What ARE they doing?

If you have been following the Canadian government’s action on the crisis in Darfur, you might feel that they – like the majority of governments around the world – have fallen short when it comes to taking action on the Darfur. There is no better proof than the fact that this sad situation persists even though the uprising of Darfuri rebel groups, and the corresponding counter-insurgency campaign launched by the Sudanese government, dates back to 2003. We all know that the failure to find a way to stop the atrocities sponsored by the Sudanese government in the Darfur region has been paid for largely with the blood of Darfur’s civilians. If more countries had taken a real stand on this issue, the situation might be very different today.

But for a moment, rather than focusing on what the Canadian government isn’t doing, let’s take a look at what they ARE doing. The following statement, which opens the “Canada: Active in Sudan/ Le Canada à l'œuvre au Soudan” section of the Canadian government’s website, makes it clear that Canada sees itself very much as part of the solution, not part of the problem:

Canada is part of a concerted international effort to support a just and lasting peace in all of Sudan. Canadian contributions focus primarily on resolving the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, and supporting the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the southern civil war in January 2005.”

According to the website, moreover, “Canada’s whole-of-government approach applies to all of Sudan and is based on three pillars of activity: aid, diplomacy and security.”

Canada’s Measures

In this entry I’ll be focusing specifically on the diplomacy pillar (see later blogs for the rest!) According to the website, the areas where Canada has been active in diplomacy specifically relating to Darfur are:

  • Diplomatic involvement in the Darfur Peace Process (particularly with respect to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) – including providing financial and diplomatic resources and supporting “the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union towards bringing the rebel movements together to prepare for the next round of negotiations.”
  • Multilateral initiatives: “Canadian diplomats take every possible opportunity to raise the issue of the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur in international and multilateral fora such as the G8, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie and other informal groups.”
  • Peacebuilding: “Canada’s Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Group, a component of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), is working with the international community to facilitate the full implementation of Sudan’s peace agreements, with special emphasis on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement…Canada is supporting the political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan by promoting initiatives in several key areas including: strengthening judicial institutions, federalism, corrections reform, improving community security, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), as well as building the capacity of all stakeholders to participate in the renewed talks for peace in Darfur.”
  • Bilateral relations: this refers to an “ongoing dialogue with the Sudanese government,” maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, and members of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York, in addition to other “senior Canadian officials and diplomats throughout the world.”
  • For instance, “in March 2008, the former Foreign Affairs minister made an official visit to Sudan – the first visit to that country by a Canadian Foreign Affairs minister. The former minister took this opportunity to raise Canada’s concerns to senior Sudanese officials, including the Sudanese Foreign Minister.”
  • Measures: The measures Canada has put in place “ against Sudan in response to the current human rights and humanitarian situation, and in support of its policy for peace in this country…include: the withholding of support for commercial support services, including export finance and trade and investment development activities; and the withholding of government-to-government development cooperation.”
  • In addition, Canada has implemented in Canadian domestic law the sanctions mandated by the United Nations Security Council, including an arms embargo as well as an asset freeze and travel ban directed against designated persons.”

Finally, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has set up a Task Force on SudanIn order to coordinate Canada’s whole-of-government contribution to the pursuit of sustainable peace throughout Sudan.”

Key elements

I’ll point to some key items that stood out to me, and some questions that arose in my mind, when I was reading about Canada’s approach to the Sudan/Darfur situation.

  • Canada’s approach is a holistic one, which sees the Darfur situation within the larger context of the rest of Sudan, which includes the North-South dynamic and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This is surely a good thing, but may obscure the urgency of the situation in Darfur if one of Canada’s top priorities rests on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
  • Does the tendency to refer to the situation in Darfur as a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility in causing the crisis? Can the Canadian government employ language that does not do so?
  • In terms of the support that Canada is allocating the “political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan,” what does this mean in practical terms? How is Canada “promoting” different initiatives? What form has Canadian support taken, and how much of it has there been?
  • Has Canada taken a strong enough stance in its bilateral relations with Sudan? What tone have Canadian diplomats taken with Sudanese government officials, and has it reflected the urgency of resolving the situation?
  • Has Canada reviewed the measures it has taken to sanction Sudan, and whether these measures have been sufficient or have proven to be effective?

More to come! Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have!

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