Colleagues, welcome to meeting 5 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Pursuant to the orders of reference from the House of Commons of April 20 and September 30, and the order of reference of the committee on October 13, the committee is meeting to commence consideration of votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, L25 and L30 under the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development; Vote 1 under International Development Research Centre; and Vote 1 under International Joint Commission (Canadian Section).
The committee will also review the Minister of International Development's mandate letter.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, and it is also the first meeting as part of the House of Commons pilot project for webinar formats. The pilot project is for public committee meetings, and is available only to members and their staff.
Members may have remarked that the entry into the meeting was much quicker, as they immediately entered as an active participant. All functionalities for active participants will remain the same. Staff will be non-active participants, and can therefore only view the meeting in gallery view.
I would like to thank our witnesses for helping us to carry out this pilot project.
I hope you have a good experience.
As a reminder to all participants in this meeting, screen shots or photos of your screen are not permitted. This was highlighted by Speaker Rota on September 29.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I will outline a few customary rules to follow.
Witnesses and members may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available at the bottom of your screen.
Members attending in person must conduct themselves as they would normally if all committee members were meeting in person in a committee room.
Keep in mind the Board of Internal Economy's guidelines for wearing masks, as well as health protocols.
Before speaking, please wait until you are recognized by name.
If you are on video conference, please click on the microphone to unmute yourself, and if you are in the room, your microphone will be controlled as normal by the proceedings and verification officer. When you have 30 seconds remaining in your questioning time, I will signal you by holding up this yellow sheet of paper.
I would now like to extend a warm welcome to Minister Gould, Minister of International Development, and her team.
We welcome Leslie MacLean, Deputy Minister of International Development; Elissa Golberg, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy; and Caroline Leclerc, Assistant Deputy Minister, Partnerships for Development Innovation.
We have Peter MacDougall, assistant deputy minister, global issues and development; Anick Ouellette, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer, corporate planning, finance and information technology; and Shirley Carruthers, director general, financial resource, planning and management bureau.
For the benefit of members, I will quickly note that the votes on the main estimates will take place next week, after we have heard from both ministers.
Minister Gould, it is my pleasure to give you the floor for your initial presentation of 10 minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It is really a delight to be with everyone, to see all of you right across the country virtually, and to have this conversation.
I'm pleased to be here today to present the 2020-2021 Main Estimates for the international development component of Global Affairs Canada's portfolio.
We must remember that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were faced with the challenge of achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth, maintaining social cohesion and managing prices. While concrete gains have been made to reduce extreme poverty with Canadian support, including increased access to education, health and nutritious food, not all have benefited equally. More than 1.3 billion people living in poverty face several interrelated challenges, often compounded by inequalities and, in many cases, by prolonged humanitarian crises or the impacts of climate change.
COVID-19 added to these difficulties. The pandemic is expected to drive between 88 million and 115 million people into extreme poverty this year—the first increase since 1998—while also delaying progress in development, especially for women and children already living in extreme poverty. It is also expected to increase exclusion and marginalization.
This is not only a problem abroad. COVID-19 provides a profound and compelling demonstration of how the health and prosperity of Canadians depends on a coordinated global response and recovery. Until this crisis is resolved globally, until we help build more resilient and sustainable social and economic systems, we will continue to be impacted domestically.
Canada has demonstrated its commitment to vigorous efforts to address the devastating effects of COVID-19 around the world. Beyond a doubt, the COVID-19 crisis and the economic disruption it is causing represent the most significant shock to global development since the Second World War.
The Government of Canada has organized its international response to the pandemic around three pillars of strategic action where Canada can have a direct impact.
First, we are fighting the pandemic by building capacity to achieve sustainable, health-related development goals and supporting equitable access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccine.
Second, we are striving to manage financial stresses and stabilize economies by restoring global supply chains and ensuring financial liquidity and stability in developing countries.
Lastly, we are supporting the most vulnerable by strengthening recovery through our humanitarian response, by supporting food security and education, and by addressing the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
Canada's feminist international assistance policy provides the necessary framework for action. The priorities set out in the policy target the issues where support is needed, focused as it is on helping the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women and girls and those living in fragile states, to recover.
Since the policy's launch in 2017, we have made significant progress on implementing the policy and its related initiatives and commitments. I will come back to these accomplishments shortly, but would first like to turn to the main estimates.
Because of the timing of the main estimates, which were originally presented on February 27, 2020, the 2020-21 main estimates did not include additional international assistance funding specific to the COVID-19 response.
The 2020-21 main estimates include an amount of $823.4 million to further the implementation of the feminist international assistance policy. This includes $410.5 million in international assistance envelope funding to support initiatives linked to specific policy action areas such as the women's voice and leadership initiative, Canada's humanitarian assistance, and sexual and reproductive health and rights programming; $195 million to support the establishment of the equality fund; and $145.1 million to support the implementation of the international assistance innovation program and sovereign loans program.
Additionally, the 2020-21 main estimates include a net increase of $297.3 million, compared to the 2019-20 main estimates, to implement programming to help developing countries address the impact of climate change.
For example, Canada is supporting the World Bank Canada clean energy and forest facility to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation through sustainable forest management. Canada is also supporting the Canadian climate fund for the private sector in the Americas, phase II, which aims to catalyze private sector investments and climate change mitigation and adaptation across Latin America and the Caribbean region. Recognizing that the Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature increases, a majority of Canada's climate finance programming targets mitigation efforts primarily through renewable energy.
I would like to note that significant progress continues to be made in advancing the feminist international assistance policy, and the majority of Canada's commitments are on track to be achieved. In the 2018-19 report to Parliament on the Government of Canada's international assistance, we outlined how the policy is being pursued and what results have been achieved. It was the first combined report on international assistance as part of our efforts to increase transparency to Canadians.
However, I should flag that new funding to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on the department's ability to meet targets for the current fiscal year.
More broadly, over the past fiscal year, I have also been focused on realizing the commitments outlined in my mandate letter as minister for international development. As of March 2020, we've fulfilled the 2015 commitment to allocate $3.5 billion for maternal, newborn and child health, as well as the 2017 commitment to allocate $650 million towards sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Preliminary statistics show that in 2019-20, Canada met its commitment and is on track to meeting the 2021-22 target of directing 95% of Canada's bilateral international development assistance to initiatives that advance gender equality.
The women's voice and leadership initiative now supports local women's organizations and movements in over 30 countries and regions. We are moving forward with supporting innovative programming by Canadian small and medium-sized organizations in partnership with local organizations.
Equitable access to education is critical for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. To this end, I will be launching an international campaign in early 2021 to ensure that refugee and displaced children get the education they need and deserve. Additionally, we are well on our way to directing 10% of our bilateral international development assistance towards education initiatives—currently at 9%. Officials are also developing new programming to address other key issues, including the unequal distribution of unpaid care work.
We are also supporting women in developing countries who are at the front lines of climate adaptation efforts through new investments such as a $150-million loan to the international fund for agricultural development to support climate-smart agriculture in developing countries and by providing $20 million for the Canada-CARICOM climate adaptation fund.
Canada continues to be recognized for our leadership on innovative financing in support of the SDGs. We co-chair the UN Group of Friends on SDG Financing, in New York, and, building on this work, , alongside Prime Minister Holness of Jamaica and UN Secretary-General Guterres, is leading a process with leaders from around the world on financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond to encourage inclusive and creative solutions to finance the recovery.
I also remain committed to ensuring that Canada's international assistance is effective, transparent and accountable. For example, Global Affairs has streamlined funding applications and is implementing the civil society partnerships for international assistance policy. Furthermore, restructuring the international assistance envelope has provided Canadians and the international community with clearer, more comprehensive information on our international assistance programming.
