Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to be here. It's an honour to be consulted before such an accomplished and experienced group of individuals.
I will give you a bit of background. I returned with my family to Vancouver last year after spending nearly 20 years based in Boston, where I did my education in economics at Harvard and then spent almost a decade with the faculty of the Harvard Business School. My research is on foreign aid primarily, but I also have looked into a number of areas of economic development. Part of the foreign aid research has been on aid allocation decisions by donor countries, so it is especially exciting to be a part of this committee.
I've also maintained a foot in the real world, working during grad school on refugee issues in Uganda and then briefly for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government aid agency, in the year that it was starting up, and then advising the government of Liberia on economic policy. Most recently, in my return to Vancouver I'm Simon Fraser's in-kind contribution towards CIRDI, the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute, where I'm working on issues of resource governance.
I'd like to make myself available informally to the committee—to the individuals and to the analysts—going forward, to the extent that it's helpful.
Canada has the tenth-largest economy in the world. Its contribution towards the GDP of advanced economies is just over 3%, meaning that on a good day we might be contributing 5% of the expenditure towards solving the global public good. Now, 5% is a funny number. Done well, that means we can target a handful of problems, work in a handful of places, and really push the envelope and lead the agenda in terms of generating change. Done without much focus, it might be like trying to boil the ocean.
How has Canada's focus on foreign aid been so far? I'm not sure how many of you have the handout that I sent in. Yes? Okay. I can refer to it.
I looked at the top 10 aid recipients in the last year for which OECD provided the data. The leader of the list is Ukraine, with around $130 million U.S., and then it goes down to Jordan and the West Bank and Gaza as numbers 9 and 10. Then I compared their GDP and the total aid from other donors to these countries. As you'll be able to see when you see the prepared remarks, to only one country do we actually give the equivalent of 1% of the country's gross domestic product, and that is Haiti. Most of the others are at less than half a per cent of their GDP.
If you look at the share of the aid received by all our recipient countries, you see that the two leading countries are the Ukraine and the Philippines, where we give close to 10% of their total aid, and those aren't aid-dependent countries. Those are middle-income countries that don't really rely on aid for much. If you were to look at countries where we give at least a half a per cent of their GDP in aid and we contribute at least 5% of the total aid received by those countries, you would see only two countries on the list, Mali and Haiti. That's a fairly low bar for being a real driver of those countries' inclusive development agendas.
That was exhibit A. The second one that I wanted to talk about, exhibit B, which corresponds to table 2, is the possibility of thematic focus, of leading the global agenda on a substantive issue.
In my world of economic development and resource governance, I admire a handful of programs by some bilaterals. Norway has a couple.
One is their support to countries around oil governance. Their annual spend on that is around $50 million Canadian a year. It's a relatively narrow issue, but that $50 million is well within the resource envelope of a country like Canada in terms of pursuing global leadership.
A second is their climate and forest initiative. Norway is by far the world leader amongst donor countries in trying to solve the problem of climate change that's caused by deforestation. They acted for a number of years when everyone else was kind of fiddling around and trying to understand the problem. Their spend on that is close to $500 million Canadian. That's much larger, but it's still well within possibility for Canada if we were to dream big on an issue like that.
The U.K., which, as you know, has hit 0.7% of its own GDP toward aid spending, is the world leader on being the smart donor. They spend around $600 million Canadian on research. Of course, they're spending across the gamut of development issues.
Perhaps not coincidentally, I'm working on two projects, one out of the LSE and the other out of the University of Manchester, that are basically applied research projects. We're working closely with advisers in DFID, the Department for International Development, in bringing economics research to bear on the challenges they're confronting.
Again, it's $600 million across the gamut. Canada could achieve leadership with a fraction of that on a select group of issues.
From the United States government, Obama's initiative, Power Africa, gives $390 million Canadian a year. Again, that's well within our ambitions.
Even the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is seen as the best bilateral aid agency that helps countries that are growing successfully, is only about $1.6 billion Canadian.
Substantive themes are also the way knowledge is organized. With a few exceptions, there are very few area specialists and many more specialists who know something about water engineering or financial regulation. The sustainable development goals are organized into substantive areas.
This is not to say there's no point in having a strong presence in any one or handful of countries.
My recommendation is a two-track approach, one of depth with breadth.
