Global (R)Evolution Panel Series: Canada’s Support to Multilaterals

WHAT WE HEARD: Canada Needs a Proactive and Strategic Approach to Support Multilateralism

Multilateral institutions have been put to the test in 2020. The multilateral, rule based world order is under stress. The pressure is not going to let up. Canada must carefully consider its actions in support of Multilateral institutions.

The first wave of the pandemic was a health crisis that reminded the world of both the crucial role of multilateral institutions, like the World Health Organisation. It also revealed the cost these crucial institutions can incur from politics. Beyond the health crisis, the second wave will entail widespread economic hardship especially for countries that cannot afford to borrow their way back to normal. The IMF and the World bank are about to be faced with a significant increase in demand for financial support and economic recovery funding from emerging economies. 

Beyond this one crisis, we also know that climate change, peacekeeping and even digital rights are global challenges that cannot be solved by any single actor, but will require a strong, cohesive and effective set of multilateral efforts and structures. The stakes are great – maybe the greatest they have ever been – at a time when public trust in multilateral institutions has been undermined by politically charged rhetoric. 

In this context, we consulted experts during our panel series to ask specifically what role should Canada play when it comes to engaging with multilateral institutions. Here is what they told us:

Vaccine reallocation – it is extremely important that Canada contributes its surplus doses and ensures vaccine equity NOW.

It is important for Canada to build a long term strategy to foster multilateralism and the rule based world order. But there are also some pressing issues right now in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada must focus on equitable vaccine delivery. Canada has done a great service to the world by leading in funding for COVAX early on. Now, with our vaccine procurement the most oversubscribed in the world, Canada must act early in sharing its extra doses. This is still very much at the forefront of our current global emergency and over the next 6-12 months we will need to ensure that timelines for inoculation are pushed forward and that people in emerging economies are not waiting 2 years for their first shots. 

Canada has a leadership role to play to ensure that multilateral institutions that provide financing for economic recovery in Africa do so at the right scale, and in a timely manner.

Capitalizing the World Bank appropriately, and allowing the IMF to recycle unused Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to provide liquidity to countries in distress will require global multilateral policy alignment. This in turn requires an understanding of what the SDRs will be repurposed for and the mechanisms the IMF could use to ensure that they are used well.  Canada needs to ensure that this is done well. 

Further, getting things done on climate and emerging global challenges will require functional and appropriately resourced multilateral initiatives. For example Canada can contribute to the World Bank’s International Development Association funding now, and ensure that these funds are targeted toward effective development programming.

Canada must show its clear commitment to multilateralism, in funding – and provide leadership in reforming and improving effectiveness of specific multilateral efforts and institutions. 

Many multilateral institutions have lost their focus on results and are perceived to be wasteful and bureaucratic. We must look at rebuilding trust within multilateral institutions and repurposing and outfitting multilateral organizations with a mandate to eventually wind up their operations as they look to reduce poverty as quickly as possible.  We can also recognize that not all multilateral efforts are made equal. Coalitions of the willing, like GAVI and the COVAX facility have shown that they are the best placed to rapidly activate established networks to reliably design, produce and deliver needed vaccines in hard to reach places. Finally, Canada has a history of leadership in governance and the defense of women rights. Canada could make a clear, consistent and predictable commitment to multilateral efforts in SRHR and under-resourced UNFPA.

Systemically, Canada can also ensure that the level of accountability and transparency is increased toward the achievement of multilateral efforts

Currently there is a gap in information – on which countries are pledging their support publicly, and which countries are actually honouring their commitments. There is also a gap in long term results tracking of multilateral efforts. Accountability and transparency are key to ensuring widespread support and engaging the public to create awareness to build the public support that is needed to channel commitments into our leadership. As Canadians we must be engaged in this process and hold our government’s commitments at these institutions accountable to build back the trust that has been lost.


“Canada’s Support to Multilaterals: How to Better Engage for Development Needs” 
  • Douglas Saunders; Author, Journalist and Consultant of Canadian and British Citizenship – PANEL MODERATOR
  • Mark Plant; COO of CGD Europe, Co-Director of Development Finance, and Senior Policy Fellow
  • Ryan McMaster; Senior Program Officer in the Global Policy and Advocacy (GPA) Division; Gates Foundation
  • Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili; Senior Economic Advisor, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative


Watch the Canada's Support to Multilaterals Panel: