Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, I am very pleased to be here with you today to talk about Canada's countries of focus for bilateral development assistance.
As the chair just said, my name is Deirdre Kent and I am the Director General of Development Policy at Global Affairs Canada. I am accompanied by my colleague Isabelle Bérard, Director General of the Americas Programming Bureau.
Today I will first explain the reasons why we choose certain countries for bilateral development assistance. Then we will discuss the measures taken to direct our assistance, as well as the sectors that benefit from it.
Before that, however, let me briefly explain the current context.
The Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Ms. Bibeau, recently addressed the committee. As the minister explained to you, we have been conducting a review of our international development assistance policies and our funding framework. Our objective is to refocus Canada's international aid on the poorest and most vulnerable populations, and to support fragile states. This is one of the minister's main priorities. As Minister Bibeau stated, we must ensure that Canada's international aid responds to the needs of a new global context, which means that we must both overcome the obstacles and seize the opportunities.
We need to ensure that Canada's international assistance is aligned to support the new global development agenda, including the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which has set the ambitious target of eradicating poverty globally in the next 15 years. This will require renewing Canada's approach and building on Canada's strengths and comparative advantages, including our existing relationships.
Canada has a tradition of broad global development, and advances its development priorities by working closely with a range of partners. As a result, Canada's international development and humanitarian assistance programming is delivered through multilateral organizations like the UN, Canadian and international civil society organizations, and public institutions in developing countries. Today, other actors—foundations, cultural community organizations, emerging donors, and private sector actors—are all growing in importance.
In terms of volume, roughly one-third of Global Affairs' international assistance in 2014-15 was bilateral—$1.25 billion out of $3.74 billion in total from Global Affairs. It is this bilateral funding that is subject to geographic focus.
Canada does retain a global reach through multilateral security and democratic development programming, and through our work with Canadian organizations and local developing country partners around the world. Furthermore, Canada's international humanitarian assistance is provided on a needs basis, guided by the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. It is not limited to specific countries or regions.
To be very clear, two-thirds of Global Affairs Canada's international assistance—multilateral funding, partnerships with civil society organizations and institutions, and our peace and security programming—is not subject to geographic focus. Therefore, my presentation today will focus specifically on bilateral development assistance.
Like other donor countries, Canada has strengthened the geographic focus of its bilateral assistance over the last 15 years in order to achieve greater results in reducing poverty. Geographic focus has been an important component of Canada's development effectiveness agenda.
The 2007 OECD Development Assistance Committee's peer review of Canada concluded that Canada was engaged in too many bilateral programs. They observed that this dispersed approach was limiting Canada's potential to achieve significant results. We were spread too thin. Our voice was diminished in countries where we were not a major donor, and our ability to have a measurable impact on the ground was limited.
By concentrating financial and human resources in fewer, larger bilateral programs, Canada has aimed to improve its ability to have a real impact through stronger relations and a more credible voice with local partners, including partner governments and other donors; and a better ability to respond to local needs and conditions, and align with local priorities in order to reduce poverty.
A focus on a limited number of countries is recognized as reducing the administrative burden on recipient countries through division of labour among a few larger donors. It has helped Canada to reduce administrative overhead, as fewer transactions are required, delivering more aid per dollar spent.
Focus also helps to position Canada among the major donors in a country, providing greater influence and an ability to program in a wider range of sectors to increase our field presence and to have more active in-country engagement. In addition, developing countries have identified focus as important for aid predictability and transparency where commitments over time are required for sustainable development results.
How do we focus?
Canada's bilateral development programming greatly increased its focus from 2000 to 2015, moving from 89 to 37 bilateral country programs. Canada currently has 25 countries of focus and 12 partner countries for its bilateral development assistance. In June 2014, Canada increased the number of countries of focus for Canada's bilateral development assistance from 20 to 25.
The 25 countries were chosen based on their needs, namely the extent of poverty, vulnerability, and underdevelopment in the country; their capacity to benefit from development assistance, and the potential for aid to translate into concrete results; and their alignment with Canadian policy priorities. These same criteria were also used in 2008-09 to make decisions based on Canada's initial list of 20 countries of focus.