On the country side, we could search for a handful of countries where Canada could play an outsized role. By far one of the largest bilateral aid donors, contributing on the same order of magnitude as the World Bank, Canada can be involved in a whole-of-problem approach to creating inclusive growth. This would be good for us as well as for them.
It would be good for us because we would get exposure to the areas we might not have chosen to specialize in. We could have that on-the-ground presence that would allow us to see the issues that were rising in importance as well as to involve the whole of the Canadian ecosystem back home, from provincial regulators to city planners to university educators to high school teachers, or however we would choose to engage with that country.
Given the findings of the first table, to do this effectively Canada would need to choose a much smaller number than the 25 countries, particularly if we were also to take almost an equivalent amount of our budget and invest it in a handful of issue areas where Canada could aim to be the best in the world and could aim to involve, again, our ecosystem of actors, from our professors in the universities to our civil society leaders to our provincial and municipal leaders to our private sector and investment community as part of the change in these particular areas.
In table 3 I list some hypothetical Canadian focus areas. The countries might be....
These aren't based on any empirical process. That's my next point.
Imagine we're present in Haiti, Mali, Syria, Peru, and Mongolia, and we're working on substantive themes, such as maternal health, responsible mining, agricultural productivity, water management, and refugee welfare. This would be a representative portfolio on which Canada could have strong ambitions in a handful of substantive areas as well as in a handful of geographic areas. This would not be done in isolation from our multilateral engagement strategy.
Here again there would be strong investment in a handful of broad-reaching international organizations, such as the UN Secretariat or the G20, as well as in a handful of international organizations that have substantive expertise, such as the World Health Organization or the UNHCR, where our goal would be to be a leading voice, to be among the top two or three countries in terms of staff members, leading reform efforts, playing host to meetings, pushing initiatives, and, of course, funding.
How would we choose these areas? I suggest putting together a scorecard. Bringing in people and listening to Canadians is obviously important, but looking at a scorecard as well could identify and rate the need for us to be engaged in this area, and whether there's a gap that other donors aren't filling.
With Canadian capacity, can we be the best in the world at something? Can we provide it at sufficient scale?
Then, of course, there's the national interest. Can we engage a Canadian ecosystem outside of the international development constituency and can we make Canadian lives better by this engagement?
I look forward to your questions.
Good afternoon. I am extremely pleased to be here today. Thank you for inviting me.
In terms of a bit of background, these are obviously my personal views, not the views of Global Canada, which I'm in charge of.
I'm from western Canada. I was a consultant at McKinsey and Company for a number of years, and then I became global head of strategy at Bombardier and then president of Bombardier International group before working at IDRC as a scholar looking at Canada's role in the world. I was asked to serve as president of CIDA for three years under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, and then for six years I was managing director of the World Economic Forum, the folks who organized Davos, among other things, and who are very engaged in collective actions to share global problems.
It's with that background that I will provide my perspective here.
In terms of a strategic context, over the last 15 years or so we've gone from a G7 world to a “G7 billion” world in which a multitude of states and non-state actors can affect our collective future. In this kind of a world, innovations and improvements can be shared rapidly across boundaries. Similarly, negative developments, whether infectious diseases, cybercrime, or terrorism, can be shared with equal speed.
This world is at a crossroads. It is possible that over the next 15 years, we could eradicate absolute poverty. We could stabilize a number of the most fragile states in the world. We could have a record number of states and a record number of people entering the middle class. We could secure a more just and stable and prosperous world, all while respecting planetary boundaries. It is possible and it would be historic.
Unfortunately, I think it's less likely than the other alternative, which is that we'll actually go down a wrong path such that international co-operation will falter; a number of fragile states will collapse; key middle-income states will be captured by extremist groups or authoritarian vested interests; a number of western states will disengage or lash out; the world will enter a downward spiral of tension, conflict, environmental degradation, and, in some areas, ecological collapse; and we will potentially see a catastrophic failure of the international system.
Just because we haven't experienced it yet, we should not imagine that we will not experience it in the next 10 years. In a sense, we're sort of in a 1928-1929 kind of world—not with the tensions of fascism, but with collective challenges and pressures on the system. I think we need to appreciate that we really are at a historic crossroads.