Finally, our government is also increasing Canada's international assistance and will be doing so as we work toward 2030 in support of the SDGs. In 2021, we allocated $4.9 billion toward international assistance objectives, an increase from $4.6 billion the previous year.
Mr. Chair, committee members, our government is working hard to implement the feminist international assistance policy, especially during this unprecedented pandemic, and seeking to build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.
The crucial point from that transition binder, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that the AIIB is part of China's strategic agenda to push forward its model of governance around the world. I don't know why Canada would want to be part of that. I'd be curious about your thoughts on why Canada is part of a body that, as your own public servants are telling you, is aimed at exporting the Chinese state model of governance.
I also want to ask you about this argument about having a voice at the table. You said this gives Canada a voice at the table. Canadian membership in AIIB, which costs us hundreds of millions of dollars, gives us 1.03% of voting power. My staff went through records of meetings. As far as we were able to identify, Canada wasn't mentioned in any agenda items and made two recorded statements in board meetings over the entirety of our membership thus far.
What is the purpose, then, of having a voice at the table, if Canada has ostensibly spoken twice in the course of our presence there and if the objective of this bank is to advance the strategic objectives and governance models of the Chinese government? Why are we putting taxpayers' dollars...?
By the way, how much more good could we be doing around the world if those dollars were put towards actually helping children and vulnerable people who are suffering from malnutrition and lack of education?
Thank you so much, Ruby, for the question. It's nice to see you as well. Oliver is doing great; thank you for asking.
When it comes to the feminist international assistance policy and our gender equality target, we have set a target for ourselves that 95% of all of our development assistance would incorporate gender equality within its programs. We are on track to meet that commitment for this year.
I would note that since we brought in the feminist international assistance policy in 2017, Canada has become the top donor in the OECD DAC for gender equality. That is a huge achievement. Kudos of course, to the former minister, , for putting that forward and driving that agenda, and to all of the incredible public servants at Global Affairs Canada who have made that a reality.
We have also committed to having 15% of our programming be classified as a GE-3 or gender equality 3 project, which means that the primary objective of the project is to enhance gender equality. Whether those are projects that are advancing women's rights, fighting gender-based violence, advancing sexual health and reproductive rights or increasing women's political participation, these are the kinds of projects that we're talking about. In fact, we are set to meet that target for this year as well. That remains a top priority for us as a government moving forward.
I would note that one of the projects that I'm quite proud of is the women's voice and leadership program. This came about because of conversations that the previous and I had when I was parliamentary secretary. We were travelling and visiting partners around the world and hearing specifically from women's rights organizations and women's rights activists saying that they were doing incredible and difficult work, but didn't have the funding to back them up.
Fast-forward three, four and five years and we now have women's voice in leadership programs in over 30 countries and are supporting hundreds of women's rights activists. When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the women's rights activists who met with when she was in Kinshasa in 2017. They expressed their gratitude for being part of this program and for the fact that a Canadian minister travelled to Kinshasa, heard their concerns, listened and acted upon them. Now they were being supported by Canada to do their really important work.
I have to say that I'm struck by the lack of response to what is the most predictable and most basic question, Minister. Everybody knows, generally speaking, that international development assistance levels are measured as a percentage of gross national income. For you to say that it requires calculations that you don't have in front of you for our current or projected levels is, I think, quite surprising.
Going back to your transition binder, I note that it says “the ODA ratio is currently projected to be”—and the number is redacted—“percent in calendar year 2019”. The lack of willingness to talk about that percentage is, it seems, consistent.
We could talk about projects and impacts all we like, but I think everybody knows that the ability to run a certain number of projects or not is dependent on the level.
I would like to try to get more clarity from you about the government's policy with respect to ODA levels. In particular, you have spoken about the government's intention to increase ODA spending every year towards 2030. We know, though, that because of inflation, every dollar becomes worth a little bit less every year.
