Cameron: What should Canada’s top foreign policy priority be in 2013?

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7 January, 2013
By: Maxwell Cameron
Professor, Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, University of British Columbia

I’m not sure what Canada’s top foreign policy priority should be, at least on a global level. I work on the Western Hemisphere, and would make the case that a priority should be to deliver on the promise of greater engagement with Latin America especially with respect to democracy assistance. A few years back a “whole-of-government” approach to re-engagement with Latin America was announced. Democracy promotion was a major theme, and a democracy hub—formally called the Andean Unit for Democratic Governance—was created in Lima, Peru. This has since been disbanded, inexplicably, as far as I can tell, and re-engagement seems to have floundered. We’ve seen no evidence of the creation of a democracy assistance agency. We don’t seem to have a clear foreign policy direction in Latin America, and the fact that we vote consistently with the U.S. on issues like Cuba and drugs does not help us to build bridges. A widely shared perception in Latin America is that Canada is disoriented. The illness of Venezuela’s Chavez, and hence prospect of new elections, is going to make Venezuela the focus of much of the attention of the world over the next while. We need to work with the OAS and our allies in the region to provide a supportive context to ensure that democracy is not undermined by instability in that country, but also in Paraguay, Honduras and elsewhere.

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