committed with impunity by all sides. Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of the conflict reflected in the extreme levels of sexual and gender-based violence and the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war.
The overall situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unfortunately similar. The eastern part of the country (Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu) has been grappling with an ongoing cycle of violence for more than 20 years. Three other regions are now also affected. As with South Sudan, the situation is having a significant impact on women and girls, who are especially vulnerable.
The humanitarian crisis in the DRC continues to be one of the longest-running and most complex in the world, with more than 13 million people requiring humanitarian assistance in 2018. The DRC recently surpassed South Sudan and became the country with the most displaced persons in Africa with approximately 4.4 million internally displaced persons and more than 700,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in neighbouring countries.
The country is also experiencing a political crisis. The main causes are the postponement of the general elections, mistrust of President Joseph Kabila—who might try to hold onto power—and a disastrous economic situation. Despite some positive developments, such as the announcement that elections are to be held in December 2018, tensions remain very high.
The main opposition parties, civil society groups and most of the population have lost confidence in the country's institutions. In particular, they are demanding that democratic space be expanded, through respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Moreover, the country's security forces are responsible for more than half of the human rights violations.
Somalia is at a critical phase in state-building. After decades of civil war and instability, the country, ranked the world's second most fragile state—I forgot to rank the Congo; it's sixth—concluded parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2016 and February 2017, respectively. The Government of Somalia is focused on addressing myriad challenges. These include widespread corruption, delivering essential services to citizens, long-standing regional grievances and clan dynamics, and the persistent threat from al Shabaab.
Despite gains made by the African Union Mission in Somalia, and by Somali forces, al Shabaab retains the intent and capability to strike security, governmental, and civilian targets. This was illustrated in the horrific attack last October in Mogadishu that killed over 500 people, the single deadliest attack in recent Somali history.
These challenges are compounding a dire humanitarian situation. Moreover, persistent drought conditions mean the continued threat of widespread famine. Conflict, instability, and four consecutive failed rainy seasons have left 6.2 million people, roughly one half of the population, in need of humanitarian assistance, and has resulted in widespread internal displacement. Moreover, some 875,000 Somalis continue to live as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Against this backdrop, conditions for Somali women and girls are among the most difficult in the world, the combined result of acute poverty, conflict, and a clan-based culture that promotes male hierarchy and authority. Women and girls suffer from one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. An overwhelming majority of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone female genital mutilation.
The situation in these three countries has resulted in Canada's engagement on multiple fronts, using a range of diplomatic, humanitarian, development, and security tools. At the heart of our engagement is the well-being and promotion of women and girls, a Government of Canada priority.
Canada recognizes that there is an opportunity, working alongside partners, to help realize the potential that exists in these extremely fragile states and their people. Our engagement comprises principled diplomacy at national, regional, and international levels. This is complemented by our international assistance, which is designed to reduce poverty by promoting peace and stability, fostering inclusive governance, saving lives, and protecting human dignity.
South Sudan and the DRC are the eighth and thirteenth largest recipients of Canadian international assistance, $115 million and $91 million in 2016-17, respectively. In the case of South Sudan, we are among the top five country donors. In Somalia, we provided $31 million in 2016-17, principally in the form of humanitarian assistance. Our assistance to these three countries includes Canada's institutional support to multilateral agencies such as UNICEF, as well as regional institutions such as the African Union.
Mr. Chair, distinguished members, I will now elaborate on what Canada is doing specifically in these three countries.
On peace and security, Canada has a long history of supporting peace and security on the continent and of accompanying peace processes in the region. This includes our contributions to the UN's peacekeeping budget, to which Canada is the ninth largest contributor in assessed contributions. Our current engagement includes renewed support for peacekeeping as well as a special effort to deliver on the commitments outlined in Canada’s national action plan on women, peace, and security.
In March, announced $1.8 million to support the women, peace, and security agenda by preventing conflict-related sexual violence in Somalia, South Sudan, as well as Kenya. This includes working with Somali refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp.
Canada strongly believes that children should not be weapons of war. To this end, we support partners like UNICEF and the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in all three countries to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Canadian Armed Forces personnel are deployed to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS. ln addition, in 2017-18 Canada provided $2.7 million in security and stabilization support to South Sudan. Our support is helping to build political constituencies for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Canada has also been contributing to the United Nations Organization stabilization mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) since it was established in 1999.
In Somalia, Canada provides support to the UN Support Office in Somalia through our assessed contributions to the UN peacekeeping budget. Through our counterterrorism capacity building program, Canada is helping to provide Somalian police and security officials with relevant training to address terrorist threats. We have also partnered with local non-governmental organizations to target terrorist recruitment efforts among vulnerable populations.
I will now deal with governance and human rights.
Canada is also a leader in promoting inclusive governance and human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.