I want to know from you, Minister, whether the government policy is to increase ODA levels in nominal terms, in real terms or as a percentage of gross national income.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you so much, Minister, for coming. It's a difficult job, especially since COVID-19 and that we now have to look at extra funding to help all of the problems that COVID-19 has inflicted, especially on the poorest countries.
You said earlier that there is obviously climate change and poverty causing people to be on the move. Conflict is also the third reason that people are on the move. You've talked about Africa. I know that the government has decided that Africa is one of the poorest continents and has the poorest nations there, but I wonder if you have ever recognized, looked at or worked with Europe through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe?
They're 57 nations, and many of them are extremely poor because they are post-Soviet nations. They don't have a lot of income, and they don't have a lot of resources. I know that you're very interested in the feminist agenda, and I know that the OSCE requires a lot of help with that agenda. Specifically, hundreds of thousands of people who are on the move in Europe are facing extreme poverty, violence and trafficking. I know that Canada is not as involved as it would be, because we all think that nations on the continent of Europe and in South Asia must be rich and they don't fit the mould, but they do.
I was just going to ask you if you feel that it would be possible for your office to look at an OSCE component to what you do in future, because I think you would find that it is needed a lot in some of the poorer countries.
Secondly, tell me what you are doing in your portfolio with dealing with refugees and migrants, because women and children are missing in parts of Europe and in parts of the world where they are living in camps.
You've talked about education. I'm interested in knowing how you are hoping to help that lost generation of children who don't have any access at all to education.
If you can elaborate on that, I'd be pleased. Thank you.
Certainly. Thank you very much, Dr. Fry, for those questions.
I would note that, when it comes to Europe, you're correct. Many countries in Europe are high-income countries that wouldn't qualify for official development assistance, and Canada's international assistance is governed by the ODAAA that requires us to focus our assistance efforts on the poorest and to have poverty alleviation be central to the work we do.
However, when it comes to Europe, Canada has a very significant bilateral program in Ukraine. We work very closely with Ukraine on a number of different issues. Gender equality obviously features very prominently within that as well as governance and humanitarian response, particularly in the eastern part of Ukraine.
I would also note that we recently provided $450,000 in humanitarian assistance to Armenia through the Red Cross. There are instances where we do provide international assistance to countries that are eligible in the European region. We obviously work very closely with our colleagues and friends in the European Union on projects right around the world.
When it comes to the work that Canada does with refugees, we work extraordinarily closely with the UN High Commission for Refugees. We have projects right around the world to ensure that refugees have access to basic services and their basic rights.
When it comes to education, this is something that is extraordinarily important. I remember a conversation that I had right at the outset of the pandemic with Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about the number of children who were out of school because of COVID-19. At one point, there were 1.5 billion children. We talked about the fact that many refugee children were never in school to begin with. That's one of the reasons the Prime Minister has mandated me to lead an international campaign to increase access to education for displaced children, either refugee or internally displaced children. This is something that we're working on with partners like UNHCR, and through our contribution to the Global Partnership for Education working group, as well as organizations like Education Cannot Wait, to ensure that we are providing education for children in crisis situations.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome, Minister.
Minister, we heard at the outset that you have a wonderful team at home. I know Alberto, your husband, and your little son Oliver. You also have a top-notch team here in Ottawa, and I'm glad they're all with you here. I had an opportunity to go through some of their illustrious biographies and to see the work they're done—your deputy minister, assistant deputies and your directors who are with us here today.
Minister, you can jump in here on the questions I'll ask, but some of them will be posed to the officials who are with you, because it's quite an opportunity for us to be able to reach out to them and hear about their experience and what they do within the ministry, and then also with you as their captain.
My first question is going to be for Ms. Golberg. Again, Minister, feel free to jump in at any time.
Through your previous experience working as a representative for Canada in Kandahar, Afghanistan, what can you say is the greatest difficulty in maintaining a focus on gender equality with Canada's international aid?
I hope I didn't put you on the spot, Ms. Golberg.