Good afternoon everyone. I would like to thank the committee for inviting Save the Children to appear today.
My name is Marlen Mondaca, and I am the director of international programs at Save the Children. Save the Children is an organization that places children, boys and girls, and their rights at the centre of our actions. Children and their best interests are the central guiding principle of our work. Indeed, our founder Eglantyne Jebb was integral to the development of the 1923 declaration on children's rights that promoted the concept that children have individual rights. This declaration was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924 and then became the basis for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in 1989.
Our history therefore as an organization working for and with children both on humanitarian and development programming, extends back almost 100 years and is guided by the principles of the convention. Given our history and long experience, I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to spend the next few minutes with you to share some of our thoughts as well as to put forward some key principles that can help inform the criteria that you set out when making decisions on the future of Canada's bilateral development assistance.
The first principle that I would like to put forward for your consideration is the importance of having our Canadian international assistance take a rights-based approach, putting people, especially girls and boys, at the centre of our investments and strategy. The global community has made progress over the last 25 years in moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more rights-based one, which strengthens local governance and empowers citizens, including children. If we are to succeed in our efforts to reach the 2030 sustainable development goals, we will have to ensure that international assistance and development reflect rights-based principles including universality, equity, participation, interdependence, interrelatedness, and accountability.
When thinking about girls and boys, we often only view them through the lens of protection. We are conscious of our roles as adults and as parents to protect and provide for them. Children, however, are not mini-people with mini-rights. Children, like adults, have full individual human rights that must be respected. Girls and boys have agency and can, as their personal development permits, communicate their needs, shape their communities and institutions, and be agents of change for their present and future.
Children and youth have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and they must play a pivotal role in developing and implementing solutions to the challenges they face. From our programming experience, we know that when children and youth's voices are heard and taken into account, there are tremendous benefits for all stakeholders. Institutions, including schools and local and national governments, become more inclusive and accountable, and children's sense of belonging in their community grows. Through their active engagement, girls and boys experience citizenship-building, and they are able to develop skills for creating peaceful, democratic solutions to the issues they face. We are therefore very pleased to see child and youth participation as a continuing development priority.
At the heart of the sustainable development goals, or the SDGs, as they are called, is the principle that no one is left behind and that no goal is met unless it is met for everyone. This is the second principle I would like to put forward for your consideration.
Although the millennium development goals helped us to make great strides, we were not able to meet all of our goals, in part because of inequality due to gender but also due to race, ethnicity, or geography, simply where you live.
Let me first tackle gender inequality. Girls are still too often denied a voice in the decisions at household, community, and national levels. While progress has been made, gender inequality still permeates all aspects of societies and is a root cause of many barriers to sustainable development around the world.
Save the Children believes that it is critical to identify and work to transform the root causes of gender inequality. This requires addressing social norms and institutions that reinforce gender inequity.
Working with women, men, girls and boys, community and religious leaders, as well as advocating for and fostering legislation and policies that promote gender equality, is central to the work of addressing gender inequality.
Tackling gender alone is not sufficient. Race, ethnicity and geography must also be considered. We know, for example, that two-thirds of families who experience health, nutrition, and education poverty, in low and lower-middle income countries, are headed by a person from a racial or ethnic minority group.
Save the Children has in fact recently released new research that shows that inequities in life chances among excluded racial and ethnic groups are worsening in the majority of countries for which data is available. As an example, indigenous groups make up 5% of the global population, but 15% of people living in poverty globally.
In Peru, a middle-income country, indigenous Quechua children have life chances equivalent to the average for girls and boys in Gambia, one of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, a Quechua child is 1.6 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday, and more than twice as likely to be stunted, as are children from a Spanish-speaking background.
The third principle that I would like to propose for your consideration is that Canada's approach must ensure we focus on the most excluded girls and boys wherever they live. When speaking of fragility in the context of international development, we must acknowledge that it is neither static, nor is it defined by borders. Fragility is dynamic. Stable states can become fragile due to conflict or climate crisis. In stable states, there are fragile communities because of structural inequality, most often based on race, ethnicity, gender or geographic remoteness.
While a focus on least developed and fragile states is necessary, Canada's development assistance strategy must also be able to address poor and marginalized populations within countries, and fragile contexts within states. This will ensure Canada meets its primary development objectives and those of the sustainable development goals.
As previous presenters to this committee have undoubtedly outlined, and as members of this committee know, the geography of poverty has shifted. Poverty is pervasive not just in low-income countries, but also in middle-income countries. According to the World Bank, more than 70% of the world's poor now live in countries that are middle-income. Thus, to reduce poverty and inequality in the world, and help the poorest and most vulnerable, in line with Minister Bibeau's mandate, our efforts must now focus not only on poor countries, as units of dedicated development intervention, but on people who are marginalized and living in poverty, regardless of where they live.
This important shift in analysis would see us focusing on where the poorest and most marginalized are, and ensuring that our international development approach is fit for purpose. It must have flexibility in design, and mechanisms to reach the very people who are most in need and ensure they are not left behind. Sound development must be based on need.
There is no question that fragile states and least-developed countries should receive the majority of Canada's development assistance, but it should also be noted that in 2013 the OECD reported that almost half of all fragile states were middle income. Flexibility will be important for Canadian development assistance to have the most impact.
Finally, in closing I would like to end with a quote from our founder Eglantyne Jebb, who said, “Humanity owes the child the best it has to give.”
The Canadian Government has an opportunity through this consultation process to invest in development programming that places children and youth, especially the most marginalized, at the centre of its interventions, both as key actors and as an affected group. It also has an opportunity to understand that children and youth's lives, and the issues that affect them, must be understood as multidimensional.
