Afghanistan dominates headlines, but foreign policy shut out of leaders’ English debates

Afghanistan dominates headlines, but foreign policy shut out of leaders’ English debates

Over the Labour Day long weekend, the Debate Broadcast Group announced the topics for the official Federal Leaders debates set to take place Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week. Conspicuously absent from the English debate is any discussion of foreign policy and all it encompasses.   

Throughout the campaign, leaders have made big commitments on affordable housing, and health care. Policy areas that are within provincial jurisdiction. Unlike these issues, Foreign Policy – including all its facets of trade, international development, global health, defense, and immigration – is solely the domain of the federal government. In the only official debate to be held in English, Leaders must be asked about the many critical foreign policy issues that continue to shake Canadians through the campaign. 

For weeks Afghanistan dominated the headlines, highlighting the community leaders, humanitarian workers, and women’s rights defenders who worked alongside Canadians to build a future for their country that they could be proud of. Leaders of all political parties need to be transparent with their plan for the region, Canada’s responsibility to the many who have been left behind, and how the Afghanistan experience should shape Canadian foreign policy in the decades to come. 

As these stories fade from the newspapers, it is essential that they not be forgotten. This is equally true for the billions of people around the world that have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As Canadians grapple with a growing fourth wave of the pandemic, the evidence is clear that we cannot end COVID-19 here until we end it everywhere.  Yet today less than 2% of people in low- and middle-income countries have been vaccinated. This statistic indicates that we are a long way off from ending our fight against this virus.  Canada’s approach to foreign policy will have an important role in ending the threat of new variants and safeguarding our economic recovery.  

Our global recovery from COVID-19 and the risk of losing two decades of progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan are just some of the important global conversations that cannot be swept under the rug. Including foreign policy in the French language debate is an important step, but it is simply not enough. In 2019 over 14 million Canadians tuned in to the English debate compared to the 5 million viewers of the French debate. Leaders are accountable to Canadians in both official languages.  As it stands, most of the country won’t hear the parties’ plans for a central pillar of federal responsibility. 

Nicolas Moyer, Chief Executive Officer of Cooperation Canada says, “Debates are important to our democracy. They should matter, but they can’t when major issues are left off the table. That is why we’ve joined along with many associations in the foreign policy space since the election began to call on the debate commission to include foreign policy as a debate topic. With our country and our world at a turning point, Canada’s plan for its role in the world has never mattered more.” 

This election, let’s give our leaders the opportunity to have an honest conversation with Canadians about our global future by putting foreign policy on the agenda. 

Cooperation Canada reacts to Budget 2021: A missed opportunity for Canada’s global engagement

Cooperation Canada reacts to Budget 2021: A missed opportunity for Canada’s global engagement

Keeping Canadians safe is the most important role of the government. That means eradicating COVID-19 from around the world, urgently addressing the climate crisis, and ensuring an equitable pandemic recovery. Our economy is global, our population is multicultural, and we cannot solve global challenges in isolation. Canada will not recover until the world recovers.

Today, the Government of Canada announced budgetary measures aimed at eradicating COVID-19. This includes $375 million towards the global pandemic response – a critical contribution that will save lives. Yet this modest figure stands in contrast with the Government’s commitments last year, amounting to an estimated $1.2 billion and does not reflect or respond to the dire humanitarian needs around the globe: with 97 million people pushed to extreme poverty and 270 million facing acute hunger. COVID-19 is not a fleeting crisis. It calls for political leadership and strategic investments to make up for the 25 years of human development progress lost in the first 25 weeks of the global pandemic. Today’s budget is a missed opportunity to demonstrate such political leadership.

Women and girls, marginalized communities and historically disadvantaged countries are bearing the brunt of the harshest economic, social, and health effects of the crisis. Securing their futures requires ambitious action. This is why the international development sector has been calling for the government to invest 1% of its COVID response to support the global response and recovery. Today’s Budget provides for $375 million in COVID-19 global response, encapsulated in a $1.4 billion increase in international assistance, spread over five years. Such an increase emerges as insufficient against the backdrop of the biggest global crisis in a generation and the need for long-term investments in mechanisms of global health, social protection and economic collaboration on which depends our ability to recover from COVID-19 and prevent and mitigate future crises.

Canada is currently contributing far below its global fair share and its international commitments, investing only 30 cents in international assistance for every 100 dollars in gross national income. Despite an increase last year, Canada continues to perform below the average of donors of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Low levels of funding, exacerbated by unpredictable new allocations that follow political trends and media attention instead of the humanitarian needs and development strategies, are threatening the achievement of the government’s own Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Canadians understand the need for a bold budget with robust measures to address the crisis within and beyond our borders. While Canada grapples with its own vaccine roll-out, many lower-income countries have not received a single dose, endangering lives, and threatening the health and economic recovery everywhere.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important it is to address global crises in a timely manner,” said Nicolas Moyer, CEO of Cooperation Canada. “Canada’s international development and humanitarian sector has been calling on the Government to commit to a strategic, long-term investment in global solutions to the multiple concurrent crises affecting us everywhere. This Budget missed an opportunity to answer those calls.”

