Thursday, April 28, 2005


Babble on.

It's always encouraging to receive solid confirmation that one's opinion is the correct one. Reading Lloyd Axworthy's review of the new International Policy Statement reinforces my conviction that it's a good first step towards restoring Canadian influence outside our own borders.

This isn't to say Lloyd endorses the IPS - he pans it quite thoroughly. But I would have questioned my position if Canadian flaccid-power's chief advocate had echoed my thoughts.

So how is Lloyd Unworthy wrong? Let me count the ways...

...I have serious reservations about restricting our assistance to 24 chosen countries which show a capacity to meet international standards of good behaviour. That is a lazy, bureaucratic way of making decisions on allocation of funds, replacing a more intensive, flexible and comprehensive strategy that would target very specific situations and tailor the appropriate form of aid. In my work as a special envoy in the horn of Africa, I have seen close up the desperate need to apply foreign aid in a creative way to solve a long-standing border conflict that impacts directly on the poverty levels of the respective countries and have been frustrated by the inability to design our aid programs to help resolve the dispute.

I like the way Axworthy - the guy who ran DFAIT from 1995-2000, in case you had forgotten - admits we need a more focused effort, but decries the way Fort Pearson has chosen to focus that effort. His alternative? "...a more intensive, flexible and comprehensive strategy that would target very specific situations and tailor the appropriate form of aid." There's Axworthy focus at its very best. If you have no idea what that would mean, don't worry, he doesn't either. If he did, he might have implemented it when he had the chance as Minister of Freakin' Foreign Affairs.

From the IPS: "In addressing these dilemmas, we will focuse on matching our expertise with what the world needs most from us." This too: "We will tailor our distinctive contribution by targeting five areas: governance, private sector development, health, basic education and environmental sustainability."

You tell me which sounds like a more solid plan.

Moving along:

The review ignores the very vital role played by the Canadian non-governmental organization community in overseas work, and the importance of fostering the network of Canadians who, in a variety of individual initiatives concocted from their own imagination and enthusiasm, have over the years become perhaps the best representatives of Canadian values abroad. The review extols the virtues of the Canada Corps as a way of engaging Canadians in international aid. Nothing wrong in having such an option, but it can't replace the enormous contribution of the many international non-profit, religious, human rights, academic and peace organizations who are finding their efforts being snuffed out by lack of support from Ottawa.

Translation? The man didn't actually read the document. Either that, or a guy who has a Ph.D. from Princeton (Ben cringes) is incapable of understanding what he reads.

The truth is that the strategy outlined above was arrived at through consultation with civil society groups. The truth is that this policy statement explicitly recognizes that NGO's, along with sovereign states, private companies, and individuals, are key components of today's international relations. The truth is that the IPS commits to respond to international crises by using "existing source experts and individuals or groups whose capacities are required." According to Axworthy, this constitutes ignoring the non-governmental community. I want to hand this man a mirror and ask him who exactly is ignoring what here.

In fact, one of the most intriguing ideas presented in the review -- promoting the interest of gender equality and enhancing the role of women as prime movers in peace-building activities -- can best be attained by enlisting the energies of women in Canada, linking them into a global network of support and aid. There could be a tremendous sharing of resources and the creation of a worldwide lobby to promote equality issues. But there will have to be investment by the federal government to initiate and maintain such a network.

The digital revolution of the last 20 years has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of civil society. We are at the dawn of the day where individual groups and NGOs will organize themselves to wield ever-increasing influence on legal and political policy. The informational innovations that have come into being over the last 15 years or so have greatly empowered the citizens of the world to share information and to mobilize action on an international level. By not responding to this emerging reality we will miss an opportunity to greatly enhance the role Canadians can play as global citizens. (juxtaposing emphasis by Babbler)

Let's assume the IPS didn't contain a call to mobilize civil society, from the biggest NGO's to Canada's diaspora - which it does. From his first paragraph to his second, Axworthy goes from saying that government needs to initiate and maintain global networks of support and aid, to recognizing the ability of individual groups and NGO's to organize themselves online to mobilize where they're needed. Either government support is crucial, or it's not. The man is positively self-fisking.

But finally, at the end of the piece, Axworthy puts aside all these relatively minor quibbles, and reveals the crux of his disgust with Canada's new plan: it doesn't throw national interest out the window in favour of supra-national governance. I kid you not:

This is what really perplexes me about this review -- the lack of an overriding purpose to tackle the fundamentals of a global system. It is a system that is becoming dysfunctional and desperately needs a shift in the basic paradigm of global governance -- from a preoccupation with national interest to a sense of global citizenship. As a foreign minister, I was basically a plumber, fixing leaks. But I recognized that the leaks were more frequent because the architecture was faulty. The need for reconstruction still doesn't receive the attention it deserves.
Canadians have no pretensions about wielding a big military stick, nor do we have any whiff of manifest destiny. But we can offer ideas, skills, resources, a political commitment to working with others to find practical, peaceful solutions, and an imagination that can help design a global political system that meets contemporary challenges.

Again, I can only assume Dr. Asshat didn't actually read the document, an entire section of which is devoted to "The New Multilateralism." The IPS sells the idea of multilateralism as a foreign policy tool in a largely unipolar world order by stressing the benefits of a rules-based system, by pointing out how both great and small powers benefit from sharing burdens and risks, and by reminding us that some issues can only be addressed through collective action. It stresses UN reform, the revitalization of NATO and the OAS, the creation of an L20 group, as well as pointing out the almost endless opportunities for bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral-but-not-universal cooperation on every issue under the sun.

Axworthy's real problem with the approach laid out in the policy statement is that it eschews process for results, offending the bureaucrat in him, and it admits practical small-scale arrangements that cater to national interests are preferrable to quixotic large-scale plans that please no one, offending the socialist ideologue in him.

As Kathy Shaidle would say, the IPS "annoys all the right people." Works for me.

Babble off.


At 4:46 p.m., Blogger AwaWiYe said...

Too many adjectives indicate a lazy mind. If Lloyd would express his thoughts simply, it would be immediately obvious whether his thoughts are simple.


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