Democracy is vital to good governance. It provides the processes and institutions through which a state is accountable to its citizens.
Elections are the ultimate forum of accountability for leaders, and all aspects of the process—the electoral machinery, the party system, and the logistics of the vote—need to function well if elections are to be free and fair.
Democratization—the process of making the transition to democracy—also depends on an effective legislature that is supported by strong constitutional and procedural systems and that is sustained by capable legislators, a free media, a strong civil society, and effective citizen engagement.
When democracy is weak, the needs and rights of the population are not represented and consequently are often overlooked or denied. This is particularly true for the rights of the most marginalized members of the population, such as the poor, minorities, women, and children, which further marginalizes them and prevents them from contributing to, or benefiting from, social and economic progress.
CIDA's goal in the area of democratization is that all citizens in developing countries are able to actively and meaningfully participate, directly or through civil society or elected representatives, in the exercise of power and in the public decisions that affect their lives. Assistance in democratization includes strengthening democratic institutions and practices, such as electoral and legislative systems; citizen engagement (particularly of women); and the role of non-governmental organizations (civil society) in the political process.
Human rights are a person's most basic rights, such as life, liberty, and security.
The first international agreement on human rights—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose main author was a Canadian, John Humphrey—was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1948. This Declaration has since been followed by UN covenants on civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights.
The core principles underlying the human rights conventions recognize the equality of all people and the accountability of governments for the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of their rights. Observance of human rights is fundamental to the well-being of individuals and to the sustainable development of societies.
When groups are denied their rights, they can neither contribute to, nor benefit from, social and economic progress. This perpetuates exclusion and often results in conflict, putting progress at risk. Among the groups most commonly excluded are the poor, the elderly, women, children, persons living with disabilities and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, ethnic minorities, and refugees.
For human rights, CIDA's goal is to enhance the realization of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights by all individuals in society. The Agency supports technical assistance to incorporate human rights standards and principles into public institutions and programs to increase knowledge of, demand for, respect for, and enjoyment of human rights. Special measures are taken to strengthen respect for the rights of women and the protection of children.
The public sector, which includes government at all levels, is a central actor in almost all development activities. Its policies, programs, and services lay the foundation for progress on health, education, private-sector-led economic growth, trade, environmental sustainability, and equality between women and men.
Development success depends on an effective public sector, with strong institutions, well-qualified employees, and processes that include consultation with the public, reward merit, and sanction inefficiency and corruption. In relation to public-sector capacity building, CIDA's goal is to build strong institutions that have the vision and the administrative and professional capacities to support national development objectives effectively, equitably, and inclusively. Assistance includes strengthening of technical and managerial competencies including oversight, accountability, and anti-corruption measures; organizational, administrative and policy reform; and decentralization of government so that it is closer to the people.
Rule of law means that rulers don't rule—laws do. Rule of law is fundamental to a modern governance system.
A predictable legal system with fair, accessible, and effective judicial institutions is essential for the protection of citizens against the arbitrary use of state authority or lawless acts by others. It also supports economic growth by ensuring a reliable, stable, and predictable system of laws and regulations that can protect investments, contracts, and other business interactions.
In many developing countries, weak legal institutions and the lack of rule of law endanger development and contribute to poverty. Further, the legal exclusion of the world's poor—who have little access to legal protection of their rights or livelihoods—perpetuates poverty throughout the developing world.
CIDA's goal in this area is to ensure that just laws and independent, as well as effective, legal, judicial, and enforcement institutions contribute to greater security of the individual, to economic development, to environmental protection, and to social justice. Assistance will encompass support for legal/judicial reform with a focus on institutions, including strengthening the judiciary, bar associations, and legal aid systems.
Violent conflict in a society reflects a failure in governance, resulting in the complete breakdown of the relationship between civil society and the state. In this context, sustainable development and poverty reduction are virtually impossible to achieve. Not only are the authorities unable to implement socio-economic development programming, but the environment—destruction of infrastructure, economic collapse, loss of life—cannot support it. At the same time, the increasing connection between conflict and global security concerns puts development progress at risk beyond the borders of the affected country, fuelling the urgency to deal with conflict and promote a culture of conflict prevention and peace.
CIDA takes both a preventive and a restorative approach to conflict and security. Effective development cooperation programs that reduce poverty, inequality, exclusion, and environmental degradation help address common sources of conflict and reinforce human security, stability, and peace. In these situations, CIDA cannot act alone. The assets and capabilities of our diplomatic corps and our military become indispensable to a whole-of-government response to restoring security and rebuilding society.
CIDA's goal in this area is to help reduce the frequency and intensity of violent conflict and to increase civilian oversight, accountability, and transparency of security systems. This includes mitigating the human impact of conflict, as well as providing technical assistance to strengthen the institutional capacity of fragile states to reduce, prevent, and eliminate violent conflict.
Future programming could include integrating conflict indicators and early warning systems; support for the demobilization of former combatants; truth and reconciliation commissions; small-arms collection programs; and policing, transparency, and oversight of security institutions. Assistance in this area requires a long-term engagement beyond post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts. More traditional areas of assistance, such as economic growth and poverty reduction programs, democratization, good governance (including justice and security systems), and respect for human rights, must also be incorporated.