Children living in poverty rarely experience stand-alone deprivation. Poor health and nutrition, poor quality educational opportunities, early marriage, and few work opportunities, usually go hand in hand. Therefore, while funding streams and projects can be siloed and focused on specific thematic areas, the deprivations experienced by girls and boys are overlapping and reinforcing.
Integrated programming that seeks to address multiple areas of deprivation can lead to stronger sustainable results in programming. Therefore, we recommend that Canada continue to develop greater flexibility in funding mechanisms for programs that are designed to address the multiple and unique deprivations that girls and boys face.
Thank you and good afternoon. My name is Mark Fryars. I'm the vice-president of programs and technical services with the Micronutrient Initiative. Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you today.
The Micronutrient Initiative is committed to tackling one of the most pressing issues of our time, malnutrition, and particularly the lack of essential vitamins and minerals known as micronutrients. We are an international not-for-profit organization with a global reach, but headquartered here in Canada. For almost 25 years the Micronutrient Initiative has delivered high-impact programs and new approaches to help accelerate the scale-up of better nutrition globally.
Our mission is to ensure that the world's most vulnerable people, and especially women and children in developing countries, get access to the nutrition they need to survive and thrive. We help countries design, deliver, and measure integrated, innovative, and long-lasting solutions to correct nutritional deficiencies.
Thanks to investments from Canada and other generous donors, we've managed to improve the nutrition of about 500 million people each year in more than 70 countries. Canada's contribution to our vitamin A program alone has helped save an estimated four million children's lives worldwide since 1998.
We feel this is a great example of Canada's official development assistance fulfilling its mandate in making a real impact. Today I'd like to talk about the importance of Canada's impact in terms of where Canada works and what Canada does.
To begin with, I want to make five points about geographic focus for you to consider.
First, let me stress the importance of focusing for impact. The Micronutrient Initiative has been able to achieve significant impact for Canada and Canadians by focusing our efforts. To maximize the impact that Canada can have, our view is that Canada's official development assistance must likewise be focused, whether we're talking about thematic areas or countries of focus.
Second is that poverty is not confined to the poorest countries. I think you've just heard that. Global malnutrition and poverty are very complex. We know that some of the poorest, most vulnerable, and malnourished are not just in the poorest countries but also in lower- and middle-income countries. They all need assistance.
Third, reaching the vulnerable is absolutely essential. Another consideration for Canada is where and how to achieve the most impact for the most vulnerable people and especially women and girls. Canada already responds well to calls for international humanitarian assistance wherever it's needed. But development assistance is also important for reducing vulnerability. Canada currently focuses on a fairly well-balanced mix of fragile states and least developed countries as well as low- and lower-middle income countries. But within those countries, it's a focus on reducing vulnerability that is important.
Fourth, I'd like to suggest that you invest for the long term to realize real gains. As Canada reconsiders its countries of focus, our own experience is that stable, predictable investment over many years is critical to achieving long-term impact. It allows the scaling back of investment once local systems have been established and are working well.
However, in doing so, fifth, I would say that you should maintain flexibility in your funding modalities, because it must be recognized that operating conditions in any given country can change from time to time. The modalities of Canada's investments may, therefore, need adjusting in line with this. Our conclusion is that return on investment for Canadians is best secured where Canada stays the course and can influence change for the better over the long term.
Nonetheless, impact is not simply about the countries that Canada focuses on; it's more often about the issues that Canada focuses on. Canada is well positioned to lead on some key issues that deliver significant impact globally by acting on them on a multilateral basis, as informed, complemented, and reinforced by a portfolio of bilateral country investments.
One such critical area of focus for Canada is malnutrition. You may be surprised to know that Canada is a leader in global nutrition. We have a track record that we can be proud of. Along with the U.K., the U.S., and Japan, Canada is one of the world's largest donors to nutrition. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada is the second largest donor to nutrition and contributes the largest proportion of development assistance of any institutional donor at 4.8%.
Canada is also among the few countries that brings considerable knowledge and technical expertise to the challenge of global nutrition. It has raised international awareness and invested in action on nutrition. Canada supports critical nutrition programs that reduce child mortality and improve maternal and newborn health and child survival.
As a country, we could build on this strength with a strategic area of focus on nutrition for women and girls in particular as a core element of Canada's international development assistance. However, in the recently released international development assistance review discussion document, malnutrition is barely referenced as a critical area of focus. That's unfortunate. I hope that this will change because the stakes are high.
Let me give you six reasons for that.
First of all, malnutrition kills. Almost half of the deaths of children under five years of age are nutrition-related. The biggest contributor to the global disease burden is malnutrition.
Secondly, malnutrition is one of the most persistent barriers to improved human development. A child who gets good nutrition before turning two years of age completes at least four more grades of school and is 33% more likely to escape poverty as an adult than one who doesn't.
Thirdly, malnutrition is both a symptom and a cause of gender inequality. It's unacceptable that we live in a world where one billion women and girls are held back by malnutrition. Malnutrition categorically limits the capacity of women and girls to grow, learn, earn, and lead. Gender discrimination too often relegates women to the lowest rungs of the economic and social ladder. Making matters worse, in some countries women and girls eat last and eat least. I've seen this in Bangladesh, for example, where it's not uncommon for women to spend a long time preparing food for men to eat first, but if there isn't enough food, they and sometimes the children simply miss out.
Fourth, malnutrition costs the global economy $3.5 trillion U.S. a year. Nutrition is one of the most cost-effective investments for a healthier, more productive, and more equitable world. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in nutrition yields $16 in return. That's a pretty good return on investment.
Fifth, good nutrition for women and girls is essential to achieving most of the sustainable development goals. From global poverty and gender equality to health, education, economic growth and climate change, nutrition has a role to play.
Finally, better-nourished people are more resilient to shocks, including the effects of climate change.
