Canada – Nepal Relations in Global Perspective

Remarks by Kul Chandra Gautam·

at Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association

Program to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Nepal-Canada Diplomatic Ties

Kathmandu, 18 January 2015

I thank the Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association for inviting me to say a few words about “Nepal-Canada relationship in global perspective” on this happy occasion as we celebrate the golden jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between our two countries.

I do not occupy any public post that relates to Nepal-Canada relationship. Currently, I am just a private Nepali citizen, but who happens to have a long history of dealing with Canada in my earlier role as a senior UN official. And I suppose it is in that capacity that I have been asked to share some thoughts.

Other speakers at this event, and many articles in this commemorative booklet, naturally focus on the history and highlights of our two countries’ bilateral relations in areas ranging from Canadian development cooperation projects in Nepal; trade, tourism and investment; exchange visits among Nepali and Canadian officials; and the stories of thousands of Nepalis who live, study and work in various professions in Canada.

But in an increasingly globalizing world, relations between any two countries are no longer confined to bilateral dealings. The true measure of Nepal’s cooperation with Canada must also include the full spectrum of interactions and exchanges between our countries in various multilateral forums such as the United Nations, the World Bank and various global funds for development.

This is especially important because Canadian bilateral aid for Nepal at present is rather modest, and Nepal is currently not included in the list of a small number of priority countries for its bilateral aid. However, it is quite likely that indirect Canadian aid to Nepal through various multilateral channels might add up to more than the totality of its direct aid, trade and private investment.

It is important for us Nepalis to better understand how Nepal indirectly benefits from Canadian aid provided through multilateral institutions, and how Canada’s broad development policy and philosophy of its international relations serve the interests of developing countries like Nepal.

I have had the good fortune to visit Canada many times and collaborate closely with senior Canadian diplomats and policy makers in the context of my work with UNICEF and the United Nations over several decades.

This morning, I wish to share with you some of my reflections on Canadian aid policy as I have witnessed it first hand, and as it might be relevant for Nepal.

As a member of the world’s economically most powerful Group of Seven (G-7) nations, and as

an influential middle-power at the United Nations, Canada plays an important role in shaping the global agenda for peace, development and human rights.

Many Canadians have been world leaders in promoting international development, and proposing ideas that have been trend-setters in developing new norms of human rights and peace-building in the world.

I recall as a young student, the very first book on international development I read that made a lasting impact in my life and career was by the great Canadian Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Prime Minister Lester Pearson. His ground-breaking 1969 report entitled Partners in Development had a huge impact on the United Nations, the World Bank and many others.

It was the Pearson Commission that first recommended in 1969 that donor countries should commit to allocate one percent of their GNP as total foreign aid, and 0.7% of GNP as official development assistance to developing countries by 1975. Alas, Canada and most other OECD countries are still very far from attaining that lofty goal, but its relevance is still universally recognized.

Another great Canadian leader, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, inspired many of us around the world with concepts of participatory democracy and a just society, anti-war activism and international solidarity, particularly at the height of the US-Vietnam War.

The Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), founded in 1970, has been a pioneer among development research institutions in the world. It has helped many developing countries to find innovative and lasting solutions to reduce poverty, improve human health and nutrition, support innovation, and safeguard the environment.

As Chair of the Board of IDRC, Lester Pearson visited Nepal in 1972 and initiated its initial programs.

Canada has been a world leader in promoting child survival and development both through its bilateral aid, and through generous support to multilateral organizations and NGOs.

I have had the personal experience of witnessing and assisting Canada’s leadership for children in numerous occasions, such as at the historic 1990 World Summit for Children (co-chaired by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney); at the UNICEF Executive Board; and in such Canadian-supported initiatives as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB; the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI); the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH); the Micronutrient Initiative (MI); and many humanitarian initiatives to protect children from natural disasters and man-made armed conflicts.

Canada is to be especially commended for its principled leadership and creative proposals for humanitarian intervention, which former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy presented to the UN.

Now known as “the responsibility to protect”, this principle calls for intervention by the international community whenever national governments are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens against massive violations of their human rights, such as in situations of genocide or crimes against humanity, or during cataclysmic natural disasters, as we saw in Cambodia and Rwanda, and as we see today in North Korea, or in the barbaric attacks against innocent civilians by groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or ISIS in Syria,

Iraq and as we saw last week, even in France.

Many of us might not fully realize the far-reaching importance of the concept of “Responsibility to Protect”, but I am sure future generations will appreciate it as a momentous initiative. It is a very important counter-weight to the conventional understanding of national sovereignty which dictators often use with impunity to oppress their own people.

In 2010, at the Muskoka G-8 Summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took the bold initiative to persuade his fellow G-8 leaders and other partners to commit $10 billion to mobilize global action to reduce maternal and infant mortality, by improving the health of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries. Canada itself pledged nearly $3 billion over five years in support of the Muskoka Initiative.

One might ask how does all this benefit Nepal? I can tell you that Nepal benefits from such Canadian-supported global initiatives in very meaningful and substantial manner.

For example, the generous international support Nepal has received for maternal and child health, nutrition and immunization is, in part, thanks to the Canadian leadership to help enshrine some concrete and ambitious goals in these areas at the World Summit for Children in 1990 and in the Millennium Development Goals endorsed by the United Nations in 2000.

These forums also promulgated policies that accord high priority to the special needs of the least developed and land-locked countries like Nepal.

More directly, the Canadian funded Micronutrient Initiative has been a key partner, along with other organizations like UNICEF, in helping Nepal to virtually eliminate Vitamin A deficiency and combat other forms of malnutrition that is estimated to save the lives of over 10,000 Nepali children every year.

Childhood immunization programs for which Nepal has received funding exceeding $100 million through GAVI in the past decade, and even more through UNICEF and WHO, are partly funded by Canada.

The fact that Nepal is one of the few LDCs on track to achieve MDG-4 and 5 (reduction of child and maternal mortality), is in part thanks to the support and solidarity of our international development partners, including Canada.

During the decade of conflict, and the post-conflict period, Canada provided support for some aspects of Nepal’s peace process both bilaterally, through some NGOs and UN agencies. For example, Canada was a major supporter of the ambitious human rights monitoring mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which operated in Nepal between 2005 and 2011. Canada contributed $3.1 million towards this mission, making it one of OHCHR’s largest contributors.

Canada and Nepal are both strong supporters of the UN’s role in peace-keeping and peace-building. And both countries are generous contributors to UN peace-keeping missions around the world.

More directly, in 2012-2013 Canada’s Global Peace and Security Fund provided about half a million Canadian dollars to the Global Network of Women Peacekeepers (GNWP) to support a project in Nepal aimed at integrating the core provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 & 1820.

This partnership helped Nepal develop a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security containing detailed guidelines for strengthening women’s role in ensuring peace and security, and post-conflict reconstruction and development, both nationally and globally.

While Canada and Nepal formally established diplomatic relations only in 1965, and the first Canadian bilateral aid program in Nepal began in 1968, the first Canadian cooperation for Nepal actually started in 1952 through the Colombo Plan. And Canada provided its first humanitarian assistance to Nepal in the form of food aid in 1958.

In terms of bilateral aid, Nepal-Canada relationship has seen some ups and downs. From 1968 to 2013, the Canadian aid agency CIDA directly supported several programs and projects in the areas of civil aviation, strengthening of the national airlines, development of water resources and energy, rural development, agriculture, food security, health and education.

Canadian aid emphasized support for institution building – e.g. to strengthen the civil aviation department, land survey department, farmer cooperatives, district governments and local community groups, human rights organizations and other NGOs.

For several years, between 1987 and 2013, Canada maintained a physical presence through the Canadian Cooperation Office (CCO) in Kathmandu. The CCO was funded by CIDA to provide technical and administrative support to projects and programs funded by CIDA, and to oversee their performance. Alas, the CCO was closed down in 2013 as part of transition in the relationship from an aid focus to a trade and investment focus.

It is estimated that over the past four decades, Canadian investment in Nepal totaled approximately C$470 million. Sectors of particular interest to Canada are power and energy equipment and services, wastewater management and technologies, irrigation equipment and engineering, infrastructure, transportation (especially aircraft and parts) and telecommunications equipment.

In terms of trade, during the period 2008-2013, two-way trade ranged from $15 million to $23 million per annum. In 2012-13, Canadian exports to Nepal totaled $7.1 million and Canadian imports from Nepal totaled $11.7 million. Nepal’s exports to Canada include garments and apparels, textiles, carpets and pashmina.

Canada’s main exports to Nepal are in the areas of aerospace, machineries, paper products, and optical instruments and appliances. It is interesting to note that Nepal has a trade surplus with Canada. This is partly due to Canada’s very favourable treatment of Nepali exports, and there is room for further growth in Nepal’s exports to Canada.

Tourism is another area of potential growth. Currently, only around 12,000 Canadians visit Nepal annually. This could easily double or triple with a little bit of extra effort by Nepal to promote quality tourism.

Canada has become a highly desirable country for Nepali students and skilled migrants. Its fairly liberal immigration policy is attracting quite a few Nepalis who have established themselves well in various professions and sectors of Canadian society. Currently there are around 15,000 Nepalis

living and working in Canada, and this number is growing steadily. In addition, Canada has generously accepted around 5,000 Bhutanese refugees who have relocated there from Nepal.

We sincerely hope that Nepal will soon be included as a priority country for Canadian bilateral cooperation. But frankly, I find the prospects for it not very promising, given Canada’s other priorities for Francophone Africa, Commonwealth countries and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Given this reality, Nepal would do well to tap more Canadian support for its development through multilateral channels, private investment, and trade.

I see considerable potential for attracting Canadian foreign direct investment for Nepal’s development, once Nepal puts its own house in order in terms of political stability, good governance and FDI-friendly business environment.

So, I would urge my fellow Nepalis to do our part to be more worthy of Canadian support and solidarity, through bilateral as well as multi-lateral channels, instead of approaching Canada or any other country, with a begging bowl for more aid.

I wish the Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association much success in cultivating such enlightened partnership between our two friendly countries.

Long live Nepal-Canada friendship!

Thank you.