The Parallel Parliament

by Glen Pearson

Tag: international development

Promise Fulfilled

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THE WORK OF FOUR REMARKABLE Canadian women in South Sudan has been so inspiring that I am including my new London Free Press article here on their efforts.  Just link to http://www.lfpress.com/2015/02/26/pearson-a-london-groups-promise-14-years-ago-to-build-a-high-school-in-the-south-sudan-region-of-aweil-was-fulfilled-this-year-the-school-will-open-in-apriland see some great pictures, along with a description of their efforts.  This is inspiring stuff in a new nation struggling to find its feet.  Proud to know these four great champions.

Canada Abandons a Former Partner

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Jane with an observer from the European Union during the South Sudan referendum

The following in my Huffington Post piece regarding the news that the Government of Canada has opted to significantly remove its presence in south Sudan during one of that country’s worst crises.  You can view the original article here.

In two week’s time, my wife heads to South Sudan to assist in overseeing projects Canadians have been investing in for years — water salvage, education, women’s micro-enterprise initiatives, scholarship programs, and the final phase of construction for a secondary school.

In two week’s time, my wife heads to South Sudan to assist in overseeing projects Canadians have been investing in for years — water salvage, education, women’s micro-enterprise initiatives, scholarship programs, and the final phase of construction for a secondary school.

In two week’s time, my wife heads to South Sudan to assist in overseeing projects Canadians have been investing in for years — water salvage, education, women’s micro-enterprise initiatives, scholarship programs, and the final phase of construction for a secondary school.

It won’t be easy. It’s never been simple. But for over 15 years a large number of Canadians have been investing in such initiatives, even during some of the worst years of the now-concluded civil war. During those early occasions, Canada’s reputation had been sullied by the presence of a Canadian oil firm that, in Southern Sudanese eyes, was making a fortune out of their misery. Eventually the firm pulled out and we sensed a warming to Canada as our government invested more deeply in peace initiatives and relief efforts, and as it became clear that we weren’t just interested in financial gain.

Some very capable Canadian diplomats were of key assistance in constructing and funding some of the key efforts required to end the war between north and south Sudan following so many decades. And Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which had provided such stellar service during the war years, assisted in helping the Southern Sudanese move forward as they peacefully achieved independence and became the world’s newest nation. For years, the Sudanese conflict had remained high on the radar for successive Canadian governments, who worked in conjunction with many of their international partners in that deeply troubled part of the world.

But being a new nation with limited resources doesn’t make for an easy transition into good governance. Tribes that had held together to fend off the incursions of north Sudan during the lengthy war have started to come apart over the problems of administering the peace. The recent troubles in the south that sprung up only a month ago, and the instability that has resulted, has pressed that African region to the precipice. Western nations that had so greatly assisted in early years but who had moved on to other regions are quickly returning with new initiatives to assist the south in holding itself together as it journeys towards adulthood as a nation.

Sadly, one of those countries will not be Canada. For well over a decade, Sudan had been a Canadian priority. But just this week, the Harper government, through its Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has recommended, “that Canada consider downgrading its development program (in Sudan), or exiting entirely.”

CIDA correctly figured that it was going to prove difficult to administer aid in the south. But that’s the way it has been for decades. Some of Canada’s most effective investments occurred during the civil war’s costliest years. This country, along with the U.S., Britain, the European Union, and others, kept their eye on the ball, slowly but progressively nursing that troubled country into an era where peace became a possibility.

What’s the reason for Canada’s change of heart and focus? According to an internal reportacquired by the Globe and Mail, Sudan is no longer an area of “strategic importance” to this government. Both Foreign Affairs and CIDA have been instructed to implement a new era in international intervention, primarily focused on what’s best for Canadian business. At the moment, little such opportunity seems apparent in Sudan and downgrading this country’s historic investment has been recommended.

All this is transpiring just as Sudan requires not only Canada’s ongoing partnership, but its influential diplomatic expertise. The Globe and Mail’s release of the internal report reveals that all this couldn’t have come at a worse time. In preparation for our trip to South Sudan in a few days, we learned that numerous contacts at various levels have been taken aback by what for them is even more fulsome evidence that Canada has lost its way in recent years.