Canada increased the number of countries of focus in 2014 due to an increased emphasis on bilateral programming, and 90% of bilateral development assistance spending takes place in countries of focus compared to 80% previously. The remaining bilateral spending is primarily in Canada's 12 development partner countries formally called countries of modest presence, as well as a small number of regional programs, such as the pan-Africa regional program.
Our bilateral programming is targeted toward the priorities of our partner countries and is in line with five thematic priorities for international assistance, namely, increasing food security, stimulating sustainable economic growth, securing the future of children and youth, advancing democracy, and promoting stability and security.
Canada's bilateral development assistance involves broad global engagement in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Thirteen of Canada's 25 countries of focus are least developed countries where poverty rates are highest, but we are also working in lower-middle income countries, some of which are fragile states where important pockets of poverty remain. Africa is the most important region with 10 countries of focus.
There are a range of approaches used internationally for determining geographic focus. As part of the evidence base for our international assistance review, we are looking to learn from other donor countries. Some donors, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and France, use a tiered approach based on country type or income group. The focus of their cooperation differs by group. For example, they may focus on stabilization and peace building in fragile states, on economic growth, or on triangular cooperation with middle-income countries.
Some donors such as Australia have a geographic focus on their immediate region. The United Kingdom devotes a set proportion of 50% of its bilateral assistance to fragile states.
In conclusion, one of the central objectives of the international assistance review is to refocus Canada's aid in order to support the poorest and most vulnerable populations, as well as fragile states. The study will among other things look at the best way to refocus efforts on the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as ways of improving our effectiveness and bolstering innovation.
This gives us an opportunity to reassess our current approaches in light of the information we collect, especially through consultations. We look forward to hearing your committee comments in the context of the information-gathering aspect of our review.
Ms. Bérard and I will be happy to answer your questions.
Actually, as I said earlier, I've been working in this area for 30 years, and I've actually gone through four different concentration exercises. If I look at the Americas, 10 years ago our top 10 recipients were exactly the same as the top 10 recipients we have today, except for Brazil, which we've dropped for obvious reasons.
The only program we've added is what we call the inter-American program, which allows us to provide support to a greater number of countries, those countries where we do not necessarily have a presence, or where there is limited interest, but where we still want to be in a position to provide some support.
From that perspective, Peru and Colombia have always received some funding from the bilateral program.
Of course, the concentration exercise has allowed these countries to get a little more money because the budget was increasing and because there was a strategy for the Americas that was put forward in 2007. As part of this strategy to re-engage in the Americas, it became clear that Peru and Colombia were going to get a little more funding.
Given some issues that are there in terms of education in Latin America, Peru is the country where the education system is the weakest, and where people are essentially left out, where kids are left out of the system. So it was a good opportunity for us to re-engage with Peru in the Americas, to increase our support and then get involved in the education sector, which we did. We are providing support to quite a number of schooling initiatives in Peru.
As for Colombia, the peace process.... There are lots of people affected by the crisis and the guerrilla war. So getting involved in Colombia was a good way for us to be at the table, to in some sense be in a position to have greater proximity with the government to be able to have a conversation on the peace process, and be able to further our involvement in this process.
In Colombia, the poorest and the most vulnerable are the indigenous population and the Afro-Colombian people, so we wanted, as well, to be able to provide some support there.
I was the director responsible for Haiti when the earthquake happened, so I was closely involved in the follow-ups to the earthquake.
In the initial response, the Canadian engagement was massive. We supported the government and the Haitian population. We've achieved quite a lot, and I know people have been, in some instances, quite critical of the time it has taken to get to a good space, where we have actually cleared out all the rubble. We've relocated everybody. Almost 85% of the people were living in tents. They have been relocated now. The school system has been re-established, hospitals have been built, etc., so a lot has been done.
Are there issues on the political front? That's for sure, we can't deny that and the fact that there haven't been elections for four years. They tried last fall, and it didn't work out. We are very clearly pushing the government to keep their promise of holding those elections, and our ambassador in Port-au-Prince is quite involved in this and is pushing very hard with the international community on this. We issued a statement, I believe it was last week, calling on the Haitians to hold elections and make sure that things move along quickly, because we are getting impatient. This is a message that we are delivering.
