Mr. Chair, colleagues, I am pleased to appear before you again to discuss the main estimates as they apply to the Canadian International Development Agency for the fiscal year 2007-2008. I will also be happy to review our activities in Afghanistan and the results we are achieving.
Three members of CIDA's executive team have joined me today. They are: Robert Greenhill, the President of CIDA; Ms. Diane Vincent, Executive Vice-President; and Mr. Greg Graham, Acting Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Services.
You will recall that this government has made a commitment to ensuring that Canada's aid programs deliver tangible results, while making effective and efficient use of resources. The main estimates for 2007-2008 include $3.026 billion in budgetary spending for CIDA and a further $22.6 million in non-budgetary investments. Together, these amounts represent a $74.3 million increase over CIDA'S main estimates for the fiscal year now drawing to a close.
As committee members are aware, in last week's budget, the Minister of Finance reiterated the government's commitment to increase spending on international assistance by 8% in 2007-2008 as part of the overall objective to double Canada's international aid between 2001 and 2011. The additional 8% translates into a total increase of $289 million in 2007-2008. These incremental funds are being provided to several departments through the main estimates, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the RCMP, the International Development Research Centre, as well as CIDA.
The 2007 budget also provides for $315 million in new assistance. Specifically, there will be $200 million in additional aid for the Afghanistan Program and $115 million in funding for a global initiative geared towards the development of a pneumococcal vaccine.
I'm proud that this year's budget places emphasis on both aid effectiveness and increased accountability. Mr. Chairman, this agency's program conforms to a three-point strategy contained in the budget. It sets out to: better target aid dollars; increase aid effectiveness; and improve accountability.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to talk about CIDA's work in Afghanistan, the single largest recipient of Canadian development assistance. Canada's contribution to the reconstruction and development of that country is improving daily life for many thousands of its people. Afghans had borne to the burden of Taliban oppression. Women have been deprived of all their rights.
I would like to remind the committee that we are in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government. We are collaborating with 36 other countries. Our actions serve to forge links between security, diplomacy, and development. The efforts of our soldiers, diplomats, and development specialists are bringing about positive change in a very challenging environment.
The Government of Canada has thus far pledged approximately one billion dollars towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan, phased over a 10-year period ending in 2011. As I mentioned earlier, in its last budget, Canada dedicated $200 million to Afghanistan. I wish to be perfectly clear: this is in addition to the $310 million already announced in May 2006. In doing so, Canada has become one of the leading sponsors of bilateral funding in Afghanistan. Between 2001 and 2006-2007, Canada invested almost $600 million towards ensuring the stabilization, development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Clearly Afghanistan is a challenging country from the perspectives of security and development. I would like to salute the efforts of our soldiers, diplomats and development officers who are working so hard and so capably. We are making progress, and I would like to refer honourable members to the report that ministers McKay and O'Connor and I recently submitted to Parliament.
Our objectives are to help the people of Afghanistan help themselves towards development, and to strengthen the country's emerging democratic practice. This means enhancing the capacity of the national government and local authorities to offer services throughout the entire country. It also involves finding a way to grant decision-making power to the country's most marginalized people. Already, Canadian aid supports programs run by the Afghans, thereby ensuring local stewardship, accountability and community participation.
I would like to draw your attention toward the main channels of intervention and the results we have achieved over the past year.
One of the cornerstones of rebuilding Afghanistan through the multilateral system has been the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The fund is a key mechanism for building the Afghan government's planning capacity, its fiduciary controls, fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency. Canada is among the top five donors to this fund, which contributes through regular salary payments to more than 270,000 civil servants, including 144,000 teachers. This has facilitated the delivery of basic services, particularly in health and education.
The Afghan government is especially proud to report that over 6 million children have returned to school this month, compared to 5.4 million last year. Nearly 35% of these children are girls. This is a major accomplishment, when we consider that, by contrast, there were only 700,000 children in school in 2001—and not one girl among them.
Another solid building block that has exceeded our expectations is the Micro-finance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan, better known as MISFA. As of January 31, 2007, there were over 300,000 Afghans—three quarters of them women—obtaining small loans and savings services. Each month, the program reaches an average of 10,000 new clients. MISFA has received very positive third-party evaluations and we are proud to be its largest bilateral donor, having invested $56 million since the beginning of the program, including $28 million in the past year alone.
