Speaking notes for the Right Honourable Paul Martin P.C., M.P.

Anniversary of Lester B. Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize | Toronto, Ontario | December 11, 2007

Right Hon. Paul Martin (LaSalle—Émard, Lib.): I was asked to speak to you this afternoon about what I thought Mr. Pearson’s views might be, on the world in which we live, were he to be alive today. I’m delighted to do so, however – two small caveats. First, for reasons which will be evident from the second caveat, I’ll begin the discussion, but I hope that all of you will take full advantage of the opportunity to comment.

Second caveat, while I knew Mr. Pearson, the fact is I was but a teenager when he won the Nobel Prize and it would be stretching my credibility considerably were, I to go on at length about the numerous late night meetings, we had discussing the great affairs of state. On the other hand I did spend a lot of time talking to my father, and while Mr. Pearson was the older of the two they were both close friends and rivals - it was an age when both things were possible.

And so I believe I can faithfully handle the task assigned to me but only if you accept that I do so, interpreting Mr. Pearson through my father’s eyes.

Their friendship began at the University of Toronto and continued throughout their lives where they shared a common perspective on Canada’s role in the world. What formed their views more than anything else was coming into adulthood during the period between the great wars. As a young MP, my father was a delegate to the last meeting of the old League of Nations in the 30s and subsequently, was a member of the Canadian delegation to the opening meeting of the newly formed United Nations in 1945. The events that led to the failure of the first institution and to the creation of the second were among the greatest influences of his life and I have no doubt that of Mr. Pearson.

So with that as background – his generation’s deep conviction of the need to create the institutions of an active multilateralism, what do I think, would be Mr. Pearson’s perspective on the course Canada should chart for itself in 2007 and beyond?

Well first of all – he would believe that Canada’s voice would be missed, were it not heard on the great issues of the day, from nuclear proliferation to global terrorism, from global pandemics to climate change.

Second he would believe that while Canada can accomplish much in cooperation with the United States, he would believe even more strongly, that by no means should we be a mere follower – his differences with Lyndon Johnson and my father’s as his Minister of External Affairs with Dean Rusk over Vietnam, are more than proof of this.

Having said this, I believe that what would focus Mr. Pearson’s attention most would be the need to chart a course in those areas where Canada’s leadership could make the greatest difference.

This is what he did in 1949 when he was one of the founders of NATO.

This is what he did over Suez which won for him the Nobel Prize we commemorate here.

And for this reason if he were alive today, I believe the man who after he stepped down as prime minister, led the Commission on international aid and development would have quite naturally centered much of his attention on Africa.


1. Where the devastating effects of colonization are the most evident. 
2. Where the world’s poverty is the worst.
3. Where the number of failed and failing states is greatest.
4. Where the effects of climate change are among the most severe.
5. Where the problems of governance are the most acute.

And finally because of all this – Africa where the need for an active multilateralism is the greatest, not only because of the role Africa might play in the world beyond its borders but because of the world it must develop within its borders.

To be specific, Mr. Pearson would have viewed the gradual disintegration of the old Organization of African Unity much as he did the failure of the League of Nations and he would have welcomed the creation of the African Union much as he did the birth of the United Nations.

Furthermore I believe Mr. Pearson would have zeroed-in on the opportunity for Canada to assist the African Union, as that organization seeks to make multilateralism the underlying foundation for progress within the continent itself.

In this context let me address two issues today where Canada’s support could make the difference: First the African Union’s recognition of the Responsibility to Protect and second, the African Union’s push for a continent wide common market.

First, the Responsibility to Protect.

This was a Canadian initiative which was among the few successes in the recent attempt to reform the United Nations. It stands the traditional definition of sovereignty on its head. In 1648 the treaty of Westphalia stated that the internal affairs of a country are nobody’s business but its own. The Responsibility to Protect says the opposite. It says that a country has the responsibility to protect its citizens from internal or external oppression and if it cannot, then other countries have the responsibility to intervene in order to ensure that such oppression is brought to a stop.

Fundamentally, the right to protect is not about rights at all, it is about duties.

In other words, unlike trade agreements which are rooted in reciprocity or environmental agreements which are based on collective action, the Responsibility to Protect creates an obligation by a sovereign state both to its people and to other states.

For example if the Responsibility to Protect was fully implemented, Sudan would owe obligations of protection to its own people but also an accountability to other countries if it fails to protect its people. Furthermore this accountability could actually trigger the duty of third parties to intervene in the face of human rights abuses.

As we know, the Responsibility to Protect is subject to Security Council veto at the UN which for most of us was a major disappointment.

But extraordinarily, the charter of the African Union, contains the principles of the Responsibility to Protect and as such Africa can act with or without UN sanction. This is a huge step forward on a continent ripe with border wars, civil wars and just plain oppression.

To that end Africa has long sought to have in place ready forces of seventy-five thousand soldiers, drawn from the standing armies of the various African countries, all available to enforce the Responsibility to Protect.

The question is, why haven’t these forces been put in place?

The answer is because Africa cannot afford it; cannot afford to pay them; cannot afford to train them; cannot afford to equip them.

Not long after I became Prime Minister, I said to President Bush that we – Canada - would take an early lead in Darfur in terms of money, equipment and training and that hopefully the US would follow up quickly. He agreed. We then acted, and the US followed up as President Bush said he would. Unfortunately Canada has not maintained its initial pressure. Hopefully the new UN force will begin to show some results, although there’s a long way to go.

But just think of the thousands of lives that could have been saved if the African countries had been in a position to engage the Responsibility to Protect themselves, early on in southern Sudan.

What Canada must do now, is to take the lead to ensure that the Responsibility to Protect becomes not simply words in the African charter but a reality.

The way to do that is to give Africa the capability to develop its own standing peacekeeping forces, ready to take action wherever and whenever required on the continent.

What should Canada do? We should convene a donors conference as soon as possible with one objective in mind putting in place the wherewithal that would enable Africa to train, equip and maintain those standing forces as Africa itself seeks to do.

Second - The African Economic Union

Africa is made up of some 53 states – the greatest number of countries per square foot of any continent. This is one of the most devastating consequences of colonization. The average GDP of these countries is only about $4 billion. As a result Africa’s small, fragmented, and shallow markets offer no economies of scale and its share of world trade has plummeted to a little over 1% and intra-African trade is minimal.

Ask yourself whether the United States would be the power it is today if its 50 states were independent countries, each with their own customs regulations, conflicting laws, rules and paperwork.

Or ask yourself again if Spain or Ireland would have had the success they’ve had over the last decade, if they did not belong to the European Union. Then ask yourself why would Uganda or Ghana not have the same proportionate success if they were part of an African common market of close to 900 million people.

Or again, Rwanda and Saskatchewan are roughly equidistant from the ocean. Rwanda is landlocked, yet while it may appear to be so, Saskatchewan is not.

Why? The answer is self-evident. Saskatchewan belongs to a common market and thus has country access to three oceans. Rwanda does not. It’s dependent on the fluctuating goodwill of its neighbours. Well, 40% of Africans are In Rwanda’s position – artificially cut off from their natural export ports.


In truth however, Africa has an even bigger problem than its inability to export to the world’s markets. Because of a lack of infrastructure, African countries cannot even export to themselves within the continent.

Why – because who is going to build the infrastructure to or from small countries that have no hope of growing their economies, precisely because they do not have the critical mass a common market would give them.

The creation of the African Economic Union is one of the objectives of the Charter of the African Union. It may not be a sufficient condition for the alleviation of poverty in Africa, but it certainly is a necessary condition and every African leader I’ve spoken to supports the economic union.

The question then is why isn’t it happening? Well to begin with you could ask the premiers of some of our provinces, much the same question.

If you’re a small African country and your neighbour is much larger or if you are two countries of equal size but with a historical rivalry and you’re being asked to join in an economic union, that’s scary, no matter how many economists tell you of its advantages.

It was probably scary for Spain and Ireland too, but the transition funding provided by Europe’s larger countries and the opening of their larger markets made it happen.

Well Africa doesn’t have the wealth to provide much transition funding, and its embryonic markets are too small to be a huge magnet.

Canada cannot make the economic union happen, but I believe that if we took the initiative in conjunction with the African Union and institutions like the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, we could very quickly bring the rest of a willing world on side, to one very clear conclusion – that it would be both to Africa’s benefit and to the world’s benefit that first – the developed countries should contribute to the funding required to make the transition to a common market possible.

And second – they should make it possible for the great private pools of capital around the world, to participate in building the infrastructure, that is required to bind together the regional African markets and ultimately the pan-African market.

If you have any doubt as to how important the African Economic Union would be to the reduction of African poverty, I would only ask you to picture this.

About 10 months ago the 48 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa met with the Chinese government in Beijing. At one point in the ceremony, the president of China met with the 48 African heads of state. Picture it, one person representing China, 48 representing Africa.

There’s not much doubt which head of state was most powerful. Then ask yourself how much different that picture would have been if Africa were represented by one leader speaking for a growing market of close to eight hundred million people.

Or ask yourself again where would the balance of power have been if China, or for that matter India, were represented by 48 governments all pulling in opposite directions. To ask the question is to answer it. That’s why the African common market is so important, and that’s why Canada should be working hand-in-hand with the African Union to make it a reality.

Let me close with one final thought. No matter where you go in the world today the question that’s asked is – what’s happened to Canada? The current government has apparently decided to give China the back of its hand, to ignore India and to slowly back away from Africa. I don’t want this to be a partisan statement, but Joe Clark who is not a Liberal, has been quite articulate on this last point. The argument in the case of Africa we are told, is that our interests now lie elsewhere – Latin America for example. Well as minister of finance and as prime minister I spent a lot of time in Latin America and the Caribbean as of course I should have. Pierre Pettigrew as minister of trade and minister of foreign affairs spent so much time in Latin America that he now speaks Spanish fluently. The fact is – our interests are not mutually exclusive. We can do more than one thing at a time.

If we downplay Africa we not only ignore Canadian history and the roles of both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments – we ignore our future.

This is not only a question of morality – that is to say our responsibility to reach out to those who most need our help. Reaching out to Africa is very much in our national self-interest.

No one should ignore the potential of large population states. You cannot have a large middle class unless you have a large population, and a large middle class is what determines economic might. The United States would not be the power it is, if it did not have the largest middle class in the world. The wealth of the post war European middle class is now a fact, as is clearly the increasing rise of the middle class in China and India.

Well the same reasoning applies to Africa.

As Africa grows, given its natural resource wealth and with proper governance, it has the potential to develop a rapidly growing middle class.

Africa has a population of just under one billion. In 2030 it will have a population of 1.5 billion equal to either the China or India of that time. In 2050 it will have a population of 2 billion, five hundred million more than either China or India are projected to have. This will be the largest agglomeration of people anywhere in the world and at the same time and this is most important, Africa will have the highest proportion of young people anywhere in the world.

That massive percentage of young people will either be the world’s engine of growth comparable to China and India today or if its young men are unemployed and desperate it will be the largest source of the world’s chaos.

The choice is Africa’s – but it is also ours. I believe Canada can help make the difference, more importantly I believe we should. I believe that if Mike Pearson and my father were alive today they would agree.

I believe as well, that our children and grandchildren who will be alive in 2050 and who will have to deal with the world we have created for them, would also agree.