CARE Canada Recommendations on Canadian Government's Countries of Focus for Development Assistance

On Tuesday, May 17, CARE Canada Senior Director of International Development Santiago Alba-Corral and Advocacy and Government Relations Advisor Shaughn McArthur spoke before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the topic of the Canadian government's countries of focus for bilateral development assistance.

Watch the televised committee meeting here (external link).

CARE Canada's Key Recommendations

Amid the International Assistance Review recently launched by the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Government of Canada today faces a unique opportunity to undertake a thorough analysis to ensure its international assistance is tailored to address the right issues, in the right communities, and for the greatest possible impact.

CARE Canada offers five recommendations to help guide that process.

First, the Government should undertake an evaluation of Canada’s country of focus approach. This should include an assessment of what has worked, or not, since the approach was first adopted in 2009. Has a focus on select countries truly enhanced the impact and efficiency of Canada’s development assistance? Has it improved development outcomes for women and girls in those countries?

Second, the Government should ensure that its focus on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people defines how, where and what type of assistance is delivered. Need should not be defined by a country’s status as a least developed country. According to the World Bank, 73 percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries. People, not countries, should be the targets of Canadian assistance. Inequality is the lens through which these people are best identified, and assisted.

Third, if a country of focus approach is retained, the Government should be held to account for those commitments. This means developing long-term – 10 to 15 year – strategies for each country, in consultation with implementing partners. These should be linked to broader regional strategies, and attached to transparent and predictable funding envelopes. They should be flexible enough to accommodate changing conditions, but rigid enough to follow through on complex change. They should include mechanisms to support emergency preparedness in countries prone to natural disasters or conflict, and to redirect resources when disaster strikes. All international development strategies should be underpinned by robust monitoring and evaluation systems, and subject to regular reviews.

Fourth, Canada’s new International Assistance Framework should include a mechanism for regular impact monitoring. The broad range of indicators attached to the Sustainable Development Goals provide a ready means to help measure Canada’s impact, while ensuring alignment with global objectives.

Finally, international development assistance must always be motivated by the interests of the people it aims to assist. The amalgamation of Canada’s foreign affairs, international trade and international development departments creates the conditions for more coherent and efficient engagement in the world. Trade and diplomacy can do much to leverage Canadian advantages, and support international development objectives. However, international development itself is undermined if it is seen to support trade and diplomatic outcomes.