It's also clear that the more likely scenario is the negative one, which would be disastrous for Canada and a terrible legacy for our children. I believe that is the context.
I also believe at this critical moment that Canada can play a more significant role than any we've had in the last 60 years. Probably we're positioned to have the kind of influence we had in the late 1940s and early 1950s, for two reasons.
The first is our capacity to make a difference. We actually have the fiscal room and the domestic support for decision-makers in Ottawa to make bold moves internationally if we choose to. There is Canadian support for a globally engaged Canada.
The second is that we have the mindset and the skill set that correspond with any of the challenges of today, and we have international credibility. We are trusted to do the right things for the right reasons, so in an absolute sense, we can make a difference.
Perhaps even more striking—and, in a sense, more worrying—is that in a comparative sense, we really stand out, because although we are the smallest G7 country, we are perhaps the G7 country today that has the greatest unused capacity to make a positive difference, since many other G7 partners are tapped out. The United States is going through a very difficult period politically. The U.K. is tapped out in terms of its fiscal commitments to defence and development, which are well beyond ours or those of many others, and it's also going through an existential crisis. France is in a very challenged space. Italy and Japan are in a financial morass. If you look through the G7, we're the ones left standing in terms of being able to actually engage in a significant way if we choose to.
Given that context, I believe we have the opportunity and also the obligation to engage in a way that's consequential: not just to be present, but to actually make a real difference.
So how does one do that in this complex world? I would argue we do it by being very focused and very determined.
What I'm going to lay out in the next five minutes is a development diamond with four points.
The first point is a very sharp focus. There are, as Eric mentioned, a number of geographies where we can be very useful. I would argue that there are only a limited number where we can truly be game-changing.
If we look at countries that have regional or global significance in terms of world stability and that are also countries where we can actually make a difference in outcomes, there are two.
The first is Haiti, which Eric mentioned. It is the only fragile state in Latin America or in the Americas—although Venezuela is trying to catch up—and it has a huge impact on the entire Caribbean region. It's at a critical point in its own political and economic development. We are, together with France and the U.S., the three major players there, but we have a credibility and objectivity that the other two do not. We can make a unique difference there, should we choose to.
The second is Afghanistan. It's obviously one of the poorest countries in the world. It's a critically challenged country. It is very important not just for its own sake, but also for the impact it has on Pakistan and the region. It is a place with which we have a unique relationship, not just because of the sacrifice of treasure and blood that we've collectively made, but also because of the capacity that we have in our civil servants, in our leaders, and in civil society here in Canada, and the tremendous respect with which Canada is held from the lowest level right up to the president of Afghanistan. It is another place where, should we choose to, we can make a real difference. These are the two.
Let me go to the other part of focus, which is thematic. When looking at our way in the world, think about this as a T. We can go very deep in a limited number of countries, and there are a few areas where we can engage globally in a way that again would make a difference.
These aren't exclusive. There are other things that we will be doing as well, but in terms of the places sectorally where there is again a great unmet need that has global implications—not just that it's nice to improve them, but that they could actually change the track of the global outcome—and where we have a unique contribution to make, I would argue that again there are two.
The first is reproductive health. In international development programs, people have too often tended to cherish girls but abandon or forget about women. In some developing countries that we're involved in, a girl has an 80% to 90% chance of being immunized or going to school. She has less than a 10% to 20% chance of having access to modern contraception when she becomes a woman.
The impact of 200 million women being without the contraception they are often dying to get means 100,000 women and 600,000 children perish every year. The implications on the development of a country go beyond that.
When women are empowered to choose when they have children and how many they have, they tend to have smaller families. These smaller families allow more workers per dependent, which increases per capita economic growth by up to 30%. It also tends to reduce the ecological burden on the country and, in fragile states, the chance of resource-based conflict. Therefore, empowering women is not only good for rights; it actually changes the demographic destiny of countries and regions. If we look at issues like the Sahel, we see that countries like Mali and Niger will collapse in the next 30 years unless there is full empowerment of women there.
This is therefore not just a rights issue: it is a geopolitical issue. It's a place where Canada is uniquely positioned because of our credibility on MNCH, which the present government is continuing, and because of the present government's focus on women and girls and our general credibility on dealing with sensitive issues. That would be one theme.
