Global (R)Evolution Panel Series: Global Development Now & for the Future

WHAT WE HEARD: Canada's Role in Contributing to Global Development Efforts

The pandemic has put decades of progress in the fight against extreme poverty at risk. In fact, the pandemic is creating insidious side effects, on deforestation, on the resurgence of neglected diseases, hunger, and gender-based violence. We must not give up now. The scale, urgency, and complexity of today’s global issues are unprecedented. 

Despite growing needs, right before the pandemic, in 2019 Canada was spending only 27 cents for every $100 in national income on development assistance. This investment was well below our historic contributions and the contributions of our peer OECD countries.  Since the pandemic started, Canada’s contribution to ODA has increased in response to the emergency. Our early contributions  – about $1.6B additional funding in 2020 – were remarkable. They also significantly boosted our contributions to Canadian aid as a proportion of gross national income. Budget 2021 on the other hand, showed the international development community that Canada’s rally was short lived. Our aid is coming short of what is needed from Canada in 2021 and beyond. We now stand at an important juncture and must ask questions of Canada’s role in contribution to global development.  

We consulted experts during our panel series on this topic and here is what they told us:

We must provide consistent Year over Year increased funding to Canada’s Official Development Assistance to reach our commitment level of 0.7% of GNI. 

Canada must realize the importance of ODA and the impact it has on the world. If we were to increase our ODA to comparable levels to the OECD average, which would add around $5B to our envelope, the potential for impact is enormous. We could see great projects that would normally be approved by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) continue to be approved and not be rejected due to funding constraints. We could see Canada being able to leverage 2-4x on its agriculture based investments which would help more people out of poverty. We could see more  projects in health, food, technology, education and security get approved that currently are unable to move through Global Affairs Canada due to the lack of funding to civil society organizations and developing countries. 

We must ensure increased accountability and transparency in the Canadian aid process and assess not only how much aid we are giving but the quality of aid we are providing.

We currently don’t understand how our government gives aid, we don’t understand the numbers, budgets aren’t clear, and the way they are being allocated isn’t clear. We need to ensure long term, consistent, core-funding to organisations. We need to work directly with our partners in the south and need to figure out how to do it better. Ensuring better accountability and transparency in how we disperse aid will benefit Canadian organizations in understanding how our government is prioritizing developmental initiatives and give us the ability to better measure and course correct.  

We must decolonize the way Canada does aid work and set the stage for more equitable funder-grantee partnerships.

Beyond the level of funding we provide for development, it is important to also invert our current model of decision making as it currently takes place in high income countries which eventually trickles down to the field level. Instead organizations here should prioritise with helping with the structure and support of how we can help but take the lead on how we can invest in communities and community identified priorities from those that are a part of the community and are on the ground with the day to day realities. We must ensure that these partnerships are genuine and aware of the power dynamics at play, ensuring we are doing more of the listening versus the telling. 

Some policies currently are holding back a focus on results and perpetuating colonial archetypes. Direction and control is a requirement that the Canada Revenue Agency puts on Charitable organisations who want to work through joint ventures and programmatic delivery partnerships. It forces impact focused organisations to treat local initiatives as compliant to a rigid set of activities instead of being held accountable to results. This is colonial in nature and a relic of an untrusting, controlling way of operating. It is an outdated model that has long been reformed in other jurisdictions, like the UK, the USA and Europe. It is time that Canada modernizes its approach. Bill S222 championed by Senator Omidvar seeks to do just that by shifting the focus from a control on activities, to an accountability on results.



“Canada’s Leadership in Global Development: Now & For the Future” 


Watch the Global Development Now & for the Future Panel: