Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs

Issue 13 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 26, 1996

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 4:07 p.m. to examine and report on the growing importance of the Asia Pacific region for Canada, with emphasis on the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference to be held in Vancouver in the fall of 1997, Canada's year of Asia Pacific.

Senator John B. Stewart (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we are honoured to have with us this afternoon Mr. Suranjit Sen Gupta, member of Parliament, Leader of the Delegation and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. He is accompanied by Mr. Abdul Hasanat Abdullah, member of Parliament and Chief Government Whip; Mr. Abdus Shahid, member of Parliament and Government Whip; Ms Ayethein, member of Parliament; Mrs. Professor Sabita Begum, member of Parliament. With them is Mr. Abdul Hashem, Secretary, Parliament Secretariat, Mr. Md. Nojibur Rahman, Private Secretary to the Speaker, and Mr. Abdus Sobhan Sikder, Private Secretary to the Chief Government Whip. Also here today is His Excellency Mufleh R. Osmany, High Commissioner for the People's Republic of Bangladesh, the Deputy High Commissioner and the First Secretary.

Appearing before us today as a witness is Mrs. Maureen O'Neil, President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. I believe that it is accurate to say that immediately before assuming her present position she was President of the North-South Institute and, before that, Deputy Minister of Citizenship in the Government of Ontario.

Also with us is Mrs. Heather Gibb, a senior researcher with the North-South Institute, and Mrs. Betty Plewes, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for International Cooperation.

Mrs. Maureen O'Neil, President, International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development: I wish to thank this committee for calling hearings on APEC and, in particular, for providing this opportunity to talk about issues that are not, in the strictest sense, economic or business related, but which encompass the broader social, environmental and human rights implications of participating in APEC.

I shall discuss two main issues today. The first is the participation of citizens of civil society in APEC, and the second is the question of human rights and, more particularly, the rights of workers in APEC countries. Canada has an opportunity to make a real difference on these two issues in the coming year.

Again and again it has been said that APEC is a forum for discussion about trade and, to a certain extent, economic and technical cooperation and that there is no use muddying its waters with other issues. In our view, this is short-sighted and will ultimately prevent APEC from achieving its goals of sustainable and equitable development.

It has become increasingly clear that issues of trade and investment ought not to be discussed in isolation from human rights and democracy. There is growing recognition of this relationship in the OECD, in the ILO, at the World Trade Organization, within the international trade union movement amongst, not surprisingly, the most respected international human rights organizations and, slowly but surely, in the business community.

The active non-governmental forums which were associated with the UN world summits in Rio, in Vienna, in Beijing, in Copenhagen and in Cairo demonstrate that governments alone can no longer deal with major issues confronting the world. In successive APEC summits, beginning with the one in Seattle, non-governmental organizations have come together to exchange amongst themselves, to articulate their analyses, to formulate positions for leaders to consider and to look ahead at what APEC could mean for them. Unlike the fora that take place in conjunction with UN world conferences, no formal relationship exists between these non-governmental bodies and APEC itself. The attendees at these non-governmental forums on the edges of APEC meetings range from those who reject APEC to those who want to make it more open; from those who see it as a tool for regional development to those who see it as an instrument of U.S. economic hegemony, those who seek dialogue and those who do not.

The International Centre sees its role as participating in and facilitating a dialogue between APEC leaders and civil society. At Kyoto we held a forum on workers' human rights, and you have received copies of that final statement. Last year Mr. Broadbent had the opportunity to discuss our concerns and recommendations from that Kyoto meeting with officials from a number of countries, including Mr. Ouellet, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada.

However, the non-governmental forums around the APEC meetings have no official connection to what goes on within APEC meetings. Generally, non-governmental organizations are not allowed anywhere near the official proceedings. No formal consultative procedures have been set up either nationally or multilaterally. People attending NGO forums have even had trouble obtaining visas, and some member countries in APEC are categorically hostile to any such participation. Canada, as next year's host, has an extraordinary opportunity to change that situation. Just as an aside, Canada has played perhaps the strongest role in opening up and extending the reach of the non-governmental forums associated with UN world conferences.

There is a coalition of groups in Canada which is interested in APEC, and they have already begun organizing an NGO forum to be held next November, just prior to the leaders' summit. I urge you to support the idea of this forum. We look forward to a time when the NGO forum will be formally welcomed into the proceedings of APEC and when its deliberations will be facilitated by the host government. Perhaps we can find a model for this in the experiences of the APEC Business Advisory Council and the APEC Women Leaders Summit.

The APEC Business Advisory Council is a formal body of appointed business representatives who meet throughout the year to make recommendations to APEC. Each member country sends three representatives and together these people write up a formal report to the APEC leaders. The council has a budget of $500,000 (U.S.) and is funded by the taxpayers of the 18 APEC economies. ABAC organized events during the leaders' summit this year in the Philippines, and many business people made the trip to Manila. Next year ABAC will hold its preparatory meetings in Canada.

The mandate of ABAC is to establish an ongoing dialogue between business and government, precisely what is needed for the rest of civil society. The International Centre would be happy to explore adapting and refining the current model for civil society, to find a format that would make sense. It would not be simple given that many of the countries in APEC are not democracies, but we should not let that obstacle stand in the way of opening some kind of dialogue. Many countries sitting around the table at UN conferences are not democracies, either.

Another possible model, less formal than ABAC, would be similar in structure to the Network of Senior Women Leaders from APEC Economies, which defines itself as a flexible consultative forum and strategic partner in APEC's work. It held its first conference in October of this year in Manila, which was partially funded by CIDA. The purpose of the meeting was to work toward integrating gender as a cross-cutting concern within APEC programs, policies and projects. I will leave the substance of their deliberations to Heather Gibb of from the North-South Institute, who knows this field much better than I do. Indeed, the North-South Institute has been involved with APEC in work relating to gender for some years now.

