Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the committee for this invitation.
Thank you for giving this critical issue the attention it deserves. You mentioned that I direct the Institute for Inclusive Security. We're a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, and for more than 15 years we've increased the inclusion of women in peace and security processes around the world.
We work on current conflicts, including in Sudan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Colombia, Syria, Afghanistan, and others. We work with policy-makers in the United States and other governments and at NATO, the United Nations, and elsewhere around the world. We're specialists on national action plans. So we've worked with about 20 countries, always with government and civil society, to either create new plans or strengthen their existing ones.
We are the organization that wrote the independent mid-term assessment of Canada's national action plan in 2014, which was subsequently tabled in Parliament, and I'm hoping today that I can share with you a mere eight recommendations for Canada's next plan.
Before I shift to the policy proposal aspect, however, I am wondering if I can speak on a somewhat personal note. I've been based in Washington, D.C. for about a decade, but I'm Canadian. I'm from Alberta. While I focus on this issue around the world, it is never closer to my heart than when we interact and engage and intersect with Canadians and Canadian government policy.
At Inclusive Security we work directly with women who have experienced almost unspeakable trauma as a result of war. We work with South Sudanese women, for example, who a few months ago told me that their relatives have now started eating grass because there is simply no food to be had. We work with other South Sudanese women who talk about their relatives and family members who make a deliberate choice to leave their camp to seek food, knowing they're going to be raped, but make that choice anyway because they see it that they have no other options.
We work with Afghan women like the ones that Beth Woroniuk discussed and mentioned a few days ago, who are witnessing militants recruiting young men in their communities and who, when they travel at great risk to their own personal safety to report it to government ministers, are effectively laughed out of the room.
The women we work with summon enormous strength and enormous courage to get to the table and to have a say in the decisions that affect their own lives. You can imagine then what it's like for me as a Canadian when I see them engage with Canadians here and abroad, who essentially tell them that their work matters. I've had a number of experiences along those lines.
I understand that the committee has heard a lot about Deb Lyons, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan. She told those same women who were laughed out of the room by an Afghan minister that they were welcome in Canada's embassy. She invited them for several days, rolled up her sleeves, facilitated a workshop with them, and about a month ago they identified a top priority list of qualified women from their networks who could serve and sit in peace negotiations.
It makes me enormously proud when I see people like Kerry Buck, Canada's ambassador to NATO, the first-ever female ambassador to NATO, who has put this topic squarely on the alliance's agenda, including last month, for example, when she hosted the first-ever high-level panel discussion about women, peace, and security at NATO, and even invited civil society to participate.
I'm really proud to see the work of our RCMP internationally and see the modelling collaboration at home. I was there this morning and heard great reports about their inviting Canadian civil society to observe their pre-deployment training and then provide substantive input and assessment on how to strengthen it.
I was blown away by the Chief of the Defence Staff's directive on implementing the tenets of the Security Council resolutions in the Canadian Forces' planning and operations. It is an amazing document. I'll come back to that later, but I was truly blown away when I read that.
One last point, if I might, I would like to relate to your a story that Hillary Clinton often tells in the United States, including when she announced the United States national action plan in 2011. It relates to peace negotiations in Darfur around 2007; at one point things were especially tense. The negotiations had ground to a halt. Talks were at an impasse over one specific issue. So the parties to the talks, almost all men at the time, couldn't agree over who would have control over a certain river. There was a deadlock. That evening, the mediator met with a group of Darfuri women who were assigned to be technical advisers at the negotiations and said that the talks were stalled because of that river and he pointed to the map. He said they couldn't get past this, that each wanted control. The women asked, “That river right there?” The men said yes. They women said, “That river dried up two years ago. It's been dry for years.”
I love this story because it was Canadian Senator Mobina Jaffer, at the time Canada's special envoy to Sudan, who convinced the mediator to bring women to the talks and to facilitate their participation, to actually pay for them to be there. That's the type of on-the-ground, real inclusion that matters at these peace negotiations.
All of these are examples of Canadian leadership. They are Canada leading by example, and they are things that make me enormously proud.
How do we have even more of that? How do we systematize this? A high-impact national action plan is key. Let me offer eight suggestions for the next version.
First, simplify monitoring and evaluation. Have far fewer indicators overall and reduce the focus on counting, increasing the number of qualitative indicators. Focus on outcomes, meaning look at effects, not just performance. As we start the process of creating a new NAP, ask ourselves, what difference do we want to see? What difference do we want to make over the period of this plan? It's usually about four to six years. Identify a handful of key outcomes at an outcome level, and then work backwards from there.
