Proposals to Reform CIDA Abound

Interest in revamping Canadian International Development Agency is on a rise, the Embassy notes.

Experts say the proliferation of schemes to revitalize CIDA has been largely propelled by the Harper administration’s moves to curb aid to Africa, integrate foreign, defense and trade objectives, and stop the flow of funds to certain non-governmental organizations, as well as “perceptions of ideological influence,” Embassy reports.

Politics must be pulled out of aid policy, former Canadian ambassador Gordon Smith said.

A new report, which Smith co-authored with another former Canadian ambassador, Barry Carin, stresses that CIDA “has too many masters and too many priorities.”

The report reads: “Nonetheless, each of a range of interest groups insists that their own priority should take precedent. Moreover, the government imposes multi-dimensional operational constraints on CIDA, resulting in a risk-averse culture with ever tighter controls, decreasing discretion and flexibility, and an increasingly onerous administrative and paper burden on CIDA officers.” 

The report, which was commissioned by the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute and Canadian International Council, was presented at the University of Ottawa on May 12, an event that drew more than 200 participants. People, in fact, had to be turned away at the door, Embassy reports.  

The Canadian aid agency “should be liberated and reinvented” by creating  strategic, focused objectives, concentrating on incentives and greater competition among delivery methods, and making the agency a “Crown corporation,” according to the two ambassadors.

Smith, however, is doubtful that the Harper government will pick up the report.

“This is not a government that attaches a very high priority to anything international except Afghanistan or the relief efforts in Haiti,” he said.

In the last few weeks, reports on how to revitalize Canada’s aid program have been circulating. The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation commissioned a report in which author Nilima Gulrajani examined how aid reforms of the British and Norwegian governments can be applied to Canada. There is also a a 15-point proposal drafted by the McLeod Group suggesting a full-fledged international development agency with a legislated mandate and a minister at the Cabinet table. Liberal International Development critic Glen Pearson also concluded a 16-month study on revitalizing CIDA.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.