The good news is that malnutrition is both preventable and treatable but it requires global leadership. It requires leadership to make nutrition a top development priority, as it's essential to achieving the global sustainable development goals by 2030; leadership to ensure that action to improve women and girls' nutrition particularly is scaled up by governments, donors, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector; and leadership to drive change at a global scale
In conclusion, Canada can build on its leadership in global nutrition by championing nutrition for women and girls in particular, by sustaining its global commitment to financing for global nutrition, and by encouraging global initiatives to scale up nutrition for women and girls by governments, donors, international agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector.
As Canada redefines its role on the global stage, we can leverage our strengths and influence with a strategic focus on ending malnutrition at both the country level and in multilateral fora, like the G-7, the Francophonie, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings, and at the World Health Assembly. Canada's strategic leadership on nutrition for women and girls can make a tremendous difference in the world.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Caroline Riseboro, and I'm the president and CEO of Plan International Canada.
Honourable members of the standing committee, thank you for inviting us to testify today on Canada's countries of focus for bilateral development assistance, an important matter to examine to maximize Canada's impact on global poverty reduction.
Founded in 1937, Plan International is one of the oldest and largest children's development organizations in the world. We work in over 70 countries worldwide to create lasting change for girls and boys in their communities. Everything we do is based on our firm commitment to child rights, and over the years Plan International has become a global leader in gender equality by working to implement gender-transformative programs that target the root causes of inequality. In fact, Plan International is one of the largest INGOs focused on girls' rights in the world.
Our Because I am a Girl campaign that started in 2012 has reached five million girls around the world, and our ambition in the 2030 sustainable development era is to create a world that values girls and women, promotes their rights, and ends injustice. To do this, Plan International, through its Because I am a Girl campaign, is driving a global movement that will transform power relations so that girls can thrive everywhere.
Today's world is ever-changing, mired in complex conflicts, protracted crises, environmental strains, and unrelenting migration. Borders have become more fluid, and with unprecedented levels of displacement, there is no end in sight.
According to UNHCR, there are 60 million people currently who are forcibly displaced worldwide, many of whom are vulnerable women and girls. An entire stateless generation of children born to migrants are unregistered and at risk of long-term exposure to neglect, violence, and exploitation. Fragility such as the current droughts in East Africa last for decades, no longer just years.
The selection process for prioritizing geographic focus must take into consideration the changing, complex circumstances and the pressing needs of the most vulnerable people around the globe, and leave no one behind, as agreed upon by nations of the world in establishing the SDGs.
We believe Canadian development assistance must target these challenges to create opportunities for people living with the lasting impact. In our view, the selection of geographic priorities should be about conditions, opportunities, and the ability to demonstrate the impact for Canadian aid among the most vulnerable populations.
In an effort to focus Canada's bilateral development assistance, I would like to share a list of four key considerations with you that address the complexities of the global context, build upon Canada's existing strengths and comparative advantages, leverage evidence of what has worked, and allow for deeper impact and influence, particularly on the poorest and most marginalized, like girls and women.
The key considerations are as follows.
First is marginalization and vulnerability. As we know, Canada's development assistance is compliant with the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act. A fundamental principle of this act is combatting poverty. We agree with our counterparts that regardless of the status of a country—whether it's least developed, lower middle income, or middle income—we need to support the poorest and most marginalized and underserved populations.
The evidence is indisputable. Adolescent girls remain the most vulnerable population on the earth. This includes adolescent girls who are out of school, unaccompanied minors, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, refugees, and IDPs, as well as populations affected by climate change.
With the massive youth bulge in many developing countries, there are also opportunities to create jobs and look for opportunities for economic development, including the creation of green jobs. In selecting geographic priorities, we also need to consider those who were left behind in the MDG era. In fact, the MDG era mainly focused on those who were relatively better off, and with the SDGs we have an opportunity to focus now on the most vulnerable.
The second consideration is gender equality. As some of my counterparts have pointed out to the committee, Canada has also had tremendous success in advancing gender equality, which we know is essential to reducing poverty. Evidence has demonstrated that intergenerational cycles of poverty can be broken by educating girls. Empowered girls will lift their families, communities, and nations out of poverty.
We must reach girls who are out of school or in unsafe and non-girl-friendly schools; who lack basic rights to water and sanitation; who lack access to comprehensive sexual health, reproductive health, and health services in general; who are at risk of early, forced, and child marriage; and who are in situations of neglect or exploitation and especially vulnerable in conflict or emergency situations.
It's also not lost on any of us today, I think, that I'm speaking mainly to a committee of men, so I also would suggest that we need to reach boys and men and engage them in the critical issues around human rights, equality, and masculinities that support gender equality.
When selecting countries, regions, or sub-regions for bilateral development assistance or, for that matter, any development assistance, Canada must consider the willingness and ability to promote and advance the intrinsic rights of women and girls and the protection of the most vulnerable, which continues to be the adolescent girls.
The third is fragility. We welcome the 's call for Canada's aid to respond to the needs of a new global context, which means that we must overcome the obstacles and seize the opportunities. This means that the selection of geographic priorities for bilateral assistance must respond to the increasing fragility of countries and entire regions.
The fourth is a regional and sub-regional approach. Countries in a region or sub-region face similar challenges and can benefit from regional and sub-regional approaches and investment. It allows the countries to learn from each other and helps to deepen Canada's aid impact and regional influence. In our view, there's an opportunity that can be seized when considering geographic focus. For instance, there are many similarities to the issues linked to high rates of child marriage in southern and east Africa. As such, having a sub-regional program to end child marriage can be a highly effective and efficient way of delivering aid that is cost-effective and produces high impact.
In addition to these four considerations, we would also recommend to the committee that there are three other determinants of success.
