Canadian Broken Foreign Aid: It’s Time for an Effective Paradigm Change

by Bongs Lainjo

Canadians finally after years of political agony decided it was time for a major change of guards. And indeed, this time the voters massively demonstrated their anger by voting in the highest turn out since 1993. This higher-than-usual degree of participation suggests significant levels of decreasing cynicism and apathy. This is a civic responsibility that we should all continue to uphold. Democracy is not a luxury; it is an opportunity for every citizen to express their feelings freely in an attempt to make our country more attractive, transparent, inclusive, and the envy of the free the world.

Our foreign policy and specifically, foreign assistance has been in “intensive care” since the previous government took over the reigns of power. Foreign aid should never be confused or mixed with business and profits. It remains a humanitarian and charitable manifestation of support to the less deprived and vulnerable communities. The Tory government in its revised agenda transformed our foreign aid into a “venture capitalist” endeavour. For example, it significantly reduced the number of countries receiving Canadian help and integrated business initiatives into our foreign assistance policy. Mining suddenly became a key component of Canadian bilateral agenda. CIDA as we all knew it became a footnote. Business should never be used as pre-condition to help vulnerable and deprived communities. We owe these less fortunate countries unconditional help. And the liberals can make the change!

These conservative party unnecessary and ideological development modifications need to change. And no better time to do it than now. The new government has indicated its willingness to move away from ideology and re-establish our dynamic engagement in every global agenda. There is urgent need to get the ball rolling and revive CIDA, and the same time to correct all the senseless and unsubstantiated Tory policies in order to show the world that Canada has once again stood up and needs to be counted among the other developed countries as an effective and committed foreign aid player. In the new CIDA, attempts will need to be made to streamline the glutted bureaucracy making it more responsive with more and effective response rates. For instance, in the previous set up the treasury board was more of a deterrent especially in its tardy response to payments and related requests. This is one of many lessons learned that needs to be addressed in order to accelerate the relevant processes.

The above comments will be skewed and biased if some recognition of what the previous government did is not highlighted. Looking at our foreign aid history between 2001 and 2010, one sees evidence that while during this decade we had two governments (Liberal and Conservative) there is evidence to credit the conservative government for creating some of the successes that exist today. For example during this period and according to OECD report, Canada foreign aid as a percentage of its GPD crawled from.22 per cent in 2001 to .34 per cent in 2010; placing Canada 14th out of 23 developed countries. Most of Canada’s increase occurred during the Tory years. In contrast, Norway’s funding increased from .32 to 1.1 during the same period.

Also, at the global level, Western countries have woefully failed to meet their own pledges to donate 0.7 % of their GDP to LDCs. Only a disappointing number of countries – four – have achieved this objective. There is definitely an overwhelming need for a paradigm change. And Canada needs to grab the bull by the horn and run with it. We are all exited and anxiously looking forward to some significant and positive change from our new government.