Foreign Affairs - Minutes of EvidenceHC 114

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 21 February 2012

Members present:

Richard Ottaway (Chair)

Mr Bob Ainsworth

Mr John Baron

Sir Menzies Campbell

Ann Clwyd

Mike Gapes

Andrew Rosindell

Mr Frank Roy

Sir John Stanley

Mr Dave Watts


Examination of Witness

Witness: Senator Hugh Segal, Canadian Special Envoy for Commonwealth Renewal, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: For the benefit of the public, we are now switching inquiries. The last witness was on FCO performance and finances; we now come to the first session of our inquiry on the role and future of the Commonwealth. It is intended to give members of the Committee an overview of the findings of the Eminent Persons Group.

I am particularly pleased to welcome Senator Hugh Segal, who was Canada’s representative to the Eminent Persons Group, and who currently holds the position of Canadian Special Envoy to the Commonwealth. He was appointed to that unpaid role by the Canadian Foreign Secretary to press for full implementation of the EPG recommendations and to represent the Canadian Foreign Secretary in public outreach on Commonwealth renewal which, Senator, makes you a particularly good witness from our point of view, and a particularly good witness for our first session. On behalf of the Committee, welcome. Is there anything that you would like to say by way of opening remarks?

Senator Segal: Thank you, Chair. I do have about three or four minutes of opening comments, and then I will be in your hands.

For Canada, the Commonwealth is a very important international association. The notion that it spreads across almost every continent, has 2.1 billion people and includes the wealthiest, the poorest, the largest and the smallest of countries makes it an important part of the network that Canada tries to work in, on an ongoing basis, in support of democracy, the rule of law, economic development and human rights. As you will know, the Eminent Persons Group was charged in Port of Spain in 2009 with carrying out a detailed review of why the Commonwealth was losing its relevance, why its impact was diminishing, and how the situation could be improved. Our 106 recommendations dealt with the things that we as a group thought were necessary.

The 10 countries represented were from all parts of the Commonwealth. Those of us who worked round that table for many, many meetings and hundreds of hours, and who heard submissions from many Commonwealth groups, represented different faiths, backgrounds, professional activities and generations, but we came together because we believed the need for reform was compellingly urgent. We particularly believe that the Commonwealth has to up its game on issues such as the rule of law, human rights and democracy, and that it had gone quiet for a period of time, unconstructively; that is quite different from the circumstances around apartheid.

We took the view that the mix between development and democracy has never mattered more. We now face a circumstance, perhaps for the first time in recent history, where the largest economic power in the world is not a democracy or particularly devoted to democratic values. The fact that 2.1 billion human beings are part of a Commonwealth family that does believe in democracy and the rule of law, with roots right here in Westminster, we see as a very important countervail, with a development strategy that is in fact rooted in democracy, human rights and respect for differences.

The EPG took a very strong view on public health issues, which are made worse by the lack of recognition for various minority groups across the Commonwealth. We are concerned about the treatment of women in some countries-about, for example, forced marriage being imposed on young women. We are concerned about the criminalisation of homosexuality and the fact that, even though the Commonwealth has within it one third of the population of the world, 60% of HIV/AIDS sufferers can be found in Commonwealth countries, largely because of some old colonial anti-sodomy laws that make self-identification for the purpose of treatment of HIV/AIDS a very risky proposition in far too many of our countries.

We believe that the relevance of the Commonwealth will only be sustained if the Commonwealth is clear about these values, advances them precisely, and has an activist position on them around the world. I think it was your Foreign Minister who said that the Government wished to put the C back into FCO. From Canada’s perspective, the Commonwealth is a very important network, but one that must be based on principle and performance.

Our Government are working very hard on the remainder of the EPG recommendations that have yet to be formally approved. Thirty of the 106 were approved, 12 were approved in principle and await more detailed costing, and some 40 are in abeyance for further study. We are working very hard to get as many of those recommendations as possible through, because we think they are essential for the survival and impact of the Commonwealth. Mr Chairman, I am in your hands.

Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. That is helpful, and it poses a number of questions. To a degree, you have answered this, but looking at the role of the Commonwealth, it is very disparate, and it is spread across the globe, with a wide number of outlooks. Is it possible to pull it together, to have a role? In 10 years from now, where do you think the Commonwealth will be?