The second one is within our own DNA: it's peace, order, and good government. When looking at the world and looking at development, we see that whether it's fragile states or low- and middle-income states or states that are more developed like Brazil, governance is key. To paraphrase James Carville, it's the state, stupid. That's the key issue.
Canada has a great tradition of working on governance. It's a place that we have understood right from the beginning of our own country. Particularly within peace, order, and good governance is the peace and order aspect: policing, judiciary, penitentiary systems. These are places that the world needs help and these are places where Canada has a tremendous credibility. I would argue that peace, order, and good government are Canada's strongest competitive advantage and the world's greatest unmet need.
Those, then, are the geographical and sectoral points of focus.
The third point is how we do it. We need the right resources, focused at the right level. That would mean that for these countries and for these particular areas we need to invest with the intention of becoming the best in the world. If we're going to focus on good governance, including the resource governance that Eric mentioned, we should say that Canada and Ottawa are going to become global centres of good governance. There's no UN institution for good governance in the way that the WHO is for health. This is something we can own.
Beyond the idea of putting resources into a specific area, there is the question of resources overall. In my last two minutes, I want to note where we are in terms of overall commitment in order to make sure our resources can match our rhetoric.
I draw your attention to the next four slides.
The first shows where Canada is compared with its peers, those being other G7 countries and mid-sized open economies such as Norway and Sweden. We are well below average in that group. In 2014, we contributed about 0.24% of GNI; in 2015, it was about 0.28%. The average is almost twice that, at about half a per cent of GNI. If you look at countries that we refer to as “like-minded”—the Scandinavians and the U.K.—you can see that our minds are in the same place, but our pocketbooks are not. We're generally spending one-half to one-third of what our real peers are spending.
The second point, as shown in the third slide, is that not only are we spending less than our peers, but we're now spending much less than we have spent historically. For 30 years, across Conservative and Liberal governments, there was a strong commitment to development. We were leaders, at about a half a percent of GDP. In the early 1990s, with our fiscal and constitutional crises, that fell, and it hasn't come back.
The situation today will be the worst we've been in if we continue at this level. Last year was the second-lowest commitment of our resources in history in relation to GNI. Today we're at about 0.28%; under Prime Minister Chrétien, it was 0.31%; under Martin, it was 0.3%; under Prime Minister Harper, it was 0.3%.
Don't think of these hundredths of a decimal point as a fraction of a per cent. Each one-hundredth is about $200 million—more importantly, it's about 25,000 lives. It's about 50,000 refugee families, 2 million girls going to school, and 1.5 million women having access to family planning. That's what you can do with one one-hundredth of one per cent. This isn't a fraction of a decimal point—this is millions of lives.
If we continue at this level, we will have the lowest level of commitment of any Canadian government in the last 50 years. With respect to our campaign for the UN Security Council, one of the reasons we lost was that we were seen as not being committed to international development. Our commitment at that point was 0.34%. To go back up to a level seen as too low several years ago, we would have to commit an extra billion dollars a year.
This isn't to be defensive about the past; rather, it is to point out that we need to be determined about the future. We need to step up and move forward.
The U.K. is the only G7 country that has reached 0.7%. It reached it across three administrations—Labour, a Social Democratic-Conservative coalition, and Conservatives. It reached it over a period of 15 years of sustained commitment. They started on this journey in 1997, and they realized this end in 2013.
The U.K. in 1997 is almost identical to us today. Their unemployment rate was about 7%; ours is about 7%. Their deficit was about 2%; ours is about 2%. Their commitment in terms of ODA, official development assistance, to GNI was about one-quarter of 1%, which is where we are today. Where the U.K. was then is where we are now. The question is whether we have the collective ambition to be, 15 years from now, where the U.K. is today, which is in a position as a true leader in international development.
We're not talking about aid and we're not talking about assistance. We're talking about an international investment in our collective well-being. This is about investing in preventative maintenance for the planet. That's what international development engagement is in the 21st century. That's why I think the role that you're playing in reviewing bilateral development assistance is so critically important.
Thank you for your time.
I think those are fantastic questions, and they outline the fact that these are very challenging areas.
Development in a Haiti or an Afghanistan, which are like South Korea or Taiwan, for example, 40 years ago, is not a five- or 10-year issue; it's a 30- or 40-year issue.
