Today, the Prime Minister is attending the Francophonie Summit, which is being hosted by member country Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These meetings are an opportunity for Canada to champion the vital role of this organization, but equally, to raise the values shared by members of the Francophonie with the DRC, which once again finds itself in the midst of allegations of vote-rigging, corruption and human rights violations.
Similar to the United Nations and the Commonwealth, the Francophonie is a multilateral organization made up of a mixture of democracies like Canada, and fragile and troubled states like the DRC. And while Stephen Harper is attending the Francophonie, he continues to threaten to boycott next year’s meeting of the Commonwealth in Sri Lanka and make a big show of refusing to “court dictators” at the United Nations. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is counterproductive, undermining Canada’s ability to champion and defend democracy around the world.
It is important to accept that these organizations are inherently imperfect. They are so because the countries that make up their memberships are themselves imperfect. But the overarching value of multilateralism is the opportunity it provides to engage with other states on issues like human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. And it is the drive to improve our respective countries and to uphold our collective values that encourage member states to take part in multilateral institutions.
We move towards more democracy in other countries by engaging with them on these issues, not by turning our backs on them or threatening boycotts. If Stephen Harper actually cares about democratic development as he claims to, he must drop the antagonistic tone.
Canada must not waver in holding these countries to account when they falter, but we must work with our partners to improve ourselves as member countries and improve these institutions. It is only by playing a constructive role in these multilateral organizations that we will ensure democracy takes permanent root around the world.
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic