New CIDA policy set ablaze by feedback

Despite assurances from Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino, Canadian International Development Agency’s recently revealed strategies and priorities continue to rile the aid community. Photo by: Giovanni Aprea

Despite assurances from Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino, Canadian International Development Agency’s recently revealed strategies and priorities continue to rile the aid community.

The new policy was unveiled Nov. 23 in a keynote address Fantino delivered to the Economic Club of Canada, where he said that the “bulk of CIDA’s work focuses on long-term development,” later on identifying the private sector as the “driver of long-term economic growth globally.”

In the midst of the minister’s insights on the relevance of economy to development and recognitions for the agency’s accomplishments and ongoing work in humanitarian and economic development assistance, he was able to ease into announcing the Economic Growth Strategy, which revolves around building economic foundations, investing in people and growing businesses.

Although the “bulk” was not translated into monetary figures in Fantino’s speech, the new policy, which will set CIDA’s direction in coming years, has garnered a slew of reactions from different stakeholders.

Steven Hoffman of the McMaster University said Canada’s foreign aid policy priorities should be on gender equality, health and democratic governance. Meanwhile, an article from The Star asks: “Just how far should taxpayers’ dollars go to support it at the expense of non-corporate programs that help the poorest?” The same article argues CIDA’s focus should be “on aid, not trade.”

In the Edmonton Journal, Robert Fox, head of Oxfam Canada, was quoted as agreeing with CIDA’s role in supporting the private sector at developing countries, but reiterated that poverty alleviation and human rights promotion should be priorities of the “shrinking” Canadian aid budget.

“Not every program is a lifetime program; we don’t fund NGOs for life,” Fantino said in response to critics, adding that his job entails ensuring the value of “humanitarian dollars.”

Some Devex members shared their thoughts on the contentious policy as well.

Allan Mcneil, managing director of Agriculture Management and Infrastructure Systems, is happy to see “some new thinking at the top.” He also suggested setting up local companies with local partners as the “only meaningful intervention” in a country’s economy aside from infrastructure or capacity frameworks.

But while there are cases of successful aid and private sector partnerships, Victoria Schorr — an independent consultant — thinks it’s time for Canadians to stop seeing the two as “anathemas.”

What do you think about the future direction of Canadian foreign aid? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a former staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.