Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this issue and to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The motion before the House deals with what we do with our international development assistance and our desire to focus on maternal and child health at this year's G8 summit. We will be voting against this motion, as it is a transparent attempt to reopen the abortion debate, which we said we had no intention of getting into. By voting against the motion we are proving that we will not reopen the abortion debate. In addition, the motion contains rash and extreme anti-American rhetoric that we cannot, as a matter of foreign policy, support.
As the members opposite should know, the mandate of the Canadian International Development Agency is to reduce poverty in developing countries, especially among the most vulnerable populations, including women and children. To do so, the Government of Canada has committed to making Canada's international assistance more targeted and effective, and to improve the reporting of results to Canadians. We are untying aid, we are becoming more focused and we have identified and are implementing thematic priorities that guide development work.
For decades it was common practice by donors to pledge their aid with strings attached, requiring that goods and services be acquired in the donor country. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that tied aid makes international contributions 30% to 35% less effective. In April 2008, Canada fully untied its food aid. Agencies such as the World Food Programme can now use Canada's money and buy the appropriate food at the best prices in the areas closest to the need. In addition, Canada announced last September that it would fully untie all aid in 2012-13.
As well, for far too long, Canada's bilateral aid was spread very thinly among many countries and the results were very difficult to assess. That is why CIDA committed to investing 80% of its bilateral resources in 20 countries. Our intent is to improve coordination, achieve greater results and provide more targeted resources to those who are in need. Our countries of focus are developing countries where we think Canada can have the greatest impact, including a limited number of states in crisis and transition, like Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan. Overall the government chose the 20 countries based on their real needs, their ability to use aid effectively and their alignment with Government of Canada priorities. We are also decentralizing more staff to the field, giving us direct access to our partner governments and organizations.
At the same time, other countries continue to receive Canadian development assistance in various ways: through humanitarian assistance, through multilateral channels like United Nations organizations, and through the support of Canadian NGOs with a presence in many developing countries.
To give our international assistance greater impact, CIDA is focusing its work on three main themes: stimulating sustainable economic growth, increasing food security and securing the future of youth and children. This last theme, children and youth, is central to the motion before us today. Economic growth is the key to self-reliance. There is no doubt that developing country economies need access to the global economy and to infrastructure to bring their products to market, whether in other parts of the country, the region, or internationally.
Regarding food security, Canada has shown consistent leadership in responding to food security needs in the developing world. The announcement of CIDA's new food security strategy on World Food Day last October 16 by the Minister of International Cooperation demonstrates our renewed and strengthened commitment to this critical issue. Yet food security is also one of the most important and preventable obstacles to alleviating poverty. That is why CIDA's food security strategy will focus on increasing the availability of and access to quality nutritious food, as well as increasing the stability of food supplies and supporting improved governance of the global food system.
To achieve these goals CIDA will concentrate its efforts over the next three years on sustainable agricultural development, food assistance and nutrition, and research and innovation.
CIDA's third thematic area is children and youth.
Canada recognizes that children and youth are key agents of change in these developing countries, but they also shoulder some of the world's most pressing challenges. Focusing on children and youth is one of the best ways to achieve long-term development and poverty reduction.
CIDA's aim is to achieve concrete results that will make a significant sustainable difference in the lives of children and youth. Special attention will be focused on young women and girls, because investment in girls and women brings great social and economic returns to these societies.
On Universal Children's Day last November 20, our government unveiled CIDA's children and youth strategy. It identified three paths for action: child survival, including maternal health; access to quality education, particularly for girls; and safety and security of children and youth.
Helping developing countries achieve their educational goals has been a key part of CIDA's work for many years. Going forward CIDA will promote access to basic education of good quality so that children can complete the first 10 years of school and gain the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to their families and communities.
CIDA's new strategy also includes measures to create a safe and secure environment for children to learn and grow in and become productive members of their society. All children have the right to be healthy, receive quality education and grow up in a safe and secure society. CIDA is committed to helping children and youth in developing countries to attain their full potential to become the strong, positive and engaged citizens of tomorrow.
Regarding maternal health, we will work with G8 members and partner countries, as well as with Canadian civil society and international organizations with expertise in this area to develop the best approach. A development ministerial meeting will be held in Halifax April 26 to 28 to further develop the initiative in preparation for the leaders' summit in June.
Fundamental to any approach is to ensure that our development dollars are being used efficiently and effectively in order to maximize and achieve tangible results.
Together, working with other nations and aid agencies on the ground where the need is greatest, we can make this an achievable goal. We owe it to our Canadian taxpayers and we owe it to the millions of women and children who need our help the most.
CIDA will refocus programming to support efforts that ensure that children have the best possible start in life by putting in place programs and projects that have a positive impact on child survival and maternal health.