CIDA contributes to save communities by supporting the United Nations Mine Action Service which has brought about, among other achievements: a reduction of almost 20% of known landmine-explosive remnants of war-contaminated areas; a 55% decline in the monthly average number of victims since 2001.
CIDA was one of the first sponsors of the National Area-Based Development Program, which supports communities in governing their own development at the district level. More than 540 recovery projects such as dams, roads, bridges, and irrigation canals have been established, benefiting over two million people.
In terms of the $200 million announced in the 2007 budget, Canada will also support other national initiatives, such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, MISFA, the National Solidarity Program and the Anti-mine Program for Afghanistan, and will provide support for construction of the Spin Boldak road.
CIDA also supports Canada's bilateral initiatives, in collaboration with a variety of partners. These joint efforts have yielded impressive results. The Alternative Livelihoods Program in northeastern Afghanistan, implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada in cooperation with the government of Afghanistan, is helping close to 30,000 households in over 200 communities to identify, implement and sustain a wide array of projects that are improving the lives of thousands of Afghan men, women and children.
Yet another example of a bilateral initiative: the International Development and Law Organization has been active in various areas of justice in Afghanistan. This organization has trained 75 prosecutors in juvenile justice, financial and gender crimes, and 90 judges, including 16 women judges, in civil, commercial and criminal law procedure.
Turning to our efforts in Kandahar province, I am happy to say that despite the considerable challenges of operating in southern Afghanistan, we have concrete and encouraging results to report.
We anticipate spending more than $30 million this year, five times more than in 2005-06. One of our top priorities has been to meet the basic needs of Kandaharis. The ongoing CIDA-supported measles vaccination program targets 189,000 children and 10,000 women of child-bearing age. In addition, CIDA funds a vaccination program that is now immunizing 350,000 children under the age of five against the threat of polio. This disease is making a resurgence in Afghanistan; we all know of its terrible consequences.
In further response to the basic needs of the people of Kandahar, CIDA is working alongside UNICEF, which provides vulnerable families with items such as tents and blankets, as well as health and medical supplies. In addition, our Emergency Food Assistance program has distributed over 2,000 metric tons of food to more than 10,000 families.
CIDA is proud to be a trusted partner in the National Solidarity Program, which has been successful in Kandahar and elsewhere in the country. In Kandahar province, it has helped villages to elect 482 community development councils, which have in turn delivered over 440 local development projects. For example, more than 59 kilometres of canals are now available to villagers, 14 bridges have been built or renovated and the road network has been extended by 113 kilometres.
Thanks to this program, villages can determine their development priorities and implement the projects they have identified. Since last August, more than 50 new community development councils have been established.
Mr. Chairman, I am confident you will agree that the details I have just reviewed with you clearly outline the link between our levels of investment in Afghanistan, the practical activities they are moving forward, and the tangible results achieved to date.
I will be pleased to answer the committee's questions now.
I thank the minister for coming here today.
I have two questions. My first one is dealing with Afghanistan. The second one is dealing with Africa.
Minister, you talked at great length, and most of your talk today was about Afghanistan and your commitment to Afghanistan. Over the winter we had senators and MPs visiting Afghanistan, and they were not too impressed with the developments that they have seen over there. Last week we had Minister MacKay here, giving us quite an impression that widespread reconstruction is being done in that region.
Yesterday there was an article in the Ottawa Citizen. There was a gentleman named Seth Jones from the RAND Corporation, and he just spent two weeks in Kandahar. He claims that while Kandahar City and the Zhari district are seeing reconstruction, virtually nothing else is taking place in the rest of Kandahar province, especially in the rural areas.
Can you explain the discrepancy between your colleague's statement that there's widespread reconstruction being done in Afghanistan and the comments by this gentleman on the rural areas? That's my first question.
My second question is dealing with Africa. Just recently a report came out from the Senate, under the leadership of Hugh Segal. It was quite critical of CIDA's role in Africa. It also had some very constructive changes that your department should be dealing with as it's trying to deal with the African situation. We made a commitment in Kananaskis a few years ago that the Canadian government was going to really make some constructive changes in Africa. We don't see it mentioned in the budget. When you look at the budget numbers, there's very little left over for us in Africa. We were supposed to double our commitment in Africa over five years, and the budget doesn't seem to reflect that.
