Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, just provided an overview of Canada's commitment to NATO in Afghanistan. He explained how the Afghanistan Compact guides international efforts in three areas: security, development and governance.
As members know, six female Afghan parliamentarians joined us in Ottawa during International Women's Week. They, above all, know how important security, development and governance is to their country.
Over the week, they expressed their gratitude for Canada's presence in Afghanistan and strongly stressed how important it was for Canada to stay the course. Each day they live in the reality that is Afghanistan and recognize that without security there can be no development.
Each is a woman of courage and determination and the roots of their commitment are founded in their personal stories. They serve as politicians with their lives under threat and under onerous conditions. One told of how her husband and children were killed by the insurgents, and yet they are willing to serve in public life, to see a better future for the Afghan people. They told me of their fears of what would happen if the 60 nations, which are working to bring stability to their people, were to abandon Afghanistan prematurely.
Like all mothers around the world, they want peace and stability. One spoke of her 11-month-old baby. She said what she wanted most was a good education for her children. They know already that in only six years, millions of children are now going to school. However, they also know thousands of other children are seeking the same opportunity. That is why Canada is the largest donor to the biggest education initiative of the Afghan government. They said that it was important for Canada to continue supporting the training of female teachers to teach young girls, who under the Taliban were denied formal education.
The Afghan women were grateful that maternal deaths had been reduced and that infants were now surviving beyond their fifth birthdays. They know Canada is helping to ensure that women and their children are being vaccinated to fight diseases like polio, tetanus and malaria.
They told me how women were now starting their own small businesses with the help of the microfinancing program supported by Canada and how this was bringing more financial independence to these enterprising women.
They know Canadian-supported literacy training for women means improved nutrition and health care for their children and families.
As parliamentarians, these women had a special appreciation of the work Canada was doing to ensure that Afghan women had access to their rights and protection from abuse and violence under the law. During the Taliban regime, the women of Afghanistan were more often the victims of violence and oppression. They said that there were now stronger protection laws for Afghan women and asked for increased access to legal aid.
Canada is supporting the new Afghanistan independent human rights commission, which promotes human rights and monitors and investigates violations. This is why we will continue to support projects that strengthen the institutions of good governance and a strong justice system. Through an experienced organization, Canada has supported the training of prosecutors and judges.
For all these reasons, the Afghan parliamentarians are grateful to Canada for its work and support that has brought about a real difference in their lives.
On behalf of the Afghan people, they outlined what more they knew had yet to be accomplished. We must listen to these women and continue in our work in Afghanistan, and we will. We will do it effectively so the Afghan people see positive changes in their lives.
CIDA now has over 20 persons on the ground in Afghanistan. We have plans to increase that number to 35 this year. I will be delegating more authority to those in the field. CIDA also has a quick response program to support initiatives that meet local needs as they arise. These steps will mean that we are able to act more quickly and be more responsive to situations on the ground.
CIDA officials in Afghanistan, working with our security personnel, will make decisions on their movements in the field without having to receive clearance from headquarters here in Canada. This will mean that those who can assess the security situation on the ground are actually making the decision on the movement of our CIDA personnel.
We are currently doing our due diligence to identify projects that will bring more awareness of Canada's presence in Afghanistan. Such a project will have to meet the needs of the Afghan people, be able to be executed efficiently and accountably, and be sustainable, as well as being in accord with the aims of the Afghan government.
We will ensure regular reports are available to Canadians of the development progress being made. We will continue to work to increasing donor coordination among our partner countries, aid agencies and NGOs to achieve greater effectiveness.
Much has been accomplished, but there is still much to be done. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is still a great humanitarian need through much of the country. Afghans face the obstacles of poverty, receive limited basic health care services and need to rebuild their infrastructure for clean water, roads and industry.
That is why Canada has provided support to the world food program, delivering food to those facing a severe winter and rising food prices.
With the World Health Organization, Canada has enabled access to basic health care and immunization programs for hundreds of thousands of children and women.
With Canada's support, communities are being rebuilt. Through over 12,000 village councils, local projects have reconstructed bridges, roads and irrigation canals. These are real results that are making a difference today and will mean a stronger future tomorrow.
Canada is a part of the United Nations effort. On the invitation of a democratically elected government, Canada is working to bring a brighter future to Afghan women and to that ravaged country.
Sustainable Afghan institutions, its government and its public sector must develop the capacity to deliver good governance, the rule of law and basic human rights to their own people. Afghan parliamentarians recognize this and are grateful for the sacrifice of Canadians in rebuilding their country.
The women of Afghanistan know that the international effort is making a difference for them, their families, their children and their communities. Last week, women in Afghanistan celebrated International Women's Day because they can see how their lives are changing. As mothers, wives, caregivers, employers and employees, as teachers and politicians, Afghan women do not want to return to life under oppression and violence.
The Afghan people are a strong, proud and determined people who know that with the return of a safe and secure country they can succeed. With Canada's continued support, they will achieve their vision of a strong, free and prosperous nation. By supporting the motion before the House, Canada can do its part.
I encourage all members of this House to support the government motion.