While the United Nations has put out an emergency appeal for one billion dollars from donor countries to assist the Sudanese effort, tongues have already begun to wag in capitals throughout the West about how Canada appears to have gone AWOL. As one American government official told me today, “It’s now difficult to know how to involve your country in these important security and development issues anymore.”

All this will be embarrassing and not a tad sad to speak about with the Southern Sudanese. But, as with those earlier times, we will remind them that the people of Canada will continue in their interest and investment in a troubled country even as our own government loses interest. But hanging over all of us will be the understanding that Canada is leaving the southern Sudanese to their own fate, in this, their adolescent years as a new nation. Some investment will continue, but our government’s imagination is gone. This is not our finest hour.

Books

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Sometimes falling ill has its own rewards.  My medical complications a year ago meant that I mostly missed out on a relaxing summer and I was determined to make up for it this year.  I have been working hard to finish off a number of books I’ve been writing over the course of the last couple of years and I’m glad to say that they are all completed.  You’ll find a list of them below.  I’m occasionally asked where people can get copies of the books and the links below will help point in the right direction.

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 6.23.21 PMFrom Canada to Brazil, California to China, Catherine O’Hara takes on an odyssey that will change how she views the world of politics. As Minister for the Environment for the Canadian government she has to learn to balance the responsibilities of power with the reality of sustainability and human rights. Essential to it all is David Kronberg – a mystical champion of the natural order who inevitably draws Catherine into a deeper world that will change her position at the centre of power.  You can get the hardback version here and the paperback version here.

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 6.45.34 PMCitizens might well accept reform of government if they actually had a say in the process, or even some kind of direct access to politicians themselves. It’s not to be, sadly, and instead we have information without humanity, communication without meaning, and disenchantment without end. In such days where the customer is always right, this is hardly going to end well. Community engagement is on the only hope for the recovery of democracy.  You can get the paperback version here or download the iTunes podcasts here.

 

LULU cover_smallerTwo great continents intertwined on the world’s stage. And two larger than life characters determined in their separate ways to tell their stories. Chen Chang-Jin – the wildly successful Chinese billionaire working to utilize Africa’s vast natural resources in ways that would be benefit his homeland and raise his profile in the process. Achol Madut Yek – one of the poorest of the poor, trekking from south Sudan, through Darfur, and into Chad, in a journey that will captivate the eyes of the world and cause it to see the strength and potential of Africa and its people in a new light. Dualities is ultimately a story about humanity – its scope, its inequities, its potential – and how the welfare of its most vulnerable members is often more vital than commonly acknowledged.  You can order the hardback version here, the paperback here, or the ebook here.

Coming up – Just finished a new book titled Fired Into Life – thoughts on Jesus and the human personality.  I’m also enjoying being in the middle of some new writing on The Seven Deadly Sins – Gandhi’s list of special challenges facing citizens in our modern life:

Wealth without work

Pleasure without conscience

Knowledge without character

Commerce without morality

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principles

 

Reunions

1297377376575_ORIGINALHere is the link to my latest London Free Press article on our recent team trip to South Sudan – My new London Free Press piece on how a team of Canadians brought renewed hope to  remote region of South Sudan. – http://bit.ly/Zhwt7a.  It’s a key annual event for us, becoming ever more important as the world’s newest country seeks to get up off the mat after decades of civil war and enter an era of peace and prosperity. It was our largest team ever and they made key contributions.

Ultimately it’s about two reunions.  The first is the team being welcomed back into the remote region and second is about our 15-year old son Ater and his visit back to a region he left seven years ago – a situation that provided some remarkable touching moments.

