Relations between Canada and Djibouti are limited but positive. Canada’s ambassador to Djibouti resides in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Canada also has an Honorary Consul in Djibouti City. Both Montreal and Ottawa are home to organized Djiboutian diaspora communities, and there is an active community of returned Djibouto-Canadians in Djibouti.
Canada has followed the process of Djiboutian democratization closely and encourages increased promotion and protection of human rights. The 1999 and 2005 elections were, for the most part, acceptable, though increasing voter participation remains an important obstacle. The main opposition movements boycotted the 2008 legislative elections and in 2010, presidential term limits were removed.
The Universal Periodic Review of Djibouti was held in the UN Human Rights Council in February 2009. Canada recommended that Djibouti ratify the Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which Djibouti accepted, and expressed concern over freedom of expression and assembly in Djibouti.
Djibouti’s location at the entrance to the Red Sea gives it strategic value. It is the primary shipping route for landlocked Ethiopia. Djibouti has a bilateral defence treaty with France and is host to a French military base, as well as the only US military base in Africa. In 2010, Japan announced it would also open a military base, primarily to support its anti-piracy maritime operations in the region. Djibouti is also the seat for the Secretariat of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional development, peace and security forum. Djibouti hosted the 2008 UN-led peace talks for Somalia, which culminated in the signing of a peace agreement, and was the site of regional talks in 2009 to address the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Canada encourages Djibouti to continue its efforts at fostering peace and security in the region.
While Canada does not have a significant bilateral development assistance programme in Djibouti, Djibouti benefits from the Canadian International Development Agency’s regional, humanitarian and multilateral programming, and the Embassy-managed Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Djiboutian citizens also have access to the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program (CFSP), which allows students from developing nations within the Francophonie to study in Canada.
Bilateral trade with Djibouti is minimal. Canadian merchandise exports to Djibouti totalled $2,716,530 in 2009, and consisted primarily of precious stones and metals, vehicles, and machinery. Canadian merchandise imports from Djibouti totalled $34,161in 2008 and consisted primarily of fish and seafood.
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