Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I wish to express my appreciation for your presiding over this important debate this evening on the conflict in Sudan.
I wish to begin by stating emphatically the new government's deep concern for the deteriorating humanitarian rights and security situation inside Darfur. We have and continue to urge the government of Sudan and the various warring factions in Darfur to bring about an immediate end to the hostilities and stop the fighting.
The civilian population of Darfur has suffered long enough. We need a rapid and full deployment of a UN mission to restore stability. I will elaborate more on this in a moment but first, I want to provide a bit of context for Canadians watching this debate at home.
The Sudan is in a region that has always been the poorest in the world and the most racked by conflict. To bring peace to this region, we must first find new solutions to the various conflicts that are tearing the Sudan apart. The consequences of these internal conflicts are felt well beyond its borders.
Canada has a “whole of Sudan” policy, meaning that Canada recognizes that all of Sudan's regions, and therefore the various conflicts in those regions, are interrelated. As the Sudanese national government role in security and stability issues is key, it is important to recognize that actions and activities on one issue will inevitably have impacts on others, just as various regions impact on the Sudan.
Canada makes a strong effort to address root causes rather than symptoms. At the heart of most of Sudan's conflict is the marginalization that takes place, since much of Sudan's national wealth has a tendency to flow to Khartoum without being redistributed to the country's underdeveloped rural regions.
Prior to the current crisis in Darfur, southern Sudan suffered a devastating civil war. This conflict left an appalling aftermath, with an estimated two million lives lost and four million people displaced, the largest number of displaced people anywhere in the world. It is a vast region that is lacking infrastructure like schools, hospitals and basic roads, yet many are returning. Still many more need to be resettled.
The negotiations sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which culminated in the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, were a critical effort toward resolving the feelings of marginalization. As a result, the CPA makes explicit efforts to address power and wealth sharing in a united Sudan.
The devastation in the north-south conflict, however, continues to be felt. A massive Sudanese and international effort to build the necessary infrastructure and build the strengthening institutions to support the long term development of the region is necessary, while reinforcing peace building efforts to ensure that it does not lapse into conflict again.
We believe supporting the consolidation of peace in Sudan and in particular ensuring a full and rapid implementation of all of the provisions of the comprehensive peace agreement is key to resolving the crisis in Darfur and building lasting peace in Sudan.
As the Prime Minister said last week at the summit of la Francophonie, our government wants to promote—in southern Sudan and in Darfur in particular—judicial reform, re-establish a framework of security, reduce the arms trade and strengthen governance institutions and community life in Darfur and throughout the Sudan.
We are committed to a coordinated approach, with others, that addresses the underlying causes as well as the symptoms of conflict. It is for this reason that Canada is providing additional peace building support for southern Sudan through the global peace and security fund. For this fiscal year, we are committed to $14.2 million, focused principally on reform and building of the judicial system, reduction in the traffic of arms, and enhancement of governance.
This includes money for existing and newly identified projects as well as initiatives that specifically address the regional nature of the conflict and support peace building work in countries neighbouring Sudan. Projects range from a major initiative to support the judiciary and improve the prison system in southern Sudan to a comprehensive assessment of small arms across the country.
The pursuit of peace in Sudan and its regions represents huge challenges for all. As members know, Canada played an important role at the peace talks in Abuja that led to the signing of the Darfur peace agreement. In fact, Canada played a central diplomatic role, working closely with the African Union, the European Union, Britain and the United States to broker the agreement during the final days of that negotiation.
I was in regular contact with officials during that time. I commend the efforts of UN Ambassador Allan Rock and High Commissioner to Nigeria David Angell, in Abuja, who did that important work.
At that time we personally sent a letter to rebel leaders and the government of Sudan, urging them all to reach the agreement that parties could uphold. We believe greater progress will be needed in the Darfur peace agreement, including the implementation by the parties and bringing the non-signatories on board. The parties to the agreement and the non-signatories should engage in a coordinated process to achieve this. Canada will support all efforts to bring these non-signatories to the peace agreement back to the table.