Canada, including our , has publicly expressed on numerous occasions our deep concern over continued gross violations of human rights in South Sudan. Furthermore, Canada has in place targeted sanctions against several South Sudanese individuals who've been involved in gross violations of human rights. This is in addition to the UN Security Council sanctions we implement against those threatening peace in South Sudan.
Canada is monitoring the political, security and human rights situation in the DRC very closely and capitalizes on opportunities to raise its concerns. Our efforts, which aim to encourage the democratic and peaceful transfer of power, respect for human rights and improvement in the security situation, have been made through press releases, as well as through our involvement in various international organizations.
Canada is also providing $10 million in funding from 2016 to 2020, to support a civic and voter education project designed to increase participation in the electoral process and in democratic life.
Somalia is in an important phase of building and strengthening its institutions. In line with this, Canada is supporting efforts by Somalian authorities to strengthen key economic institutions and implement sound microeconomic policies. This includes notably through a $2.5 million U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund's Somalia trust fund.
On human dignity, there can be no lasting and durable peace and stability without long-term sustainable and inclusive development. Canada's international assistance to South Sudan, the DRC, and Somalia seeks to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations, with the longer-term objective of building a more secure and sustainable future in the region.
Canada's assistance in South Sudan is focused on meeting the basic needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and girls, while creating the conditions for durable peace and equitable development. This includes improving access to gender-sensitive health services, with a focus on promoting sexual and reproductive rights and fighting hunger by complementing the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance with the development of agricultural knowledge and skills. In addition, Canada has allocated $35 million to date, in 2018, to address humanitarian needs in the country.
In the DRC, our assistance is focused on gender equality, the rights of women and girls, combatting sexual and gender-based violence, health, protecting children, and promoting democracy. Canada has also allocated $39.5 million in humanitarian assistance for the DRC for 2018. This includes $2.5 million in emergency humanitarian aid to assist organizations that are fighting the outbreak of Ebola.
With the international community's support, Somalia has put in place a national development plan for the period 2017-19 for the first time in 30 years. Based on this plan, the New Partnership for Somalia was endorsed at the London Conference on Somalia last May, including by Canada. In April, the , Minister Hussen, announced an additional $18 million to address drought and conflict-related humanitarian needs in Somalia, which brings Canada's allocation to $25 million to date this year. Canada is also a strong supporter of multilateral organizations, with significant programming in Somalia, especially in health and education.
In closing, I can assure you we are conscious of the numerous challenges that these countries must overcome, and we are working tirelessly to help their populations improve their situation by taking a multi-faceted approach in order to maximize our impact.
Your analysis is quite right. However, frankly, it's becoming more complicated. There has been a succession of agreements and signatures on peace agreements. There's never been a fulsome, comprehensive agreement that was completely agreed to and completely implemented.
Going back to around last December, the last round was more promising, in the sense that it focused on a more stepwise approach. Let's start with a feasible and well-monitored ceasefire. Despite the horrors that unfold every day in South Sudan, considering the path of the last few years, this has been episodic but has been—the only way I can put this to you frankly is—less bad than previous years. In terms of the ceasefire, there continues to be a great deal of focus on this from the international community. Canada has been very involved in this. I hope you understand that very little of that is public, or can be public, because our best place in these things is to work behind the scenes.
I can certainly tell you, in respect for the office you represent, that we are very actively involved, particularly in some areas. In the most recent round that took place in Addis Ababa, the South Sudan Council of Churches got involved for the first time in a very proactive way to perform a form of mediation. South Sudan is a very religious country, despite the way some of them behave with each other. This is the point we had encouraged and facilitated—not directly, of course, but facilitated. Likewise, we are by far.... You ask anyone—if you look for optimism in Juba—about Canada's role in terms of ensuring that women are part of the peace process itself. We were the first to lead, with great support from other major international partners, in ensuring that women participate even in the discussions about how to create a fulsome, comprehensive peace agreement.
That's what should bear fruit, but frankly, it's going to be gradual. It will be laborious. We're also very involved, as you heard, on the question of child soldiers. Now there is, again, amidst a number of clouds, a few rays of sunshine. In recent months, if you follow the news on this, you will see that a number of child soldiers have been released, including quite recently—a couple of weeks ago.
It's a long, arduous path, but there is some modicum of progress and Canada is very involved behind the scenes. Our ambassador in Juba, who is not here with us today, also regularly travels through the region. He was present, in fact, behind the scenes in Addis Ababa, on the margins of this, to indeed facilitate and accompany, without being a party to the process.
What's increasingly difficult though, of course, is that there's a fragmentation among the players. You talked about the two historical big leaders, Kiir and Machar. What's happening now is increasing fragmentation within the clans. For instance, I was in Juba not too long ago. I was told they have 7,000 generals in a country of roughly 12 million people. I don't know how many the Canadian military has, but it means basically that you have roving gangs of militias who declare themselves to be an army and shift their alliances according to primarily economic interests, and sometimes ethnic and other resource-driven issues.
