On January 15, 2024, Cooperation Canada collaborated with Global Affairs Canada in organizing a public consultation on Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) launched in November 2022. The consultation’s objectives were to raise awareness on the Strategy, mobilize the Canadian civil society in its implementation and facilitate meaningful dialogue, and prepare subsequent regional events. The event brought together about 80 participants within the walls of Global Affairs Canada and an additional 124 online from the development, philanthropic, business, government and diplomatic sectors.

After the opening note by Kate Higgins, CEO of Cooperation Canada, the keynote remarks by Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christopher MacLennan, and panel discussion allowed participants to grasp both the critical importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Canada and the role that Canadian actors can play in that complex geopolitical environment. Mr. MacLennan set the scene, presenting the Strategy as an integrated approach to expand Canada’s presence and strengthen partnerships in the region to effectively protect and promote Canadian interests. He observed that the rise of the Indo-Pacific can generate significant local benefits and drive economic growth across Canada. The Deputy Minister also acknowledged the importance of civil society organizations the implementation of the IPS, noting that many of them are expecting feedback on their submission to the 2023 call for concept notes to enhance inclusive governance, promote and protect human rights, and advance gender equality in support of sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region.

Engaging Canadians in the IPS_Cooperation Canada

After the keynote address, a panel discussion, moderated by Odette McCarthy, Executive Director of Equitas and member of Cooperation Canada’s Executive Board, highlighted the interconnectedness of the IPS’ five strategic objectives. Vincent Rigby, Slater Family Professor of Practice at Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University, shared some thoughts on peace and security, stressing that stability in the Indo-Pacific is essential to global stability and that Canada may be challenged to sustain a meaningful presence in a region with numerous security hotspots. Trevor Kennedy, Vice President, Trade and International Policy, Business Council Canada, speaking to the second IPS strategic objective to expand trade, investment and supply chain resilience, stressed the opportunities that the Indo-Pacific region offers for Canadian businesses. A solidarity perspective was brought by Emrul Hasan, Vice President, Global Programs, CARE Canada, who emphasized how civil society organizations foster connections and partnerships between people by investing in women empowerment and poverty alleviation programs. Representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Diplomats in Canada, Dr. Quynh Tran, Head of Trade Office at the Embassy of Vietnam, made important connections between human rights, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability, all important considerations for Canadian and ASEAN companies. Speaking to the fifth strategic objective of the IPS, Canada as an active and engaged partner to the Indo-Pacific, Dr. A.W. Lee, Director of Inclusive International Trade, at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, shared some directions that the Foundation is taking to pitch Canada as an opportunity for Indo-Pacific countries, including through enhanced presence in the region.

Following the rich panel discussion, participants had the opportunity to focus on the third IPS strategic objective, that is Investing in and connecting people. They approached this theme in small groups, which allowed for more focused conversations and deeper dives into the linkages between this strategic objective and the other four, i.e. Peace & Security, Trade & Investment, Sustainability and Partnerships.

In her closing remarks, Patricia Peña, Assistant Deputy Minister for International Development Partnerships and Operations at Global Affairs Canada, restated the importance of partnerships for effectively delivering international assistance globally. This is an area where Canadian CSOs have demonstrated and continue to showcase excellence, integrity, and innovation. This is also why Cooperation Canada is committed to continue engaging with Global Affairs on regional strategies and their alignment with Canada’s feminist agenda.

A more extensive consultation report will be released in the coming months and will serve as springboard for the regional consultation tables to be organized later this year by the provincial councils for international cooperation, i.e., Association Québécoise des Organismes de Coopération Internationale (AQOCI), British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), and Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC). So stay tuned!

Cooperation Canada is grateful to many individuals and organizations for supporting this consultation. We would not have been able to do this without you!

Asia Pacific Foundation, Business Council of Canada, Canada-ASEAN Business Council, Canadian Red Cross (CRC), CARE Canada, Embassy of Vietnam in Canada, FinDev, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), International Justice Mission (IJM), Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC ), The Equality Fund, Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO), UPA Développement international (UPA DI), Vincent Rigby, World Accord