One could imagine a more broadly based coalition of churches, women's groups, environmentalists, human rights and development organizations, trade unions and others from several countries who could be part of a flexible network with which APEC leaders could consult. That is the second model, a broader, more flexible model than ABAC.

Whatever form it takes, civil society must have more than an ad hoc voice within the APEC process. Let me say that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has welcomed ideas from non-governmental organizations relating to more structured consultation between the Canadian government and organizations outside government.

Democratic countries simply cannot make decisions which will affect the lives of their citizens without any consultation. Decisions relating to trade and investment definitely affect the lives of their citizens, not just business. Canada, as host of the next APEC meeting, will have an extraordinary opportunity to open the process to Canadians and, to a lesser but not insignificant extent, the APEC meetings themselves. Canada should work with the democratic countries in APEC to see that this happens. Democratic countries ought not agree to exclude citizens from multilateral discussions which are supported by their tax dollars. Canada contributes 10 per cent of the APEC secretariat's budget; surely we should also be putting some dollars toward ensuring democratic debate about the issues with which is dealing.

I should like to turn now to workers' human rights. There is a variety of human rights concerns among the members of APEC, ranging from East Timor and Tibet to electoral fraud and military excesses in some countries, to violations of freedom of speech, to the practice of torture and use of the death penalty.

Since APEC is primarily an economic forum, the rights of workers immediately stand out as being directly related to its mandate. Workers make the products that are traded, and their working conditions are a significant variable in investment decisions. Workers' rights have been the focus of the International Centre's work on APEC. I note that APEC does, ever so indirectly, address labour issues through its working group on human resources development. However, APEC in its own documents says that it is ultimately concerned with people and, according to the international instruments which Canada has signed, people are entitled to certain rights.

Workers' rights were the focus of the meeting sponsored by the International Centre in Kyoto on the edges of last year's APEC and, as I mentioned, you have that statement. I would simply like to underline the importance of integrating labour rights into international trade discussions and eventually into the international trade agreements. If people are to benefit from trade and investment liberalization, they must enjoy basic human rights. We see what a challenge this is with countries like China. I know that the committee had an opportunity to discuss some of these issues with Professor Ozay Mehmet a few weeks ago, and I would endorse the main ideas he presented on this topic.

Just to illustrate the importance of workers' human rights within APEC, I will describe briefly the situations of two individuals with whom the International Centre has worked on the issue of human rights. I hope their stories will illustrate the problems workers are facing in many APEC countries.

Han Dong Fang is a Chinese trade unionist, representing the Autonomous Railroad Workers Union, who is now in exile in Hong Kong. He was one of the last people to leave Tiananmen Square in 1989. He spent time in jail, was badly beaten by Chinese authorities, went to the United States for medical treatment, and now lives in forced exile in Hong Kong where he writes and edits the China Labour Bulletin. Last year the Centre brought him to Canada to speak to the business community and to the media about labour rights in China. He was invited to our forum in Kyoto, but the Japanese government refused to give him a visa, presumably for fear of offending the Chinese Prime Minister.

Muchtar Pakpahan, an independent trade unionist from Indonesia, was able to attend our forum and made a useful contribution. He received death threats before leaving and today he is in jail charged with subversion in connection with the upheavals in Indonesia this past July. Subversion in Indonesia is punishable by death.

While governments of the Asia Pacific are hospitable to international capital flows, some governments are making it more difficult for workers to organize to defend their rights. These two stories illustrate real consequences of the denial of the right to freedom of association. This is the right upon which other rights for workers hinge. If workers cannot exercise their right to organize themselves collectively, their wages, their working conditions and the quality of their lives will depend on the goodwill of their employers. There is ample evidence throughout history that that goodwill is simply not good enough. We have countless examples around the world, including in our own history, of the important role that trade unions have played in democratization.

This year's ABAC report states that business is the principal constituency in APEC's quest for freer and more open trade and investment. I respectfully take issue with this assertion. More open trade and investment policies affect all economic actors, and it is one-sided to say that business is the principal constituency.

It is odd that democracies around the APEC table support this position, and surely it conflicts with our own foreign policy in which both the promotion of trade and the promotion of human rights figure prominently. As we said, in Canada and in the world, we will make effective use of all the influence that our economic trading and development assistance relationships afford us to promote respect for human rights. With international partners the government will promote reform that helps achieve objectives, such as respect for human rights, poverty reduction, and social and gender equity into the work of multilateral institutions, as well as to increase their accountability and transparency. The question is: Are these goals being met in our approach to APEC?

I am not asking that we change our foreign policy, but merely that we apply it not only in the heart of Africa where our humanitarian goals are clear but also in the Pacific Rim where our economic interests are substantial.

Mrs Heather Gibb, Senior Researcher, North-South Institute: The North-South Institute has been involved formally in the APEC Human Resource Development Working Group for the past four years. We represent Canada as the main contact point in one of the working group's four sub-groups, the Network on Economic Development Management. As Canada's representative, and with the financial support of CIDA, we have attempted to create a space in APEC for consideration of a broader concept of economic development, one which includes issues related to equity and poverty alleviation -- that is, issues related to participation in the processes of economic development and to the distribution of the benefits of that development.

