For Immediate Release
Canada Tibet Committee could support resumption of
China-Canada Human Rights Dialogue
(Montreal, Wednesday, 13 May 2009) – The Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) reacted with guarded optimism today over the possible resumption of the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue, as Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon suggested yesterday.
Cannon’s comments raise a number of concerns for the Canada Tibet Committee, but if these issues are successfully addressed the CTC would be supportive of a renewed human rights dialogue.
“If the dialogue is simply an attempt to placate domestic human rights criticism regarding China, it’s doomed to be little more than the political posturing of its earlier incarnation,” said CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis today. “However, if a future dialogue is based on a ‘whole of government’ approach by both sides with the full participation of civil society and a long-term, results orientated approach, Cannon’s comments are promising.”
For the CTC, a revived dialogue should be linked with all elements of bilateral relations through a multi-departmental approach (‘whole of government’).
The dialogue should form an integral partof the Canada-China Strategic Partnership, with trade and investment policy reinforcing human rights objectives. For China, the dialogue should be managed through various agencies of the Chinese government with a mandate for domestic programming in human rights areas, including those of minority rights.
Civil society groups, including Diaspora NGOs, with established experience in China and Canada should participate in all aspects of the dialogue, including organizing side-events, receptions or other forms of interaction with their counterparts. Dialogue documentation should be available in both English and Chinese and readily accessible on the Internet.
The Dialogue must be focused on a long-term approach with baseline, objectives and ongoing results monitoring. China’s Human Rights Action Plan released in April offers a foundation for Dialogue work. Outcomes must take priority over process incorporating key human rights principles, particularly participation, transparency and accountability. Both governments should identify specific conditions for suspension or abandonment of the dialogue.
“In its past form, the Dialogue was plagued by a constant change of participating officials on behalf of Canada,” said Travis. “It’s imperative that with a revived initiative that we build long-term relationships around the table and the basis for an institutional memory.”
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