The High Commissioner for Canada in Kenya and Canada’s Permanent Representative to UNEP Christopher Thornley spoke to Berna Namata about his agenda for the region.
As Kenya enters the polls in August, his internal neighbors are concerned about the violence caused by the past violent elections. How do you assess the political environment in Kenya? To what extent do you see the risk of electoral violence?
I believe in a free and fair democracy for all countries. Kenya has come a long way and has a long track record of regular elections. This is not to say that there were no challenges like 2007 – challenges remain – but this is true for most countries. Many continue to face electoral challenges and it is important that governments engage everyone – the public, civil society, independent bodies, other branches of government and security agents – to ensure continuous improvement of existing electoral processes.
Kenyans have done so a right to choose the leaders they want. Unfortunately, not every competitor is given the same opportunities and platforms. Women running for election continue to face many obstacles, including violence, online and offline harassment, discriminatory laws and practices, stereotypes and social norms, and a lack of family support. You need women in all their diversity at decision-making tables. Global data shows that women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making around the world and gender parity in political life is still a long way off.
Our focus in elections is to increase their participation in the political process and to focus on preventing violence against women in politics, including monitoring compliance with electoral laws and policies, women’s safety and access to justice for survivors of electoral violence.
We are investing 3.8 million dollars in this effort. With the support of UN women and women’s rights organizations, our investment will help build a strong foundation for women’s political participation, including and beyond the 2022 election.
Ahead of the election, we are focused on ensuring that the electoral system works, processes and procedures are gender-sensitive and that women are empowered to vote effectively.
Fragility and conflict are among the region’s major development challenges. What is the current state of fragility in the region? How can affected countries and those in transition best deal with political, security, economic and environmental pressures that foster vulnerability?
These are highly complex issues and it would take a thesis to address them unpack and begin Explain proposed solutions as they apply in their respective contexts in East Africa and the Horn. But here are a few thoughts:
My duties include Somalia. The horn feels more fragile today than in the past and is also subject to greater shocks – environmental and inflationary. This places more responsibility on states that export stability, like Kenya, to play an active role in anchoring the region.
Stabilization centers like Nairobi will only increase in influence and importance as we move into a future that I believe will be more uncertain than we have anticipated for some time.
Nairobi’s economic growth over the past decade is indeed creating a positive stimulus for governments in the region, an environment of stability and an enabling environment to attract [investment] from abroad and generate from within the deep economic activity that is transforming this city into a thriving center of economic growth.
On fragility and conflict
On fragility and conflict
One has to ask why this country or region within a country or community within a region is fragile. Here, what are the drivers of conflict, who are the conflict actors, and what are the incentives to bring about a resolution?
Good transitions toward resilience and lasting conflict resolution must begin with a thorough and intimate understanding of the place, its people , its history and surroundings. We have seen the vital importance of stable political structures and a reliable delivery of services to the population, and where these are lacking you often find situations of fragility.
Take Somalia for example, which is arguably the country with the deepest and most structural problems is challenges in our wider region. A whole series of work processes must proceed in parallel for Somalia to stabilize, resolve conflicts and become more resilient to shocks. The linear thinking maxim of “safety first, then development” doesn’t hold water.
If it were that easy, we would have solved things collectively by now. We need to move beyond binary either/or thinking. It’s sequential as well as parallel, and responsible leadership and service delivery, and a bit of luck and so on.
Like how doctors use the phrase “look at the whole person.” , when it comes to a comprehensive analysis of the causes of fragility and drivers of conflict, I tend to first look at the whole country and to pursue a coordinated, coherent approach with all relevant actors towards a defined goal.
< p>Where Canada at involved in development programming, we take a long-term perspective with the understanding that there are no quick fixes. It is the consistent engagement in niche disciplines such as health and education that bears fruit in the long term and – in connection with a nationwide holistic approach in which other actors also contribute their strengths – to move a population to greater resilience in the face of fragility. As counterintuitive as it may sound, when it comes to countries confronted with fragility and conflict, the experts in these fields are often to be found in those very places as well.
East Africa experiences niches of Instability in a war in Ethiopia, armed groups killed civilians in eastern DRC. To what extent is this worrying? What can the region do to counteract the instability?
Conflict disrupts people’s lives, often with tragic consequences. Canada always acts quickly when requests for assistance are received from countries facing disaster, conflict or food insecurity.
We also recognize the important role that regional leaders play in addressing and resolving conflicts in their playing your own neighborhood.
We’ve seen more of this in East Africa and the Horn and it’s a promising trend that speaks to the connections and insights the leaders have and the urgency they see in resolving conflicts whose spillover effects can threaten the interests of their citizens.
Of course, conflicts distract from these efforts, and it would be a shame if that momentum were lost at a time where this region could really benefit from a post-Covid economic boom.