The first determinant is flexibility. When the vast majority of funds available is channelled to countries of focus, our hands are often tied in being able to respond to the needs of people impacted by unpredictable circumstances. This is especially true with respect to the current crisis of displaced people who are highly vulnerable but not staying permanently in one country.
The second determinant is innovations that can be taken to scale. We must innovate and scale up evidence-based programs through strategic partnerships. We know that ODA is simply not enough to reach the ambitions of the SDGs. In line with SDG-17, we must not be wary in finding win-win solutions to crowd in critical non-ODA from private sector and other key partners to leverage ODA. We also need to constantly have a view to innovate in terms of finding better ways to do our work, and to scale up programs in the field based on local solutions, in order to effectively respond to challenges such as climate change. This includes harnessing cutting-edge technology in our work on the ground and tracking our results. Innovations that have proven to be effective through evidence must be taken to scale if we wish to reach the ambitions of the SDGs.
This takes me to the third determinant. In prioritizing the geographic focus, we must focus on monitoring, evaluation, and research to track aid investment, learn from past programming, build evidence for proven models, and make Canada's investment count on the global stage. This will also enable Canada to create thought leadership and develop niche expertise and specific topics in geographic areas. This evidence is also crucial to carry out effective advocacy and, more importantly, to communicate with Canadians about the development issues they care about.
During last month's Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, I was able to attend a launch on behalf of Plan International, whereby we have partnered with KPMG and the Gates foundation to develop an SDG tracker focusing specifically on women and girls, again continuing to build monitoring, evaluation, and evidence.
To summarize, there are four key considerations: vulnerability and marginalization, gender equality, fragility, and regional and sub-regional approaches with critical determinants of success, as I mentioned earlier.
Thank you very much. I appreciate the time in front of the committee.
I should preface my remarks by saying that we have also submitted a lengthier version of the remarks. I'm coming from the background of a data and analytics person, so you might find that pervading some of my remarks here as well. The lengthier version is there for you as a resource to have at your discretion.
What I'd like to do is to really situate what I'm going to say in two segments. The first is the challenge. The second is the recommendations—what should Canada do?—if you accept my proposition in terms of the challenge.
The first thing that I think may be worth asking is, do we even really need such a thing as a country of focus list, a prioritization list? So much of assistance now is responsive. So much of what we finance is due to emergencies, which are inherently unpredictable. Do we really need such a prioritization framework?
I would argue that a disciplined commitment to long-term development, especially when budgets are stretched because we have emergencies and humanitarian situations that take up so much of the resource need, is precisely the reason why prioritization is important and precisely the reason to think about the countries of focus list.
What is the problem with the current approach? To summarize, the current approach is based on a threefold formula: the country's need, its ability to benefit from Canadian assistance and from assistance overall, and its alignment with Canadian foreign policy.
What is the problem with this approach? Well, it has been argued, and I agree, that this is way too broad and vague an approach. It leads us to a place where, in our focus on partner countries, we have 37 priorities and partners in all.
There is a lack of transparency about how the approach is actually applied. Really, any country you can think of can be put onto a focus or partner list because the criteria are so broad. In the rationale for how this links to 90% of our bilateral budget—it's actually even contestable whether it is 90% of the bilateral budget—there is no sense of a hard analysis. There is no costed sense of objectives in linking priorities and resources.
I would argue for some other reasons that there are problems with this approach. For what I call the “macro level contextual changes”, which others have talked about as well, let me go through them very quickly.
One, global agendas are getting broader and broader, so they have a tendency to want to make us go wider and thinner. The best case in point is the SDGs, the sustainable development goals agreed to last year at the UN. The COP process on climate change is another one that is an example of agendas getting broader, bigger, and demanding more resources.
Two, the rules of what counts as official development assistance are changing. We can get into this more in the Qs and As.
Three, diplomacy and geostrategic interests can have an impact on broadening and going too wide and too thin. An example of that is linking the idea of our aid allocation and our resource needs in terms of our aid budget to, for instance, winning a seat at the UN Security Council. It's a very bad idea to link those two things together.
It's easy, I would argue, to say too that we want to focus on the poorest and on fragile states, but consider this fact: since 2000, the number of LICs, low-income countries, has more than halved. We had 63 low-income countries. We now have about 31 low-income countries. The number of countries in that category has halved. Halving extreme poverty was also achieved ahead of the millennium development goal target, as others have also pointed out.
In my view, country-level analysis may be insufficient in the situation that we find ourselves. The best projections point to the fact that global extreme poverty will be increasingly concentrated in a small number of very fragile contexts—I would say “contexts” and not “states”—and in hard-to-reach pockets of deep and persistent poverty in large middle-income countries. This is all something that all of you have heard.
In the SDGs, there is also a new framing of our level of ambition, which is to end extreme poverty by 2030, that is, to leave no one behind. It also means that it is beset with a new problem and a new challenge, which is what I call the “last mile problem”. The closer you get to zero, the harder it is to reach zero. This is the context within which I'm situating the challenges we face.
I've done a quick analysis of our current lists or our current focus. I'll go through this very quickly. I hope you can ask me about it during questions. A lot of the data is there for you to refer to.
I want to point to what our analysis shows as eight generalizable characteristics across our current focus and partner countries. These are rapid population growth; rapid urbanization; serious social and economic hard infrastructure deficits; youth bulge; serious challenges surrounding gender issues, gender rights, and equality; vulnerability to climate change; limited state capacity and fragility; and endemic corruption and governance challenges.
In addition to this, our analysis takes into account a set of factors to essentially see how good at prioritization the framework is. We take into account fragility, human development, income poverty, non-income poverty and deprivation, and aid dependence. In summary of that analysis, the complete version of which you have in front of you, when I look at it on a quadrant or two-by-two axis and look at where very high and very persistent poverty is, countries that are also very highly aid-dependent and where Canadian aid is significant—that is, accounting for more than 5%, for instance, of the total assistance received by that country—I come up with only four countries. These are Haiti, Mozambique, Mali, and South Sudan. In each of these countries, Canada ranks among the top 10 donors.