In Haiti during the 1980s and 1990s, per capita income was dropping, environmental devastation was increasing, and there was increasing political violence. There was a downward spiral. Haiti has now, despite the earthquake and the other challenges, stabilized. There are certain indicators of education of young people, particularly girls, and certain elements of per capita growth that are starting to be positive, but it's going to take a lot of work. A lot of the best officials were the ones who were killed in the buildings during the earthquake. Rebuilding capacity takes decades, not years.
What can we do? I think Canada, both in Haiti and Afghanistan, did some excellent work. What do we need to do? Keep the focus at a high level. It's complex and challenging and it's not nice to work in these areas, but it's necessary, so what it requires is a cross-partisan parliamentary decision to stay by it. We have to decide that although there are ups and downs, we're going to keep pushing.
What can we do to build on this? We can continue to do the security sector reform in Haiti by reforming the police, the judiciary, and the penitentiary system so that MINUSTAH eventually can leave; we can continue to build some of the key institutions and create the rule of law that will allow private sector and other growth; we can have someone at an assistant deputy minister level charged with Haiti, either the ambassador or a special envoy; and we can lay out in Haiti and Afghanistan not a two- or three-year commitment, which is what we're presently doing, but a conditional 15-year commitment.
If we want to make a difference in Afghanistan, we have to say, “We're there.“ If certain things are realized, we're there for 15 years at $300 million a year, which was what we did at the peak civilian engagement. That's a $4.5 billion commitment. We're going to have an assistant deputy minister, or a special envoy retired deputy minister, as someone there to oversee it. We're going to report back to this group every quarter, as we did before. We're going to keep pushing. We're going to do it not because there's a partisan reason or a political reason, because it's not that popular; it's just important. I think that's the level of commitment we have to have.
I mentioned South Korea because it's interesting. In the case of South Korea in the 1960s, a decade after the end of the conflict, the World Bank and others were in despair. It was a terrible mess. There was a military dictatorship. Why did they stay the course? It was because they had to. We couldn't let South Korea collapse. If you look at what happened in the 20 years since, you see that things bore fruit. That's because there was strategic persistence. I think that's another element we can bring to it. Those would be the parts.
To conclude, one difference in development compared to 30 years ago is that the key remaining development challenges are fragile states. These are the toughest of the toughest nuts to crack. If we're going to make a difference, we have to be prepared to make a difference in a different way.
I'm Wendy Harris, president and CEO of the Canadian Executive Service Organization.
My background is in the private sector. I'm a chartered professional accountant. I bring that lens to international development. I got involved with CESO seven years ago, and believe in the power of wisdom, experience, and strong business fundamentals to catalyze transformative change.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you also to the honourable members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for inviting us here today. We are delighted to participate in the international aid policy review and to provide our perspective with you today.
CESO is an international economic development organization dedicated to sustainably reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth in many countries around the world and within indigenous communities in Canada. Our main focus areas are private sector development and institutional strengthening.
Because we work in both national and international settings where we leverage key learning and best practices from both programs, we hope to bring a unique perspective to the committee today, one that helps to connect the dots between Canadian international aid and development efforts and those here at home, a challenge posed by to the Canadian aid and development community on May 9, 2016.
At CESO, we live and breathe these connections every day, and we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. Importantly, our work is locally driven, and our main responsibility is to our clients and partners; everything we do moves through this lens. Our expert volunteers transfer their knowledge and skills to our clients, who then develop the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty to become not only the owners but the creators of their own long-term prosperity. This approach contributes to their self-sufficiency and resiliency long after our work is done.
As an organization dedicated to sustainable poverty reduction, we emphatically support the new global agenda and the main goal of eradicating all poverty by 2030. As many of my colleagues and peers have mentioned in testimony previously, this goal, and all 17 sustainable development goals more generally, represents a substantial commitment on the part of the international community to address the biggest issues and challenges faced by the world's most vulnerable in every country, including Canada. It also provides the opportunity for the many stakeholders around the globe, including local partners, to collaborate, communicate, and innovate in ways that have not necessarily been intuitive within the development and trade environments so far.
It is an exciting time to look at solving these complex problems with fresh eyes, fresh approaches, and fresh partnerships. We also firmly support and applaud the new government's related focus on the poorest of the poor, on fragile states, and on women and girls.