Of course, we resumed our support to Haiti in 2015 after a review, but we were clear then that we were in a transition period and that we would wait until a government was in place before we would move forward with more significant support. We're still in that transition period, essentially, and are waiting for this government. That said, we're hoping that there will be a government soon. So there is work being done behind the scenes to make sure that things are moving forward.
As for the MINUSTAH, I just want to clarify that there is this rumour that we will take on MINUSTAH. Minister Dion has been very clear about that: we are not going to take command of the MINUSTAH.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, good afternoon.
It is my pleasure to appear before you today on behalf of Canada's International Development Research Centre, better known by its acronym, IDRC. IDRC welcomes the opportunity to participate in the committee's study on countries of focus for Canada's bilateral development assistance, as well as the priority sectoral themes.
Today I will address three main points. The first is focus—both how it and flexibility are important. Second is the impact of our work research that often goes beyond only one country. Third is the power of working thematically across a number of countries.
Before I get into these remarks, however, I thought it might be helpful for me to share some background information about IDRC that is relevant to today's discussion.
IDRC was founded as a crown corporation in 1970 through the International Development Research Centre Act. This legislation directs IDRC “to initiate, encourage, support and conduct research into the problems of the development regions of the world and into the means for applying and adapting scientific, technical and other knowledge to the economic and social advancement of those regions.”
IDRC's value proposition, when it comes to Canada's international development mandate, is multi-faceted and is founded on the knowledge and networks of our expert staff, achieving impacts of scale, and building the self-reliance of countries. It is also founded on our accountability to Parliament, to our board, and to our donor partners. We have been an asset for Canada's broader foreign affairs family through our 46 years of supporting innovative research, and through our engagement with a large global network of actors that helps Canada deliver on its international development priority at the same time as it builds important relationships for Canada.
What do we do? Very simply, we provide funds to research institutions driving global change. Our grantees are problem-solvers. Our model of working with them is a theme-based approach. In particular, we focus on three problematic areas: agriculture and environment, inclusive economies, and technology and innovation. Within these three areas we have a number of programs, all of which are aligned with Canadian government priorities, as well as the needs of developing countries.
In short, IDRC invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve lives and livelihoods in the developing world.
Let me now turn to the three points I introduced a moment ago.
First is the question of the focus of our work and where to work. Let's take the Ebola crisis as an example. West Africa experienced, as we all know, the largest-ever Ebola outbreak in 2014-15, mainly in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Canadian partners, including IDRC, were at the forefront of developing and running trials of the Canadian Ebola vaccine that saved lives and helped stop the spread of the disease. That is a major success story.
However, the less-told story is the extent to which weak health systems are at the core of why these outbreaks become crises in the first place. We see this through our approach to working on topics collaboratively and across countries. In the late nineties we funded research and capacity-building at the Lacor Hospital in northern Uganda in the region of Gulu, when an Ebola outbreak happened in 2000. These investments meant that health care workers knew exactly what to do when an outbreak of unknown origin happened. The response was driven by local teams and was extremely effective, limiting the outbreak to barely more than 400 persons.
It is important to be in the right place at the right time. But it is also important to take into consideration the long-term investment in research that doesn't deliver instantaneously. We cannot only answer crises; we also need to prevent them through long-term investment.
Second, the result of science and research extends beyond the borders of a country. When Canada, the United States, and Mexico agreed to eliminate DDT, a toxic chemical insecticide used to combat malaria, that was in the context of the ratification of the parallel agreement of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was very easy for Canada and the U.S. since we had not used the toxic chemical for years, but Mexico was still using it to control malaria, so they faced the greatest challenge.
We worked with the Mexican government at that time to develop a new approach that could be used to control malaria without DDT. The approach was so effective in Mexico, limiting the cases to almost zero, that it was and is now being applied in many other countries in Central America. This example is an illustration of how a solution developed in one place can be replicated across many countries.
Third, I would like to share with you the power of working on a theme across a number of countries simultaneously.
For example, the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund is an initiative launched in 2009 by IDRC and the department that has now become Global Affairs Canada. The fund has so far supported 39 projects between Canada and developing country institutions in 24 countries to improve food security. That initiative does not target any particular country, but recognizes the importance of flexibility in research.
