Sudanese- Canadians and the Future of Sudan – Conference Report
This report summarizes the proceedings of a one-day conference entitled “Sudanese-Canadians and the Future of Sudan” that was held at the University of Winnipeg on September 2, 2010. The conference brought together approximately 40 delegates and speakers representing a cross-section of the leadership of the Sudanese diaspora in Canada, as well as Canadian government officials focused on the management of Canada‟s engagement with Sudan. The day considered both Canada‟s current interests with respect to such topics as development and human rights, and how the outcome of the referendum on the possible secession of Southern Sudan from the rest of the country, scheduled to be held in January 2011, may affect Canada‟s interests and involvements going forward.
This conference, convened by the Mosaic Institute, came about at the behest and with the financial support of the Sudan Task Force (“Task Force) at Canada‟s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (“DFAIT”). The conference was effectively an outgrowth of the Mosaic Institute‟s 2009 Report for the Task Force, entitled “Profile of a Community: A „Smart Map‟ of the Sudanese Diaspora in Canada”. The data and recommendations in that report, gathered during the course of interviews with key members of the Sudanese diaspora living in Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener, Hamilton, and Ottawa, had helped to inform the development by the Sudan Task Force of a two-way conversation with Canadians of Sudanese origin, both to communicate Canada‟s efforts in Sudan, and to learn from Canadian citizens and residents with insight into the region.
As part of an ongoing national discussion entailing several meetings with local community leaders all across Canada, the Task Force invited the Mosaic Institute to bring all of the different factions of the broader Sudanese community together for the first time to consider Canada‟s policies in one forum. The resulting conference, which employed the Chatham House Rule, was specifically designed to engage those citizens and residents of Canada who possess first-hand, expert knowledge of Sudan in an open, multi-directional discussion about the most pressing humanitarian, economic and political issues facing Sudan, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing Canada as a major donor of aid and other forms of assistance to the people of that country. Of the 40 people who took part in the conference, many travelled to Winnipeg from other cities and provinces across the country, including senior DFAIT and CIDA officials with responsibility for Canada‟s relations with Sudan.
Topics covered at the conference included:
- Canada‟s “Whole of Government” Approach to Sudan;
- Key Challenges to Development in Sudan;
- Canada and Sudan after the 2011 Referendum;
- Canadian Global Citizens;
- Human Rights and Conflict – Darfur and Beyond; and
- The Sudanese-Canadian Diaspora and Canada‟s Role in Sudan.
Each panel included both government participants from CIDA and DFAIT and “citizen experts” from the Sudanese community. This approach is consistent with one of the Guiding Values of the Mosaic Institute, which states: “It is appropriate and important for Canadians to be actively involved in helping to shape and influence the content of Canada‟s foreign policy.”
A post-conference survey of participants found that community-based conference delegates were positive about their experience. 92% of respondents strongly agreed that such meetings as the one organized by the Mosaic Institute are “valuable opportunities for the two-way sharing of information and the expansion of networks.” Many have since requested that the Mosaic Institute convene additional opportunities like this one, and that it assist community members in creating or identifying more “hands on” opportunities to help Canada respond to the ongoing challenges in Sudan.
This report summarizes panelists‟ and participants‟ presentations and discussions on the above mentioned core topics. It does not claim to represent all that emerged from a rich and wide-ranging conversation, but rather to identify some key themes and ideas.
While every effort has been made to be as accurate as possible in summarizing the presentations made and the views expressed at the conference, any errors in this Conference report are those of the Mosaic Institute alone. In addition to DFAIT‟s funding for the Winnipeg conference, the Mosaic Institute received support from the Aurea Foundation that enabled it to provide travel scholarships to select members of the Sudanese diaspora who could not otherwise have afforded to participate, and to help draft, publish and disseminate this conference report to interested parties and organizations across government, the Sudanese diaspora, and the rest of civil society. The Mosaic Institute is extremely grateful to both DFAIT and the Aurea Foundation, as well as to all those who participated in the conference as speakers, panelists or delegates.