Seen through the lens of economic development, helping to break the cycle of poverty and closing the wealth gap extends beyond the individual. Systems and institutions, whether in low- or middle-income countries, must have the capacity to provide and manage adequate social and economic programming to ensure that the opportunities and supports for all individuals are not only present but also working, both equitably and well.
It is CESO's position after nearly 50 years of experience that generating economic value and developing a strong economic infrastructure lie at the heart of sustainable change and growth, including the eradication of poverty. We commend both the previous government and the current government for acknowledging the role economic development plays in these objectives and we strongly advocate for a deep commitment to furthering this thematic focus area in the revised international assistance framework. However, it's important to recognize the interconnectedness between economic and social development, and the critical need to address both focus areas in reality.
This connection is not always obvious. Often social and economic efforts are considered, and even approached, either separately or as competing priorities. From CESO's perspective and lengthy history in working in both international and national contexts, we know how inextricably intertwined they really are. This link is perhaps most visible and obvious in our work with Canadian indigenous communities.
In many of these communities, simply addressing economic activity A or social development activity B isn't sufficient. Often, a more holistic approach of addressing multiple issues simultaneously is required. On the side of economic stimulation, the stronger the economic infrastructure is—including well-operating, transparent institutions and governing structures, job creation opportunities, a diversified economy, etc.—the greater will be the ability for an individual, community, country, or region to invest and reinvest in both social and economic initiatives.
In fact, Minister Bibeau recently commented:
|Economic growth is not only about creating jobs for individuals: it can also generate revenues for governments to help provide inclusive social programs and services for their citizens, such as education and health care.
CESO's work in strengthening tax and audit efforts in Guyana is a great example of this ability to generate revenues that can then be applied to ensuring that additional economic and social programs are created and sustained.
On an individual level, the opportunity to plan ahead and move beyond daily survival is critical. When people have a relatively stable and predictable income, they can begin to invest in other important areas, such as their children's education, food and nourishment, preventive health care, and reliable housing or shelter.
The other consequence, which is often overlooked, is that they begin to engage in consumer-oriented activities, such as buying goods and services from local micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, thus injecting much-needed stimulus into the local community and economy. In turn, these individuals can use their predictable income to improve their families' health and well-being and to contribute to the community's economy. This is the multiplier effect. Research shows that this individual and community reinvestment occurs at a higher rate when women are economically empowered.
The most obvious and immediate beneficiaries of these investments are children and youth, not only because their quality of life improves but also because opportunities to improve their future become increasingly available. Stability and predictability lead to resiliency, adaptability, and the ability of individuals and institutions to recover quickly from shocks or disasters, whether they are natural, economic, political, or social.
On the side of social development, the stronger the social infrastructure—including health, education, and equality measures—the greater the ability for individuals, communities, and institutions to participate in the economic activities around them.
As my colleagues before me have pointed out, over 70% of the world's poorest live in middle-income countries. This jarring statistic points to a variety of complex causes and issues that often occur simultaneously, including limited economic opportunity, gross levels of inequality, and the various consequences of climate change. It also points to weaknesses at both institutional and systemic levels. This goes back to the interconnectedness between social and economic development. These two focus areas must work in tandem to achieve sustainable poverty eradication.
Considering the knowledge and experience we've accumulated over our history, we ask the Canadian government to consider the following three recommendations relating to international aid assistance.
First, we strongly recommend that local perspectives play a bigger role in the identification and direction of Canadian development priorities. By elevating the role of local contributions, we ensure that development efforts are truly addressing local needs, regardless of the framework of prioritization or delivery. This is also necessary in similar work with indigenous communities in Canada. We can't emphasize enough the value of local collaboration. For sustainability to take hold, local ideas, processes, and approaches must be organically incorporated along each step of Canadian intervention so that beneficiaries are not simply recipients of the impacts, but co-creators and owners.
Second, we often assume innovation is all about new ideas and ways of doing things. However, sometimes innovation simply comes from applying previous successes in new contexts in ways that yield positive change. In a development context, programmatic success should be leveraged as much as possible to replicate impacts when it makes sense to do so. We would also recommend that the Canadian government consider opportunities to fund replication models based on thematic orientation, even when they're outside current countries of focus.
As an example, our work in e-governance in the Philippines is highly sought after by many of our other program countries, including Tanzania, Ecuador, and Senegal.