Secondly, you asked about other key players. Ethiopia is a significant player. They're the driving force behind the IGAD process, which is a regional organization. Where others play a role as well, Uganda has often played a role that's been, most of the time, quite useful. They host a huge number of South Sudanese refugees quite generously. Then you have other neighbouring countries who are involved in varying degrees and in various ways: Sudan, Egypt, and other countries in the region, such as Kenya.
Thank you very much for your question, Ms. Vandenbeld.
The election situation in the DRC is indeed extremely complicated. That is nothing new. We saw it in 2006 and 2011 and we are seeing it again now. The elections were supposed to be held in 2016, and they have been postponed twice.
The issue is not only whether they will take place, but, as you said, whether they will be credible, transparent and fair. Above all, whether the Congolese people will have enough trust in the results to allow peace in the country. If they do not have that trust, holding the elections serves no purpose because they will cause conflict thereafter.
As for the voting machines, which the Congolese call “the cheating machines”—which gives you a good idea of how the people view them—they were a choice the government made. Personally, as an observer, I do not feel that the voting machines will be up to the task, and neither do the other international diplomats in the country. There will be 100,000 polling stations. The DRC is a huge country the size of western Europe. The size of the country, and the number of polling stations, is really hard to imagine. To be able to hold the elections with voting machines, hundreds of millions of dollars would need to have been invested, and the government does not seem to have the money. Above all, the order for the machines needed to be in last February, and that was not done. So I am a little sceptical about how the commitment of the Congolese government will turn out in reality. I actually get the impression that the use of the voting machines will be mixed with traditional paper ballots.
In terms of observation, we have a very interesting $10-million project with the Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo, the CENCO. The goal of this project is to help to train people for the elections, but also for observation. Ten thousand Congolese observers are being funded by the project and are in the process of being trained by the CENCO. A lot of women are part of the program as well. So I am very encouraged by that.
As regards the audit, as you know, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, or OIF, is in the process of conducting one, led by General Sangaré, who has a lot of experience in French-speaking Africa. A very positive aspect of the election audit is that the opposition parties, civil society and international organizations were able to participate directly. Voter registration was done incompletely and the fingerprints of eight million voters are not available, but the OIF is urging the government to rectify the situation before the elections.
There will also be a public audit of the voters’ list, which will allow citizens to see the list and try to correct the errors in it.
First, I'd like to finish answering the earlier question, and I will weave it into this because one of the main things we can do in all three and in other similar countries, is to be very diligent in how we apply our feminist international assistance policy, but also our feminist foreign policy.
When you work in fragile, complex cases such as in these three countries, it's probably where it's most useful and most needed, because as I mentioned earlier, it's a combination in South Sudan, for instance, of making sure that women are engaged in the peace process. Likewise, in Somalia, when we work with civil society organizations or humanitarian assistance, we now have much more targeted operations that are aimed at women and girls who are inevitably the most vulnerable, the most victimized, in these sorts of situations.
It finishes answering your question, but it also addresses yours.
What more could we do in a place like Somalia in building development assistance to complement and eventually replace humanitarian assistance? It will require a number of things that are showing some promise, but it will take time. It will be a long, arduous path.
First, we need to have the rest of the job done in democratic institutions and political processes. What's happened in the last year is very encouraging and is the best we have seen in 30 years, but there is still another long part of the road. I quoted earlier that the last elections were not one person, one vote. That is on the agenda. It will make a difference in helping us have a fulsome government partner that has plans that are validated by a fulsome, democratic process, which is one of our requirements to do this kind of long-term development assistance with a partner.
Second, we need to finish constructing a modicum of stability. Much has been written in the past six months about al Shabaab being weakened, and by all evidence they have been weakened, but they still have great capacity for nuisance. Until some of that has been stabilized a lot of work is ongoing to reinforce and train and equip Somali police and military, etc., and not just by Canada. A lot of European countries are involved, especially the U.K., as well as the Americans. More of that needs to be done before we can equip hospitals or schools, and certainly an even longer time before we can send Canadian citizens, under our flag, to work in these risky conditions.
It takes me back to the comment that was made earlier about how we deeply respect the fact that on a volunteer basis a lot of dual citizens from Canada go and do things with their own money and at their own risk. But as guardians of the safety of our citizens who work for us either directly or indirectly in our assistance programs, the conditions are not there yet for us to “teach them how to fish”, as you used the famous expression.
That said, we are doing some of that in those areas where we can do this kind of work, despite security and institutional constraints. I mentioned the $2.5 million U.S. that we worked through the IMF, for instance. I also mentioned earlier that one of the dual citizens, who is the Minister of Planning, is from here. We are working there to help create.... For instance, how would you create and run a finance ministry or a revenue ministry?
I met their Prime Minister when I was in Mogadishu, and his number one priority is to find a way to create a tax system—imagine, in this place—so they have money to start having their own health and education and other programs, to which we would then be able to contribute through long-term, constructive assistance.