You have my analysis there for other buckets of countries where I similarly do the exercise to situate all our current focus and priority countries. The conclusion is that Canada is among the top 10 donors in 15 out of the 25 focus countries and only two out of the 12 partner countries. This implies that for 20 out of our 37 focus or partner countries, we're not amongst the top 10 donors.
If we look at it from the perspective of targeting poverty and targeting fragility, Canada does reasonably well, even with these criteria, insofar as the share of assistance spent in these areas when compared with other donors. So why the whole business of a new approach? I would say that because we have a changing global context, because we need a more disciplined and transparent approach, and because a new and fresher approach to that is more disciplined, more in line with, and takes into account the changing global realities, this would make Canada a more credible and potentially a more predictable partner on the international stage.
What should we do? I have three recommendations. I'll go through these in order.
The first one, which echoes what many have said already, is the need for a long-term approach, but not only a long-term approach, but also clear, transparent, specific and, I would underscore, a disciplined and serious approach. I mention the latter because I think that is the key gap in the current approach. To reinforce a commitment to long-term development means thinking in time frames of about five years in the case of low-income countries that are not fragile, and at least 10 to 15 years in the context of fragile states. This means that aims should be linked to the time frames and our resources. We can set, and we should set, clear quantitative targets from the outset that will in turn drive discipline, transparency, and accountability. This means that we need to identify and cost key gaps, and then benchmark how much Canadian assistance can be spent in meeting those gaps.
We should remember that development outcomes, at the end of the day, are for our partners and our end beneficiaries in countries, not really for Canada. These are only achievable if we have an equally serious, disciplined, and committed partner at the other end of the table, so to speak. We should simply refrain from investing in contexts where we can't find such partners. If this principle were applied, we would get a different list, in my view.
Second, I argue that we need greater focus through a combination of what I call a differentiated approach and an integrated strategy. A differentiated approach is essentially one that is built around the realities that different countries are in. Bangladesh, for example, is no longer an LIC, a low-income country. Nobody believes there aren't serious issues to be tackled there, but it's not a low-income country. Bangladesh also benefits from market access to the Canadian market. In terms of trade, Bangladesh exports into the Canadian market about 10 times what our aid is to the same country.
This approach reflects more a reality of a graduated sense of where countries are by types of relationships. This approach is not new. It's something other donors do. For instance, the Netherlands has a very similar approach. My suggestion is that in taking such an approach, we would get three buckets, or three groups of countries: the first, fragile countries; the second, low-income, non-fragile countries; and the third, transitional countries.
The reason this approach fits with an integrated strategy is really summed up by the point that development policy in an integrated approach is bigger than just aid policy. In an integrated approach, we would ensure that both concessional and non-concessional resources are aimed toward development outcomes. We would ensure that we do not only projects, but also technical support. We would ensure there is coherence between our aid policy and trade policy.
If asked, I can give you examples of where we lack that coherence currently.
Finally, for the third suggestion, in the context of fragile states, I think we need a specific strategy. Fragile contexts and states are really in a unique situation, very context-specific, and more importantly, very fluid. Things change faster and more dramatically than we can really account for.
Absent a hard-nosed analysis of what we want to achieve and whether it is achievable given the time and the assets that we have to dedicate, investment in fragile states comes at a high opportunity cost. This is not to dissuade investment in fragile states. It's simply to set more realistic expectations and have a healthy appreciation of time frames and risks that make engagement in fragile states quite fundamentally different from engagement elsewhere in the developing world.
Let me sum up.
Applying my criteria, I get three groups: one approach for fragile states; a set of non-fragile, low-income countries; and a set of transitional partners. If you ask me what this means for the number of countries, I would hazard that for the type of budget we're looking at in terms of the current status quo, say, three and a half to four billion in bilateral assistance, or about $3.44 billion, according to the latest data on development projects specifically, it would be about 12 to 15 countries.
In this regard, I should also caution that change should not be taken lightly, as it affects partnerships, affects predictability, affects credibility, and it has real transaction costs in terms of being able to move and shift strategies. Also, it's simply the fact that most assistance, as many of you probably already know, is quite path dependent. About 30% of the budget is simply continuation of projects already in flow. So change should be taken very seriously.
I'll leave my remarks at that for now.
Thank you for inviting me to offer my perspective on your timely study. I'm sure that your findings will make a valuable contribution to the ongoing international assistance review policy.
I'd like to address two of the proposed questions. One was around how Canada's international assistance can be designed to work in different types of countries. In support of what Aniket has said, I will touch on the integrated differentiated approach. I'd also like to speak a bit around the question of agenda 2030 and how we can ensure that our efforts support the implementation.
One of the benefits of appearing before this committee following so many excellent contributions is that I'm afforded a chance to both emphasize some points that you've already heard but also to offer you some new perspectives.
There has been quite a bit of debate on the question of whether focusing on particular countries has merit in the first place. Some have called for Canada to focus on the poorest regardless of the countries they live in, given the changing geography of poverty. Others have noted the lack of evidence around whether the country-of-focus approach actually leads to more effective aid, but they have, of course, recognized the logic of the approach. It allows us to have greater resources, and, as such, influence in the countries in which we work, facilitates development of expert knowledge, and has the potential to reduce administrative costs.
This may not be enough to ensure aid effectiveness, but it is likely contribute to it. We have limited resources, and we need to choose to spend them wisely to reach scale and impact. However, I think it's worth further emphasizing that the focus question is not just about our perspective on the role of the donor. It's actually about the burden that's placed on our developing country partners who have to spend a significant amount of time reporting to all of the various donors that they engage with. Really, we need to make it worth their while.