Sometimes equity issues are referred to as social issues, but increasingly international, economic and financial organizations are recognizing that they are in fact economic issues. Indeed, APEC's core documents explicitly set out the link between economic development and the well-being of the people in the region. The Seoul Declaration of 1991 states that APEC's first objective is to sustain the growth and development of the region for the common good of its peoples. Subsequent dialogue in APEC forums has oriented APEC activity more specifically toward sustainable growth and equitable development.

The 1993 Leaders' Economic Vision Statement affirms that we envisage a community of Asia Pacific economies in which our people share the benefits of economic growth through higher incomes from jobs requiring high skill levels and increased mobility. This year's report on the state of economic and technical cooperation in APEC specifically links these APEC goals to longer-term objectives and to reducing poverty in the region.

The most visible work of APEC, however, is the trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, or TILF, agenda. The stated framework for these APEC initiatives is that trade liberalization will generate economic growth, thereby improving the well-being of Asia Pacific peoples. Some APEC members are quite insistent that APEC's real agenda rests with this narrow focus on market liberalization and trade facilitation. Whether benefits from this kind of growth will necessarily be widespread is increasingly being questioned. The 1996 UNDP Human Development Report has found, rather, that global growth in income has been spread very unequally and that the inequality is increasing.

There is considerable evidence that unfettered market forces, in fact, further marginalize those already marginalized and benefit those who are already in a fairly strong position. The same UN report found that there is no link between growth and human development where that development is lop-sided. The structure and quality of growth must be directed to supporting human development, to reducing poverty, to protecting the environment and to ensuring sustainability.

We hear much about globalization and the global pressures to remain internationally competitive. Many view APEC's creation as part of a global trend toward the formation of regional trade regimes, beginning with the European Community, the Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement, and the NAFTA.

Some analysts suggest that we are actually experiencing two processes of globalization: economic globalization and social globalization. The first process is carried forward through such institutions and processes as the IMF, the G-7 and the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations and the second by such processes as UN world conferences on human rights, social development, environment and development, human livelihoods, culminating in the Beijing World Conference on Women which was held last year.

In APEC we see these two processes coming together. We see them in the economic agenda of Part I of the 1995 Osaka Action Agenda, the so-called trade and investment facilitation and liberalization agenda, and in a broader eco-tech agenda through Part II, which addresses economic and technical cooperation, human resources development, industrial science and technology, fisheries, agricultural technology and so on.

The activities of APEC's Human Resource Development Working Group fall under Part II. In November 1994 APEC ministers issued a Declaration on Human Resources Development Framework, identifying objectives, principles and priorities for human resources development. As part of the Osaka Action Agenda, APEC leaders and ministers endorsed the Action Program for Human Resources Development. I will mention two of the basic principles.

The first is that the people of the Asia Pacific are the most important resource in economic growth and development, one of the goals of which is to enhance the quality of life and well-being of the people of the region. The second principle is that the development and protection of human resources contribute to the attainment of such fundamental values as the alleviation of poverty, full employment, universal access to primary, secondary and vocational education and the full participation of all groups in the process of economic growth and development.

While there is a tendency in the APEC machinery to consider gender equity as somewhat extraneous to the real APEC agenda, the HRD working group has had a gender program for some time. One of its sub-groups has set out an explicit mandate in its vision statement to sensitize APEC members to the value of maximizing the participation of women in members' economic activities and to analyze policies and development recommendations to ensure that all people share equitably in the benefits of economic growth.

Other forums in APEC have addressed gender differences in human resource development, such as the conferences on small and medium-sized enterprises in 1995 and 1996 and the recent APEC Industrial, Science and Technology Ministers Meeting in Seoul.

To illustrate the relevance of gender equity to APEC, I should like to summarize some of the broad trends in women's employment in the sectors of the formal economy that are relevant to APEC's agenda. Women's jobs in many APEC countries are predominantly in the low-skilled, low-wage sectors which are substantially affected by trade liberalizing agreements such as the GATT, such as textiles, clothing, and personal services. Women's jobs in the manufacturing sectors in developing countries tend to be non-unionized and short term. Jobs in the service sector tend to be semi-skilled. However, increased levels of export-oriented manufacturing have resulted in increased formal sector employment of women. Employers in the light manufacturing sector have demonstrated a preference for hiring women because of perceptions that women are biddable and are willing to accept lower wages.

As base wages rise in many APEC countries, companies must adopt various strategies in order to remain internationally competitive. These strategies include relocating to a lower-wage country. Such a move tends to affect women's jobs more than men's since it is low-skilled jobs that are being relocated. Automation tends to replace the unskilled jobs predominantly held by women, with a shift to more sophisticated products and a more highly-educated or more highly-skilled workforce.

The human resource issues for women workers arising from these trends include the following: The unskilled have difficulty in acquiring the necessary skills to remain employed in the formal labour market; training programs tend to be directed to men; because of domestic commitments, women find it difficult to make use of training opportunities.

A cursory examination of the much broader eco-tech agenda and of the emerging FEEEP, Impact of Expanding Population and Economic Growth on Food, Energy and the Environment, reveals how profoundly APEC's trade and investment expansion agenda will affect women's lives. The constraints on women's economic activities are different from those on men and a broadly-based, integrated analysis of that agenda is urgently needed. Such an analysis cannot be carried out in a balanced fashion by an organization equipped to receive business input alone.

APEC's most visible focus is on trade and investment and priority is given to business interests. Ms O'Neil has outlined the business structure, particularly the APEC Business Advisory Council.

Another source of expert advice is the Women's Senior Leaders Network in APEC Economies, which I will call the Women's Network. In October 1996 the Philippines hosted the inaugural conference of the Women's Network, and I believe you have a copy of the Call to Action from that conference. This conference, which was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency, UNIFEM, the Philippine government and Philippine private sector, brought together approximately 80 delegates from 15 APEC member economies. Some delegates represented their respective governments and some represented their national women's organizations and machinery. The delegates included senior scientists and engineers, businesswomen, government officials and academics, representatives from NGOs and non-governmental institutes.

