What's In the Horizon for Canada's Aid Program?

What can be expected from Canada’s aid program in the next few years under the country’s majority government? Decreased assistance to Afghanistan, a new list of priority countries, more aid for Libya, and more low-profile international development ministers, Canadian foreign aid and political experts said.

A couple of important things to note regarding Canada’s aid program: the foreign aid budget is frozen and the Canadian International Development Agency is shifting its focus to the Latin American and Caribbean region, Stephen Brown and Ian Smillie write in their column on the The Mark.

“The aid-budget freeze announced a year ago may not last — it could actually get worse. Like other government departments, CIDA is preparing scenarios for five per cent and 10 per cent budget cuts,” the two write.

Meanwhile, on priority countries, Brown and Smillie note there is an indication Canada will strengthen its focus on middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, de-emphasizing African countries and Afghanistan. Libya is perhaps the exception — several Canadian companies are eyeing reconstruction and oil contracts there.

CIDA insiders have also hinted at the possibility that the agency’s list of priority countries, which has been revamped recently, is yet to be reviewed again, the two add.

Further, Brown and Smillie note that Canadian international development minister Beveley Oda is most likely to maintain a low profile considering the controversy she faced earlier this year in connection with modified CIDA documents.

The two also lament the “growing number of early retirees” within CIDA, which they say has resulted in the agency being left with “powerful senior managers who know little of development, and energetic, well-educated young recruits without much experience.

Canada does not appear to have much promise on effectiveness or transparency either, the two write, citing the “shallowness of the Canadian discourse and our low aid levels.” They also add that Canada has yet to sign a global transparency initiative to which leading European donors have already committed.

Brown and Smillie argue that this is not the right direction for the Canadian aid program.

They write: “Canada might make a difference if it were to promote development effectiveness rather than aid effectiveness. In this regard, Africa should be moved up as a priority area for funding on Canada’s agenda. The Harper government still regards Africa as a backwater, suitable for emergency assistance and a little of its maternal and child health initiative to complement Canadian mining company contracts, but not for the kind of longer-term development support that would ultimately reduce the need for emergency assistance.”

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.