Those are my two questions, Minister. Maybe you can answer the first one on Afghanistan, and the second one is the role we would like to see in Africa.
Thank you, Madam Minister, for being here. I probably have a hundred questions just arising out of what you said or didn't say. I'll try to get in three or, if I'm lucky, four.
I'm sure you're very aware of the exceptional vulnerability of persons in developing countries—particularly in Africa, but some others as well—to the combined impact of climate change and dire poverty, with horrendous disasters to people's lives individually and to communities. Yet in the most recent budget with respect to overseas development aid, with respect to international obligations, there wasn't a single mention of environment.
I want to ask you what the government's current upcoming budget commitment is to the continuation of the Canadian climate change development fund, which not only is desperately needed in developing countries, particularly in Africa, but is also something that is part of our Kyoto obligations, which we're not living up to.
Second, with respect to aid to Palestine, there is a desperate humanitarian crisis in Palestine with respect to poverty and disease. I want to know what the new national unity government situation presents in the way of an opening for the Canadian government to begin to recognize that the services and programs needed by the people of Palestine ought to be delivered through that new unity government. And will you, Madam Minister, be pressing for a change in directing our aid through that new unity government?
Third, with respect to Afghanistan, I have to say that I find it deeply distressing that almost always at the very top of the government's brag sheet about what it's doing in Afghanistan is the assertion—and they were the first words that came out of your mouth again today when you talked about Afghanistan—bragging that the single largest recipient of Canadian development assistance is Afghanistan. Of course, what you never say is that the level of our ODA in the world is at such an appallingly low level that this is almost a meaningless assertion.
In the Bill add-on funds that came from the NDP demand to the former Liberal government, there were some infusions of new dollars. But when you look at where we are with ODA today, if I'm not mistaken, as a result of this budget we're going backwards on our ODA level of contribution.
Because the Global Fund infusion was a one-time infusion, the fact is that it wasn't built into the base. I'm not sure of the absolute accuracy of this, but it has been estimated that, given the tiny baby steps we've been making to move towards our 0.7% minimum commitment, with this budget it would require an infusion of $600 million more to even maintain the level of ODA from last year—in other words, 0.34%.
What, from your point of view, is this year's level of ODA commitment as a result of this budget, and what is it projected to be over the next three years?
Finally, specifically with respect to TB and malaria funding, I think you'd be well aware of the horrendous numbers of deaths that are resulting from TB and malaria, particularly because of the co-infection implications, and that TB prevention and control and treatment is really one of the most cost-effective investments we can make to save lives in Africa. TB kills 600,000 people every year, and of course TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDs.
What I want to know is whether, in this budget, there is in fact a planned increase in spending, because I think what we've seen is flat-lining in the spending on TB and malaria programs, which means our investment in HIV/AIDS programs is actually far less effective than it could be.
Those are my four questions. I'm sorry there's not a lot more time for us to pursue other questions.
Thank you for your questions, Ms. McDonough. I will attempt to respond to each one individually, in some type of order.
You referred to climate change. I would simply say that among CIDA's expenses for bilateral, multilateral, and partnership activities, spending on environmental projects represent $300 million per year, or 10% of its total expenditures.
You also had a question about the new Palestinian government. I would say—and this is probably what my colleague from external affairs would also say—that we are taking a close look at its membership. Nevertheless, once it is clear that the Palestinian government will respect the principles set forward by the Quartet, and recognizes Israel, renounces violence and agrees to abide by the previous agreements, we will change the way in which this aid is distributed.
You asked about tuberculosis. I can tell you that this year, we have substantially increased our expenditures in that area. I noted, when I became a minister in this portfolio, that there had been a considerable reduction in the amount that was provided to combat this disease. Last year, the budget was $19 million. This year it has increased to about $33 million.
The government remains committed to fighting malaria. I believe that we were congratulated by the Red Cross, and this year, our expenditures in this area have doubled. I don't have the exact figure, but I know that substantial amounts have been dedicated to fighting malaria.
Your other questions also related to expenditures.