Foreign Affairs mandate
Canada’s diplomatic engagement aims to advance political progress through concerted action in Afghanistan and abroad. A primary aspect involves active participation in the development of the ‘Afghanistan Compact’ – an Afghan-led initiative to develop a new agreement with the international community, which will address obstacles and set benchmarks and commitments on both sides. Canada is also providing political support to the Afghan Government and working within multilateral fora and promoting regional cooperation. Canadian engagement has three primary objectives: 1) help stabilise the country, 2) strengthen governance and 3) improve the lives of Afghans.
While there are general lessons to learn from previous engagements in post-conflict environments, Afghanistan is a unique situation, which requires a specifically tailored approach. Recovering from over 20 years of conflict and drought, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest nations in the world, an important source of narcotics, a fragile state and a central front in the international campaign against terrorism. We recognize that there are a series of factors that are mutually reinforcing and must be addressed simultaneously to achieve meaningful and sustainable change in Afghanistan.
We are changing the way we work abroad, leveraging whole-of-government assets and expertise in pursuit of strategic Canadian interests. Our engagement in Afghanistan represents the first concrete manifestation of Canada’s renewed international mandate as reflected in our International Policy Statement.

Diplomatic initiatives
We are heartened by the impressive progress made by Afghanistan in just three short years. The Bonn Agreement has been fully implemented with the adoption of a constitution and the election of a president and parliament. The establishment of democratic governance structures is important to Afghanistan’s transition, and something in which Canada has invested heavily. We deployed resources across government in support of Afghan elections, including financial contributions, the deployment of election observers, and assisting with security.
Another example of complementary engagement by the Canadian Forces, Canadian diplomats and development officials is the contribution to the recently completed Afghan disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) program. The program disbanded almost 63,000 soldiers and collected nearly 35,000 weapons. We remain committed to the final phase of the process, ‘reintegration’, and will continue to work with the UN and the international community to ensure its successful completion.
Good governance and institutional building are distinct Canadian strengths, on which we will continue to capitalize in support of Afghanistan as it moves beyond the initial Bonn agreement.
Promoting democratic development and human rights
Afghans have embraced change – by running as candidates in the elections, a potentially dangerous decision; by showing up at the polls, despite security risks; by lending their voices to calls for reform. Afghanistan is now at a stage where democracy has taken root and is paying dividends, in particular in terms of building the confidence and pride of Afghans in their country.
Canada has been outspoken about the violations of human rights and has made the promotion of human rights a priority of our aid program. We also work within the multilateral context, including at the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights, to ensure the human rights situation in Afghanistan gets due consideration. We’ve encouraged Afghanistan to adhere to the international human rights conventions to which it is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The legitimacy and credibility of the emerging Afghan governance institutions is key. In an effort to assist the central government to build its legitimacy, Canada supports the work being done by Afghan authorities in close cooperation with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, to develop a national strategy on transitional justice. The draft strategy contemplates a wide spectrum of mechanisms to address past injustices, ranging from vetting the public service to ending impunity. Canada has also emphasized the need to deal with the recalcitrant commanders who continue to challenge the authority of the central government by pursuing illicit activities.

Building governance capacity
Afghan leadership must be empowered. This requires a commitment to take the necessary steps to ensure that Afghan authorities have the capacity to carry out their required functions. abuse of eminent domain The next phase involves supporting Afghan authorities in their efforts to provide good governance and security, and delivering basic services in provinces across Afghanistan. To this end, in August 2005, Canada deployed a Provincial Reconstruction Team to Kandahar. This team brings together CF personnel, civilian police, diplomats, and development officials in an integrated Canadian effort to reinforce the authority of the Afghan government in and around Kandahar and assist in the stabilization of the region.
Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan remains steadfast. We will continue to support the establishment of a secure environment, as well as the extension of the central government’s authority and democratic development in Afghanistan as key factors in achieving lasting, sustainable change.

Bilateral, regional and international engagement
Our ongoing diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan help to ensure the strategic coordination of Canadian efforts. Canada enhanced diplomatic relations with Afghanistan by opening an embassy in Kabul in September 2003. The embassy provides the resident diplomatic presence required to effectively support Canadian defence and development efforts, in close coordination with Afghan partners and the international community. We have worked within the multilateral context, including at the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN Commission on the Status of Women, to ensure the human rights situation gets due consideration and remains integral to the work of the international community. Canada’s diplomats are working elsewhere in support of efforts in Afghanistan, including at NATO, through the G8 and through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Through our embassies and high commissions we also engage with regional partners to promote regional cooperation on issues of security and economic development. We also work closely with Afghanistan’s Embassy in Canada.

The narcotics factor
The drug trade is not only a vital domestic security issue, it is an international security issue as well. Canada has identified counter-narcotics as a key element of our engagement. We support the Afghan government’s 2005 Counter Narcotic Implementation Plan and its comprehensive approach. Canada is currently supporting counter-narcotics efforts, including through a $1 million contribution to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Counter-Narcotics Capacity Building project, which has assisted in the development of the Judicial Task Force now successfully undertaking drug trafficking prosecutions. We are reviewing ways to further contribute to counter-narcotics efforts, in areas like alternative livelihoods and security sector reform and through our Provincial Reconstruction Team.

Canadian commitment
Currently, the Government of Afghanistan is working closely with the international community to develop a new compact, setting new benchmarks and reciprocal responsibilities. Canada is actively participating in this process. As the government has stated in the past, Afghanistan requires our long-term commitment. Sustainable change cannot happen overnight. Canada has a stake in Afghanistan and an important leadership role to play there.

James Fox, Director General of the Asia South and Pacific Bureau, joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1976 and has served in Madrid, Havana, Harare and Guatemala, where he was Ambassador from 1993 to 1996. In Ottawa, he has worked in the Latin American and United States Relations Divisions, the Resource Planning and Management Secretariat and the International Economic Relations Division.