Haiti + 2 more

Official response to the eDiscussion on ensuring Canada's engagement in the Americas

Policy Research Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

From October 21 to December 12, 2008, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) held an eDiscussion on Canada's engagement in the Americas. Its purpose was to engage Canadians across the country and solicit their views on Canada's ability to compete in the field of international trade. The eDiscussion received over 20,000 visits, 427 submissions and six policy position papers from universities and NGOs across Canada. DFAIT wishes to thank all those who participated in this eDiscussion.

United Nations Mission Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

Canada's leadership role in Haiti is a key element of its foreign policy and of its engagement in the Americas. Haiti is the largest beneficiary of Canadian development aid ($555 million between 2006 and 2011), after Afghanistan. Canada is leading the stabilisation, reconstruction and democratisation process by deploying police, corrections and military officers to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti's (MINUSTAH) and by directing unprecedented financial and political resources towards ensuring the success of international efforts in the country. Some eDiscussion participants called on Canada to stay the course until its objectives are met. Canada has indicated its intention to remain in Haiti for the long haul. Canadian engagement in Haiti is based on a long-term perspective that draws resources from across government to ensure cohesion between stabilization and development efforts.

Some eDiscussion participants stated that Canada ought to help improve the professional and human rights standards of the Haitian National Police (HNP) and the Haitian national strategy dealing with disarmament, violence reduction, and community security. Other participants also highlighted the need to train more police and help improve security in Haiti. Canada is addressing these concerns through DFAIT's Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF), which has allotted $15 million per year for Haiti and is managed by the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START). START projects address Haiti's immediate security and stabilisation needs through three objectives: 1) increasing security by reducing violence in communities; 2) enhancing the rule of law to reform the police, judicial and correctional systems; and 3) improving regional stability by addressing factors of instability in Haiti. START projects have included the renovation and building of prisons, police stations and border posts, as well as reinforcement of Haitian capacities through training. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) also has projects aiming at the strengthening of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the judicial system, and correctional administration.

Crime in the Caribbean

The most important factor undermining public safety and security in Latin America and the Caribbean is trans-national organized crime fuelled by the illicit drug trade. Due in large part to the region's geographic location - it rests squarely between the producers of drugs in South America and its large consumer base in North America - the Caribbean (and Central America) is especially vulnerable to being exploited as transhipment points for the illicit drug trade.

The drug trade fuels a number of associated crimes, such as: corruption, money laundering, trafficking in persons and firearms, smuggled migrants and the increased prominence of gangs in all of these areas. In addition, organized crime is fuelling general urban violence and undermining public safety in many countries of the hemisphere. Violent crime rates, especially amongst youth aged 15-24, remain among the highest in the world. According to the Brazil-based Latin American Technological Information Network, the murder rate for young people in Latin America stands at 36.6 per 100,000 and at 31.6 per 100,000 for the Caribbean. Canada has a rate of 2.5 or about 14 times smaller.

The prevalence of these security challenges puts public security, the rule of law, development and economic prosperity at significant risk. They also cause instability and disorder in some parts of the region, increasingly spilling over international boundaries and impacting countries of the Western Hemisphere, including Canada. Most eDiscussion participants offered an equally sober assessment of this issue.

Broadly, participants identified two ways in which Canada could play a constructive role, namely: through multilateral fora and direct bilateral intervention. The Government of Canada is active on both fronts.

Multilaterally, Canada is playing a constructive role in combating crime, including the illicit drug trade in the Caribbean through the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Diplomatic efforts combined with financial contributions and the sharing of Canadian expertise are assisting to build capacity in the region, allowing countries to deal with crime more effectively. Here are some specific examples of Canadian efforts:

- Canada's annual contributions to the UNODC support efforts in the region to address drug control, corruption and human trafficking, provide training and technical assistance to improve international legal cooperation, and support mentoring programs and criminal justice reform. In 2008/09, Canada contributed $2.5 million to UNODC, with approximately one quarter of that amount earmarked for projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Funding helps build capacity in Caribbean countries, thereby meeting the concerns of eDiscussants who stressed the importance of such measures. Specific project that have received this funding include efforts to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption in the Caribbean and in Central America. This is noteworthy because eDiscussion participants identified corruption as one of the Caribbean's major challenges.

- Canada is also a leader in the OAS. As the largest donor to the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), Canada has provided roughly $6 million since 2005 for counter-terrorism capacity building in transport, maritime and aviation security, document integrity, cyber-security and critical infrastructure protection. Many of these initiatives build states capacity to counter both terrorism and organized crime. Canada is also the second-largest annual donor ($1M in 2008-09) to the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). Canada's support enables CICAD to undertake programs aimed at enabling states to increase their capacity to tackled illicit drug trafficking and consumption. For example, Caribbean countries have had the opportunity to participate in courses ranging from advanced drug investigation and interdiction to training for health care workers dealing with addictions. In addition, Canada participates actively in CICAD's Experts Group on Demand Reduction. In this regard, the government's activities address the issues brought forward by eDiscussion participants, who identified demand reduction as an important objective to pursue to reduce the impact of the drug trade.