I do not have a strong opinion on the number of countries that Canada should focus on. Aniket certainly knows the data much better than I do, and I would encourage you to have a look at the background document that he submitted. For me, rather, I think it's time for Canada to take an approach to international co-operation that's grounded in a recognition of the needs of partner countries and that they have changed significantly, and that it's high time we moved beyond aid in terms of how we think about international co-operation.
Like Aniket, I would argue that Canada should take a differentiated and more integrated approach to international co-operation, which articulates our objectives and the modes of co-operation that Canada will use when engaging with different types of countries. You've heard about the Netherlands example in terms of this differentiated approach. You have your aid countries, those for which the main form of engagement is around external assistance, recognizing that these are countries with less capacity and in greater need of external assistance. You have your transitional countries, your low and middle-income countries that we would call emerging, and for which co-operation might include other things like trade, investment, and aid working alongside.
In the case of the Netherlands, they actually also include another category that they call their trade relationships, which are basically the countries that they promote investment and trade in that are, of course, contributing to benefits in that country. For the committee's knowledge, Vietnam and Columbia as well as Canada fit in that trade category. That's maybe something for us to think about.
I'm not advocating that we adopt the Netherlands characterization lock, stock, and barrel, but I do think we need a similar kind of approach. I agree with Aniket that in the case of Canada, we need a separate bucket, if you will, for fragile and conflict-affected states versus those that are not experiencing conflict but have greater government capacity to absorb assistance.
The differentiated approach should be rooted in a clear set of criteria that outlines, for each type of relationship, the rationale for that approach and the countries selected therein. Moreover, there should be clarity on the kinds of tools that we are looking to use when we talk about these different relationships. For example, in aid countries, we might use a mix of traditional forms of assistance, supporting countries to reduce poverty, reach those that are being left behind, and create an improved enabling environment for trade and investment. In transitional countries, Canada might pursue enhanced trade relations but also make use of the development finance institution that we've been promised. In this context, aid becomes a very strategic input that you're using to target the poor in those countries, of course, but you're also leveraging other forms of finance and supporting your partners to raise domestic resources.
Once these relationships are selected—I think you've heard this a number of times—they need to be long term. As a country transitions from one category to another, perhaps owing to success or setbacks, that doesn't mean they should be abandoned.
Finally, the differentiated approach should work in conjunction with other forms of assistance. That's something else you've heard. We need to consider how we're working with civil society organizations, multilaterals, regional organizations, and how we're addressing global efforts to realize or address global public goods challenges, for example.
I think it's helpful to highlight the merits of this approach for your consideration.
First, the differentiated approach moves us beyond a conversation of aid alone to a more sophisticated discussion of how our development, trade, foreign policy, and other priorities intersect. The approach requires us to think about how policy levers can be used to realize mutual benefit for us and for partner countries. The Netherlands approach was the result of a major review this country underwent to look at how they engage with the world in every domain: agriculture, environment, migration, aid, and so on.
If Canada were to take this approach, I would caution that we too need to properly review how our engagement works with the world, and avoid jumping to a list of countries, based necessarily on our existing list of focus countries or the trade negotiations, though I do agree that there needs to be continuity. We would need to consider, of course, the perspectives of the partner countries themselves. Unfortunately, the international assistance review does not sufficiently capture the beyond-aid domains for this purpose.
Second, such an approach has potential to improve transparency to Canadians and to our partner countries by recognizing our multiple interests and being transparent about them, and clearly articulating a coherent approach to Canada's engagement with the world, one that I think we can expect or at least should be able to expect, given that we have the joined-up ministry that we do.
Third, a differentiated approach allows us to tackle the question of poor countries and poor people, something you've heard a lot about. It means addressing the needs of both. Rather than using strict categories of least developed, fragile, middle income, and so on to determine how we engage, we should look at the many factors in setting out this differentiated approach, one of which would be pockets of poverty. We can make provisions to target poverty in all countries, including those that may end up in any category.
I recognize that there are risks to this approach and many have talked about the need to conserve the Canadian brand, to ensure that our development assistance is guarded from other policy interests. Frankly, I don't buy that this is some kind of zero-sum game. Of course, assistance should be provided according to the ODA Accountability Act and it should target the poorest. That said, we are missing a world of opportunity if we are not better at effectively linking our interests across policy domains. We are also doing a disservice to our partners, many of whom feel it's time for this sophisticated discussion.
There's always a risk that aid will be used for commercial or security interests, but on the other hand, the differentiated approach is also about the impact for other policy domains. Last November I visited the Netherlands for a study looking at private-sector engagement in development, and I remember when I was speaking to the aid people, they of course talked about the need to bring in trade or commercial interests or work with their own companies in their development assistance, and many highlighted that this was a positive in sustainability. Perhaps we can get into that in the Q and A, if there's interest.
But then when I spoke to the “trade people”, they saw it as their remit to be bringing conversations around sustainability and development into the trade negotiations and conversations they were having with their trading partners as well as in multilateral forums.
The differentiated approach isn't about using aid in the service of other interests. It's about recognizing and working with different objectives to realize mutual benefit and maximize the outcomes of international cooperation, using all the policy levers in a coordinated way.
I'd like to end with a couple of points about agenda 2030 and our bilateral assistance programs. I understand that you're very familiar with agenda 2030. You've heard a number of people speak about the merits of that agenda. So I won't go into that. I wanted to flag a few points for us to consider.
First is one of the risks I see in how we engage on this agenda. There's a real risk that countries like Canada will reframe what they're doing to fit with the SDGs, rather than making any real changes. We saw this with the millennium development goals. The risk is greater this time because the SDGs, as you rightly pointed out, Aniket, cover everything. We could just keep doing what we're doing and say that we're doing it to meet the sustainable development goals. We need to be careful of that and we need to recognize that the goals and the principles of that agenda suggest that we need to do things differently.
