The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was created in 1968 to help developing countries improve their social and economic situation in a context of decolonization and independence. Since then, CIDA and a large number of Canadian institutions have been able to build solid expertise to meet the evolving needs of developing countries. In 2013, the Harper government merged CIDA with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Everything indicates that this decision is far from having improved the management of Canada’s international aid, now amounting to more than $ 6 billion a year.
In 2018, the OECD criticized the overly centralized and bureaucratic organization of Canada’s aid program, in addition to noting that staff did not always have access to professional and technical resources to implement the new feminist policy. aid announced in 2017. The OECD also noted the lack of plans for aid effectiveness, for the engagement of recipient countries, as well as for the establishment of inclusive partnerships. Finally, the OECD concluded that there was not really greater coherence between the development aid, diplomacy and trade policies of the new ministry, yet the main reason given for effecting the merger.
During the merger, CIDA staff found themselves in an environment dominated by foreign policy staff. According to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) reports, security and peace issues, multilateral aid and global issues have received more investment since 2014 than traditional bilateral aid (country to country) . Aid is becoming more and more politicized: for example, Ukraine, which is not a developing country, has received Canadian funds of almost $ 800 million in six years. The predominance of the political aspect also risks putting a growing number of Canadian institutions with a reputation abroad out of the game. […]
Knowledge and experience
Cooperation and international aid are even more necessary than ever in the post-pandemic context to help less privileged countries face the many challenges such as the fight against poverty, adaptation to climate change, support for a democratic governance, equitable access to basic services and epidemic prevention. It is not just a question of compassion, charity or solidarity. It is also in our own interests to live in a more just, equitable, secure and prosperous world.
The management of Canada’s international assistance program, because of its size and complexity, must be carried out by people with long experience and in-depth knowledge of sustainable, just and equitable development in a context of interdependence. Yet, at present, virtually no senior AMC officer responsible for aid and development cooperation programs has the experience and knowledge of implementing international development programs.
The situation on the ground has also deteriorated considerably, with fewer people interested in a posting abroad as this experience is less and less valued. In addition, all the local infrastructure of technical and professional resources put in place by CIDA to support the implementation of development programs has practically disappeared, as a result of perverse regulatory requirements which have difficulty understanding the adaptations required in the fight against poverty, the improvement of human rights or the fight against climate change.
At headquarters, staff face the many bureaucratic, non-facilitating processes that govern the management of programs and projects as well as relationships with partners. This knowledge of ” red tape (Red tape) is valued more than the experience of development. Finally, technical and professional staff supporting policy development and program formulation and implementation have been reduced to a minimum.
The official development assistance (ODA) budget has increased significantly since the Trudeau government came to power. However, the ODA / GDP ratio continued to decline, standing at 0.026%, placing Canada in 16e OECD rank. But GAC has fewer and fewer staff with the in-depth knowledge and experience required to effectively manage and deliver Canada’s international assistance program.
This situation must be corrected if Canada is to regain its leadership in this area. Serious consideration should be given to the re-creation of a specialized and independent agency, staffed with experienced people, and operating mainly within the framework of inclusive partnership agreements with partner countries and populations, as well as with international and Canadian institutions.
* GREDIC is made up of former leaders of cooperation organizations and CIDA, namely Robert Letendre, Nicole St-Martin, Nigel Martin, Yves Pétillon, Pierre Véronneau and Mario Renaud.