Dawson: Does Canada need an independent organization to promote rights and democracy abroad?

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April 9, 2012
Laura Dawson, PhD has more than fifteen years’ experience providing advice to government officials on trade and economic issues in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Russia and CIS, and China.

Without commenting on the specific operations of the Rights & Democracy organization, I believe Canada has a responsibility to promote rights and democracy abroad. We are not a global military leader nor an economic powerhouse but we are a valuable source of lessons learned for fledgling democracies and emerging economies. No, we haven't done everything right and we know it. We are small in a world of elephants. But that is why we can effectively help others find their own way, We don't proselytize. We share best practices, lessons learned and workarounds when the direct approach is impossible.

I have worked on Canadian technical assistance programs in over 20 countries over two decades. Canadian advice is valued in other countries because we listen before we speak, we are honest, open-minded, and we don't have (too many) axes to grind. We try to uphold the values of multiculturalism and tolerance and home and this makes us more nuanced interlocutors abroad. We see the shades of gray and we recognize that there are many roads to a common goal. What Canada is missing in its international outreach activities is meaningful cooperation among governments, businesses and social groups. All Canadians are responsible for global outreach both in our own communities and in the world. Small actions make a global difference.