CIDA, Foreign Affairs merger and budget cuts jeopardize poverty reduction goal of aid

Canada's contribution to reducing poverty in developing countries will be undermined by the proposed merger of the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs department, Oxfam Canada said Thursday.

March 21, 2013

Canada's contribution to reducing poverty in developing countries will be undermined by the proposed merger of the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs department, Oxfam Canada said Thursday.

Reacting to the federal budget announcement, Oxfam said the merger raises concern that the allocation of aid will be driven by Canada's self-interest in foreign policy, and the government's economic and trade agenda rather than poverty alleviation.

“Canada's foreign policy and trade interests should not compromise the purpose of aid - which is poverty alleviation and human rights,” said Anthony Scoggins, Oxfam's director of international programs.

“Foreign Affairs is not in the business of reducing poverty. We risk losing the expertise, focus, effectiveness - and results - that CIDA staff brought to this goal.”

The government has already launched a shift to aid partnerships with the Canadian mining sector and has reduced the list of poor countries to which official development assistance is available. Oxfam is concerned that the move, along with cuts in aid funds, will have a serious impact on poor women and girls, men and boys in Africa, Asia and the Americas and moves Canada further away from the pledge by all parties in Parliament to increase Canada's aid to 0.7 per cent of the economy.

The federal government should be investing more, not cutting the foreign aid budget, to help maintain global progress in eradicating poverty, Oxfam said.

Oxfam has been calling on the federal government to reverse a cut announced in last year's budget of $377.6 million over three years in the annual $5 billion international assistance envelope.

“These cuts are being made despite solid evidence that aid and development projects have been making a real difference in the lives of poor people in developing countries,” Scoggins said.

“The proof is overwhelming: international development assistance has been working. Rates of poverty, malnutrition, women and child mortality have all been declining in recent years.  This is the time to make these investments, and not leave the heavy lifting to others.”

Hundreds of millions of people are escaping poverty thanks to national and international investments in education, health, agriculture, improved access to water, women's rights and good governance.

Canadians are generous people and expect their government to play a larger role in the achievable goal of eradicating global poverty.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom announced a firm commitment to achieving the UN target. Canada, by contrast, has been steadily dropping over the past decade in global rankings. Today Canada ranks at the bottom half of the pack of 22 global donor countries.

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For further information:

Juliet O'Neill
Oxfam Canada media contact
Juliet.oneill@oxfam.ca
613-240-3047