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

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

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 Marie-Claude 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.”

ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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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