Second, our approach to bilateral assistance can be informed by the targets of the sustainable development goals themselves. If I take the example of goal 17, which is on implementation, it includes things like enhancing policy coherence for development, strengthening domestic resource mobilization, and mobilizing additional financial resources for development. These are all things that we could be contributing to through a differentiated approach.
Another target, which relates to my third and final point, is actually about respecting country policy space, and the need to support countries that take leadership on their own national sustainable development plans. Canada's bilateral assistance needs to align behind our partner countries' national sustainable development plans. For me, this does not mean that Canada should get engaged in every sector, but rather that we should contribute to supporting our partner countries in the sectors where we have expertise, and according to their plans.
Our thematic focus is currently wide enough that I'm actually not worried that we would be unable to fit with national priorities in our partner countries. Rather, we should recognize the importance of ensuring that we have the appropriate expertise within government, harnessing it from across Canada, and ensuring that we're able to bring that expertise to the countries that we work in. The bottom line is that supporting the SDGs means supporting country ownership and aligning our assistance efforts as appropriate.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.
Mr. Chairman, and honourable members of the committee, thank you very much for the invitation to appear in front of you today.
I appear in front of you today as a researcher, somebody who works on the security-development nexus, and particularly on fragile states; on questions of international peace and security; and human security, in particular.
Obviously, I'm aware of some of the discussions you've had in the past, some of them with my colleagues who have appeared before the committee.
Instead of repeating some of the points they have made, what I thought might be useful for the committee as a whole is to draw out perhaps some of the bigger questions or some of the bigger pictures that at least to me lie at the heart of the debate of Canada's development aid and where this aid should be going, and of course some of the lessons learned.
Lots of people tend to forget that we've just come out of, let's call it, a “huge development puzzle” if you wish, which is of course the operation in Afghanistan, which has been ongoing since 2001. What I thought I would do in the seven minutes or so I have left is to draw on some of those lessons or some of those points that are sticking out for me and some of those current research projects that I'm engaged in right now.
In particular, I will offer some reflections on why states fail in the first place, because most often it is those states, what we call fragile or failed states, where the majority of our development aid will actually end up and where we will end up as a country in terms of being engaged politically and militarily, and from a development point of view. In other words, we need to understand the causes of those states' experienced fragility in order to help them to get back on their feet, which, in turn has implications for where, when, and how Canada spends its development aid.
I will briefly then talk about what are fragile states, why they are important and why they have popped up, and perhaps some of the pointers of what the literature says about why and how we should deal with them.
I will also talk about—and this will nicely correlate with what my colleagues have been saying—the so-called comprehensive or whole-of-government approach; and last, but not least, the so-called terrorism-development nexus.
First, why do states fail and what do we know about why they fail? Let me start by saying a few things about conflict management in general. Development aid is certainly part of conflict management, point number one. Point number two is that conflict management is a full spectrum exercise, which lots of people tend to forget. Conflict management is not only a sectoral approach, but a comprehensive approach to overcome situations of fragility. Point number three is that Canada, obviously, is part of this full spectrum exercise. Point number four is that Canada is also engaged in conflict management as part of a multilateral undertaking. To think that Canada can do things unilaterally, on a sectoral basis or on a geographic basis, perhaps needs to be rethought. Finally, point number five is that conflict management is a practice that Canada has been involved in over the past, let's say, 15 to 20 years through two or three major international organizations—on the military side, obviously, with NATO, and on the political development side with the UN and to a lesser extent the OECD.
That said, let me take you through a quick ride of why and how fragile states are important. First, weak or fragile states are not a new phenomenon. They have been around for quite some time. If you look at the data, some people say they appeared in the 1940s, but, certainly, the decolonization period between 1940 and 1970 gave birth to a large number of financially, bureaucratically, and militarily weak states that were incapable of providing public goods for their citizens.
Obviously, the term “fragile states” or even “failed states”, has achieved importance or significance in the context of 9/11 where, of course, an American discourse was imposed on that subject.
Certainly the point is that since 9/11, fragile and failed states have been on the policy agenda, and certainly also on the academic agenda. In general, civil conflict costs the average developing country, roughly speaking—and I'm generalizing here—about 30 years' worth of their GDP growth, which is a very significant number if you have developing countries on the map. Countries in protracted crisis can fall over 20 percentage points behind overcoming poverty. So, again, this is a significant number. There is also a 0.07% drop in GDP for every neighbour that experiences conflict.
What is a fragile state, and why are fragile states important? A definition of a fragile state is a state that is “unable to meet its population's expectations or manage changes in [those] expectations and capacity through [a] political process”. This is the official definition by the OECD.
Why is this important? It's important because 25% of the global population lives in a fragile or violent state. Of the civil wars that occurred between 2001 and 2011, 90% were in countries that had already experienced a civil war within the past 30 years. Roughly 75% of the world's refugees are in neighbouring countries of fragile states. Syria, obviously, is a current example.
Let me walk you quickly through what causes a fragile state. The research on fragile states—and certainly the causal factors that lead to states experiencing fragility—is not only highly debated, it's also very context-specific. There are numerous what we academics call “variables” that can be quantitatively or qualitatively tested, which affect this process of state fragility. However, one can dissect a number of those important variables that stick out.
First of all, low GDP and high levels of political instability increase chances of civil war. Second, extreme poverty and poor social conditions facilitate conflict by providing easily motivated recruits for civil wars, often due to the lack of economic alternatives. Third, states experience fragility if there is a lack of control of natural resources; in other words, if certain parts of society engage in debates not only about who should control those resources but also about who should receive some of the benefits of those resources. Last but not least—and this can obviously be summed up by the term “greed”—there is systematic discrimination against certain societal groups, which leads to states experiencing conflict.
