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How Canada advances democracy in the world

Canada’s foreign policy and international development assistance prioritizes:

Democracy is a system of government. It’s also a societal system. It embraces inclusion and equality and can facilitate an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this system, people exercise free will. This includes decisions that affect their lives. Democracy leads to:

Canada is advancing an inclusive approach to democracy. We want people to participate in decision-making processes and institutions that impact all areas of their lives. This includes:

Through diplomacy, advocacy and programming activities, Canada seeks to strengthen key aspects of sustainable democracies:

These features foster culture of inclusion. They equip open and free societies to remain resilient in the face of corrosive discourses of division and hate. Efforts to advance inclusive governance help to safeguard human rights. They strengthen the political conditions necessary for their protection.

To advance democracy around the world, Canada:

Our efforts focus on these themes:

Supporting and strengthening civil society

Civil society organizations (CSOs) create a crucial link between citizens and their elected governments. CSOs play an essential role in democracies. They hold governments accountable for improved and inclusive service delivery, increase the transparency and accessibility of public and political processes, and encourage greater public and political participation, especially of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

They also strengthen inclusive and gender-responsive governance, and promote peaceful pluralism and democracy. Canada commits to fostering an enabling environment for civil society.

Protect human rights online and media freedom

Media freedom and the protection and promotion of human rights online and offline are essential to an informed and open society. They encourage participation in political processes. Canada actively supports these issues in the multilateral system. At the UN Human Rights Council, Canada and the Netherlands lead on the biennial Freedom of Expression resolution, most recently in June 2022 with a particular focus on digital literacy. Canada also promotes and advocates for media freedom through our leadership role in the Media Freedom Coalition as co-chair with the Netherlands, and by working through our diplomatic missions. We commit to continue working with international partners to improve media freedom and the safety of journalists and media workers in Canada and abroad.

Political participation of women

We must empower women and girls to actively and meaningfully take part in their society, including as elected representatives. This in turn creates spaces where all women and girls can express their needs and interests and can directly influence decisions that affect them. Women’s full participation in leadership and decision-making is essential for inclusive and sustainable democratic societies.

Supporting electoral institutions and processes

To be functional, a democracy must have elections that are:

Canada supports elections around the world by enabling CSOs to take part in the democratic process, strengthening electoral bodies, and supporting efforts that address evolving threats to elections in the digital sphere. We also assist efforts to build capacity and technical expertise and support and participate in election observation missions.

Governments also need to assure the participation of women, and vulnerable and marginalized groups. It is a key building block of fostering inclusive and resilient societies.

Supporting legislatures and other avenues for representation

Legislatures have a role to play to make sure that governments are responsible and transparent. This is true at national, sub-national and local levels of government. Democracy can also be advanced through others forms of representation. These include Indigenous and devolved governance models as well as informal justice mechanisms. We refer to informal systems of law as traditional, customary, Indigenous, or non-state justice systems. They tend to address a wide range of issues. Their linkages with the local formal systems are critical to a functioning democracy.

Support for strengthening the rule of law

Canada promotes respect for the rule of law as well as the principle that all people are equal under the law. Societies that respect the rule of law support the development of independent, impartial and accessible justice systems. Democracy, rule of law, inclusion, and respect for diversity and human rights are intricately bound together. They are the key to reducing poverty and enabling the protection of human rights for all people.

Promoting and protecting human rights

Human rights are founded on the human dignity inherent in all human beings. They are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. For Canada, they are the minimum standards. They enable people to live with dignity and equality. They protect people from all forms of violence. All countries must promote and protect human rights under international law and the United Nations Charter. Canada has consistently been a strong advocate for human rights.

Digital inclusion

Democracy in the 21st Century demands digital inclusion. Informed and engaged citizens can participate meaningfully in their society online and offline. This requires:

Digital inclusion provides a common starting point for states which can then work to establish common norms and principles for democracy in a digital age.

In 2022, Canada advanced digital inclusion as Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition, the only multilateral and multi-stakeholder group dedicated to human rights online. As Chair, Canada developed the Ottawa Agenda, which is a set of high-level recommendations for freedom online.

Youth political participation

It's important that youth have a bigger role in their society. This includes having them participate in meaningful decision-making and political processes. This develops and strengthens vibrant and inclusive democratic societies.

Canada commits to promoting youth rights. We also commit to creating more opportunities for young people to become active in the governance and democratic processes of their communities and countries in Canada and abroad. This will contribute to more inclusive democratic societies.

Strengthening engagement on democracy

Promoting democracy

Democracy and inclusive governance are fundamental to long-term sustainable development. Participation in public and political processes is essential. It enables peaceful, inclusive, democratic societies to thrive.

Canada encourages and supports people from vulnerable and marginalized groups to participate in the public life of their countries—as voters, elected officials, public-sector employees or managers. We foster the pluralist societies that embrace their inclusion.

Canada supports gender-responsive democratic institutions (including legislatures, electoral-management bodies, and political parties). They get rid of barriers that discriminate against people from marginalized groups. They help to make sure that all people can participate fully and meaningfully in electoral processes.

Promoting and Protecting Democracy Fund (Pro-Dem Fund)

External and internal pressures are increasingly challenging democracies around the world. The Pro-Dem Fund is dedicated to promoting and protecting democracy. It enables Canada to help tackle these challenges, particularly in a rapidly evolving context. It helps provide agility and flexibility to departmental programming. This allows recipients to tackle or prevent crises that affect democracies.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the Pro-Dem Fund at the July 2019 Media Freedom Conference in London, UK.

Community of Democracies presidency

The Community of Democracies (CoD) is a global intergovernmental coalition that brings together governments and civil society to strengthen democratic norms around the world. Canada is proud to serve as President of the CoD’s Governing Council since September 2022. We’ll use this role to address building the resilience of democracies.

Summit for Democracy

Prime Minister Trudeau has participated in the 2 Summits for Democracy, which were led by the United States. The summits have been successful in strengthening collective action to protect and revitalize democracy globally, bringing together over 110 countries, as well as civil society and private sector organizations.

At the first summit in December 2021, Canada made 35 commitments. They represent a broad resolve to strengthen democracy at home and abroad.

In the lead-up to the second summit, Canada co-led 2 of the summit’s democracy cohorts:

  1. Media freedom (with the Netherlands and Internews)
  2. Information integrity (with Latvia and the Alliance for Securing Democracy)

At the second summit in March 2023, Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted Canada’s achievements, as well as the significant progress that had been made on the 35 commitments, and he announced $50 million in new funding and initiatives to strengthen democracy. The second summit culminated in a declaration, which was signed by 74 countries, including Canada.

Canada looks forward to the third summit, which will be hosted by the Republic of Korea.


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