Canada-First International Development

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. 

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3 thoughts on “Canada-First International Development

  1. You probably head about the book “Dead Aid:” by Dambisa Moyo. It outlines that the developed countries including Canada has sent over $1 trillion dollars worth of Development Aid to Africa over the past 50 years. That aid has not improved the lives of Africans. In some cases many countries in Africa are worse off because of the aid. Should Canada should waste MORE money for aid to Africa in the name of humanitarianism? Aid that is clearly not working. The aid that CIDA gives is to African governments, who are inefficient and outright corrupt. Most of the money that Canada gives not going to the people anyways, it gets lost in bureaucracy and goes into the pockets of officials. If Canada gives more in aid, it would make Canada look good domestically. Canadians will go wow look Canada increased aid to Africa, Harper must be a great guy.

    However, aid won’t benefit the people of Africa who won’t see that increased money. More government aid is just a nice bandaid solution to poverty that makes donor countries feel and look good. It does not tackle the root of poverty. Developed countries do not have unlimited bank accounts to give aid because they are swimming with more money than they know what to do with. Foreign aid to Africa is given to achieve the donor countries strategic, economic, commercial and political goals. Ay benefits is just a side effect Foreign aid exploits the people of Africa.

    Moyo outlines solutions such as remittances, increased trade, debt relief, foreign direct investment and micro finance could actually benefit Africa, not more aid, something that many african leaders and scholars agree with. I concede that Canada focusing on commercial and trade interests is just as exploitive. Maybe a side effect of this approach will make Africa better of in the next 50 years than aid has been in the previous 50.

    Though if you read her book and reviews you will find many well known scholars who support and criticize her views. Her book is very controversial.

  2. Thanks for the insights Kerry! I have read Moyo’s book, but I admit that I skimmed some sections because I read it during the final weeks of a semester when I had many projects on the go.

    I agree with almost every point you made, but perhaps I should offer a clarification that likely wasn’t apparent due to the brevity of my original post.

    I do not believe that foreign aid is going to end poverty or that emptying CIDA’s coffers – into the hands of corrupt governments – is a promising venture. However, there are many worthwhile projects, such as those you mention near the end of your post, that CIDA can help implement or grow.

    If CIDA is going to continue to exist and manage Canada’s official contributions to international development, I believe it needs to re-evaluate its methodology. If poverty reduction is truly the department’s goal – as its mission statement claims – then we should expect it to embrace innovation and the ‘new-age’ projects championed by Moyo. However, it is also possible that CIDA’s bilateral contributions keep certain communities afloat and capable of pursuing more meaningful projects.

    Ultimately,I don’t disagree with your analysis and I will try to find time to give Moyo’s book the thorough, critical read it deserves. But my point still stands: if CIDA is more interested in protecting Canadian trade and foreign policy interests abroad, it has no business promoting a (humanitarian) mission statement of poverty reduction.

    Wanting to help is certainly a reflection of humanitarianism, but good intentions simply aren’t enough. Canadians should demand more of CIDA. To use the departments’ buzz words: CIDA’s foreign aid should prioritize projects that promise efficiency and effectiveness for aid recipients, not for Canadians. And that means sending money and personnel where it will do the most good. Somehow I don’t think that’s in the mines of Peru.

    Thanks for reading and contributing.

  3. Pingback: Barrick Gold’s Rape Remedy Program Confirms CIDA is Lost | POV

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