That's good. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you for inviting me.
I have written a paper that I'd be happy to distribute to the clerk once it's properly formatted. I'll speak to that paper extemporaneously and it will be a more substantial offering that you're free to peruse in your own time.
I'm delighted that the Foreign Affairs committee is picking up the standard of the 2007 Foreign Affairs committee and its landmark report. I want to comment on some of the recommendations of that 2007 report, why I think are still valid and to make some comments on what has changed in the decade since that report and urge this committee to return to the central findings of your predecessors for Canada at this critical time in the world to make a very clear statement not only about its values but also by creating agencies and institutions to give them effect.
The first point and the absolute centrality of the 2007 report is that democratic development is a crucial part of overall development. It is hard to reduce poverty. It is hard to increase life chances if governments are authoritarian, corrupt, and are working to create division as opposed to creating opportunity. Beginning in the early 1990s, the World Bank made that fairly obvious point, but it was a breakthrough at that time to state that governance had to be considered part of the overall development approach.
The committee in 2007 argued for the centrality of democratic development and that it should become a major priority and motivating force in Canadian foreign policy. It had always been part of Canadian foreign policy—I'll speak in a moment about Mr. Pearson—but it had never been central. It had been part of the overall approach, with more than lip service, but never was a motivating or guiding force for either resources or the activities of the men and women who made up Global Affairs and our foreign policy infrastructure. Your predecessor committee said that it should be. They did so for two reasons, both of which I think continue to apply today.
First was the critical issue of morality, that freedom, liberty and equality of opportunity are central to Canada's identity and our traditions. But it is not enough for democrats here to enjoy their liberty. It is equally important to try to do our best to ensure that others in the world are in a position to do so. This important finding is that it's not enough to talk about our values; one has to act on them and put the power of government and civil society behind them.
Second, in 2007, the committee argued that not only was democratization a moral issue, but that it also had definite security implications. We know there are very few laws or semi-laws in international relations. One of them is that democracies very rarely, if ever, fight against each other, that if one brings citizens into the decision-making, the appetite for adventurism, certainly against another democracy, is very much diminished. There are also security dimensions to improving democracy and human rights around the world.
We know through international relations that the best policy by far is to prevent crises from occurring rather than dealing with their aftermath. That's what human rights and democratic development do, if they succeed. By creating a culture of liberty and pluralism, the system itself allows dissent. Dissent, therefore, does not have to inch over into civil war and violence. Therefore, as well as a moral argument, there is a security argument why democratization should be at the centrepiece of our foreign policy. That was the argument in 2007.
Does it apply today? When the committee made its report more than a decade ago—if we look at the various waves of democracy—it really made its report at one of the high points. There was definite progress on governance and democracy on virtually every index that measures international relations. It was the high noon of the democracy movement.
What has happened since? Ladies and gentlemen, it's all straight down. For 13 consecutive years, according to Freedom House, on all of its indices of democracy and freedom, there have been declines. Its 2019 report came out a couple of days ago. In 2018 it reported that about 39% of the world's population was free, 37% was in authoritarian repressive societies, and another 37% was partly free.
We have nearly 40% of the world living under authoritarianism. By the various indices we see, for example, in the last year that Turkey declined by 35%; Venezuela by 27%; the Central African Republic by 30%, and the list goes on and on. The point I'm trying to make to you is that if democratization was a useful and important initiative in 2007, it is desperately needed now. Never has the need been greater. We've had more than a decade of tremendous difficulties in that area.
In terms of the security dimension, I hardly need to tell you that this week in Ottawa we had the meeting of nations on Venezuela. That is just the latest in the crises to show what happens when authoritarianism grows and takes hold of a society with conflict arising. Three million Venezuelans have fled—almost 10% of the country. A million of them are now in Colombia, another country that has tried hard to move democracy along and is having tremendous difficulties in coping with the refugee crisis. In Syria, we know that there have been six million refugees and hundreds of thousands of lives lost. It is a destabilizing conflict not only in the Middle East but is having an impact across Europe. Both those dimensions are more important today than they have ever been.
What has caused this tremendous decline in the last decade? I'll address that and then wrap up on what Canada can do about it by endorsing some of those central recommendations in the 2007 report.
What has happened? One of the first and critical elements is the new self-confidence of authoritarian states. Russia is now a great disrupter. Helping that disruption is another aspect that is different from the situation 2007, namely, the efficiency of the tools of cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. It costs virtually nothing to have a series of analysts get together to destabilize a country, to create emotion, to use Facebook. These tools are very supple and are being used by people who do not share our value system.
China has a belt and road initiative, the largest economic development plan since the Marshall Plan—maybe a trillion dollars. It has many good aspects. It's certainly fair to say that human rights and democracy are not among the many goals of the belt and road initiative. As China increases its sway in the world, the authoritarian camp is ever more strengthened.
Second, there has been an ebb tide in democratic support. When we look at those who led the democratic effort for many years—but also in the mid-2000s when the report was made—we see now that Europe is convulsed with the impacts of the debates over refugees and immigration, in part resulting from the Syrian crisis.
Populist nationalism is making many countries turn inward. The outward-looking goal of improving others has declined as nations are fighting to maintain their democratic standards at home.
Then, of course, we have the example of the United States, which created the National Endowment for Democracy in the early eighties, but now has a president who gives, if not support, at least acknowledgement, to authoritarians around the world while he attacks many of the institutions of democracy, such as a free press and a free media.
Thomas Carothers, the great democratic theorist, says that with the United States now, there is an “autocratic relief syndrome” for dictators, given the oral abuse by the president. But suffice it to say that those who used to support democracy have declined. We have a bigger problem and we have less support. It's very different from 2007.
Lastly, Chair—and not to take up too much time—what can Canada do? We've already started to do some things. We have a long tradition. In 1949, when NATO was created, one of the great initiatives of Canadian foreign policy, with Mr. Pearson and a variety of others.... We should never forget that it was Mr. Pearson who put in article 2, which committed the NATO nations to strengthen their freedom-loving institutions. So, right from the start, when we began to build the post-war world in Canada, freedom and those institutions were at the heart of it.
We then moved along with the Mulroney government, which responded very favourably to the joint Senate-Commons committee by creating the Rights and Democracy agency, a very welcome initiative by that government in 1988.
What I'm trying to say here is that support for liberty and democracy and economic opportunity is a multipartisan commitment in Canada. Nobody is opposed to this. We have many examples of when we have moved. There's the Pearson initiative, there's the Mulroney initiative. In the mid-1990s, Mr. Chrétien brought out a handbook on democratic governance to be one of the themes of CIDA. Over the next 10 years, he dispensed something like $1.5 billion or so to 900 projects with democratic governance at their heart. So, we began to use some substantial moneys in CIDA.
Then, with Mr. Harper's government—