However, all of these variables are not sufficient for conflict or for a state to experience fragility. For that to happen, you need the social contract within states to be broken, i.e. for there to be weak social cohesion, the breakdown of state institutions, and the absence of delivery of public goods. In short, we could also say that weak states—that is, organizationally, financially, and politically weak states—are more likely to experience failure.
What obviously contributes to the failure of a social contract? That's kind of at the heart of the question here. First of all, there are weak and corrupt governments. Second, there is failure by the state to actually provide security for its people. Third, state institutions discriminate openly and deliberately against particular ethnic, religious, linguistic, and social groups. Fourth, there is a concentration of power in certain parts of society, and other groups in society feel that they've been neglected. Last but not least, there is an unjust distribution of resource wealth.
It's also interesting to note that evolving democracies—and some of my colleagues have talked about this—are more conflict- or war-prone than are autocratic states. Why is that so? It's so because there is a contestation for domestic political influence. In other words, countries that are transitioning toward becoming a democracy are highly vulnerable. They should be highly focused on their vulnerability to lapsing back to conflict and state fragility. Moreover, the odds of a civil war are 5.2 times higher in the first two years of state independence. That is often neglected in the discussion.
However, to be sure and to drive home the point very clearly, ethnic and religious diversity within a state is not by itself a sufficient contribution to cause a state to either lapse into conflict or even to fail.
Why am I drilling on this? The point here is that international interventions, and I would subsume development aid as a form of international intervention, should address rebuilding the social contract of fragile and failed states with the following aims.
First is obviously to increase the effectiveness and the accountability of the state. That is to invest in citizens' security, justice, and jobs.
Second is foster the development of good and effective local institutions of the state. Often that's been summarized under the heading of “state building”—which in turn will help the state to increase its resilience against external shocks. External shocks or resilience means the ability to cope with domestic and international changes. Some have argued in the literature it is almost more important than poverty reduction in itself or addressing poverty reduction.
Third, one should increase the legitimacy and the political governance of the state, that is the rule of law, security sector reform, etc.
Fourth, as an intervenor we need to understand the specific historic and political dynamics that are at play on the ground in fragile states. I submit to you that this is certainly something that we as Canada didn't understand, and we're not the only ones who didn't understand this, in the context of Afghanistan. This is important because if we want to rebuild this social contract, we need to understand who these groups are and how these social groups interact with one another, how they stand vis-à-vis each other and what their responsibilities are, etc.
Fifth, we should think of limited economic assistance. Here again I'm thinking of the case of Afghanistan. Canada is certainly part of this, but obviously it's not the only country that has contributed to this problem, but we have essentially created a rentier state that is highly dependent on development aid. It's not able to generate its own capacities.
Some have argued that certain types of peace operations need to help internal and external security, and certainly Afghanistan is a case in point. Some have even gone so far as to call for a UN trusteeship. I wouldn't go that far, but I'm just putting this forward.
Now obviously in this entire process to rebuild state-society relations, you need not only to address local elites that obviously have an important role in this process, but also need to understand the long-term conditions that lie behind states experiencing fragility.
Which comes first you may ask: is it security or is it development, or do both come at the same time?
The lessons from the 1990s, and here I'm thinking about the Balkans and our experience in Afghanistan, is clearly that we need both at the same time. We cannot just think in stovepipes. We need to think of security and development coming at the same time and addressing these issues at the same time.
This leads me to my second point about the so-called comprehensive approach or the whole-of-government approach. Here again, I'm drawing on a project that I'm doing right now comparing NATO member states' comprehensive approach in Afghanistan since 2001. Certainly one important lesson learned from the Afghan operation is that Canada's development, humanitarian, and peace and security programming need to be in line to be able to make an impact on a very specific country.
What we have seen too often in the past, and again Afghanistan comes to mind, but also the Balkans in the 1990s, is that each individual department—here I'm talking about the Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, and Canada's development institutions—seems to work in national stovepipes. What we actually need is an overarching approach, not only a policy framework, but to have our institutions working effectively with one another on a particular issue, on particular fragile or even failed states, to bring their expertise together, because we do have the expertise in the Canadian government. It's a question of organization. It's a question of management.
Put differently, departmental work in the individual stovepipes is not the way to go. It's something we have learned from Afghanistan, but it's something we haven't really overcome, and it is certainly one of the lessons we need to address.
At the end of the day, I suggest that leadership is vitally important here. Personalities do matter, and you need people with experience in the public service to provide this sort of overarching managerial framework.
Last but not least, I should say that obviously, the comprehensive approach or the so-called whole-of-government approach is a political process that provides a strategic imperative for any government involved in fragile states. It is precisely in this context that we observe what my colleague Stephen Brown has called the “securitization” of development aid that has taken place and has become a problem, again in Afghanistan.
As some numbers suggest, the financial spending in Afghanistan on security-related issues, that is the military police, etc., was 10 times higher than the money spent on foreign aid. There's also an argument to be made that the securitization of development was more about the security of the donor rather than the recipient country.
My third point is on the terrorism-development nexus. In the literature what we've seen is that the terrorism aspect is replacing poverty in that sort of security-development nexus. That means there's a shift in development assistance towards fighting global terrorism, and again this is something we have seen in the context of Afghanistan. Security becomes a priority over development aspects.
Contrary to the accepted wisdom in some parts of the public, terrorist organizations by and large do not reside in fragile states. Why is that? It's because even terrorist organizations need a very basic infrastructure to run their organization. So they are, and I hate to use the word “attracted”, certainly driven to fragile states, but not to failed states, because again, they need this basic infrastructure.
What, if anything, can development aid and development policy in general do to address the terrorism problem? I will put forward four or five points to you...in the question and answer period.
Voices: Oh, oh!