In brief, the e-governance program uses technology to streamline government systems, increase transparency and efficiencies, reduce government corruption, increase tax revenues, and give many more benefits. With some locally or regionally oriented adaptations, this type of innovative program could easily be replicated in many different countries and regions.
Finally, the world is opening up, and in many ways frontiers are dissolving. Many of the complex challenges discussed today aren't constrained by territorial borders. Likewise, looking at issues only in terms of individual country impacts inhibits the potential for innovative solutions generated from multiple collaborators with different perspectives and experiences. I would be happy to expand on an example of our work in West Africa relating to regional food security and agriculture.
We strongly encourage the Canadian government to consider addressing regional thematic issues in broader ways than by country alone.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the review process. I look forward to your questions.
My name is Evelyne Guindon.
First of all, I would like to wish everyone good afternoon.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee.
I'm going do my presentation in English, but please don't hesitate at any point to ask me questions in either language.
I've had 25 years of experience as a development worker. I started off my career working in sexual and reproductive health. I've worked in environmental sectors. I started off in the volunteer sector. Working for Cuso has been a very meaningful part of my career. What's also very important is that my practice throughout my career has been framed by my steadfast belief in the power of partnership. I've worked in all sectors that are working at the forefront of development. Over the years, I've learned how important as well as how complex partnership and dialogue are, and how key and critical they are to addressing poverty and inequality. You'll hear that reflected in my presentation today.
Cuso International, for those of you who don't know it well, is a long-standing Canadian international development organization working to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality around the world. Since our inception in 1961, we've mobilized more than 16,000 highly skilled volunteers to build the capacity of local partners, governments, civil society, and private sector partners. We've done so in over 80 countries.
We're currently working in 19 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and now here in Canada in partnership with indigenous communities. We welcome the current government's commitment to review and refine bilateral development assistance so that it reaches those who need it most.
Today we have six key points in response to the pertinent questions that you presented for our consideration.
First, we believe that bilateral development assistance should focus on supporting poor and marginalized people and communities rather than just poor countries. We believe that the current country-of-focus model offers both advantages and limitations. Focusing narrowly on certain countries means that programming is confined by geography and is less responsive in times of crisis or in times of opportunity. Middle-income countries are home to five billion of the world's seven billion people and 73% of the world's poorest people.
I'll give you an example. Colombia is considered an upper-middle country, but it's also one of the most unequal countries in the world. More than 13 million Colombians live in poverty, and more than six million are internally displaced people. Colombia is second in the world after Syria in terms of displaced people. Therefore, we believe that poverty, inequality, and exclusion are the factors that should guide our efforts and should be considered outside the overly simplistic categorization of poor countries, which ignores the existence of pockets of extreme poverty and exclusion.
Second, effective development programming requires long-term vision and commitment. Meaningful and successful initiatives do take time. Our most successful partnerships with local stakeholders took years to develop and to yield results. The support we provided through technical assistance and volunteers allowed partners to become self-sufficient and to deliver on their mission and projects—which is what my colleague was talking about—rather than simply being beneficiaries.
Our recommendation to the committee is to make as few changes as possible to existing priority countries in the short term, thereby ensuring the stability of programs and partnerships in the countries where we collectively work.
Linked to this, we encourage funding opportunities and mechanisms that promote long-term accompaniment. Achieving sustainable results through international assistance requires a long-term approach, and it is important that funding cycles reflect this reality. This means honouring five-year predictable funding cycles, providing opportunities to access funding for subsequent phases of successful scalable programs, and, ideally, providing longer-term funding beyond the five-year cycle.
We must build synergies between aid, diplomacy, and trade, but we must avoid models in which trade defines aid priorities. As well, we must build synergies between multilateral, bilateral, and other funding tracks, such as the partnerships for development innovation branch.
Third, the Government of Canada should align its development agenda with the SDGs, the sustainable development goals, building on the previous thematic focus areas of food security, sustainable economic growth, and children and youth, but with a wider and more holistic approach to development programming.
Cuso's approach has been to build its expertise and programming in particular thematic areas where we feel we can be most effective, where we can create a robust body of knowledge and expertise, and where there are strong returns on investment. Today we focus on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, access to quality health services, gender equality, and social inclusion.
Putting women and girls at the centre of Canada's development agenda is critical. The promotion and protection of women's and girls' rights and gender equality is our priority. As an organization leading innovative programming in mental health, reproductive health, and midwifery and capitalizing on Canadian expertise to deliver that impact, we would really like to see the Government of Canada move beyond maternal, newborn, and child health programming to support women's and girls' rights for a more holistic approach.
We would also encourage increased resources and programming directed towards young people. Many of the world's 1.8 billion young people are concentrated in the countries in which Cuso International works. This creates both demand and opportunity for working with them to improve education, health, and employment opportunities and can constitute a dynamic force of political change and social transformation.
While Canada may not focus on all 17 SDGs, we encourage the committee to consider key thematic priorities that work together to reduce poverty, inequality, and exclusion, all with gender and social inclusion lenses.
Fourth, as an organization that focuses on capacity-building, we believe that strengthening and building on existing country capacity is key to supporting an enabling environment for development aid to be effective. Enhancing local partners' capacity and fostering local ownership are good practices and reduce the risk of dependency on foreign aid. Even in cases of humanitarian crises and long-term, protracted emergencies, building the capacity of local partners, including civil society, to address long-term development needs has to be included in the plans, or else we see only short-term needs addressed while poverty, instability, and fragility continue.
Cuso International has a successful track record in building meaningful partnerships and mobilizing highly skilled Canadian volunteers from our rich mosaic. This includes diaspora volunteers and e-volunteers, people who sit in the comfort of their homes and volunteer by using electronic means. We encourage the prioritizing of initiatives that focus on building the capacity of local agents of change to design and deliver effective and innovative solutions to development problems within their own contexts and needs.
We also encourage the Government of Canada to complement humanitarian interventions with long-term initiatives that focus on building resilience and local capacity through strategic partnerships between organizations with different but complementary types of expertise.
Fifth is promoting stable, flexible, and innovative programming that recognizes the transaction cost and benefit of partnerships. Moving from supporting initiatives based on fixed models or program parameters towards funding mechanisms that are flexible and that promote piloting, testing, and scaling up of innovative cross-sectoral initiatives gives Canadian organizations like ours the space to collaborate, think, and innovate inside project life cycles. The Government of Canada should consider facilitating partnerships to ensure cross-sectoral innovation and contributions.
Canada's NGOs need funding to engage meaningfully in these types of collaborative efforts. My experience has shown that the impact is greatest when collaboration between sectors is intrinsic to the program, but it takes time and effort and funding to do it right. We can no longer collaborate from the side of our desk, which is what we do, and we’ve been doing it through organizations like the Devonshire Initiative and other wonderful initiatives that you might have heard of already today, but it must be central to our approach to delivering aid effectively.
Sixth, we encourage continued support to international volunteering as an effective tool to eradicate poverty, inequality, and exclusion. Volunteering is a primary and integral cultural value and is recognized as central to the fabric of a healthy and democratic civil society. It is a primary means of expressing local, national, and global citizenship. Canada is recognized the world over as having developed the most extensive and innovative models of volunteering in international development. We are two examples here with our organizations, and it's a reflection on the role played by Cuso International and many others.
Volunteers can contribute to the transformational delivery of the SDGs across all thematic areas, but I want to bring your attention to goal 17, which explicitly highlights that volunteer groups are critical for implementation of all the goals. Volunteering is an effective and cost-effective way to mobilize Canadian expertise and, as stated by Robert Greenhill, Canada's excellence to build the capacity of those local partners and obtain results.
Highly skilled volunteers embody Canadian values of global citizenship, openness, diversity, and respect. We recommend the volunteer co-operation program be central to Canada's international development programming. International volunteerism should not be restricted to north-south interventions, but it should encourage national volunteerism, south-south volunteerism, south-north volunteerism, as a means of maximizing the human resources available all around the world.
In summary, we recommend a focus on poor people and communities; a long-term vision and commitment to build sustainable partnerships for development; building on previous thematic areas and aligning with selected SDGs but with a more holistic approach and a focus on women and youth; supporting initiatives that build local capacity; prioritizing stable, flexible, and innovative programming; and continued support for Canada's leadership in international volunteering to eradicate poverty, inequality, and exclusion.
Thank you so much.
Thank you very much for your invitation