Senator Segal: The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is the Commonwealth’s equivalent of the Security Council, but with no P5 and no veto, is the body of countries’ Foreign Ministers, who decide from time to time, when there are difficulties, how one might act through sanctions and various other engagements. That was the case when Pakistan was suspended some years ago, until a measure of democracy returned and it was readmitted. The Commonwealth has had a strong view on Fiji, and continues to work to try to bring in a constituent assembly and democratic evolution after the military junta, but Fiji was expelled when it took the role of the military junta.

As we speak around this table, we have a challenge with Sri Lanka, a subject that I am glad to pursue, if you choose. Looking at what happened with apartheid, it is clear that a preventive organisation such as the Commonwealth is at its best when it is working as a prophylactic international organisation to avoid the worst possible extremes and violence through good governance, democratic practice, rule of law, and development. It is the sort of organisation that works to keep the worst from happening. When the worst happens, and bodies are piled as high as cordwood, that is when the UN Security Council, NATO or others engage, as they did recently, to prevent matters from getting even worse. As for preventing things from getting to that stage, the Commonwealth is an organisation that, if properly led, motivated and resourced, can make a huge difference in almost every part of the world.

In a perfect world, Mr Chairman, in response to your question, in 10 years’ time, the Commonwealth will be seen as a robust force for good, a robust instrument for development, which it is not now as we speak, and a robust source of good governance, development, democracy and the rule of law in a way that strengthens societies and the economic opportunity for the people living in those societies.

Q3 Mr Watts: Senator, you have spelled out the aims and objectives-human rights, health, the possibility of expanding trade, and so on. People might say that you could have said that 20 or 30 years ago, and that they are laudable aims and objectives, but that the Commonwealth has failed. How do you think that what you are doing at present will make a real impact on the effectiveness of the Commonwealth?

Senator Segal: Our view is that if a majority of the Eminent Persons Group recommendations are put into effect and a granular implementation programme follows, the Commonwealth will not be seen to be failing quite as frequently as it has in the past. It will be seen to be engaging constructively. For example, as we speak, our foreign aid agency, CIDA, your foreign aid agency, DFID, and the Australians have all said that the Commonwealth Secretariat is no longer a tier 1 development agency. It does not do that job sufficiently well. I think the response in the Secretariat was to compose a letter to all three agencies about why they got it wrong. The response should have been, in Canada’s view, to figure out how to make it better, and how to be more effective in the process. The notion of effectiveness, and the notion of reorganising the Secretariat so that it is fit for service and delivers in those areas where it has advantage, as opposed to trying to replicate activities done better in other organisations, is one of our key recommendations, and one of the things Canada intends to push hardest for.

Q4 Mr Watts: Let us pick one issue that you have talked about: homosexuality, and the fact that many Commonwealth countries penalise people who practise it. How will you get those Commonwealth countries to change their policies and what they do, given that it has for some time been an aim of the Commonwealth’s to do that, and that it has not achieved anywhere near the level of success that you would have hoped for?

Senator Segal: There is a way in which the Commonwealth would usually work. There are two recommendations specifically in respect of HIV/AIDS. The first is that the Commonwealth Secretariat develops a clear sense of the best practices on remedial pharmaceutical work being done, and shares that with all member countries, in a way that could be constructive. The second one, which is now being held in abeyance, says that the Commonwealth should take a firm position for the repeal of all those laws that criminalise homosexuality.

The Commonwealth does not legislate for any of its members. All its members are sovereign and, by and large, democratic. If the Commonwealth had an advocacy position and was continuing to push on that front, and-as the report recommends-had to report to every single CHOGM and CMAG meeting about what progress is or is not being made, that would be positive pressure. However, unless it is prepared to do that in a focused way, your worry about ineffectiveness is quite sustained.

Q5 Mike Gapes: You mentioned Sri Lanka. The next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is supposed to be held there. I understand that last year, when the whitewash report from the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission came out, your Prime Minister said he would not attend, on the basis of what he felt at that time. Your Foreign Minister has subsequently slightly modified that to say that there needs to be significant change in Sri Lanka before he will attend. If Canada’s Prime Minister-and potentially those of other countries-do not attend, will it not indicate that the decision to hold the meeting in Sri Lanka was a mistake in the first place?

