February 3-9 is CIDA’s International Development Week. I encourage all Canadians to learn more about international development and how they can contribute to global poverty reduction. Perhaps equally important, I also encourage Canadians to learn more about CIDA and its increasingly Canada-centric approach to foreign aid.
Canada’s interactions with the world’s poorest citizens used to represent a commitment to humanitarianism and global social justice. In the early 2000s, CIDA concentrated on poverty reduction by focusing its funding in many of the world’s poorest regions in Africa.
In 2007 the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade published its analysis of the prevailing challenges to development in Africa. Titled “Overcoming 40 Years of Failure: A New Road Map for Sub-Saharan Africa,” the report explicitly condemned CIDA and its performance in Africa since 1968. Consequently, the report recommended that the Canadian government formally review CIDA’s usefulness as a department in light of its failures.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government has since abandoned Canadian humanitarianism in favour of an integrated international policy designed to prioritize Canadian trade and foreign policy interests. In 2009, CIDA introduced a new list of focus countries that redirected aid from Africa to the Americas and middle-income countries like Ukraine, Vietnam and Peru. As a result, our government demonstrated that Canadian commercial interests are more important than the welfare of the world’s extreme poor.
Similarly, the government recently announced a $319 million cut to CIDA’s budget while simultaneously reaffirming support for partnerships with Canadian mining companies. The extractive industry has a deplorable reputation both at home and abroad, and CIDA’s ongoing partnerships are demonstrative of the department’s new integrated priorities.
Although poverty reduction remains CIDA’s stated mission, its recent policy shifts have ultimately marginalized the world’s poorest citizens in Africa and South Asia by establishing a Canada-first international development program.
Check out http://www.reversethecuts.ca for more information about the status of CIDA’s funding.