Canada and Afghanistan re-established diplomatic relations in 2002 following the fall of the Taliban government. Canada is represented in Afghanistan by the Embassy of Canada in Kabul and appointed our first resident Ambassador in 2003. Afghanistan, which appointed its first resident Ambassador in Canada in 2002, is represented in Canada by the Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa.
Bilateral relations between Canada and Afghanistan are strong. They are founded upon Canada’s early engagement in the efforts to remove the Taliban regime, rid Afghanistan of terrorism, and enable the Afghan people to govern themselves democratically and take control of their own destiny. Based on the shared sacrifice of Afghans and Canadians in the fight against terrorism, Canada remains committed to helping Afghanistan build a stable, secure and democratic country, and one that will respect human rights, including women’s rights and the freedom of religion and belief.
This close relationship has been underpinned by frequent high-level visits. Prime Minister Harper has visited Afghanistan on three occasions in 2006, 2007, and 2011. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan made an official visit to Canada in September 2006. Numerous Canadian ministerial level visits have also taken place. Minister of Defence Nicholson visited Afghanistan in September, 2013 and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Lynne Yelich in November 2013.
Building on the work Canada has supported in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, Canada has committed $227 million in development assistance and $330 million to help support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) through 2017.
Current Canadian development initiatives are focused on education, health, women and girls’ rights and empowerment and humanitarian assistance. Programming is aimed at increasing access to education (especially for women and girls), supporting polio eradication and work to support health services for mothers and children. To support humanitarian efforts, Canada is investing in the delivery of food aid (including emergency food assistance) as well as support for refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. Looking forward to 2014-2017, Canada has committed $227 million to maintain the hard fought gains for women and girls through a sustained focus on education health, women and girls’ rights and empowerment and humanitarian assistance.
Women’s Rights / Advocacy
Afghan women have made significant gains in the public sphere over the past decade. Today, women serve in a number of key government positions and as elected representatives at the national and local levels, due in part to quotas established by Afghan law. Canada has also been an outspoken advocate of women’s political participation, particularly in the lead-up to the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections. However, Afghan women continue to face challenges in the exercise of their rights on a day-to-day basis.
Violence against women remains one of the most serious challenges to the full realization of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. In 2009, Afghanistan adopted a law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW). Passage of the law has helped to spur awareness of the problem of violence against women, but implementation has been slow. Implementation of the EVAW law is a key commitment of the Government of Afghanistan under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF). Advancing this aspect of TMAF continues to be a high priority for Canada.
Support for Afghan National Security Forces
Canada has committed to providing $330 million over three years starting in 2015 to help sustain the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), including the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). This funding builds on the legacy of Canada’s substantial efforts to promote the rule of law and develop capable, professional security forces in whom Afghans can take pride. From 2006 through 2011, Canadian Armed Forces trained and mentored ANA and ANP in the Afghan province of Kandahar. After the end of Canada’s combat mission in 2011, Canada played a prominent role in the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan, providing up to 950 military personnel at a time to help train the ANSF until 2014. Canadian civilian police were engaged in Afghanistan since 2003. Between 2011 and 2014, we contributed up to 45 civilian police officers at a time to assist in police training and reform. Over 11 years, nearly 300 Canadian civilian police trained and mentored approximately 23,000 ANP.
In 2013, Canada imported $2 million in goods from Afghanistan - primarily fruits and nuts, carpets and instrumentation- and exported more than $40 million in goods to Afghanistan - primarily aircrafts and parts, and machinery. In the 2010-2012 period, there has been a significant increase in the number of Canadian companies doing business in Afghanistan despite security and perceived corruption risks (Afghanistan is ranked last - equally placed with North Korea and Somalia - out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s “2013 Corruption Perception Index”).
The development of mineral resources is a priority business sector of the Afghan government. Opportunities exist in copper, gold, oil and gas, iron, coal, chromite, uranium, rare earth metals; precious and semi-precious stones, and other minerals. This sector holds tremendous potential for Canadian Direct Investment Abroad (CDIA) and is expected to be a key engine for Afghanistan’s future economic growth. The numerous opportunities in the extractive sector could benefit from a promising new Minerals Law.