Senator Segal: I believe that the decision to hold the meeting in Sri Lanka was made at Port of Spain, back in 2009. They tend to work two meetings ahead. Our Prime Minister made his comment-of which I am quite proud-when questioned by Canadian media about a UN specialist report that suggested there was credible evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka. He said that, based on what he then knew, he would not be going to Colombo. Think about the notion of the meeting in Perth, where we would talk about human rights and the rule of law and then say, "See you in Colombo next time." That is a touch problematic.

Having so indicated, the truth is that the opportunity that the CHOGM meeting now provides, scheduled as it is for Colombo, is for constructive leverage to be applied in a co-operative and direct way to the Sri Lankan Administration. As you will know, there is a meeting of the Human Rights Council of the UN in March. There is to be a resolution on Sri Lanka, based on further analysis of the facts that emerge therefrom. Canada is hopeful that the resolution will be very precise, based on the most recent Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, which was not quite a whitewash, although it did not deal with accountability. The accountability issue is very important.

We are hopeful of two things. The first is that worries about maintaining the Colombo meeting will push the Sri Lankan Administration into further follow-on activities, with respect to what transpired near the end of that war. Secondly-this is a point that came up at the meeting of Commonwealth journalists in Malta-we are very hopeful that the Secretariat, using the precedent of the International Olympic Committee’s negotiations with Beijing, will insist on full press freedom and full access to all Sri Lanka by members of the Commonwealth press who choose to go to Colombo to cover that CHOGM meeting. It is important that they are not hived off in a small hotel and denied the access to reality on the ground that the media were largely permitted to have in China. We see this as an opportunity for constructive leverage, and we hope it is used for that reason.

Q6 Mike Gapes: Can I press you on that? You mentioned the UN Human Rights Council. You will know that the last time the Human Rights Council considered these issues there was a two-to-one vote in favour of the Sri Lankan Government’s position. They were actually praised for the way that they had dealt with the conflict in 2009. How do you expect the Commonwealth, which is based on a consensus approach, to come up with anything, even something inadequate, given that Sri Lanka is part of the discussion? Are the Sri Lankan Government going to agree to any statement that in any way criticises their position?

Senator Segal: The Sri Lankan Government have to make their own decisions about where they stand in the world, how they are assessed and how their human rights record will be perceived. Other Commonwealth countries have a duty to keep on pushing, however. If there is leverage around that meeting in Colombo, and if there is a risk that the meeting’s circumstance and location have to be changed, that may be a source of some constructive engagement with our friends in Sri Lanka, so that they address the accountability issue further.

As you know, the Commonwealth is not a military or a treaty organisation; it is an organisation of voluntary association. Some limitations come with that, but we are not convinced that the remit of the Commonwealth and all the various statements that have been made-Harare, Singapore and others-are being used as effectively as they might or should be with respect to the Sri Lankan circumstance. Canada would very much like to see that intensify.

Q7 Mike Gapes: Thank you, Senator. I agree that they are not being used, but I am a little more sceptical than you appear to be.

Senator Segal: In my present role, optimism is a defining proposition.

Chair: On that note, I call Ming Campbell.

Q8 Sir Menzies Campbell: I had grave difficulty in not shouting "Bravo!" when you came to the end of your opening remarks, Senator, but when you were talking about the potential for the Commonwealth, you referred to the question of resources. I wonder whether we could explore that for a moment or two. Resources often have a direct impact on effectiveness-not always, but often, there is a direct relationship. I interpret from what you said that you are critical of the Secretariat. Is your criticism based on the Secretariat’s lack of resources or the unwillingness of the Commonwealth as a whole to give it the authority to advance in areas like human rights?

Senator Segal: Neither. Our view is that some very good people work at the Secretariat. I have a high regard for Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General, who is a very distinguished Indian diplomat doing great work under difficult circumstances. The Secretariat has less staff than the UN cafeteria-just so we’re clear. Although we do not believe that it is likely that subscribing countries will up their contribution to the Commonwealth in these straitened times-Canada, as you will know, is the second largest financial contributor to the Commonwealth-we do believe that the Commonwealth can reorient its Secretariat priorities. Not all the work being done in the Secretariat is as vital as other areas that need to be pursued.

Q9 Sir Menzies Campbell: Would you like to give us an illustration of that?