So far, the research projects supported by this fund have benefited more than 383,000 farmers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Examples of the more than 130 innovations that have been tested include a five-disease-in-one vaccine for livestock that allows farmers to protect their livestock affordably without vaccines that need a cold chain and booster shots. It was very effective.
This program is also supporting researchers who are improving the resilience and nutritional content of pulse crops that include lentils, beans, and chickpeas, which are affordable, nutritious, and a high source of protein for populations across the developing world.
These three points that I made demonstrate IDRC's systematic approach providing the opportunity for a research-focused organization to focus its efforts and also to remain flexible within the mandate on which we are delivering.
I would like to conclude with three brief points about metrics, time, and partnerships.
Metrics allow you to measure performance through the life of a project when initiatives produce not only an outcome but also early and intermediate outcomes. It's important that when we give money, we don't wait a decade before a result happens, even when it's researched and takes time. We have a duty to measure ourselves to keep the work on track and also learn how to do course corrections and adjust.
Second, it takes time for long-term investment to pay off. Research can take up to 10 or 15 years. The Ebola vaccine that was developed by our researcher, Gary Kobinger, at the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg, started about 15 years ago. The success was present in 2015 because this investment was made and was followed through on.
We see the benefit of time in each of the examples I've provided today. DDT is the same. It took 10 years of investment before we came to have Central America free from it.
Food security is an ongoing behaviour. Our model at the IDRC has been proven successful and has attracted many partnerships, which is my third point.
One of the single most powerful demonstrations of this success is that other Canadian and international partners are joining us and empowering our work with funds to deliver on programs that carry with them Canadian values and priorities.
In fact, between 2010 and 2015, IDRC supplemented our parliamentary appropriation with more than $350 million from donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and governments in the U.K., Australia and Norway.
In conclusion, I believe that IDRC's experience across program areas and priority countries positions it to be an effective tool for the Canadian government. Our model is both effective and adaptable, and we look forward to helping the Canadian government deliver on its international development mandate.
Honourable members of the committee, I hope you have found these remarks informative. We have made available copies of our Strategic Plan 2015-2020 for your reference.
This strategic plan is not a glossy brochure; it's not the short summary. It is the strategic plan of IDRC that talks about knowledge and innovation solutions that measure impact at scale, support leadership of youth and established researchers, and work in partnership on substance and on funding.
I thank you for your attention and for having given IDRC and myself the opportunity to speak today. I will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Thank you very much.
In terms of your first point about working with Global Affairs Canada and our development priorities, this is an ongoing process. I would say that over the last five years, it has increased dramatically. I would qualify the relationship with Global Affairs as being at a peak in our history. Over the last four years, there has been a crescendo of collaboration. We also have a better common understanding of our role, which is a best-kept secret, and of our delivery to help the Canadian government, whichever one it is, to achieve its objectives.
It's an ongoing conversation. Our problem areas—agriculture is one—cover food security, climate change, and emerging and re-emerging disease. There is a very important relationship with the environment. With this flexible approach we can take on things that the government wants to do, while staying at the forefront of research in places where government might not be. For example, the Zika virus is something we are talking about a lot these days. We have made international investments in a number of research teams working on emerging and re-emerging disease.
Yesterday, Minister Bibeau and Minister Philpott announced a $5-million program on Zika research. What is it? We are calling on the best minds in developing regions and in Canada to work together to find solutions that can be applied, not only in one country but in one, two, or three regions. Zika is now a global problem.
As to our partnering priorities, our rationale is sound and easy to grasp. Is the partner like-minded with us? Are we going to distract ourselves and do ambulance chasing, or are we going to contribute to our core programming and our lawful mandate? If it is not a good fit, we don't do it. How do we test this? We don't do partnerships if we don't invest money allocated to us by Parliament. If a staff member has a great idea and wants a partner for it, and you ask that staff member how much money she is willing to put in from the budget, you get a strong signal about the value of the partnership.
If IDRC people are not interested in investing in the partnership, we don't do it. I can tell you, though, that in the last five years we have fundraised $350 million. That's a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio in the leveraging effect, based on the parliamentary allocation we receive on a yearly basis. In the next five years, we hope to reach $450 million. This we will use to promote Canadian values, while growing the pie to have a larger impact in the field.