I met with Jan Egeland, emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations, who described in graphic detail the urgency for the UN intervention. We spoke as well about the need to protect humanitarian aid workers in Sudan and those who have increasingly had their own lives endangered due to their generous work on the ground.
Canada was a leader in championing the issue and the inclusion of women in the peace talks and provided support to the African Union to integrate gender concerns into the peace agreement itself.
It is critical during this time of transition to a United Nations mission that Canada maintain support for renewed African Union-led diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Canada has been active and important in this international effort.
At the United Nations there were significant efficiencies to be gained by transforming the force in Darfur into a UN presence throughout Sudan. Drawing upon a broader pool of material and human resources, the United Nations brings stable funding and decades of experience. With the UN already on the ground in south Sudan and coordinating humanitarian efforts in Darfur, transition in Darfur will provide benefits of economies of scale and a unified command and control structure. The core force will inevitably be African Union and African in character.
I have just come back from the United Nations where we discussed at length the tragic and urgent situation in Darfur. My colleagues in the other countries understand perfectly well that we must join our efforts to put an end to this conflict immediately. We also talked about this at the G-8 foreign ministers meeting this summer.
While at the UN, I also sought out the Sudanese foreign minister, Lam Akol, to urge that the government of Sudan allow a UN force into Darfur. I asked the Sudanese foreign minister to encourage his government to engage with the international community and be a full partner in the dialogue that Sudan has requested. I told him there should be no fear of colonization.
I previously had discussions with him earlier in August. I talked about Canada's concern for the ongoing violence and reiterated Canada's commitment to helping achieve a lasting peace in the region. I expressed Canada's interest in working more closely with Sudan and all the international partners to bring about a greater level of trust and acceptance for the UN mission.
I spoke with other foreign ministers, including those from African nations. The Senegalese in particular seemed prepared to advocate fully for the transition to the UN peacekeeping mission. I attended a special meeting that was hosted by the U.S. Secretary of State and Danish foreign minister Moller for interested countries to discuss the means to pursue the matter. Efforts to include the Sudanese government at any and all times should be foremost on any agenda. The international community continues to urge the government of Sudan to accept this transition.
Canadian and international efforts also focus on contacting key African and Arab leaders who may have influence on the government of Sudan to urge for the transition. While at the UN, I met with foreign ministers from Algeria, Egypt and Senegal, as well as the Secretary-General of the Arab League, who all seemed prepared to use their influence to press the government of Sudan.
We were strongly encouraged by the recent decision taken by the African Union peace and security council to strengthen the African Union's mission and extend its mandate to the end of the year. Pending a UN mission, AMIS will provide some welcome protection for civilians in Darfur and prevent a further devastating security vacuum on the ground. It will also provide more time to convince the government of Sudan to accept the mission.
We maintain unwavering support for the African Union's mission in Sudan. Canada has taken a leading international role, providing important support to this mission. We have provided armoured cars, a Canadian Forces training centre, $1.4 million in personal equipment such as helmets and vests, 25 leased helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft and fuel, and military and civilian advisers. My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, will provide greater detail on this contribution.
In all, we have sent a comprehensive support package to the African Union valued at more than $190 million. We have had opportunities to speak with Red Cross International and other Canadian NGOs providing important support on the ground. It is important to recall that the African Union itself, while accepting more and more responsibility, has called for the transition to take place.
In conclusion, we will continue to work with our international partners to end the suffering of the people of Darfur. We welcome the support that has been requested by the UN Secretary-General and the chairman of the African Union. I know other members will discuss in detail more specific proposals that can be made.
I commend the efforts of many who are here in the chamber, including Senator Dallaire, who has taken a personal interest in this. We hope to work in a cooperative, productive and non-partisan way to bring about an end to the suffering and incredible pain that is being felt by the people of Sudan.