The objectives of the conference were to promote and support the integration of gender consideration into APEC policy, programs and projects; to identify mechanisms by which gender issues could be integrated into APEC; to organize a network of experts whose expertise could be tapped in identifying the gender dimension within APEC's various areas of concern and to have this network recognized by APEC leaders.

The Call to Action was delivered to President Fidel Ramos who undertook to deliver it to APEC leaders. I wish to underline that the Women's Network had very solid support from the president and from his government. We were guided and received enormous support during the three days of the conference by his Undersecretary for Industry and Trade, who was also his acting secretary that week, and by a senior APEC official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The network focuses on women as active agents of change and important contributors to national economies in both the formal and informal sectors. The objective of the network is to ensure sustainable and equitable development by enhancing the participation and contribution of women and by advancing an appreciation of the different impacts of trade, investment and development policies on the lives of women and of men.

The purpose of the network is to provide a gender dimension in the APEC process. The Call to Action calls for gender equity to be incorporated as a cross-cutting concern in APEC to ensure equitable development. The network offers itself as a resource to APEC members, to the ministerial meetings, to meetings of senior officials, to working groups and to committees.

At the meeting in Manila Canada agreed to chair the network in 1997 and to host the second conference. This conference is scheduled to be held in Ottawa, in September 1997, at the time of the APEC SME Business Forum and Ministerial Meeting. In the interest of continuity, Malaysia, who will be APEC chair in 1999, also agreed to serve as the chair in 1998.

The Government of Canada has recognized that economic growth, which involves change, can have a greater impact on women than on men. Canada recognizes that it is critical for multilateral organizations to incorporate gender equity considerations in their policy and programming. Indeed, Canada's federal plan for gender equality states that the promotion of gender equality is an important part of Canada's foreign and aid policies.

Canada's foreign policy explicitly includes a commitment to pursue gender equality objectives in various multilateral fora, to promote the reform of international and multilateral institutions and mechanisms in order that their policies and programs better reflect and meet the needs of women, and to promote the integration of gender equality issues in activities of international organizations.

A major challenge during Canada's year as APEC chair will be to reinforce the creative and constructive interface between the two globalizations. In this respect, APEC's unique features as a body based on equality and respect for diversity, mutual benefit and assistance, constructive and genuine partnership and consensus building, will provide useful guidelines. Canada's culture is unique and very special in its recognition of constructive criticism as an important and necessary part of policy formulation.

I hope Canada will use its year in the APEC chair to move forward and to support the initial steps that have been taken by the Philippines to broaden the range of voices that are heard by APEC; to support, if you will, the momentum to integrate UNCED into the Uruguay Round.

Mrs. Betty Plewes, President and CEO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation: The Canadian Council for International Cooperation is the national umbrella organization for non-governmental organizations that work in the field of international development. We have approximately 105 members. Many of our members have had experience in working with their Asian counterparts, with women's organizations or peasants' groups or human rights groups over a long period of time, and it is based on this experience that we bring forward some of our policy recommendations for our relationships with the region. CCIC is also a member of the coalition that is planning the People's Summit for Vancouver next year.

APEC is an extremely important mechanism for us because APEC countries account for half of the world's population and half of the economic production of the world. It is also important for the long-term relationships we enjoy in the NGO community.

APEC's goal is to promote sustainable growth, equitable development and national stability, and there are three areas that I should like to talk about today. The first is the APEC model, which focuses on government-private sector relationships and which, in our view, underestimates the importance of civil society in promoting equity and stability. The second area is sustainable human development and how sustainable human development could become a framework for APEC activities. The third area is CCIC member organizations and what they are doing in these areas.

We think the APEC framework, which focuses on the state-private sector relationships, has a hole in it, that civil society is in fact the third main area of this framework which needs to be included in the discussions. The APEC decision-making process is closed at the formal level to the views and considerations of the region's citizens. It is a clear example of the prevailing trend in economic and development strategies to rely almost exclusively on the private sector to generate development processes to achieve a wide range of social and developmental goals. We have already heard comments about APEC's reliance on the private sector as the primary means of achieving its vision.

My point is not that the private sector is unimportant. Obviously, the private sector has a key role to play. However, while the private sector may be successful in generating growth, it does not necessarily ensure equitable distribution of that growth nor does it guarantee respect for human rights.

Canadian NGOs who have worked in the region for many years see firsthand persistent levels of poverty and of human rights abuses, varied levels of citizen participation and unsustainable use of resources. At the more macro level, a 1995 Woodrow Wilson Center study demonstrates that, while Thailand's per capita income has increased by a multiple of 15 over the last 30 years, the per capita income of workers has increased by a multiple of three. Workers in the urban areas are now receiving the equivalent of $1.50 per day and in the rural areas about 50 cents per day. Citing the fact that the top 20 per cent of Thailand's population earns nearly 60 per cent of the country's income, the report stated that the quality of ordinary life has decreased over the past two decades. That statistic raises concern about the development model that is being implemented by APEC countries.

The roles of the various states and private sectors as among APEC countries are diverse, but almost universally civil society is an unsupported and undervalued partner in these countries and in the APEC process. Organizations of civil society have much to contribute to solutions and to new approaches to development dilemmas. Civil society is a critical area where people organize to participate and debate the sorts of development issues that concern them and what solutions they want to pursue.

Facilitating increased participation of poor and marginalized groups, such as peasants, women, informal and formal workers and indigenous people in civil society, is key to addressing issues of equity and poverty reduction. APEC leaders need to strike a better balance among the roles of the private sector, of the state and of civil society. It is important to note that civil society organizations within Asia have differing views on APEC and its implications for them. As Maureen mentioned earlier, some support it and some think the whole model is inappropriate for the region, but there is certainly scepticism that APEC as a forum holds out much promise for a new approach to development and trade, one which asserts the primacy of people's well-being and safeguards the environment.

Moving to the second area, we should like to emphasize a shift from a focus on growth to one on sustainable human development. Sustainable development is an important part of APEC's current agenda. In an August 1996 report the APEC Economic Committee defined "sustainable development" as a concept that approaches the issues of economic growth from a longer-term perspective, incorporating both environmental preservation and social stability considerations.

The sustainable development approach in APEC is inconsistent and, at times, absent from the APEC agenda. For example, sustainable development and equity goals are separated from trade and investment liberalization interventions and are to be addressed only through technical cooperation activities. Although social cohesion is a goal, the strategies seem to focus on physical infrastructure and the conditions for creating healthy capital markets rather than focusing on basic human needs, supporting the empowerment of women, strengthening the participation in civil society, and supporting regional linkages among civil society organizations of APEC countries.

What then can Canada do? As chair of APEC in 1997, Canada could show leadership through consultations with Canadian civil society organizations. For example, we could encourage Canadian ministers to meet with groups prior to APEC ministerial meetings on trade, environment and sustainable development. We could distribute APEC documents on the Internet for public comment. We could stimulate debate and consultation on Canada's individual action plan for trade and investment liberalization.

At UN fora Canada has facilitated civil society input by funding consultations, by inviting direct NGO participation on delegations and working groups, and by supporting alternative NGO summits. The APEC process could benefit from similar efforts.

The Canadian government could research and explain what Canada is doing to support civil society in the Asia Pacific region. Canada has supported a number of interesting activities through IDRC, through the Canadian International Development Agency, and through discussions on many aspects of foreign affairs programming. Canada can support sustainable human development as the framework for APEC discussions.

Trade, investment and cooperation activities should be considered from the perspective of how they may advance the goals of sustainable human development. In fact, the Philippine government at this year's meetings signalled its interest in this kind of shift, so Canada would not be alone in that area.

Third, Canadian NGOs are exploring with Asian human rights organizations the feasibility of researching and publishing profiles of the development and human rights situations in the 18 APEC economies to provide varying perspectives on key issues. With other organizations of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation we are organizing a forum as part of the People's Summit in Vancouver next year, which will explore community-based experiences of trade and investment liberalization using fishing communities in Canada and Asia as illustrations. This work would draw on the long history of Canadian NGOs working with Asian organizations on alternative community-based approaches to resource management.

All of these activities and issues need support and leadership from Canada at the People's Summit in 1997.

The Chairman: Thank you. We will begin our questioning with Senator Carney.

Senator Carney: I was interested in the fact that, while you raised gender issues and workers' issues, you omitted references to children's rights. I am aware that this is a sensitive issue which runs across the exploitation of children in the labour force, the cultural role that children play and the economic role that children play in the family unit. Canada has some serious concerns about children's rights, and I was wondering if you would care to comment about that.

Ms O'Neil: Obviously children's rights, whether as workers or in terms of a right to a sustainable livelihood ought to be an important consideration for APEC when it talks about sustainable development and its impact on people. We must find ways of using all the multilateral fora to raise human rights issues, including children's rights. That is really at the heart of all our arguments on all issues.

If children's rights have not been defined in the APEC agenda in the past, then they ought to be in the future under the rubric of the whole human rights question. If a whole set of issues is defined as not being appropriate to be discussed in a particular forum, it is difficult to move them onto the agenda. All our arguments are that APEC's agenda ought to be enlarged and that there is, within the wording of APEC's own documents, an avenue to do that because the APEC documents all talk about sustainable development and its impact on people.

Senator Carney: Is there a way to use the NGO conferences which are run alongside APEC to focus some attention on this issue?

Ms O'Neil: Yes, indeed, it would be possible.

Ms Plewes: We recently appeared before a subcommittee of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs which is looking into this whole question of children's labour rights. Some colleagues from Bangladesh and India asked us why North Americans and Western Europeans were so concerned about children's labour rights rather than about children's rights to clean drinking water and enough food, and women's rights and families' rights. That is why we want to include children's rights in the sustainable human development framework, because the approach which will really address children's issues is one of very broad-based development.

We feel that this kind of tripartite approach of government, business and civil society organizations looking at specific situations within individual countries is the way to go rather than sanctions and penalties. Sanctions and penalties simply drive children's labour underground, where it becomes inaccessible to us through any form of international sanction.

Ms Gibb: I will base my response on my experience with APEC. At a meeting of the HRD working group in Beijing the Philippines raised the idea of having a conference of human resource development ministers to discuss employment and rights issues. Three protests were filed immediately by Singapore, Japan and one other country whose name I can't remember at the moment, saying that this was something that the ILO did. Having said that, I think it would be useful to consider other mechanisms to advance these kinds of issues.

I should like to emphasize how important an opportunity we have now that Canada is in the chair. The Philippines has really opened the door in many ways, and it is very important that we follow through this year. We can have rights organizations as members of our delegations. They may not be able to speak at the table, but their presence would send a message to everyone else in the room that Canada believes that this is an important issue. There are all kinds of hidden barriers to keeping NGOs out of the room, but there are ways of getting them in and we should use every opportunity we have.

