Canada puts development on equal footing with trade, diplomacy

    Canadian Minister for International Cooperation Julian Fantino sits with pupils in a classroom at the Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso. Fantino said the merger of the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade elevates the importance of international development. Photo by: Germain Yaméogo / ACDI-CIDA

    Canada has long been a stalwart in making life better for vulnerable people around the world, and will work to achieve greater results by aligning the roles of international development with trade and diplomacy. The Canadian government views its investments in international development and humanitarian assistance as concrete expressions of Canadians’ compassion and generosity, and will use the new Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to continue to promote our fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. 

    In a rapidly changing global context, development has become more complex. Much of development occurs outside of traditional development assistance models. Canada’s vibrant diaspora communities contribute to growth through remittances. The World Bank estimates that the worldwide flow of remittances to developing countries was about $400 billion in 2012, with the figure expected to reach $515 billion in 2015, three times over global assistance budgets. Furthermore, the private sector remains underutilized in its potential to be leveraged to improve the lives of those in developing countries. For example, in 2011, exports of natural resources from Africa, Asia and the Americas were worth over $1.4 trillion. This is more than ten times the value of international development assistance in the same year. Countries like South Korea, India and Brazil, once recipients of Canadian and international assistance, are now at the forefront of the global economy. Their staggering growth has enabled millions of people to rise out of poverty in just a few decades. They too are now investing their own taxpayers’ money on development projects around the world.

    Within this complex milieu, it has become evident that there needs to be a greater cohesion in the way development is undertaken. The Canadian government announced the amalgamation of the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, as part of our annual federal budget earlier this year. For the first time, international development has an elevated place at the table besides trade and diplomacy. Canada is enshrining the mandate of international development in law. We will retain our ability to respond to humanitarian crises in an effective and timely way through the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Through this natural evolution, our equal emphasis on development, trade, and diplomacy will continue to be focused on targeted, compassionate, and effective assistance to those who need it most. We also remain steadfastly focused, and will be better positioned following the amalgamation, to work with partner countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to increase sustainable economic growth in the developing world.

    After all, as The Economist noted in its recent Briefing on Poverty, “it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.” Economic growth is integral to the long-term development of individuals, communities and countries. A vibrant private sector creates jobs and provides economic opportunities for people, two necessities for enabling sustainable economic growth and breaking the cycle of poverty. It also helps to generate the tax revenues that foreign governments need to invest in the health, education and overall well-being of their citizens.

    For we know that poor health, lack of access to education and under-nutrition constitute the roots of insecurity, which if left unchecked can destabilize our own borders and economies. That is why Canada has invested in basic health, nutrition, and education. Canada is the world’s leader when it comes to improving basic nutrition, and our efforts are notably evident in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in Ethiopia up to 7.8 million chronically food-insecure people have been provided lifesaving food assistance. In Somalia, over 675,000 people have improved access to safe water, and over 100,000 displaced households are receiving support through Canada’s contribution. Canada is also a swift responder in providing lifesaving help during times of grave humanitarian crises, as demonstrated during the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and in the ongoing conflict in Syria.

    The results of other Canadian investments in development have been equally staggering. We have made education accessible to over two million children around the world last year. In countries like Afghanistan, our assistance has increased the enrollment of girls in schools to over 80 per cent. Under the Taliban regime, girls were prevented from receiving even a primary education. Canada has also been at the forefront of the fight for a polio-free Afghanistan and against the disease across the globe. Our support has vaccinated more than nine million children against polio, and we continue to play a pivotal role in the closing stages of the battle to consign this crippling disease to the ash heap of history.

    Canada will build on these successes and lead the global push to eradicate poverty. Based on our values, and following our strong record, we will continue to do so going forward through a unified Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

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    About the author

    • Julian Fantino

      Julian Fantino is Canada's minister for international cooperation since July 2012. A former police chief and advocate for crime victims and children with disabilities, Fantino will continue to oversee the Canadian International Development Agency under the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development established by the Harper government.