Canada's in a rare and really great position of actually now having a fair amount of baseline data for a number of indicators. That means we can also set targets, which is something we couldn't do in the first plan. Of course, simplifying monitoring and evaluation also involves releasing shorter and much more digestible reports against performance and implementation of the plan itself. Those reports, if they're simpler, shorter, easier to follow, and perhaps have more visual representative of the indicators over time will lead to more reflection, more learning, and more assessment of how the plan is being implemented. We can course-correct as opposed to just tracking performance.
The second thing I propose to do is take the time to hold authentic consultations to create the next NAP, especially to get input on those handful of key outcomes that both civil society and the government think we should be pursuing. In a lot of countries, our experience has been that the national action plan is no more than a document or a piece of paper that sits on a shelf. Canada has an opportunity right now to really bring it alive and to get a lot of buy-in. I would suggest and urge strongly that you consult heavily with civil society here and directly with women most affected by conflict around the world, as well as consult with Canadian diplomats, civil service, police, and military.
I'll note that just based on experiences elsewhere, and not Canada, authentic consultation isn't just creating a first draft and then giving people a few weeks to respond. It's getting people together and identifying these outcome-level indicators on what it is we want to achieve, and working backwards.
Third, once there is a plan, make the expectations for implementation across the departments exceedingly clear. That means having department and agency-specific implementation plans. We want to take away as much guesswork as possible from the thousands of really well-intentioned people who really want to understand what it means for their day-to-day life to bring this national action plan alive. Two months ago, General Vance did this with the CDS directive. It lays out what he wants to achieve, who's responsible for doing it, and by when they need to do so. Our diplomats at Global Affairs will tell you the best format for doing it there, but I think something similar at Global Affairs could be especially useful.
Of course, for expectations to be meaningful, people need to be held accountable. My fourth recommendation is to institute genuine accountability measures. That means creating a culture of accountability around this plan, getting it essentially into the capillaries or the DNA of each of those organizations. That means putting it in job descriptions, having references to it in performance evaluations, putting references in mandate letters, and then asking questions as it relates to those mandate letters, etc.
The fifth recommendation is to make sure to resource this work. This issue of women, peace, and security is one that suffers from the “budgetless add-on syndrome”, as I call it, where people think we can just add on to people's existing responsibilities and not resource it. Strengthening civil society here and abroad means core funding. Consultations take time and money. Training takes time and money. Reporting takes time and money. If this is an authentic priority, it needs to be resourced. Of course this is some funding, but not an enormous amount. It is truly a pittance compared with the return on the investment.
Six, keep up this parliamentary oversight. I think it's fantastic that you're holding this series of hearings. The Canadian Senate human rights committee had a number of hearings on this topic, but to my knowledge it's the first in the House of Commons.
So having the hearings is essential, as is also asking questions of people who appear before you on other topics, including the ministers who appear before the committee.
My seventh recommendation is to make Canada's commitment even more visible, and I think the Prime Minister is doing his part in raising attention to this issue around the world. It includes having more ministers speaking about this—that means talking about women not only as victims of conflict, but as agents of change—assigning an influential, authentic, and high-level champion within different ministries, and appointing more female heads of mission.
Finally, I would urge us all to embrace this issue and topic as part of Canada's brand and to do so very strategically. Embracing it is the right thing to do. It's also the strategic thing to do, especially as we're talking about a bid for the UN Security Council.
Canada is in a solid place right now and we're positioned to be even better on this issue. We have a Prime Minister who's announced himself to the world to be a feminist. We have great diplomats on the front lines. We have a Chief of the Defence Staff who authentically gets this. We have a vibrant civil society.
At the UN, we've chaired a group of friends on this topic for years. We have police advisers and military advisers who are of the highest calibre. We're already exceeding the percentage of female police officers serving in UN missions. We're at about 25% in the UN target, which the UN itself has not met; it's at about 20%. We also talk about children's rights and vulnerable populations and other language that really makes this brand authentic and genuine for us.
So while we're not perfect, we can certainly be committed. There's a lot of momentum around this issue and a lot of space for Canada to make a visible and powerful contribution, not only for our own interests but to make the world a safer place for men, women, boys, and girls all around the world.