Senator Segal: For example, over time, the amount of money that has been devoted to development has clearly been ineffective, based on the assessments of DFID and others. It is not clear that the Commonwealth’s primary role at the Secretariat level is development. In our judgment, it has a significant role around those things that make development accountable and possible-democracy, rule of law, accountability and so on. We would like to see more resources put into that kind of commitment. We believe that more should be done on HIV/AIDS because of the ability to influence public policy in that respect.

We are not talking about diminishing the scope-quite the contrary. We are saying that every organisation has to pick priorities. Those priorities, going forward, may not be precisely the ones that have been pursued, perhaps in the context of comfort, for the last 10 or 15 years. That kind of tough reorganisation is called for, and that is what the EPG report basically recommended.

The new ideas that were brought to the table by the EPG in terms of other activities, Sir Menzies, would have involved a 5% reallocation of expenditures. My Government are going through that 5% reallocation Department by Department at a bare minimum as we speak; your Government are going through something even more challenging than that. The notion that the Secretariat can do that without having to get large amounts of more money strikes us as completely reasonable under the circumstances.

Q10 Sir Menzies Campbell: Where should these priorities be set? By the Secretariat or by the membership? If by the membership, how difficult or easy is it to get consensus?

Senator Segal: Two parts of the organisation meet regularly. The first is the so-called Committee of the Whole, or the Board of Governors, which looks at the quarterly expenditure plans. That is made up, essentially, of High Commissioners here in London, who meet on a regular basis with the Secretary-General and his senior staff. Then, of course, CMAG is at the call of its Chair. As we speak, CMAG has been meeting on the Maldives, where there was-shall we say?-a precipitous change of Government recently.

Q11 Sir Menzies Campbell: That is a very elegant description, if I may say so.

Senator Segal: Thank you. There is now a ministerial team in the Maldives, which will report back this week, and CMAG will have another extraordinary meeting. So, between CMAG and the Committee of the Whole, you have an ongoing management leadership working with the Secretary-General, who can establish these priorities, but, as a general premise, the broad priority should be approved by the Heads of Government when they meet every two years. The implementation of those priorities should be followed by these two groups on a go-forward basis. In our view, that would be the best way to make this a more efficient and focused organisation.

Q12 Ann Clwyd: It is refreshing to hear you speak so bluntly about the problems of the Commonwealth, Senator. You mentioned homosexuality, and 41 countries in the Commonwealth still discriminate against homosexuals. It seems to me that it is going to take a very long time to change the mind of those countries, since we have all been trying to do so for some time. How can you see that accelerating?

Senator Segal: As you will know, the level of enforcement of those laws is quite different country by country. Some countries do not take the laws desperately seriously and sort of operate on a live-and-let-live basis; other countries have been a bit more focused in ways that are quite unpleasant and difficult. Each country will have to come to its own conclusion about how to change that legislation. We believe, at the meetings of the EPG, that the public health imperative was the best way to open up that discussion. So, it is not a difference of opinion about the Old Testament, the New Testament, Sharia law or whatever; it is actually about public health. I do not know of any religious text of any faith that says that someone whose life can be saved through the appropriate provision of medication should be allowed to die. That is what is happening in some of those countries.

Some of the push-back to the EPG has been that some folks have taken the position that this new focus on human rights and the protection of minorities is really a new imperialism being imposed on the developing world by those countries that have taken a different view over time. I think the worst imperialism, if I may say so, would be to allow old, 18th century or 19th century anti-sodomy laws that were found in colonies that have emerged into democracy to continue to define how they live their lives when the world has changed quite radically.

We believe, for example, that our friends in South Africa have quite an enlightened view on this issue. South Africa, of course, has a very important, strong influence in Africa among other Commonwealth countries. We are hopeful that countries such as South Africa-which, for example, as we speak, has a very important part in engaging with Sri Lanka on what a real Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with teeth, would look like-could also be a source of leadership on this minority-rights issue throughout Africa. It is part of ensuring that leadership comes from different sources in the Commonwealth, rather than just the same three or four countries all the time.

Q13 Ann Clwyd: The FCO described the outcome of the Perth CHOGM as positive. Is that your view?

Senator Segal: Our view is that we came away with a little bit less than half a loaf, but the nature of the 106 recommendations was a very high-fibre, high-protein loaf. Digestion, therefore, is somewhat more challenging. Because the leaders and their Foreign Ministers put a process in place to crunch the remaining recommendations within a fixed period, we think there is a real chance to make what was a positive meeting an actual turning point in Commonwealth development if we follow through. That is why Canada has decided to have a special envoy working this file on an intensive basis.

Q14 Ann Clwyd: Before the start of the conference, do you think that the FCO could have done more to promote the EPG report and prepare people for the findings?

Senator Segal: That is a very good question. I must say that, in all the activities that the EPG undertook, including visits to Africa and elsewhere, the FCO and the British Council went out of their way to be constructive and to facilitate broad public discussion and public diplomacy, so I do not have a word of criticism to offer on that front. I think that the decision by the incoming Chair and the outgoing Chair-in-Office not to allow the report to be published-your colleague and ours on the EPG, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, waxed eloquent about that when all of us had a press conference to release our own report, because we thought that the public had the right to see what was in it-was a disastrous mistake that facilitated almost no public discussion of the recommendations. We felt badly for, for example, the 300 citizens’ groups across the Commonwealth that had made submissions.

As it turns out, copies did get out. I do not know quite how that happens, but I am told that it does, so the content was not secret, although the broad public debate that should have happened beforehand did not happen, because the report was not released on a timely basis. I certainly do not blame the FCO for that.

Q15 Mr Roy: On that point, why do you think that the leaders did not want to publish the report and is it not the case that some of them have publically admitted that they did not even read it?

Senator Segal: I will not ascribe motive, but I think it fair to suggest that there were two rationales. One legitimate rational was the belief that, as the EPG report was just completed in July and circulated in August, it had not had sufficient time to be digested and assessed, so releasing it before leaders and Governments had a chance to reflect on its contents would be counter-productive. I do not give a lot of credence to that rationale, but I think that it existed among some.

Among others, quite frankly, when we had our meetings in Kuala Lumpur under the chairmanship of Tun Abdullah Badawi, a former Prime Minister of Malaysia, we talked about the need for transparency in Commonwealth affairs and the need for a Secretary-General who spoke out publically about things that were going wrong in various countries. We said that silence was not an option. Well, clearly for some members of the Commonwealth, silence was the preferred option, and that was the other rationale that was working unconstructively in the process.

Now it is our hope that there will be a public discussion about process going forward and how the Commonwealth can be reformed. Many of the constituent groups-people who are involved, for example, with human rights, sports, young people, training and anti-discrimination activities-are doing their best now to circulate the contents of the report and try to build support in their own country for recommendations to proceed as quickly as possible.

Q16 Andrew Rosindell: Good morning, Senator Segal. It is good to see you. I have a question about your role. It is interesting that the Canadian Prime Minister has created the role of a special envoy to the Commonwealth. Two questions: how do you see that role long term and do you think that Britain should follow the example of Canada and also appoint a special envoy?

Senator Segal: I will not want to give any formal advice on your second question, but I will be glad to tell you what the full nature of my remit is. My remit is to act on behalf of the Minister in working with other countries to see that as many of them as possible are able to support more of the recommendations being implemented and put through the process constructively-No. 1. No. 2 is that it is my job to report to the Minister on the nuances of that entire process so that he can engage, whenever he has the opportunity, in support of that same process. Thirdly, I am encouraged in my remit to speak publicly about the importance of the EPG report and why the underlying values of the Commonwealth in this time and place need to be supported and sustained.

My view, if I may say so, is that you already have, in Lord Howell, a Minister with direct responsibility for the Commonwealth and no responsibility for other parts of the world, so to speak. We do not have that structure, as we speak, in Canada, and I think to that extent my appointment is to, in a sense, try to do what Lord Howell does so well in his present role. He has been a tremendous force, if I may say so-and this is before he was even made a Minister of the Crown-for the Commonwealth as a very dynamic network-in a sense, the first world wide web of linkage and constructive co-operation. I think that the role that he plays is of great value to the Commonwealth and the world, and of great credit to the United Kingdom.

Q17 Andrew Rosindell: Do you see the Commonwealth as an organisation that has gone in the wrong direction in recent years? For example, the basis of the Commonwealth is that all the countries have a shared heritage. In recent years, countries have joined that have no link-Mozambique and Rwanda are examples-yet other countries that have a shared heritage and at some stage have been under the Crown are not part of the Commonwealth. Do you feel that it is time to refocus back to the basic idea of what the Commonwealth should be about?

Senator Segal: I will not speak about Mozambique, but with respect to Rwanda, I will say that their Government, for a whole series of historical reasons, decided that the Anglosphere was the sphere that represented the greatest amount of economic opportunity for their kids. Having English language education replace what had been the Francophone, Francophile world was important, and their decision to seek admission to the Commonwealth followed thereupon. They are also surrounded by Commonwealth countries, so strengthening those linkages makes solid trade, economic and strategic sense.

I think the Commonwealth should have an expansion plan, which should be to look at countries that have had a similar historical evolution to those of us who are in the Commonwealth. I remember being in a cab with Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Sir Ieremia from Kiribati and we were talking about the riots in Paris, which were going on at that point. We were yet to have that difficulty in our country or here in the UK, and someone in the car said, "I wonder why that is." I said, "Well, perhaps ‘liberté, egalité fraternité’ is a touch more evocative than peace, order and good government, which are the underlying principles in our constitution." Our friend from Kiribati replied, "Peace, order and good government-that’s the same premise in our constitution."

Of course, that premise of a common heritage on what government is for and how society is to be organised is very important, so we should have an expansion plan that is rational, but based on what a larger association of countries with that heritage would look like and what the benefits might be. Whenever you decide that you have reached your plateau, that often produces the Sleepy Hollow effect, which is deeply unhelpful, and I think that is the issue that leaders were responding to in Port of Spain, in terms of setting up the EPG to figure out how to revivify this particular undertaking.

Q18 Mr Roy: Senator, what benefit does Commonwealth membership bring to Canada, and does the shared Commonwealth membership strengthen the bilateral relationship between both our countries?

Senator Segal: There is no question but that when we look at the list of bilateral linkages between Canada and the United Kingdom, the common Commonwealth bond is a very large part of that. Military co-operation, technical assistance in both directions and expanding trade are also fundamental principles, but the reality of the Commonwealth connection, the fact that we have a similar legislative, democratic parliamentary system is of huge value. I see it as being a continuing source of opportunity for both countries to co-operate and work together in a host of areas. The Commonwealth scholarship programme, for example, has seen many Canadians come to study in the United Kingdom. Many people from less developed countries in the Commonwealth come to study here, or in Canada or Australia. Those are huge, powerful network linkages of great value to your trade aspirations and ours, and they need to be sustained and advanced.

In terms of Canada’s own area of primary focus these days, which is its own hemisphere, the Commonwealth is a huge bond between the Caribbean countries and Canada. Our banking system, as you know, is very broad within the Caribbean system. It is a large part of why the Caribbean banking system fared better than other banking systems in the world, because it was essentially the Canadian system transplanted with local roots and leadership. The fact that Canada has done substantive training within various Commonwealth provisions of the Caribbean military and police was seen as being of great benefit when there was a hostage crisis in Jamaica. Jamaican police, who had been trained by Canadian special forces, were able to engage in a constructive way that brought that difficulty to an end without violence. The relationship between Canadian regulatory bodies-our Upper Canada Law Society in Ontario, the accountants and the certification of groups in the Caribbean-builds another strong, important bond.

Q19 Mr Roy: What I would like to get at is, for ordinary people, what does the Commonwealth matter to people in Victoria, Vancouver, Regina, Ontario-the place you were appointed for-and Quebec? Do they talk about the Commonwealth in the pubs and cafes in these towns? What is the relevance to ordinary people?

Senator Segal: I think the reality for average Canadians is the understanding that the balances that control our society-the balances between freedom and order, and between enterprise and common cause-are reflective of Commonwealth values. The fact that in Her Majesty the Queen we have a Head of State who is divorced from day-to-day political infighting, and whom we share with other Commonwealth countries, provides a measure of stability that has been a very substantive opportunity for economic growth and higher quality of life for more people. The linkages, for example, between the British trade union movement and the trade union movement in Canada are substantive and historical, and that is also true of investment back and forth between British and Canadian companies.

All of that is made more substantive by the Commonwealth presence. If you think of some of the countries that are in the Commonwealth, you might ask yourself "Why are they so desperate to stay in the Commonwealth?" Because it is a badge of respectability. It is a badge that says certain fundamentals are-not perfectly, perhaps-being preserved and advanced in a fashion that is in the broad public interest. Having those kinds of prophylactic associations worldwide, which maintain an aspirational effort in the right direction, we think is of great value in this very troubled world.

Q20 Mr Roy: One of the reasons I ask is because when I have been from one end of Canada to the other speaking to lots of families with Scottish connections, they speak about their closeness to Scotland, but I never hear them talking about their closeness to the Commonwealth. I am just trying to pull out whether you recognise the difference.

Mr Baron: He is mixing with the wrong company.

Mr Roy: Probably.

Senator Segal: I do not want to speak about your friends and relatives in Canada, because it would be inappropriate for me to offer a view on that, except to say that in our country, those associated with Irish, Scottish and English traditions are very firmly associated with the institutions in Canada that are tied to the Commonwealth, in many respects. We benefit immensely from that.

Mr Roy: Okay.

Q21 Mr Baron: May I say, Senator, that I was very heartened by your introduction and by your eloquent espousal of the potential of the Commonwealth? May I just press you on that for a moment? I think I am right in saying that you have said that the EPG recommendations should not be allowed to die in the long grass.

Senator Segal: That’s right.

Q22 Mr Baron: I suppose I have a couple of questions really. First, how important do you think these recommendations are to the future of the Commonwealth, particularly the potential that the Commonwealth undoubtedly has but is not yet realising? Secondly, what more can Canada and the UK do to bring about the successful fruition of these recommendations? The last 40 recommendations certainly seem to be stuck in the quagmire.

Senator Segal: The title of our report was "Time for Urgent Reform" and we believe not only that the recommendations are urgent, but that if they are left to die in the long grass, the future of the Commonwealth itself as a viable international instrument may, in fact, be at risk. Just thinking about it for a moment, none of our Governments is in a position to fund activities for which there is no apparent benefit. Our recommendations were focused on making that benefit more apparent by forcing the Commonwealth and its institutions to step up to the plate and deal with some unpleasant circumstances, because in my view nothing good happens unless there is some unpleasantness.

I had occasion to ask a senior South African whether he was certain that without the Commonwealth, Robben Island would now be a museum, and he did not know the answer to that question. The truth of the matter is that on those sorts of issues, without bodies such as the Commonwealth prepared to engage where there is no apparent self-interest-there is no geopolitical interest other than seeing the right thing done-the world would be a more difficult place than it is.

What our Government hope to do, and what we hope our colleagues in the United Kingdom Government are able to do, is to work the various networks that they have. Australia has a network in various parts of the world, and so does the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has such a rich heritage of linkages in many Commonwealth countries, which Canada has no history of having sustained or built up. If we work together constructively with others-I think for example of our friends in Ghana, Malta and the Seychelles, who have been very supportive of this reform agenda-we can help move the consensus to a place where a vast majority of those recommendations in the long grass get approved.

What has to follow thereupon is a focus on implementation, because nothing is worse than an approved recommendation about which nothing is done, so I have called for lawnmower committees across the Commonwealth at the Royal Commonwealth Society and other groupings. I guess one of my jobs on behalf of my Government is to carry one lawnmower through the long grass as long as I possibly can.

Q23 Mr Baron: Can I press you a little bit? We can agree that these recommendations are terribly important, but what will be the catalysts looking forward? What will be the timelines, if you like? What will be the events that try to bring these recommendations to fruition? There is a lot of good intent there and a lot of good will; I can see that you are working very hard towards it. You have talked about the probable co-operation between our two countries, but doesn’t there have to be a little bit more than that?

Senator Segal: There is indeed a process that was established at CHOGM with respect to how these recommendations will be addressed. There is a senior meeting of officials from Commonwealth countries underlying the ministerial taskforce established for this purpose. They will be meeting in April. CMAG will be meeting on the very important issue of a high representative on human rights and the rule of law. That recommendation was given back from CHOGM to be considered by the Secretariat and CMAG together for a way forward. That will take place in March. So there are actual threshold dates that have been put into place, the feeling being that it will all come together in a meeting of the senior taskforce of Ministers in the spring. They would make those decisions and there could be some final discussion when Commonwealth Foreign Ministers have their annual meeting in October adjacent to the United Nations General Assembly.

This is a process that sees 2013 starting with many more of these recommendations in place. As quickly as the 24th of this month the Board of Directors is to receive a report from the Secretariat about what their implementation plan is for the 30 recommendations that have been accepted. We are looking for that to be a very granular implementation plan so that we can begin to make progress right away. It is very much a combination of a watching brief and a serious timeline to move this kettle of fish along.

