Catalogue No.: E94-239/1996E
The Government of Canada's policy for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on human rights, democracy and good governance is situated within the framework of Canadian foreign policy and overall Government objectives. The foreign policy statement, Canada in the World, has noted:
The Government regards respect for human rights not only as a fundamental value, but also as a crucial element in the development of stable, democratic and prosperous societies at peace with each other. (page 34)
Objectives for CIDA are tied closely to the three key objectives the Government has identified for its international actions in the years to come: the promotion of prosperity, the protection of our security within a stable global framework, and the projection of Canadian values of democracy and the rule of law, and culture. The Government recognizes that a broad approach is required to build a more secure world, one that for Canada includes promoting international cooperation, building stability and preventing conflict. Canadians expect our relations with the rest of the world, including with developing countries through the development assistance program, to be guided by such values as respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This policy builds on those values.
All development assistance links Canadians with people in developing countries. Our cooperation and exchanges give us opportunities in every project, every day, to express our values, to help others understand them, and to support those who strive to increase respect for human rights and democracy and improve governance in their own societies. We recognize that events unfold rapidly, often in unpredictable ways, with outcomes that are far from certain. We are also aware that progress will be achieved only over periods of time better measured in decades, than in years. Development of durable institutions and the democratic culture to sustain them is a lengthy undertaking; a long-term perspective is intrinsic to CIDA's work.
Human rights are founded on the inherent dignity of the human person. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Democratization builds the effective participation of individuals in decision making and the exercise of power in society, both through the formal processes of democracy, and through the organizations of civil society that give voice to popular concerns. Good governance ensures the effective, honest, equitable and accountable exercise of power by governments.
The values that underlie human rights, democracy and good governance—among them respect for human dignity, justice, equity, participation and accountability—are deeply held throughout the world. Their importance to Canadians is demonstrated in efforts to address concerns about rights at many levels in our own society, through the framework of law, through federal and provincial institutions, and in the work of community-based organizations throughout the country.
Respect for human rights, democratization and good governance are important, in their own right, for the security of individual children, women and men and the development of the societies in which they live. These three issues are integral to CIDA's purpose, to promote sustainable development in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world. CIDA's vision of sustainable development builds on the inherent link between political, economic, environmental, social and cultural processes in all societies and seeks to integrate this understanding into the Agency's efforts to promote development. Underpinning this vision is the recognition that the equitable distribution of power and resources within and between societies, and public participation in decision making, are critical to the success of CIDA's work.
Together, respect for rights, democratization and good governance create the framework of society within which the development efforts of people, whether working as individuals, as groups in civil society, or through their governments, can be effective. Canada's interest in a more just, more stable and more prosperous world requires that the Canadian government, through the development assistance program, addresses rights, democracy and governance concerns in the context of promoting sustainable development. CIDA's dialogue and program initiatives are important instruments for expressing Canadian values, and in working to build a more just, secure and prosperous world for all.
With respect to the development cooperation program administered by CIDA, the Government's policy is to enhance the will and capacity of developing country societies to respect the rights of children, women and men, and to govern effectively and in a democratic manner.
The Government's approach to rights, democracy and governance, expressed in these CIDA objectives, is broad. It emphasizes organizations in civil society as key vehicles for articulating popular concerns and channelling popular participation in decision and policy making. It also focuses on governments for their responsibility to respect rights and govern well, in an honest, effective and accountable manner. It encompasses processes such as elections and the rule of law, which comprise formal democracy, as well as responsible institutions. It also includes decision makers who must demonstrate political will and leadership. This approach includes a wide range of activities to foster rights, democracy and governance, and a wide range of partners.
The Government's approach is practical and results-oriented. It recognizes that it is the people of developing countries, their organizations and governments, who play the central role and hold prime responsibility for achieving progress. The fundamental principles are universal, although each society and each region crafts its own approach, drawing on its culture, history, and political and economic legacy. Canadians and their government, through CIDA, play a critical but supporting role, drawing on our heritage. CIDA does not seek to export particular Canadian institutions or practices; rather, the Agency seeks to work carefully and sensitively with those in developing countries who are best placed to achieve positive change.
CIDA's record of action with respect to human rights, democratization and good governance dates back many years, involving all program branches. CIDA works with a broad range of partners, including governments, non-governmental organizations and other organizations in civil society, and inter-governmental organizations. Initiatives include dialogue and funding related to a broad range of activities, such as peace and reconciliation initiatives, human rights education, widening access to legal remedies, strengthening legislatures, and public sector reform.
Canadian development assistance initiatives are most effective when they are part of a coherent Canadian approach, based on clearly articulated objectives, solid analysis of events and trends, and the coordinated use of policy instruments. The impact of CIDA's actions can be blunted when information and analysis are lacking or faulty, when objectives are unclear and when other foreign policy measures work at cross purposes. Greater coherence does not imply uniformity, however. Canadian responses must continue to reflect the particular characteristics of each situation and the differing potentials for effective action.
The development perspective articulated by CIDA is not the only interest to be reflected in Canadian foreign policy; political and commercial interests are also important. CIDA is in a position, however, to effectively advocate development perspectives in the long-term interest of Canada, in keeping with the purpose of the official development assistance (ODA) program and the Agency's program and policy experience. CIDA will work to build more coherent and more effective foreign policy on rights, democracy and governance, with respect to developing countries, by:
Through dialogue on rights, democracy and governance issues, pursued at many levels, CIDA seeks to deepen its own understanding of the interests and positions of partner organizations and governments, and to influence the development of the partners' approaches. Like all participants, CIDA learns a great deal through dialogue and incorporates this knowledge into its own policies and programs. The process is not coercive in nature, but positive, and mutually beneficial. For CIDA to play an effective role requires a depth of country and issue knowledge, policy and program coherence, and where appropriate, financial support for dialogue and related program initiatives.CIDA will promote dialogue on rights, democracy and governance issues by:
By working closely with many local organizations in developing countries, CIDA helps to build their capacity to advocate for access to the legal system, advance the rights of children and women, and, increasingly, to hold governments accountable for their actions. In its work with governments, CIDA helps to build the skills and structures required for governing well. CIDA adjusts bilateral aid allocations to take into account the priority placed by recipient governments on social sector spending vis-à-vis military expenditures. Through the multilateral system, CIDA supports initiatives that address rights, democracy and governance issues.
Development agencies active in this field agree that there are few formulas for success. As the importance of rights, democracy and governance for sustainable development comes to be recognized, it is important for CIDA and others to test approaches, monitor and evaluate initiatives, and build this learning into future policy and programming. Reflecting lessons drawn from its experience, CIDA will place strong emphasis on local participation and ownership in all stages of programming, and on increased program coordination with developing country governments and institutions, international organizations and development agencies.CIDA program branches will continue to build programming in this area by:
CIDA is sensitive to the reality that projects can occasionally have harmful, if unintended, impacts on particular groups | for example, those displaced by large infrastructure projects without adequate consultation or compensation. CIDA will seek to prevent adverse impacts by:
In serious human rights situations, Canada's first goal is to work for change with the government and civil society. In doing so, Canada will use all possible means, continuing to cooperate in order to ensure leverage and exert influence.
Before deciding to take further action, Canada will take care to avoid hurting even more those who are suffering abuses and whom we are trying to help.
Canada may need to implement additional measures when the first course of action is insufficient. To the extent possible, the Government implements measures in concert with other countries, coordinating through such organizations as the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and the United Nations.
It is clear that a collective approach is one of the most effective ways of expressing Canada's deep concern. In extreme circumstances, the Government might have to examine a range of measures including development assistance and other instruments of foreign policy.
Implementation of this policy will be achieved through the actions of CIDA's corporate and program branches. Also important are the actions of other departments and agencies implementing programs with official development assistance funds, Canadian and international non-governmental organizations, professional associations, educational and other institutions. CIDA will identify roles and responsibilities within the Agency to monitor the implementation of this policy and will continue efforts to clarify the roles of partner departments and agencies.
The Good Governance and Human Rights Division of Policy Branch will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of this policy. The Division will work closely with CIDA corporate and program branches to assemble and review program information, and with the group responsible for maintaining the corporate database to ensure project information is recorded and retrievable.
This note outlines in broad terms the types of interventions taken or supported by CIDA in the areas of human rights, democratization and governance, and the partner agencies in Canada and in developing countries with which CIDA works.
CIDA works with a wide range of program partners to achieve the objectives of the Government policy for CIDA on human rights, democratization and good governance.In developing countries, CIDA works with:
CIDA also works with a wide range of Canadian-based partners in order to achieve the objectives of the policy on human rights, democratization and good governance, supporting their own programs and utilizing their expertise to implement development projects initiated by CIDA.Among such organizations are:
In serious human rights situations, Canada's first goal is to work for change with the government and civil society. In doing so, Canada will use all possible means, continuing to cooperate in order to ensure Canada has leverage and exerts influence. Before deciding to take further action, Canada will take care to avoid hurting even more those who are suffering abuses and whom we are trying to help.
Canada may need to implement additional measures when the first course of action is insufficient. To the extent possible, the Government implements measures in concert with other countries, coordinating through such organizations as the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and the United Nations. It is clear that a collective approach is one of the most effective ways of expressing Canada's deep concern. In extreme circumstances, the Government might have to examine a range of measures, including development assistance and other instruments of foreign policy.In its approach to serious human rights situations, CIDA seeks to:
To achieve the objectives of the Government's policy for CIDA on human rights, democratization and good governance, CIDA is taking steps to further develop its own capacity and that of its partners to undertake policy, dialogue and program initiatives.
CIDA will undertake rights, democracy and governance analysis and incorporate it into Agency strategic planning, policy development, program branch strategies, regional/country development policy frameworks, and positions for donor consultative groups and meetings of intergovernmental organizations. This will complement CIDA's current analysis of Canadian interests in developing countries, including environmental, economic, social, commercial, political and humanitarian considerations.CIDA branches will analyze:
CIDA will continue to incorporate respect for the principles of human rights and democracy in the internal practice of the Agency, including principles outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Employment Equity Act.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights"
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1)
Human rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person and are fundamental to the well-being of the individual and to the existence of freedom, justice and peace in the world.The key international documents defining human rights are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together, they comprise the International Bill of Rights. Among the rights elaborated in these documents are:
By democratization we mean strengthening popular participation in the exercise of power, building democratic institutions and practices, and deepening democratic values in society.
Mechanisms for participation include formal processes such as elections and referenda. Participation also takes place less formally through a wide range of independent popular organizations (referred to collectively as "civil society") which serve to articulate and channel people's concerns. Democratic institutions include federal and provincial/state legislatures and municipal councils, and institutions such as the judiciary that are responsible for the rule of law.
A strong democratic society will be marked by respect for human rights, particularly the "democratic rights" of freedom of opinion, expression and association, the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, and to vote and be elected at genuine and periodic elections held by secret ballot. It will be characterized by a strong and vibrant civil society, and tolerance for dissent and opposition, an active, independent media, an independent judiciary, and a high level of public understanding of and participation in the political process.
The term civil society refers broadly to organizations and associations of people, formed for social or political purposes, that are not created or mandated by governments. Included are non-governmental organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, churches, grassroots organizations and business associations.
These groups are important in terms of this policy for their role in articulating and advocating for popular concerns. This advocacy function gives voice to a variety of interests and perspectives that governments and decision makers may otherwise not hear. Many also provide a range of services to their members or communities, a role which, depending on the nature of the group, can have a direct bearing on the promotion of human rights and democratization.
By governance we mean the manner in which power is exercised by governments in the management of a country's social and economic resources. "Good" governance is the exercise of power by various levels of government that is effective, honest, equitable, transparent and accountable.There is no internationally agreed definition as yet. The term is generally interpreted to include the following important dimensions:
Note: If you cannot access the documents that are provided in an alternate format, refer to the Help page.