Ms. Jacqueline Hansen (Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada):
Good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development as part of your study on women, peace, and security.
Amnesty International is a global movement of over seven million people in more than 150 countries working together to protect and promote human rights. We do not accept government funding to support our work.
Amnesty has extensively documented the violation of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in conflict, post-conflict, and peacetime environments around the world, and I will focus my remarks on this issue.
Our concern over the scale of these rights violations is so great that three years ago we launched our My Body My Rights campaign calling for an end to the control and criminalization of sexual and reproductive rights by states and non-state actors.
Amnesty is a member of the Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada.
Globally, in times of peace and in times of conflict, women and girls experience gender-based discrimination, violence, and barriers to realizing their sexual and reproductive rights. The gender inequalities at the root of these human rights violations are heightened in conflict situations. The consequence is all too often an increase in sexual and reproductive rights violations.
Amnesty fervently advocates for the protection of civilians in armed conflict situations. These protections must include concrete measures to safeguard the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls as identified by women and girls themselves.
Sexual and reproductive rights are the rights to make decisions about our bodies. They include the right to receive accurate information about sexuality and reproduction; access sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis; choose if, when, and whom to marry; and decide if, when, and how many children to have. They also include the rights to live free from all forms of sexual violence including rape, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, and forced sterilization.
Laws, policies, and practices violate the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in conflict and non-conflict situations. In addition, particular types of sexual and reproductive rights violations are often experienced by women and girls living in or fleeing from armed conflict situations.
The closure of schools often leads to a lack of access to education about sexuality and reproduction. Service reductions or closures of health clinics and hospitals create barriers to accessing contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, safe abortion, prenatal and postnatal care, and other services.
When women are on the move fleeing conflict both within and outside their country's borders, they face barriers to accessing everything from menstrual products to contraception to prenatal and postnatal care and birthing facilities.
Women on the move are often in situations where they are at a heightened risk of experiencing sexual violence, and sexual violence, as we know, is all too often used as a weapon of war with devastating consequences for women and girls.
I will give some examples of sexual and reproductive rights violations that Amnesty has documented in relation to the armed conflict in Syria. I have focused my remarks on the Syrian conflict, but in the question period, I will be happy to share examples drawn from our work in other parts of the world.
Access to education and health care, including information and services related to sexuality and reproduction, are limited in Syria. The IS closed health facilities and reportedly barred women medical workers from working in areas it controlled curtailing civilians' access to medical care.
Government forces have repeatedly bombed hospitals and other medical facilities, barred or restricted the inclusion of medical supplies and humanitarian aid deliveries to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and disrupted or prevented health care provision in these areas by detaining medical workers and volunteers. Almost 700 medical workers were killed in Syria between 2011 and 2015—almost 700.
Even after women and girls have fled Syria, many remain at risk of sexual and reproductive rights violations in refugee camps and communities in neighbouring countries.
International organizations have been reporting for several years on instances of child marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Refugee families struggling to pay for rent and food may see the marriage of a daughter as one way to reduce their financial difficulties. Marriage is also sometimes seen as a means of “protecting” girls from sexual harassment and violence. One Syrian refugee woman told Amnesty, “When we came to Lebanon my children couldn't continue their education.... Since she was a young girl and a stranger, young men would harass her verbally even when she was with me or her uncle. We couldn't protect her from this sort of harassment. She wanted to get a job but my brother refused and he beat her. As a reaction to this beating, when my brother's wife said that she knew of an old man who wanted to get married, my daughter agreed. My daughter was 16 years old when she got married to a man 20 years older than her. Now she suffers a lot of problems because of this.”
Syrian refugee women and girls have spoken with Amnesty about their fear of being attacked and raped while moving around Zaatari camp in Jordan, and in particular, when using unlit communal toilets. As a result, women at the camp were avoiding using the bathroom at night, and doctors confirmed treating urinary tract infections resulting from women restraining themselves from urinating. The cost of health care in Jordan also creates an access barrier for Syrian refugees, including pregnant women and girls.
Refugee women and girls travelling through Europe may not have access to menstrual products or contraception. Pregnant women have described a lack of food and basic health care. Women and girls are reported being sexually harassed in European transit camps. Others have reported being afraid to sleep or go to the bathroom in facilities shared by women and men. Amnesty has called for, at the minimum, the setting up of single sex, well-lit toilet facilities and gender-segregated safe sleeping areas to help protect women and girls from sexual violence. When refugee women and girls are raped, as a mobile population they have very little access to testing for sexually transmitted infections, post-exposure prophylaxis, safe abortion services, and other sexual and reproductive health care services.
Women who stand up for human rights often do so at great risk to themselves and to their families. Next week, the family of Syrian women human rights defender and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh will gather in Ottawa for a vigil to mark another birthday without her. On December 9, 2013, Razan, her husband, and two other colleagues were abducted by armed men during a raid on their offices near Damascus, and they haven't been seen since. Amnesty believes Razan's abduction was a direct result of her peaceful work to defend political prisoners and support civil society groups in Syria. I could give you an endless list of women human rights defenders who have been similarly targeted for their work.
Women and girls experience violations of their sexual and reproductive rights in peacetime, and more so in armed conflict situations. They are best placed to identify concrete solutions to the rights violations impacting them, and must be meaningfully involved in the planning and implementation of projects to prevent sexual and reproductive rights violations and to support survivors. They need an equal voice in peace negotiations to identify the rights violations experienced by women during armed conflict and to help craft solutions that will lead to a lasting peace. The courageous women who stand up to human rights violations must be protected from threats and violence. There can be no impunity for those who perpetrate acts of violence against women human rights defenders.
As the committee moves forward with its study of women, peace, and security, Amnesty would like to encourage Canada, as a country committed to promoting gender equality, and as a country that has provided a home to so many women and girls who have experienced rights violations during armed conflicts, to: become a global leader in promoting the women, peace, and security agenda by committing significant human resources and investments; articulate a clear goal and outline and focus priorities, with measurable targets, in a robust national action plan accompanied by a strong cross-departmental implementation strategy, and led by a senior-level champion; and promote protection of sexual and reproductive rights, and the women, peace, and security agenda more broadly, in all multilateral and bilateral fora, and call on states to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. Amnesty also encourages Canada to: use Canada's new role on the Commission on the Status of Women as an opportunity to advocate for the adoption of special measures to protect women human rights defenders; make sure that women are meaningfully involved in all peace negotiations; continue to prioritize women at risk and girls at risk of human rights violations and LGBTI individuals for resettlement in Canada; fund the work of women human rights defenders and women's organizations; and last, support projects that support a comprehensive tool kit of sexual and reproductive health information and services to women and girls.
What has changed in the last 15 years for women and girls as a result of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security? Not much.
We challenge Canada in the next 15 years to make a measurable difference in the lives of women and girls. We know that there can be no peace until the guns stop, but for women and girls, there can be no true recovery from armed conflict until they have control over making the most basic decisions about their bodies and their lives.
Ms. Louise Allen (Executive Coordinator, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security):
Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in these hearings, which I've been following with great interest from New York over the last few weeks.
The NGO working group consists of 16 international NGOs, including the Nobel Women's Initiative, the Institute for Inclusive Security, CARE International, Amnesty, and Human Rights Watch, which you have heard from in these last few weeks.
We jointly conduct monitoring, analysis, and advocacy on the full implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda at the UN Security Council in peace operations, at UN leadership levels, and by member states. We also facilitate the civil society statements during women, peace, and security open debates at the Security Council.
I want to echo a lot of the recommendations and analysis that you have already heard and that have been presented by my civil society colleagues, particularly in terms of supporting grassroots women's organizations and women human rights defenders, insuring women's meaningful participation across all peace and political processes and donor conferences, supporting holistic services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and the need for dedicated funding to go to gender equality and women's empowerment.
Many of my colleagues have outlined for you in detail recommendations on how to improve Canada's national action plan. Without repeating these, I do want to reiterate the importance of national action plans involving ongoing consultative processes with civil society, ensuring that they are cross-government strategies with shared responsibilities across ministries for their implementation, including strong results-based monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and having dedicated budget and receiving high-level support, as Jacqueline has just outlined, as well.
Today I would like to focus my remarks on the role Canada is playing at the UN and in other multilateral settings, and the role we hope it continues to play in advocating for the systematic implementation of women, peace, and security across all peace and security settings.
Our analysis shows that despite the progress being made at the normative level, and the annual women, peace, and security Security Council open debates enjoying record levels of participation with last year's open debate marking the 15th anniversary having the highest number of member states participating in open debate in the Security Council's history, our analysis shows that the implementation by the Security Council UN leadership at headquarters and in the field and by member states does not match the rhetorical support we witness every year in October.
Overall, the implementation of the agenda continues to rely on political support by individual countries, and sometimes even individual diplomats within missions, rather than serving as a systematic lens by which to view peace and security and long-term conflict prevention. This is why we need strong women, peace, and security champions such as Canada at all multilateral processes to play an increasing monitoring and advocacy role relating to the consistent implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda.
I do want to take this opportunity to commend Canada and the Canadian mission in New York for the leadership role it has taken both as the chair of the Group of Friends of 1325 and as the co-chair of the working group on the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, known as “C-34”.
As the chair of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, the Canadian mission systematically initiates and convenes regular meetings for diplomats and women, peace, and security civil society. It has called on Security Council members and other member states to make strong political and financial statements ahead of last October's high-level review. It also convened a special meeting to specifically discuss sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. These meetings are always very well attended both by diplomats and by civil society and UN staff. We always appreciate the opportunity to brief participants on behalf of civil society.
This year Canada also chaired robust negotiations in the C-34 committee, which resulted in a stronger position being taken on sexual exploitation and abuse by all member states. Negotiating a consensus report is testament to the role Canada can play in multilateral deliberations, especially considering the troubled history the committee has had previously in reaching consensus.
We would like to recommend that Canada increase its women, peace, and security advocacy at the UN across four particular areas: first, increasing women's participation in civil society engagement, both at UN headquarters and across all peace operations and processes; second, advocating for improved and consistent workings of the Security Council to integrate women, peace, and security; third, calling for UN leadership and accountability for women, peace, and security; and fourth, calling for greater transparency in sexual exploitation and abuse reporting by peacekeepers.
Last year, the high-level review on peace operations emphasized the need for better conflict and country analysis to inform peace operations, and for gender analysis to be conducted throughout the mission planning, mandate development, implementation, review, and mission drawdown processes. The peace operations review also called for peace operations to be more people-centered and to increase their community engagement.
Institutionalizing regular community and civil society engagement in New York and across all peace operations will ensure peace and security decisions reflect, and are more responsive to, the needs and experiences of local communities. Canada should join the calls for senior peacekeeping and political mission leadership to be tasked with holding consultations with civil society organizations soon after a mission is deployed, and then establish a regular schedule for consultations that include systematic and specific outreach with women leaders and women civil society organizations representing different ethnic, faith, and minority groups. Such outreach also then needs to be reflected in mission implementation reports and briefings to the Security Council.
In Resolution 2242, which was unanimously adopted in October last year at the Security Council and co-sponsored by 71 member states, including Canada, the Security Council committed to invite civil society representatives, including from women's organizations, to participate in country-specific considerations, that up until now have been closed spaces for civil society. The Security Council has yet to act on this commitment.
We urge Canada to be a strong advocate for women civil society leaders to participate both in Security Council country briefings and in mission community engagements. Support for women civil society representatives during women, peace, and security open debates at the Security Council is not enough, especially as we know that the commitments being made during thematic debates do not then translate into the integration of gender considerations in country-specific decision-making at the Security Council, and by UN leadership.
The Security Council mandates of peacekeeping and political missions, our analysis shows, largely stayed the same last year. To give you a specific figure, only four out of the thirteen peacekeeping missions that had their mandates renewed last year called for the mission to consider gender as a crosscutting issue. Of concern, only 40% of Security Council resolutions and presidential statements responding to a specific crisis had any element on women, peace, and security, or any sort of gender considerations.
We urge Canada to advocate for all Security Council mandates to include gender as a crosscutting issue, as well as specific language relating to women, peace, and security both in terms of assessing their protection needs and for women to participate in all processes. Part of that is also calling for the systematic deployment of senior gender advisers to all peace and political missions. We would be happy to continue to work with the Canadian mission in New York, as well as Parliament, to identify opportunities for increased advocacy toward the Security Council on specific mandates.
We have put a lot of emphasis on the need for improved accountability systems for UN leadership both at headquarters and in missions, and for women, peace, and security promoting women's participation and engaging with women's organizations to be written into the terms of reference for all special representatives to the secretary-general, senior envoys, mediators, and force commanders. Interview processes should also assess a candidate's understanding of what a gender perspective is. The incoming secretary-general must also have demonstrated knowledge and experience in and support for the women, peace, and security agenda.
Both the high-level review on peace operations and the global study on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 called for the appointment of more women to senior mission leadership positions to be prioritized.
A comprehensive strategy involving UN entities and countries which contribute troops and police is needed to address both the pipeline and the structural obstacles preventing women's recruitment and professional advancement. So far, we have seen no movement on this, yet high-level attention is needed. We would welcome Canada taking this up, including the need for the increased accountability of UN leadership and the prioritization of women's leadership positions as part of its overall women, peace, and security advocacy work.
Finally, in terms of sexual exploitation and abuse, Canada is to be commended for the role that it played last year in raising the issue in New York, but we would further encourage Canada to continue shining a light on this issue. As part of this, Canada should call for a robust and mandatory pre-deployment training and vetting of all personnel; for regular field missions to include a conduct and discipline section which captures information on allegations, repatriation, and judicial measures; and to give priority to the security and well-being of survivors in its response to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, including through promoting best practices such as maintaining confidentiality, minimizing repeated trauma from multiple interviews, and ensuring rapid access to medical and psychosocial care.
The four areas I have highlighted this afternoon are also reflected in Canada's national action plan priorities, and we strongly encourage you to include these areas in your recommendations on Canada's policy on women, peace, and security. We continue to encourage Canada to be the champion that we have seen in New York and in other multilateral processes. We need champions who encourage and push for consistent implementation and who lead by example, not just by giving supportive statements in October, but through action and financial support for the agenda.
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie):
Thank you very much.
My thanks also go to the members of the committee.
I would first like to introduce my colleagues. Vincent Rigby is Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy at Global Affairs Canada. He is also the Prime Minister's sherpa for the G20. Arun Thangaraj is Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer at Global Affairs Canada.
Previously, you heard from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who talked to you about his priorities, and from officials from Global Affairs Canada, who introduced you to the work that is currently being done in the department. My remarks today will therefore follow in those footsteps.
As Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, I see my major priority as being to lead Canada’s efforts to provide international assistance with the goal of reducing poverty and inequality in the world.
The international development landscape has changed a lot in recent years. The desire to reach the millennium development goals, together with solid economic growth in a number of developing countries, has helped more than 1 billion people to get out of poverty in the last 20 years.
The fact remains that one individual out of every five in developing regions still lives in extreme poverty. Most disadvantaged people live in middle-income countries at the moment, while the most persistent poverty is to be found in fragile and low-income states.
In September 2015, when Canada and other UN members supported the Agenda 2013 program and its sustainable development goals, we all embraced the ambitious goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, with no one left behind. Canada is well positioned to encourage all the measures in that program, one of crucial importance. Of course, we unreservedly support its implementation, both here in Canada and overseas.
So the time is right to adapt our international assistance policies and approaches to the new global context in which Agenda 2030 is set. By so doing, we can respond to the challenges our planet is facing today and tomorrow.
In the last five months, I have travelled inside and outside Canada meeting my colleagues from other countries and from international civil society and private sector organizations. Those discussions have allowed me to exchange ideas and better understand the strengths, Canada's comparative advantages, and the areas in which we can improve. They have also helped me to reflect on the best way in which I can accomplish the priorities inherent to my mandate.
One of my major priorities is to implement a new policy and funding framework for Canada’s international assistance. In the coming weeks, we will begin a review of our international assistance. In fact, we have already begun to review the policies and the funding framework so that we can focus international assistance on the poorest and the most vulnerable, including fragile states.
Consultations are a key aspect of that effort. Parliamentary Secretary Karina Gould and I have already met with several dozen, perhaps even hundreds, of our Canadian and international partners to seek their advice and to benefit from their experience. We are continuing our outreach efforts through discussion groups, through our website and through social media in order to reach those involved, including young people. I would also more than welcome the committee’s contribution as to the best way to assist the poorest and most vulnerable, and to provide aid to fragile states.
