Today the Auditor General of Canada released the Report on International Assistance in Support of Gender Equality.The report focused on bilateral development assistance programming from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2022, which represents an average of $3.5 billion per year.

The report concludes that Global Affairs Canada was not able to demonstrate how Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy contributed to improving gender equality in low- and middle-income countries.  This finding is linked to weaknesses in Global Affairs Canada’s information management systems, an inadequate focus on outcomes against policy goals and the need to look beyond gender and age in the department’s project-level gender equality assessments to take a more inclusive approach that considers how other aspects of identity should inform programming.

The Auditor General also found that the department did not meet two out of three spending commitments. While Global Affairs Canada consistently exceeded its 80% gender-integrated spending commitment for projects that integrate gender equality, it did not quite meet the commitment for 15% of projects to target gender equality as the main project objective, and for 50% of bilateral funding to go to projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cooperation Canada commends the Government of Canada’s commitment to gender equality and its global leadership on feminist programming, guided by Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.  Canada’s global leadership on funding women’s rights organizations and movements, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and paid and unpaid care work is having transformational impacts on the lives of women, girls and gender diverse people around the world. In addition, the integration of gender equality throughout Canada’s international assistance programming makes Canada the top bilateral donor on gender equality according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The launch and the implementation of the Feminist International Assistance policy has been a huge undertaking.  It was – and is – the right vision at a time when women’s rights and progress on gender equality are under threat around the world. We are proud of Canada’s global leadership as gender equality champions,” said Kate Higgins, Chief Executive Officer of Cooperation Canada.

Cooperation Canada appreciates Global Affairs Canada’s agreement with the report’s recommendations and promise to take swift corrective measures. The weaknesses identified in the Auditor General’s report are issues that Cooperation Canada members have been working closely with Global Affairs Canada to address in recent years. These efforts have accelerated in past months as Cooperation Canada members work closely with Global Affairs Canada to inform the transformation of internal information management and granting and monitoring systems. We are encouraged by the priority Global Affairs Canada is giving to this work, and trust that initiatives like the Grants and Contributions Transformation initiative will improve monitoring and reporting systems and increase overall accountability to both Canadian taxpayers and country partners.

Cooperation Canada is also encouraged by the government’s commitment to supporting an intersectional approach to international assistance and building the collective capacity of those engaged in Canadian international assistance to do this critical work, including through the government’s support of the Anti-Racist Cooperation (ARC) Hub and DIGNA, hosted by Cooperation Canada.

The Auditor General’s recommendation to more effectively capture the impact of Canadian international assistance is a critical reminder about the importance of finding effective ways to document and demonstrate the difference that Canadian international assistance is making around the world, focusing on aggregate impact and long-term outcomes.

We know that Canadian international assistance is helping save and change lives around the world every day,” Kate Higgins said. “But there is more that the Canadian government and its partners can do to track, document and communicate impact to Canadians. We hope that the findings of the Auditor General’s report push us to continue to invest in demonstrating the impact of our collective efforts towards gender equality and a safer, fairer and more sustainable world,” she said.