Oxfam response to report on development cooperation of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

January 4, 2017

Oxfam welcomes the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development's report, Development cooperation for a more stable, inclusive and prosperous world: a collective ambition. The report puts forth 7 strong recommendations that, if implemented, would certainly contribute to greater effectiveness of Canada’s development approach.

One of the key findings of the report is the fact that the country of focus model is not based on evidence. In fact, none of the witnesses or the government were in a position to present a study that has established a clear connection between geographic focus and impact from aid spending. Oxfam supports the committee’s call for a thorough evaluation of the country of focus model (recommendation 1) that would closely weigh the alternatives that were brought to the Committee’s attention.

The report incorporates testimony by Oxfam’s Christina Polzot highlighting the inconsistency in Canada’s countries of focus model, citing Zambia as an example where bilateral development was cut despite the fact that the country still has a high prevalence of poverty and inequality. Another country that has previously been cut is Niger, despite its rank as one of the five poorest countries in the world with high levels of gender inequality and child poverty. One of the alternatives suggested in the report is to move towards an approach that is theme based instead of geographically focused, as put forth by Oxfam.

Looking at development more broadly, the committee members recognize the increasing complexity of development and the changing nature of the development landscape. Bilateral assistance falls short when climate change, public health emergencies, and large-scale displacement require transnational solutions. They also highlight that while some countries have moved into the middle-income category and have been cut from assistance, “pockets of affluence and exclusion of varying depths and scale” exist in all countries and continue to undermine development efforts. This observation aligns with Oxfam’s analysis that inequality within countries has proven to be a key obstacle to alleviating poverty. Oxfam’s Christina Polzot stated in her testimony to the committee that “despite the very clear link between poverty and inequality, development efforts have failed to adequately address inequality.” Oxfam recommends that the issue of inequality (within and across countries) be factored into the evaluation of the country of focus model, and be built into Canada’s approach to development cooperation more broadly.

Oxfam has repeatedly pointed out that Canada will continue to fall short of its development goals unless it makes a significant investment in its aid budget. The report echoes this assessment. The report points out that Canada ranks 14th out of 28 countries within the DAC group. Canada’s ODA/GNI ratio in 2015 was 0.28%, less than half the agreed upon UN target of 0.7% and half the OECD average of 0.54%. The committee is asking the Government of Canada to steadily raise ODA to reach 0.7% in 2030, with an interim goal of 0.35% in 2020. Oxfam fully supports the recommendation to increase gradually increase Canada’s aid budget to 0.7%, but believes this should – and can – be done within a shorter timeframe. The UK (0.71%), Netherlands (0.76%), Norway (1.05%) and Sweden (1.4%) have shown that it is possible to maintain OAD levels despite financial pressures, and a significant increase in Canada’s ODA would indeed demonstrate Canada’s renewed commitment to global leadership. Oxfam recommends that the government commit to year-on-year increases to the international assistance envelope over the next three years ($862 million in 2017-18, $1.17 billion in 2018-19, and $1.37 billion in 2019-20) and develop a 10-year plan to achieve the 0.7% target.

The report underscores again the need for long-term, predictable funding arrangements, prioritizing local actors and initiatives that are aimed at empowering women and girls. Oxfam could not agree more. As part of the international assistance review, Oxfam has recommended that the government of Canada ensure that 20 percent of all new aid investments have as their principal focus advancing women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality. Oxfam also recommends that Canada dedicate $100 million annually to supporting women’s rights organizations, feminist networks, and women’s movements in the Global South.

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