It’s an example of what average Canadians can do when they set their minds to tremendous tasks.  You can help by visiting www.casscanada.net

Kathleen Wynne’s Victory – Look Deeper

Two faces of womanOntario has a new premier and her ascension is nothing if not groundbreaking – the first female and openly gay premier-designate. She ran a disciplined and largely respectful campaign and that last characteristic might have been a key reason for her ultimate victory. Repeatedly through the contest she said things like, “The rancour and the viciousness of the legislature can’t continue.” Many seasoned observers have noted that Queen’s Park has increasingly taken on the hyper-partisan characteristics of the House of Commons in Ottawa. So her emphasis on decorum and respect is a welcome signal.

It was also Tweeted consistently that over 90% of Canadians are led by female provincial leaders – another positive signal. But will it last? And more importantly, can the effects of a better gender balance in our parliaments lead us to a more productive future of cooperation and compromise so seemingly out of reach in the formerly male-dominated world of politics as a blood sport? Women political leaders will hardly prove successful in such an undertaking if we as citizens don’t support such efforts.

But before we get too carried away with this transformation that has been years in the making, two sober realities remain that must be understood and counteracted.

The first is the troubling tendency for women to refuse voting for other female aspirants to leadership. According to Peggy Drexler, research psychologist and gender scholar, too many studies reveal this tendency to make it a mere anomaly. Although women are more likely than men to focus in on gender issues, they still remain hesitant to transform that interest into voting for other women. Ironically, while women are more likely to vote for someone because she is female, they are just as likely to dismiss her for the same reason. In noting that women tend to be harder on female candidates, Drexler concludes:

Women still judge other women – simply put, they continue to be judged against the standards initiated and maintained by men.  And because many women therefore know quite well what it’s like to feel judged, they then turn that judgement back on one another.

This is disturbing, but my own experience in politics has taught me that it is indeed a reality. So, in order to matter, to count, to lead, SOME women become more harsh, more partisan, more mean-spirited than their male counterparts simply because they feel they have to be to get noticed or to move ahead, and are often coached by their male advisors to adopt such a posture.  Kathleen Wynne explicitly demonstrated that you can win and lead by being inclusive. Powerful women leaders like Deb Matthews recognized that and gave her their support.

Now for a second sobering reality. The international development community learned years ago that for true development to be effective, the role of women must be enhanced worldwide, not merely in the West. How’s that going so far? Consider this from Amnesty International:

  • Women perform 66% of the world’s work, receive only 11% of the world’s income, and own only 1% of the land.
  • Women make up 66% of the world’s illiterate adults.
  • Women head 83% of single-parent families. The number of families nurtured by women alone doubled from 1970 to 1995.
  • Despite women totalling 55% of all college students, it does not translate into economic opportunities or political power nearly to the same degree as men.
  • Two-thirds of the world’s children who receive less than four years of education are girls, and girls represent 60% of the children not in school.
  • Three out of every four fatalities of various wars are women and children.
  • About 75% of the refugees and internally displaced in the world are women who have lost their families and their homes.

There remains the tragic disconnect in Canada between the fate of women domestically and internationally. To promote the rights and potential of women effectively means to defend it everywhere, not merely where it is close to us. Nevertheless, support for Western governments that cut back international aid continues to curtail the opportunities for women worldwide and yet we permit such a decline to prevail.

One week ago my wife and I returned from south Sudan after leading a large team to assist with development projects we have run there for years. With their own eyes these Canadians saw how for the lack of $300 per annum a girl can’t get a high school education. They learned that for want of $120 a mother can’t provide sustainable food for her family.  They were saddened to discover that women who fled slavery in order to give their children a chance for health and education are considering returning to captivity since precious few resources exist for them in the south.  Ms. Wynne’s victory is important, but compared to such realities it surely must lose some of its lustre. Victory for women in Canada should mean the same for women worldwide; we’re not there yet – not even close. Or as Benjamin Franklin put it: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

I am tired of a kind of politics that doesn’t have enough female representation, but I am equally saddened to live in a Western world that places such emphasis on women’s representation at the same time as it ignores it worldwide. All too many struggle to see women finally have power equal to their male counterparts, but the power they reach for and deserve must be mirrored by their thoughts and actions for their sisters  in the rest of the world. Reach for that and we will truly have reform.

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