Q24 Mr Ainsworth: Senator, thank you very much for your refreshing evidence. I am glad to see that your version of gentle prodding is a bit more robust than most people would have thought. I want to tempt you into what may be quite a sensitive area. You have talked about hypocrisy potentially overtaking the purpose and you talked in your evidence just now of the defence that was put up of a new imperialism. What effectively was being said was that the white members of the Commonwealth were poking their noses into how the brown and black members of the Commonwealth should do their business. Do you accept that that was a defence-a preposterous defence in my view? How sensitive or how robust do you think we should be in taking on that kind of defence when it is put up?

Senator Segal: I had that same question put to me about a month ago at a meeting at the University of London, which was a review of the EPG activities, by a High Commissioner from one of the countries that might be deemed to be in the latter camp. I said that it struck me as the worst possible insult to suggest that our black and brown Commonwealth colleagues did not care about human rights or the rule of law or democracy. That was in every respect the worse kind of condescension. We have to be clear about that. Consider the leadership role Ghana has taken with respect to reform of CMAG and how our friends in some of the Caribbean countries have stepped up. Jamaica was very supportive of the EPG report. Leadership of the Commonwealth is now in the hands of a very competent and able diplomat from India, a country whose remarkable economic renaissance has not been hampered by democracy and the rule of law, however imperfect it is there as it is in our countries. I think we have to use these as positive arguments. There will be those who try to make this a war between the more developed countries and the less developed countries, and I think that that would be the most unfortunate typification of the discussion.

I believe that, in essence, the Commonwealth exists for the people who live in the Commonwealth. Governments deliver services to those people, based on a legitimate mandate. The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation. We have the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, where parliamentarians from different countries work together on an ongoing basis to improve parliamentary practice and to sustain democracy. That goes on without any regard to colour or to less or other developed. In my judgment, those are things that we have to push and to be very frank about, because if we don’t tell the good story, clearly those who want to tell the other story will get more space, and that is counterproductive.

Q25 Mr Ainsworth: I totally agree. The last question is to tempt you back to where John Baron was a moment ago. Would I be misrepresenting you in saying that your attitude towards the Commonwealth is that it is an organisation that is well worth saving, but an organisation that really does need to be saved? If that is your view, how long do you think we have in order to get this organisation back on track?

Senator Segal: Mr Ainsworth, your typification of my view is quite accurate. My instinct is-it is funny how things sometimes come together in an interesting fashion-that the next stages of the Commonwealth debate will take place leading up to Sri Lanka.

Q26 Mr Ainsworth: So you really do see Sri Lanka as potentially a bit of a watershed.

Senator Segal: In terms of my country, for example, my Prime Minister has said that under present circumstances he is not planning to attend; he did not say that Canada would not attend or that the Foreign Minister would not attend, but he did say that he was not planning to attend. I believe that if Sri Lanka is able to engage more constructively about what happened and about what accountabilities need in some way to be addressed, and use Commonwealth good offices to help in that process, it might be seen as a significant step ahead for the Commonwealth’s remit and for its relevance in the world. Similarly, if no progress is made, if we end up in a circumstance where we are no further ahead, that will raise other questions about the utility of the Commonwealth.

It is not just about Sri Lanka. There are all kinds of good things going on between Commonwealth countries as we speak. In my own country, the Commonwealth of Learning for example, which is based in Vancouver, does remarkable distance education, such as pulling together animal husbandry specialists from the University of Guelph in Canada and from New Zealand to work with our Pakistani agricultural folks to deal with some of the herd issues they had to address after the flooding, and sharing technology in a fashion that was supported by the Pakistani Ministry of Agriculture as one of the most efficient ways of getting that constructive, day to day, on the ground, granular information into people’s hands. There are so many of those things that can be going on and are going on, so it is not just about Sri Lanka; but you cannot walk away from that issue hoping that nobody will mention it. That is unlikely and inappropriate.

Chair: Senator, thank you very much indeed. I would like to think that you have given us a lot to think about-a good kick-start into our inquiry. Thank you very much indeed, it is much appreciated.

Senator Segal: Thank you, and good luck with your work on this issue.

Prepared 14th November 2012