What a (possible) Canadian aid pullout means for Sudan

Internally displaced persons at the Zam Zam camp in Darfur, Sudan. An internal report by the Canadian International Development Agency suggests that the donor country downgrade its development program, or exit entirely in Sudan. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / United Nations / CC BY-NC-ND

With most of its oil riches now in South Sudan, Sudan has little to offer to Canada, one of its top donors and which went through a major overhaul last year in a bid to align aid with trade interests.

That could very well spell disaster for the conflict-torn country if the new Canadian aid department decides to follow the recommendation set out in an internal CIDA report obtained this week by The Globe and Mail.

The report — prepared months before CIDA’s merger with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in March 2013 — reviewed aid to countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia, analyzing whether or not Canada should maintain its development programs in a particular country, either for commercial interests or security purposes.

For instance, the report recommended staying in Mali, despite the current political crisis and insecurity, because of business opportunities for Canadian companies, particularly in the mining and engineering sectors.

However, in Sudan — where many NGOs continue to struggle on aid delivery — the report recommends Canada to consider “downgrading its development program, or exiting entirely.” Maintaining a small development program there should only be based on the purposes of maintaining political influence, helping safeguard investments in South Sudan, or ensuring peace and stability in the East African region.

If acted upon, the recommendation could further the problem of funding that aid groups are already experiencing in the country.

A source on the ground in Sudan who spoke on condition of anonymity previously told Devex that funding has become elusive in the past few years, and a look at OECD-DAC donors’ aid flows to the country confirms this. For instance, U.K. aid to Sudan in 2011 was at $158.94 million, but in 2012 this reduced to a mere $83.08 million. EU aid in 2010 was at 284.17 million, and then it went down to $192 million in 2012, according to OECD figures.

The numbers are a cause for concern, given the huge humanitarian challenges that continue to plague the country. Displacement is still large in Khartoum, and access for aid workers remains limited in the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Do you agree with the report’s recommendation? Please let us know if you think Canada should cut aid to Sudan by leaving us a comment below.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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