Canada needs to increase foreign aid flows in line with its renewed engagement

Trudeau Canada 2018

UN Photo/Cia Pak
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session.

This article is brought to you in association with OECD.

Canada has shown a renewed engagement in global development in the last few years. This now needs to translate into concrete action to increase aid flows and ensure that development co-operation is effective and coherent, according to a new OECD Review.

The latest DAC Peer Review of Canada commends the creation of a new department, Global Affairs Canada, from the merger of the former aid agency with the department of foreign affairs and trade. Global Affairs is working to make Canadian aid more responsive and innovative, and is improving the way it conducts evaluations of development assistance.

The Review also praises Canada’s focus on empowering women and girls in developing countries, from addressing gender-based violence to improving institutional capacity and supporting local organisations that are working to advance women’s rights.

More efforts are needed, however, to increase Canada’s official development assistance (ODA) which, despite robust economic growth, has declined from 0.31% of its gross national income (GNI) in 2012 to 0.26% – or USD 4.27 billion – in 2017. The federal government’s allocation of an extra CAD 2 billion (around USD 1.5 billion) for foreign aid for the next five years is not enough to restore ODA to 2012 levels, much less to the internationally agreed target of 0.7% of GNI. As a comparison, the average ratio of ODA to GNI for DAC donors was 0.32% in 2016, and five DAC members have now reached a UN target of 0.7%.

“The creation of the Global Affairs department has made Canada’s approach to foreign policy, trade, development, peace and security much more coherent. Canada is also proving to be a central actor in pushing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is important to now set out a path to increase aid volumes to add weight to Canada’s global advocacy role,” said OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.

The Review found that Canada increased its spending on resettling refugees inside its borders by 89% in 2016, without diverting funds from existing aid commitments.

The top five recipients of Canadian aid in 2016 were Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan and Haiti. Around half of Canada’s bilateral ODA went to least-developed countries. However a goal to direct 90% of country programmable aid to 25 priority countries was not met, with 63% going to 132 countries in 2015-16, and the rest unallocated by country.

The Review says Canada fully implemented nine and partially implemented another 12 of 24 recommendations in a 2012 Peer Review. Recommendations not fully implemented include ones on maintaining aid levels and strengthening capacity for monitoring and analysis.

Each DAC member is reviewed every five years in order to monitor its performance, hold it accountable for past commitments and recommend improvements. Reviews use input from officials in the review country and partner countries – Tanzania for this Review – as well as civil society and the private sector. Read more on DAC Peer Reviews.

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