Turning to agriculture, small millet in India is a hard-grained cereal. A simple dehulling machine has been developed to provide a better return on the sale of this grain. When it's purified, it gets four times the price of the unpurified grain. You need to dehull, take the hull out from the grain. A simple machine developed by a university in India, together with several Canadian universities—McGill, Mennonite University in Manitoba—has improved this process at low cost and has made it extremely powerful.
Not only that, small millet contains as much protein as wheat and maize together and is resistant to heat and flooding. It was forgotten in India, however, during the grain revolution and the concentration on major crops. Now, thanks to the research done by India and Canada, small millet has been reintroduced in India. In fact, the Indian government is putting money into research in order to expand this crop across the country. This is an illustration of our research work in an area that, years ago, was not seen as a priority, but now, after 10 years of research, is paying off.
I'll try to be short in my answer also, Mr. Levitt.
In the type of programming area we have, agriculture and the environment, inclusive economies, and technology and innovation are all illustrations of the Canadian know-how that has been present for a number of years.
For agriculture, we tend not to remember that Canada is a very strong agricultural country. The relationship we have internationally for research and development is huge. For this program that I was mentioning to you, there are Canadian institutions across the country with expertise that they are using with their colleagues in developing regions, and on an on par basis. It is not Canada dominating the other; it's really equal footing. Sometimes there might be a little tip of the balance. To go to the first point on your question, the Canadian presence on issues related to food security and environment matters is recognized worldwide in a number of agencies.
Second, the previous witness was mentioning maternal and newborn child health. Definitively, it was a massive investment that took place, but also, research on emerging threats and emerging diseases is an often-forgotten Canadian brand that is recognized worldwide. I was mentioning the work of Gary Kobinger. I can tell you that he is known across the world for having put this vaccine together.
Less known is the work of Canada that touches on economic policy development. In a number of situations, Canada has brought innovation to the forefront in terms of economic and financial mechanisms. We only have to think about the crisis of 2008 and our banking system. It's also an area of work where we have a number of think tanks. I think, for example, of CIGI in Waterloo, the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Over the years, it has developed a very strong capacity in financial aspects.
Science and technology is the last aspect. I'll give you an example. A few years ago, through a state visit, I was accompanying the Governor General of Canada, the Honourable David Johnston. People started to ask me how IDRC could help them to create institutions that would provide funding in their country to their researchers on thematics that we would define. Originally, we started working with 26 countries in Africa to define the types of institutions that they would like. When I presented this to some colleagues at the international level, they thought we were crazy, and that in some contexts those countries don't have the capacity to do these types of things.
We now have a $15-million program that is reinforcing the capacity of these granting councils, like those we have in Canada, to meet the challenge of the 21st century, which is, how can a national country provide small funding in order to enhance the capacity of its students—for example, at the master's or Ph.D. levels—to deliver research results that will help policy, help academia, and help business?
We strongly believe that in the next 10 years this is going to be an area that will take on a lot of importance, because the growth in many of these countries is at 6%, 7%, and 8%, and there is a desire to participate worldwide in the development of research in order to meet the challenge of the 21st century nationally or internationally.
Invest more in the IDRC. No, I'm just joking.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Jean Lebel: It is important that we maintain continuity. That's definitive.
However, if you we were to look at the history of IDRC over the last 46 years, there are four common threads: agriculture, health, economy, and science.
If I look at the policy of the Canadian government over the last 15 years, food security and agriculture has been there and health in various forms has also been there. I think the thematic focus is not necessarily challenging, but what is more challenging is the continuity. In my business, if we are not working on long term we're dead.
We have to make the case all the time to our shareholders, to you in Parliament and other Canadians, and worldwide, that an investment in research may not pay now, but it might pay in a few years down the road and it may also have an impact that is not foreseen.
This Ebola vaccine, when it was tested in Guinea, the Guineans didn't want to be told by Canadians and westerners what to do. They brought in a team from Mali and by pure coincidence this team from Mali was trained by an IDRC grant, a Canadian government grant, on HIV vaccine trials. So the Malians were teaching the Guineans how to do it and the Guineans were successful in this ring vaccination process. That's an illustration of continuity.