Canada: Put Excellence in Motion

The Internationalism Vacuum

Minister Morneau recently stated that Canada “can do more with less” with our international assistance funding levels. While cases can be made for greater efficiency, we ought to question whether it is in the best interests for Canada in the medium and long term.

Let’s look to our neighbours for insight. In its first 100 days, the Trump Administration announced that it intends to cut funds to USAID and part of its commitments to the United Nations. This is in addition to repealing the Cardin-Lugar Amendment, and stepping back from the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). It is also worth mentioning that Trump is seeking to cut the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), in spite of it paying returns to the US treasury for 37 years in a row.

Acronyms and legislation aside, the remarkable speed with which this administration is moving away from international cooperation efforts is unprecedented, and it signals to the rest of the world that diplomatic measures to advance sustainable development and fight corruption are lesser priorities. In light of a low-growth economy, Canada playing it safe may seem reasonable, yet the timing could not be any worse considering that  Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan are experiencing one of the worst famines in 70 years. Moreover, refugee migration is becoming so dire to the extent that Canadian borders are feeling it.

The Long Game

It is common knowledge that incidents seemingly far away have a profound impact at home, and there is strong rhetoric calling to keep affairs at home and slide away from international commitments. However, this approach will not pay off for Canada in the long-term because international crises will likely worsen and will impact us at our doorsteps at far greater cost. As Canadians, we need to resist calls for only keeping things at home and dream big. We need to commit to a long-term development strategy harnessing both public and private funds in order fill in the vacuum created by the Trump administration. Instead of efficiency, we should strive for excellence.

Striving for Excellence

Excellence in this context is not solely about boosting the amount of funds that already Canada contributes—it’s about unleashing the full potential for Canadian-led efforts in partnership with developing countries through the usage of world-class tools to mitigate crises and create stability before they become worse. Excellence would entail Canada’s newly announced Development Finance Institution to have poverty reduction as its core mandate and for it to play a complementary role with our international assistance as an engine to drive economic growth in development countries. Excellence would compel Canada to inject predictable, annual funds into its International Assistance Envelope (IAE) with the intention of reaching the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2030. Excellence involves Canada harnessing development effectiveness to ensure that we are maximizing impact in countries we work with.

Let’s set excellence into motion. We can work with elected officials and help evolve understanding about how a long-term development strategy is meaningful both at-home and abroad. And, to make this a reality, we can point out misunderstood tensions between public funds versus the private-sector. In addition, we can transform ideas in communities by helping people recognize the tied value in global poverty reduction and domestic poverty reduction, and in my perspective, newspapers and town halls are the best places to start.

A Courageous Canada

Canadians often point to the United States as a symbol of greatness and yet we seldom strive to embrace that quality itself. With the large vacuum created by the Trump administration, many countries are looking at Canada for guidance. While this territory is new for us and feels unnerving, we must acknowledge this as a moment for us to showcase our own unique greatness, and summon the courage to do so.

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