The second way in which Canada operates is through bilateral activities and programs. Here too, the main focus is on building capacity and institutions, either in individual Caribbean countries or regionally. Canada's Counter-Terrorism Capacity-Building Program (CTCBP) is currently funding projects that support, inter alia, the development of police polygraph testing capacity and anti-money laundering capabilities in Caribbean countries. For example, Canada's CTCBP funded the Department of National Defence to provide equipment and training to Jamaica's Counter-Terrorism Operations Group (CTOG). This is the group that ended the hijacking of CanJet Flight 918 on April 20 without firing a shot. This incident clearly demonstrates the mutual benefits of counter-terrorism cooperation in strengthening local security as well as protecting Canadians and Canadian interests abroad.

In addition, the Department of Justice of Canada, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is working with the Ministry of Justice of Jamaica on the multi-year Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation Program, which aims to modernize the Jamaican justice system. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms have now been incorporated into Jamaica's legal systems and police reports demonstrate fewer violent incidents in communities participating in the pilot project. This addresses the concerns of eDiscussants about capacity building and helping Caribbean countries improve their underperforming justice and legal systems.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Response

On disaster risk reduction and response, Canada has a long-standing presence and role in the Caribbean. Responses to recent natural disasters by the Government of Canada are guided by humanitarian principles and ensure a coordinated, timely, effective and needs-based approach. Canada is also actively engaged in disaster risk reduction policy and programming in the region, in keeping with the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA). The HFA is a means to implement disaster risk reduction that was adopted by the member states of the United Nations in January 2005. It focuses primarily on prevention and preparation with a view to preparing for, responding to and mitigating the devastating impacts of natural disasters across the world by 2015. This point was emphasised clearly by many eDiscussion participants, who will no doubt appreciate that it is also a guiding principle of Canadian policy. This is especially important for the Caribbean region, which is prone to numerous natural hazards.

Canada provides support to reinforce Caribbean capacity to prepare for and alleviate the impacts of natural hazards and respond to natural disasters when they occur. In 2007, Canada committed $20 million to support the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Programme and $20 million to the World Bank-managed Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility. In 2006, Canada contributed $2 million to the OAS to support the launch of the Inter-American Network on Disaster Mitigation. As demonstrated by these examples, Canada strongly believes that regional networks are an important mechanism to address the challenges of disaster mitigation and preparedness; this is a belief shared by eDiscussion participants, who emphasised the importance of using effectively international and regional organisations or networks.

Canada has also been a donor country to individual countries struck by calamities. In 2008, Canada committed $5.6 million to Haiti, $1.1 million to Cuba and $250,000 to Jamaica in response to devastating hurricanes. In August 2007, Canada provided a $1.7 million contribution for relief and recovery efforts to countries affected by Hurricane Dean, including an airlift of 32.4 metric tonnes of relief supplies to Jamaica. eDiscussion participants stressed the importance of providing funding to countries affected by natural disasters. The responses above demonstrate that the Government of Canada shares this mindset.

Civil Society

Canada's relationship with the Americas is greatly complemented by non governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs can assist the government in achieving its foreign policy aims. The government of Canada, through DFAIT and CIDA, has worked with NGOs to foster economic development and better governance in the Americas.

DFAIT's work with NGOs is largely encapsulated by its Glyn Berry Program for Peace and Security. The Glyn Berry Program supports the development of Canadian and international policies, laws and institutions that embed core human security objectives of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law into international peace and security efforts. While not specifically aimed at the Americas, the Program has nonetheless a notable presence and record of activity there. DFAIT allocated over $1 million of its democracy support funding towards the Americas, much of which assists civil society to engage citizens in political processes. This addresses a point raised by eDiscussion participants, who believed that civil society can indeed be an effective instrument to promote social and political inclusion in the Americas.

Here are some examples of concrete projects that received funding from the Glyn Berry Program. Last year, Canada supported the creation of the first broad-based civil society network of democracy champions in Latin America. The network provides over 90 civil society organizations with the space to exchange best practices and develop strategies for the defence of civil society in the region, and increase awareness amongst the international community about the challenges facing civil society. Another project of note is the development of a research network on the state of democracy in Andean countries. While most countries in the Americas are democracies, some recent trends in the region highlight differences in the quality and durability of democracy. There is a danger of democratic backsliding, making it imperative to develop a system to periodically monitor, assess, and report on the state of democracy. The research network also initiated a process for engaging civil society in a sustained and constructive dialogue on the state of democracy in the region; this reflects the importance eDiscussion participants gave to civil society in promoting and reinforcing democracy.

CIDA is the second organisation to work closely with civil society. Its Canadian Partnership Branch (CPB) is specifically tasked to work with NGOs and other members of civil society. It seeks partnerships with Canadian civil society and private sector organisations to promote capacity building of counterparts in developing countries. CPB orients its funding to initiatives, primarily in least-developed countries, that support sustainable development, poverty reduction, and engagement of Canadians, and which contribute to the achievement of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. This focus reflects the concerns of many eDiscussion participants, who emphasised the need for civil society to address issues like the basic needs of society and education.

Clearly, the CPB is not exclusively focused on the Americas, as its activities encompass the entire world. Nevertheless, it has an active presence in the Americas. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, CPB program spending in the Americas totalled $56.6M and was directed towards five main sectors: basic education, environment, governance, health, and private sector development. These sectors mesh quite well with the issues identified as important by eDiscussion participants. For instance, many posters agreed that civil society needs to focus on promoting and delivering education in the Americas. Since 2004, CPB has been supporting the Canadian University Service Overseas - Voluntary Service Overseas (CUSO-VSO). CUSO-VSO runs a program in Honduras which focuses on community-based natural resource management. It has played a critical role, through the placement of qualified Canadian volunteers, in contributing to the formation of a Model forest in the Atlantida region and in supporting the establishment of the Yuro Model Forest, bringing together community stakeholders to work collaboratively for more equitable and sustainable community natural resource management. This project addresses the concerns of eDiscussants who believe that civil society can help people meet their basic needs, in this case, sustainable economic development.

Free Trade and Labour Mobility

Most eDiscussants held that pursuing free trade agreements was a desirable and worthwhile objective of Canadian foreign and commercial policy. They felt that FTAs had positive economic effects on all signatories. The Government of Canada shares this positive view of FTA and other commercial agreements and has therefore been working to increase their numbers with partners in the Americas and across the world. This has been enshrined in the Global Commerce Strategy (GCS), the Government of Canada's action plan designed to help Canadian companies succeed in a complex and competitive global economy. One of the GCS's main objectives aims to secure "competitive terms of access to global markets and networks for Canadian businesses." Or, in other words, negotiate FTAs to open up new markets for Canadian exporters.

There are a number of recent achievements that demonstrate that Canada has a very active trade agenda in the Americas. For instance, the Government of Canada signed the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in November 2008 and the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement in May 2008. Both are now undergoing ratification procedures in their respective countries. The Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement has been in force since July 1997. There are numerous other ongoing negotiations for future FTAs with partners such as the Dominican Republic, Caricom, and the Central America Four (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua). Thus the Government of Canada has given a place of choice to Latin America and the Caribbean in its commercial strategy.

Youth Mobility

The final topic of the eDiscussion was that of youth mobility. The subject was especially relevant, as a Canada-Chile Youth Mobility Memorandum of Understanding was signed in June 2008. In essence, this agreement gives the chance for young Canadians to receive a work or travel visa to Chile for up to one year (and vice-versa, with young Chileans coming to Canada for up to one year).

Many eDiscussion participants were not aware of this opportunity, and pointed to a lack of advertising in relevant media or locations. Since the time of their feedback the Government of Canada has launched anationalpublicity campaign using primarily the internet, movie theatres, public transportation, anduniversity and collegespecific media. In addition, the Government of Canada has been present at over 35 university career fairs across the country in the past 12 months. Because the essence of this program is a fast track to a temporary work permit, young Canadians of even modest income can enjoy an international work experience through working legally overseas. As such,the travel and work experience for young Canadians is fundedby their opportunity to work abroadand doesn't require additional financialincentives. Over 20,000 Canadians made use of these opportunities in 2008. In most cases these work permits can be used for career-related work placements such as required by co-operative education programs. The Government of Canada is working with university co-op programs to facilitate overseas work terms.

Many postings indicated that such agreements should be signed with as many countries as possible. They may be pleased to find out that Canada has bilateral agreements with 19 countries, such as Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand. Furthermore, over 50 other destinations are made available by our partner organizations, which notably include SWAP (SWAP Working Holidays, formerly Student Work Abroad Program), IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) and AIESEC (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales). More details are available at the International Youth Programs site.

Without this program the only way, short of outright emigration, that young Canadians could enjoy living overseas would be as students with the associated costs, or oncostly vacations. The International Youth Program is based on the principle of reciprocity of opportunity. Canada allows foreign youth to travel and work here, in exchange for the same opportunity for Canadians in participating countries. Not only does this program provide opportunities for Canadians but it is also a way to introduce foreign youth to a meaningful experience in Canada and the start of life-time relationship with our country.