Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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—