The results of the policy and funding framework review will, in terms of international assistance, be focused on the government’s next budget, in 2017. We are conducting this review in order to provide the best assistance possible, according to the needs and as a function of Canada’s comparative advantages.
In these times of rapid global changes, we can no longer rely on what we have done beforehand. We must also use innovative approaches and technologies, and new partners, including civil society organizations, the private sector, the major foundations, and the beneficiary countries themselves, so that our development assistance produces the greatest impact.
Public development assistance cannot meet all the needs alone. In that sense, the role of the private sector specifically will be crucial in a context where we are seeking to mobilize new financial resources for developing countries, through mixed financing and public-private partnerships, for example.
In order to guide the consultations, the priority themes have been identified based on what Canada is able to offer as added value and benefits in development. As the consultations evolve, the themes are refined. In that regard, the rights and the health of women and children come first.
I was pleased to hear that the committee is currently studying the topic of women, peace, and security, a very important issue that links to my mandate to champion human rights, including the rights of women.
Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is a priority for me and our government. We are committed to eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls so that they can enjoy their full human rights.
We will continue Canada's leadership role in ending child, early, and forced marriage, and we will continue to work to remove the barriers girls face in assessing safe, quality education. We believe that educated girls today become the empowered women of tomorrow.
Canada's recent election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women will give us a stronger voice in advancing the rights of women and girls around the world. A disproportionate number of women and children are dragged down by malnutrition and preventable diseases, simply because they do not have access to adequate nutritious food, clean water, and basic health care. Every day around the world, 16,000 children die before celebrating their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea.
Over 160 million children under the age of five have stunted growth due to insufficient food. Far too many women continue to die from childbirth-related complications. The maternal mortality ratio in the developing regions is 14 times higher than in developed countries, and profound inequalities in access to and use of sexual and reproductive health services persist within and across regions. This is why our government is putting a strong emphasis on the rights of health of women and children.
We are proud that our support is already contributing to positive changes on a number of critical fronts. As part of the review, we will consider how Canada can continue its international leadership on maternal, newborn, and child health, while taking a more comprehensive approach that fully recognizes the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights as central to the health and empowerment of women and girls.
The second priority is green and sustainable economic growth. Economic growth is essential to lifting people out of poverty. Helping developing countries create a business-enabling environment and supporting entrepreneurship, job creation, and skills training are needed to foster inclusive growth.
When I was in Vietnam late last year, I saw first-hand how Canada's assistance is helping farmers increase their income and productivity. During my visit, I announced the support for an initiative to help farmers expand their business and improve the livelihood of their families by increasing access to agricultural financing.
However, economic growth cannot be at the expense of environmental sustainability. For all of us on this planet, climate change threatens prosperity. For millions of people in developing countries, the effects of climate change, such as changing weather patterns and rising sea levels, directly imperil their livelihood and security. Climate change is already having adverse impacts on water resources, ecosystems, economies, and communities, and it threatens to undermine development gains.
Efforts to enhance the environmental sustainability of economic growth are essential to ensure that development progress is not undermined by the destabilizing effects of climate change and pollution.
Green economic growth can also contribute to job creation and improved livelihoods. To support developing countries to transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, Canada has recently committed $2.65 billion in climate finance to help achieve real climate results.
Going forward, Canada will also need to consider how its international assistance investments can continue to address ongoing problems of food insecurity and water scarcity, in addition to the growing impact of climate change.
The third priority area is inclusive and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism, respect for dignity and human rights, including the rights of women and refugees, that I will work on together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We need to build on these Canadian strengths and provide support internationally for the promotion of these values that have benefited our country.
In countries where the government is accountable to its citizens, where power is transferred regularly and peacefully, and where protection exists for the entire population, the dividends are clear. There is a greater chance of political, economic, and social stability. Human rights are more likely to be respected. Governments are able to respond to the needs of their citizens, and communities are more resilient in times of crisis.
For example, it is important to continue to support countries like Burma that have made the important choice of democratic change. To this end, we have recently announced $44 million to help build and strengthen democracy in Burma and improve opportunities for the country's most vulnerable people.
