Oecd calls on Canada to spend more on aid to in­crease its global ‘weight’

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - mike Blanchfield THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ot­tawa — a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional re­port has con­cluded that the trudeau govern­ment’s lofty rhetoric about be­ing “back” on the world stage needs the added heft of more for­eign aid spend­ing.

the paris-based Or­ga­ni­za­tion for eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment reached that con­clu­sion in an as­sess­ment re­leased Fri­day by its de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance Com­mit­tee.

the re­port is part of the Oecd’s ro­tat­ing five-year re­view of mem­ber coun­tries, and its find­ings could tem­per the govern­ment’s at­tempts to lobby for a tem­po­rary seat on the united Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in the com­ing years.

prime min­is­ter Justin trudeau and For­eign af­fairs min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land are both bound for the un Gen­eral assem­bly later this month, where they will ramp up their cam­paign­ing for the two-year seat that would start in 2021.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials say Canada will be push­ing the no­tion of pro­mot­ing pub­lic-pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ships as a tool for fi­nanc­ing for­eign aid.

the Oecd says Canada de­serves credit for its re­newed en­gage­ment on the world stage, in­clud­ing its global ad­vo­cacy for the rights of women and girls in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, but it needs to spend more on over­seas de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance.

the re­port says that Canada’s for­eign aid spend­ing fell in 2017 to 0.26 per cent of gross na­tional in­come from 0.31 per cent in 2012, far be­low the un tar­get of 0.7 per cent. the av­er­age for dac mem­bers coun­tries was 0.32.

it says that the govern­ment’s re­cent new spend­ing of $2 bil­lion over five years on for­eign aid sim­ply isn’t enough to re­store the spend­ing ra­tio to 2012 lev­els — the last time the Oecd re­viewed Canada’s aid bud­get and found it lack­ing.

in dol­lar terms, the Oecd pegs Canada’s for­eign aid at $5.56 bil­lion in 2017, com­pared to ap­prox­i­mately $5.86 bil­lion in 2012. While the dol­lar amounts are es­sen­tially flat over the five years, a grow­ing econ­omy means Canada’s for­eign aid as a share of the econ­omy has de­clined.

Canada has be­come a “cen­tral ac­tor” in sup­port­ing the un Sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment Goals, which aim to erad­i­cate poverty, hunger, gen­der im­bal­ance and in­equal­ity by 2030, said Char­lotte petri Gor­nitzka, the dac chair.

“it is im­por­tant to now set out a path to in­crease aid vol­umes to add weight to Canada’s global ad­vo­cacy role,” she added in a state­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing Fri­day’s re­port.

Canada’s aid spend­ing has fallen “de­spite ro­bust eco­nomic growth,” the dac said in a state­ment on Fri­day.

the trudeau govern­ment has said that it has no plans to reach the un’s tar­get of 0.7 per cent — a bench­mark that was set in the 1960s by an in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion headed by Canada’s for­mer lib­eral prime min­is­ter lester pear­son.

trudeau and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter marieclaude bibeau have said that reach­ing the 0.7 per cent tar­get would sim­ply cost too much.

“We have put for­ward a pro­gres­sive new fem­i­nist pol­icy and our ap­proach is be­ing rec­og­nized in the Oecd re­port for putting gen­der equal­ity at the heart of our fight to erad­i­cate poverty,” bibeau said in a writ­ten state­ment to the Cana­dian press on Fri­day.

She also high­lighted Canada’s lead­er­ship at the June G7 sum­mit in Que­bec, where the govern­ment was able to raise more than Cdn$3.8 bil­lion in pledges to help send the world’s poor­est girls to school.

“Our lead­er­ship on gen­der equal­ity and girls’ ed­u­ca­tion is al­ready mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for mil­lions of young women,” said bibeau.

the govern­ment is also re­ly­ing on lever­ag­ing more money from the pri­vate sec­tor to fund de­vel­op­ment projects. it re­cently cre­ated a de­vel­op­ment fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion called Findev Canada, which is a sub­sidiary of ex­port de­vel­op­ment Canada.

ian Smil­lie, a vet­eran Cana­dian de­vel­op­ment worker and au­thor, says the govern­ment is “grasp­ing at straws” if it plans to use its push for pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships as a vote get­ter at the un.

“We’re rob­bing peter to pay paul re­gard­less of what our new thing is,” he said.

“We are scrap­ing the bot­tom of the bar­rel with our aid bud­get. this is his­tor­i­cally al­most at an all-time low. We talk a good game, but we’re at half the level we were when pierre trudeau was prime min­is­ter.”

liam Swiss, a de­vel­op­ment ex­pert at me­mo­rial uni­ver­sity in St. John’s, N.l. said the re­port gives Canada its due on be­ing an ad­vo­cate for women and for amal­ga­mat­ing its aid pro­gram into Global af­fairs Canada.

but he says given that the govern­ment has been able to find the money for big in­creases to the de­fence bud­get, its in­sis­tence that it can’t do more to fund de­vel­op­ment rings hol­low.

“Canada can af­ford to do more and should do more,” he said. “it’s a bit cyn­i­cal to say we’re in­vest­ing as much as we can af­ford.”


Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Marie-claude Bibeau launches Canada’s new Fem­i­nist In­ter­na­tional As­sis­tance Pol­icy dur­ing an event in Ot­tawa, June 9, 2017. Bibeau has said that an in­crease in for­eign aid spend­ing asked for by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment is too high.

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