Many Asian governments say that children's labour rights will come when their economies have reached a certain level of development However, as countries develop and skill levels and product sophistication move up, they cannot afford to have cheap child labour, so it is in everybody's benefit to keep the economic development moving.

There may be other avenues related to APEC which could be used to encourage this kind of discussion. An academic group called Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference has been attempting to look at these kinds of issues, and we can give support to the Canadian component of that group to move a little bit more aggressively on that area.

Another area is the meetings themselves. While Asian ministers will say they do not want to talk about this, nevertheless they are beginning to talk about child rights and they do that because pressure is being exerted. We need to keep up the pressure. It is important for Canada to recognize that we need quite a range of strategies and quite a range of activities to keep the momentum going.

Senator Grafstein: I did not realize until I read your material how intensive the work at APEC has been. It is remarkable and commendable but -- and this is not a bad "but" -- it is trying to get hold of issues in a way that can be helpful. It just ran through my mind that it took many decades in Canada to deal with the problem of child labour. We were at a higher economic level than many of these countries, and it took us decades in a democratic system to evolve proper rights, even pay equity rights.

I just wonder how we can develop a modular approach to progress in the human rights field as it applies to child labour, as it applies to equity rights, as it applies to gender rights, and so on. The one which comes closest, as far as I can recall, is the experience in the United States. There was a tremendous impulse 20 or 30 years ago in the United States to ensure that the American government was responsive to human rights. One piece of legislation, in particular, was passed which mandated the State Department to do an annual progress report. That progress report was based on a particular model.

I refer to the point that one of you made about Thailand, where there has been great economic growth over the last 10 years and terrific individual growth. I think we would all agree that that is a fairly good record but, as it turns out, rights may have been diminished in that process.

Have you considered concentrating your energies to develop a model, focusing on APEC as an example, which could be used by the government, to measure progress from year to year? It strikes me that one of the most positive things we can do is to establish goals, rather than asking for Utopia tomorrow. It may take five, ten or fifteen years to achieve those goals, but at least we would have a benchmark. That benchmark, of course, should be quite different from those of the other members of APEC. Has there been any thought given to such a model, using the American model as an example?

I think as well of two private-sector models, one of which is the amnesty model, which do progress reports from year to year. A third one, I believe, is Democracy Watch run by a group of people in New York.

Would that be a helpful process and, if so, could the NGOs help in developing those particular models, keeping in mind the different economic levels and states of democracy or governance in each of the countries involved?

Ms O'Neil: We have two concerns. One is that APEC itself recognize in a much more formal way that one cannot simply define off-the-agenda questions that relate to human rights. The second concern is that the discussions among non-governmental actors in the region must be heard by those sitting at the APEC table.

On your point about how we could measure progress in APEC countries, I think it would be a good idea for the NGO forum around the People's Submit next year to have as basic background documentation status summaries of the qualities of democratic human rights, qualities of economic and social progress in different countries, which could then be reviewed on a regular basis. Those summaries could be put together from material already available, including the excellent reports on human rights by the U.S. State Department, the democratic indicators put out by Freedom House and the UNDP Social Development Report.

The over-arching point is that we do not think APEC leaders should define off-the-agenda issues that relate to human rights because we see them as centrally related to their goal of sustainable development.

Ms Plewes: Following the social development summit last year in Copenhagen, NOVIB, which is an extremely large Dutch NGO, instituted Social Watch to monitor compliance with the documents that were signed at that meeting in Copenhagen That organization's first report was published this year. You are correct that we do have a number of tools at our disposal now, but those always seems to occur in other fora. What we are trying to encourage is a more holistic way of looking at trade.

Senator Grafstein: My point is that it is very difficult for the Prime Minister to give such a presentation in China, for example, when his entire visit lasts no more than six hours. I am not suggesting that that is right or wrong; I am just trying to be pragmatic. That is why I say that a benchmark study, with which everyone agrees, even if it diverges from mainstream thinking, would put in the hands of everyone, critics and advocates alike, a powerful tool that people could not criticize. It is difficult to criticize those State Department reports. Even the American government is not too happy when they are issued on China just before the president tries to set up an exchange visit with the Chinese president.

It strikes me that such a benchmark study would help simplify the issues in a way that is transmittable. I am not talking about a 30-second sound bite, but certainly something that makes it simple as opposed to this mass of information, all of which is valuable but not very usable. Perhaps we will deal with that issue in our deliberations.

On my first visit to China, I found terrible conditions in the countryside. When I returned 10 years later, it was not the same place; I saw brick factories, brick buildings, and food. There had been an unbelievable transformation in 10 years. Nobody seems to be giving China credit for the remarkable economic transformation that has taken place in what were its most impoverished rural areas.

There must be a balance here, and I am suggesting that this might be one way of bringing it forward. There has been remarkable progress within China; we are not satisfied, but there has been some progress. The question now is: How good or how bad has it been? I urge the groups who are involved in this to help bring this together for us so that we can use the material.

Senator Bolduc: Could you give us a brief overview of the degree of democracy and some other good points about the local governments in Southeast Asia. I assume that we have been talking up to now about the national governments. What is the reality at the local level?

Ms Gibb: One of my concerns is that one is always made aware of how relative ethics and values are. That is why I think it is particularly important to find a mechanism within organizations like APEC to ground the discussion in what these same governments have already agreed to in other forums as being core values.

Democracy is a difficult question to discuss. One might ask: Democracy for what and for whom? In my view, it is very much a relative issue. Canada also comes under scrutiny in terms of how well we perform and we must ask whether we really want to have our systems scrutinized to the extent that the senator is suggesting. I do not think any other APEC government would.

There are score cards out there. Unfortunately, one of the curious things about APEC is that those same governments that have such wonderful score cards or report cards to bring with them seem to send different people to the APEC meetings, who do not care and never raise the issues. They are there to defend Microsoft's market access, and that is it.

The issue is whether there is consistency across representation in different forums. I think we have enough agreements already, and it is a matter of following through on what is already in place.

Senator Carney: I have a supplementary question about how human rights are viewed in different countries.

Raymond Chan, who was a human rights activist before he became an MP, Svend Robinson and I used to "rabble-rouse," as our critics called it, on issues of human rights in China. We have often discussed the fact that Canada is one of the few countries where someone like Raymond Chan, who was a human rights rabble-rouser, can end up as a minister of the Crown. I asked him whether his view of human rights had changed since he became Secretary of State for Asian Affairs, and he said that it has. He found that in many cases "human rights" was just a code word for political action in some of these Asian countries and that the view of human rights of the people he was dealing with had nothing to do with what his view had been when he was out demonstrating against Tiananmen Square. I thought that was a very perceptive comment by Minister Chan in that he now has to deal with a reality which differs from the perceptions he formerly held. I think that is really what Senator Bolduc is trying to get at. There are cultural differences between east and west. Is the Asian concept of democracy and human rights, which incorporates local culture and values regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizens, different from ours? Are we talking about a known component, or do you have a view? Is the view of human rights among local governments in Asia the same as ours?

Ms O'Neil: There is a real slippery slope to embracing Samuel Huntington's argument and the Prime Minister of Malaysia's argument on Asia. Positions such as theirs are always held by government leaders who do not want to have a free press in their country and who want to be able, with impunity, to lock people up. I have yet to hear anybody who favours freedom of expression or who does not endorse impunity in the actions of leaders endorse that kind of argument. It is important is to recognize that in virtually all APEC member countries there are people struggling for freedom of the press, struggling for the right to have opposition parties, struggling against torture. These are not ideas that have suddenly come from outside; these are fundamental human values which we call human rights.

It is also important to look at what these APEC countries all agreed to, even tacitly, in 1993 at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights. These countries all agreed in that forum with the universal declaration of human rights and that civil, political, social and economic rights made up an inalienable whole.

I am sure that Mr. Chan's views changed once he became a minister of the Crown, but I would be surprised if his views on the importance of basic human rights have changed. I think that the slippery slope of buying into the notion that there are values for those who respect basic human rights and values for others who do not is a very dangerous one. It is not a position that Canada has supported and, indeed, it is not the position that countries around the world, at least in the forum of the Vienna Human Rights Conference, support.

Ms Plewes: We have never heard a comment on that from NGOs who are working on these issues in the very same countries.

Senator Carney: Let me assure you that Minister Chan's views on human rights have not changed. I was referring to his experience, not his views.

Ms Plewes: People who work in different organizations have different opportunities. Mr. Chan has an opportunity to raise issues, and he must raise them in a way that is effective, while some of us are still out on the street rabble-rousing. Some of us must work in the most diplomatic way possible in important corridors of power, and others of us are just pounding on the door. There is not one single approach.

What has been very helpful is the way that the Canadians have brought together in human rights consultations the various actors so that we can share common goals and objectives even though we do not all necessarily act in the same way.

Senator Andreychuk: I wish to follow up on Senator Grafstein's point about benchmarks, et cetera, but from a slightly different point of view. It seems that we have created, in part, our own human rights problems. By focusing for decades only on the political and civil covenants and by talking about things like torture, freedom of the press, and the liberty of the individual, we have narrowed the definition of human rights.

Is there any effort being made through your organizations or others to broaden the definition of human rights to include, for instance, fair and equitable trading practices, which is a human rights issue that clearly falls onto the plate of the trade negotiators?

Further, perhaps someone can enlighten me as to why we in Canada continue to feel uncomfortable about the issue of culture and values in Asia when we do not seem to have the same sensitivity about the cultures and values of countries in Africa, Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Those two question are not quite related, but they are two things that trouble me.

Ms O'Neil: The recognition that human rights are made up of social and economic rights as well as civil and political is certainly something that is clear to the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. In fact, it is included in its enabling legislation. However, one of the important civil and political rights is the right to assembly. We know from our own experience that, when people have the right to get together and to argue for things, they are more likely to achieve them. Social and economic rights and civil and political rights are interrelated; each side needs the other.

On the issue of why Canadians seem to worry about Asian values being an impediment, as opposed to the values in Eastern Europe and Africa, there has been a sort of intellectual campaign by Asian leaders to say that they are different from the rest of humanity and that these things do not apply in the same way to their countries. However, we must remember that the Covenant on Social and Economic Rights was articulated during the Cold War and was initiated by the East Bloc. There was never an attempt to say that rights were not important in Eastern Europe or in Africa. It really has been sort of an intellectual campaign.

The Chairman: Mention has been made of Samuel Huntington's views on this matter of ethical diversity. I noticed that, when Ms O'Neil was making her presentation, she used the expression "civil society" five times and that Ms Plewes, in her presentation, used the same expression 11 times. That is a minimum; I am sure I missed some.

I ought to tell you that I know a bit about the history of this term. It came into currency in the English language in the early eighteenth century. First, it meant a society, whatever that was, with a government and, when we put that government on society, we had "civil society." It was used to distinguish a new model of human organization from Gothic society.

I gather that Huntington is arguing that the western concept of civil society is not appropriate and does not facilitate an understanding of at least some Asia Pacific countries. Our model, which, as I said, was developed in the eighteenth century, was a highly individualistic model. You had individuals who were for the most part related by economic considerations, very often contractual obligations, under a rule of law which defined the rules of the game and with the state making those rules and, perhaps more important, enforcing them.

You have used the term "civil society." I think you are using it in a different way and I want to know what you mean.

Ms O'Neil: It is ironic that I am speaking to it because I find it a very loose designation. In any case, the term "civil society" is often used and there is a little halo around the words. The term as it is used now was popularized by Havel in the recent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia rather than by the English eighteenth century experience. It basically means that which is not government. We use it in that way.

It is a very loose term because "civil society" does not necessarily mean "good," but it does mean something outside government.

The Chairman: Historically, it meant non-ecclesiastical or secular.

Ms O'Neil: That is right, but in our day and age it appears to mean that which is not government.

The Chairman: I understand your point now. Going back to the model which I think is basic to much of western economics, the model of individuals who for the most part are related as individuals with rights competing in an economy for jobs and so on, but under a rule of law with the government making those laws and enforcing them, how apt is that model for the understanding what is going on in Thailand or in Indonesia or indeed in China? Are we misleading ourselves? Are we going in with glasses which really prevent us from seeing the realities?

Ms Plewes: We define "civil society" as that space which exists between the household and the institutions of the state. It is the space in which citizens organize to defend and promote their own rights, and the citizens come together in a wide variety of ways to do that.

Traditionally, the state has had an important role in promoting development, but we now seem to have switched to relying on the private sector. What we are saying is that government, the private sector and the voluntary sector are all seen as parts of the civil society, but not coterminous with civil society. We are saying that all these sectors have particular roles to play in a development strategy and that there are different models of civil society and different relationships as between states and private sectors. They are not separate.

In fact, what is important is the way the sectors overlap. For example a person is a citizen in his or her community, may work as a civil servant in government, and run a small business on the side. That is one way of conceptualizing the dynamics of society. There is a great deal of debate among NGOs in other countries as to how useful this concept is and whether it applies to their own societies,. but I think it does represent the sphere where citizens act and can call to account both their own governments and the excesses of the private sector.

Senator Bolduc: As the chairman said, you seem to take for granted that our system is the right system. Surely there are other perceptions of society in other countries.

Ms Plewes: I am not saying that the way in which we have structured the relationship as between the state, the private sector and civil society is the only way they can be structured. What I am saying is that seeing these three spheres of activity and the nature of their roles is a useful way to begin a discussion about citizens' rights.

Senator Stollery: This is a tremendously complicated subject because of the vast region that we are dealing with. When I was in my early twenties, we did not talk about the Tiananmen massacre; we discussed what happened at the Amritsar massacre, which was an infamous event in the history of India and was much of the impetus for the congress.

When we start talking about the various aspects of human rights in all kinds of different societies, what people fear most is the appeal to ethnic tensions. In some instances, ethnic tensions make it very dangerous to use our Canadian standards. We do not have ethnic tensions in this country to the extent that some other countries do. For example, the appeal to ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia some five years ago destroyed the country and caused the deaths of thousands of people.

We have all these various forms of human rights, but it seems to me that the right that we should be concentrating on is an independent judiciary, the rule of law. I go back to the Amritsar massacre. There was a rule of law there, and the perpetrators were charged and convicted.

I do not think there is an independent judiciary in many of the APEC countries we are discussing today. Certainly there is none in China or in Indonesia. Instead of taking on the world, would we not be better to address ourselves to something that is understandable and practical, an important building block for a modern society, which is an independent judiciary? What are your views on that?

Ms Gibb: One of the interesting aspects of APEC, if one wanted to look at it that way, is what happens when governments are required to be more transparent with things such as tariffs and non-tariff barriers. What it really comes down to is corruption. For example, if the Philippines reduced its tariffs to zero, where would they get the money to support their government and their infrastructure? You must then tax, which raises some interesting questions, such as why the taxation system is not equitable to begin with. Most organizations, corporations and the big families in the Philippines have been able to sidestep that very well, usually through less than above-board measures. Perhaps insistence on a rules-based mechanism in APEC would be one way to approach that.

I know Canada, through its aid program, has been trying hard to chip away at this question of an independent judiciary in China, but it is very much a chipping-away process of simply training and winning people over. It is an extremely complex issue. It might be simpler to convince people to agree on some very basic rules, as is being done now with multilateral trade organizations.

Senator Stollery: Clearly, with the withdrawal of the British from Hong Kong, the great fear is that there will be no independent judiciary. That is really the issue. They will lose their rights, guaranteed by a judge.

Senator De Bané: If each of you had to choose one recommendation, what would you choose as the most important recommendation for this committee to put forward?

Ms O'Neil: One recommendation would be that APEC find the appropriate mechanism for formally recognizing the views of non-government organizations on issues that are on the APEC agenda, that there be a way of formalizing APEC's relationship with non-governmental fora. Just as they listen to ABAC, the business forum, they also should listen to a forum that is focusing on the sustainable development aspects of their mandate, not just the narrower trade and investment part of their mandate.

Ms Plewes: I agree with what Maureen has suggested, and I would add that Canada should put that into practice in consultations with Canadian civil society organizations and during the summit process.

Ms Gibb: I agree with both Maureen and Betty. Canada should build on steps that have already been taken to open the door in a formal way to a wider range of voices in, thereby setting a precedent which can be continued by future governments. My second would be that our political leaders maintain the visibility and support for the broader agenda that APEC has set out for itself. Too often the media and some of the stronger members insist that APEC's only agenda is trade liberalization but, as I have tried to point out, the agenda is broader than that, and our political leadership should not be intimidated in supporting the broader mandate.

The Chairman: Senator De Bané, you have asked the appropriate question to conclude our discussion.

The committee adjourned.