Turning to the fourth priority area, Canada needs to use all its tools to contribute to global peace and security. Fragility, conflicts, and violence hamper their prosperity and social development and deepen poverty.
Violent conflict and insecurity are on the rise and are driving levels of forced migration not seen since the Second World War. More than 11 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict in Syria alone. Protracted displacement has become the new norm. Studies show that by 2030, without coordinated action two-thirds of the world's poorest will be living in countries and regions plagued by endemic violence and fragility.
The international community is taking note of these worrying trends. At the global meeting in the international dialogue on peace-building and state-building in Stockholm earlier this month, Canada, along with over 40 other countries and multilateral organizations, reaffirmed its commitment to implement the new deal for engagement in fragile states.
We agreed that the root causes and symptoms of fragility and conflict need to be addressed as a matter of priority in the agenda 2030 if sustainable development is to be realized.
As we increase our focus on fragile states, we will consider how we can best support peace-building and conflict prevention, as well as post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Canada is already investing significantly in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence.
We announced funding of $585 million in budget 2016 for renewal of important peace and security programs in Global Affairs Canada.
Conflicts place tremendous pressure on the international humanitarian system. Globally, humanitarian needs have quadrupled since 2005 as a result of increasingly protracted conflicts, the increasing number of displaced persons and the growing frequency of natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes. This is why humanitarian assistance must be a priority for our government, in addition to investments in long-term prevention measures. We will continue to play a role in delivering vital and much needed humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations. This is a matter of human dignity and respect for humanitarian principles.
Canada is already providing essential humanitarian assistance to many vulnerable populations, including those affected by conflict. Canada’s engagement strategy in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon is expected to provide $1.1 billion over three years in humanitarian and development assistance, as part of an integrated action strategy. Of that amount, $840 million are earmarked for humanitarian assistance in the form of emergency health services, water, food, shelter, protection and education provided in emergency situations to the most vulnerable people affected by crises. That funding also includes support for countries hosting refugees.
During my travels in Jordan and Lebanon, I was able to see the generosity of the communities that are hosting large numbers of refugees. The massive influx of refugees is exceeding their ability to provide adequate services. The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan represents about 10% of its population. Lebanon has taken in more than one million Syrian refugees, and 450,000 Palestinian refugees are registered. Refugees represent over 30% of the Lebanese population.
So we are helping to strengthen the resilience of the communities in those countries. The situation in the Middle East speaks to the need for a government-wide approach to improve security and stability, to provide humanitarian assistance and to help partners to provide social services through long-term development initiatives.
I would also like to briefly talk about Canada’s priorities within La Francophonie.
It is a fact that many French-speaking countries are among the poorest in the world. Those priorities also align well with our international assistance goals. Our government will continue to promote peaceful pluralism, democracy, human rights and inclusive and accountable governance in francophone countries. Those are the values underlying all our actions, as are the protection and empowerment of women and girls.
We are working to consolidate the economic mandate of La Francophonie in order to reduce poverty and support inclusive and sustainable growth.
We look forward to working with all our partners to ensure the success of the Sommet de la Francophonie in Madagascar in November. Our participation in this event will allow us to deepen our cooperation and partnership with France.
Let me also reiterate our government’s commitment to focus on effectiveness, transparency and excellent results in development, as well as on engaging Canadians, especially youth, in renewing our international assistance policy and funding framework. I am convinced that we will be working with the committee on an ongoing basis and we will maintain a close and positive relationship with you.
In closing, ladies and gentlemen, let me stress my desire to work with you on those issues. Rest assured that my decisions will be based on facts.
Developing innovative solutions to encourage new partners to contribute to development and humanitarian assistance is something that we share with other donor countries. To that end, we must ensure greater policy coherence in allocating aid, and ensure that the results from innovative solutions can be replicated on a larger scale to benefit as many people as possible.
The members of this committee have tremendous experience, knowledge and insight. My team and I are open to dialogue. I am sure that we will successfully engage with you in the coming weeks and months, through this committee, or on a more individual basis.
When it comes to helping vulnerable populations and fragile states, we can all make a contribution.
Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to answer any questions members of the committee may have.