Today was also not the day Canada presented a vision for addressing international climate challenges. Looking forward, the Government must tackle the climate crisis with determination. This means allocating Canada’s fair share of the global climate finance commitments, which corresponds to $1.8 billion in annual contributions, on top of the current international assistance levels. Our global crises cannot be solved in isolation. Climate adaptation and mitigation, humanitarian interventions and development efforts are mutually reinforcing and as such deserve comprehensive and strategic investments that match the severity and the urgency of the crises we are facing everywhere.

Canada has an opportunity to do better later this year at the G7 Summit and the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) with a chance to invest in progressive and principled global development, that is in everyone’s interest. It is time to commit meaningfully to effective efforts to build back healthier, safer, more equitable and sustainable communities for us all.

Media Contact
Kat Guerin
Communications Manager

About Cooperation Canada
Cooperation Canada brings together and advocates for Canada’s international development and humanitarian organizations by convening sector leaders, influencing policy and building capacity. Together, we work with partners both inside and outside Canada to build a world that’s fair, safe and sustainable for all.

Cooperation Canada applauds Canada’s announcement today to contribute an additional $75 million to support a more equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines

Cooperation Canada applauds Canada’s announcement today to contribute an additional $75 million to support a more equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. This is an invaluable investment as historically disadvantaged countries which are disproportionately affected by the pandemic struggle to access vaccines. It is essential that vaccines be made available on the basis of need and prioritize the most vulnerable, wherever they are. The current pandemic clearly demonstrates that our economy is global, our populations are deeply interconnected, and we cannot solve global challenges in isolation. Canada will not recover until the world recovers.

Today’s announcement brings Canada’s contribution to a global COVID-19 response to an estimated $2 billion. This investment is a clear indication of Canada’s global leadership since the beginning of the pandemic, which is helping solve global challenges and motivating other countries to step up. COVID-19 is not the crisis of a season – it has already left a lasting impact on all aspects of our societies, exacerbated inequalities and disrupted 25 years of global human progress in a matter of months.

Sustained investments in global capacity to prevent and mitigate crises such as this one are key. Today’s announcement and Canada’s important COVID-related global contributions are critical steps towards ensuring Canada contributes its fair share to global development. Much progress is still needed in this area. To strategically address the current global challenges, Canada must ensure that predictable long-term funding is in place to fulfill Government promises outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Feminist International Assistance Policy. This should include a roadmap for increasing Canada’s international assistance. A first step would be anchoring the existing COVID-19 budgetary allocations to the permanent international assistance envelope. This should be accompanied by further increases, in the next two fiscal years, with the overall objective of allocating at least 1% of Canada’s COVID-19 response and recovery budget towards sustainable global recovery to the pandemic crisis.

We are in this together. Only together can we build back a stronger, more resilient and equitable world.

Open Letter from the Anti-Racism Advisory Group

Open Letter from the Anti-Racism Advisory Group






Dear sector colleagues,


We hope your 2021 is off to a great start. We are proud to announce that the Anti-Racism Advisory Group convened by Cooperation Canada has finalized the Anti-Racism Framework for our sector. The group wishes to thank all those who contributed to the current version and to invite all Canadian organizations working in international cooperation to officially sign on. For more information on the Framework and the sign-on process, please see the open letter below and the enclosed resources.



Dear colleagues, allies, and supporters of Canada’s international cooperation sector,


Thank you for being a part of our work over the past year, as we have come together to share experiences and ideas, discussing avenues of collective anti-racist action. As international cooperation practitioners, we are personally and professionally dedicated to advancing the mandates of our organizations, supporting our partners, and improving a sector that tirelessly aims to contribute to a healthier, safer, more equitable and sustainable world for us all. Working in the Canadian context, we are also aware of the different forms of privilege and responsibility to address the harms of racist bias, which continue to exist in processes, institutions and international systems.Cooperation Canada convened an advisory group beginning in summer 2020, following a survey shared among its 90 member organizations. Since then, this advisory group has aimed to provide a platform from which our collective approaches to anti-racism can take shape. We have engaged in this work from a place of empathy but also the recognition that our sector must effectively prioritize deliberate anti-racist efforts. Guided by the principle of collective action, we have outlined a Framework for Anti-racism Efforts of Canada’s International Cooperation Sector that reflects our institutional commitments and guides our sector’s accountability towards this work. We have convened many forums, troubleshooting together, relying on our informal networks of specialists, calling upon advice and feedback from colleagues, friends, and allies both in Canada and globally.

Throughout these consultation processes, we have done our best to ensure open channels of communication, allowing everyone to suggest improvements for the Framework. We have joined coalition meetings, called upon participants to lean into discussions that can feel uncomfortable, examine our personal privileges and ability to enact positive change, and urged us all to embrace the destabilizing shifts that come with any real change. This process is far from finished. However, after months of listening and learning, we are ready to present the last iteration of our sector’s Anti-racism Framework and invite your organization to sign-on.

We hope that by committing to this Framework, you are signalling your readiness to learn, work with others, and invest in promoting processes, policies, systems, and organizational discussions that contribute to a more anti-racist sector. We know that our sector, guided by international human rights declarations, values of equality, justice, solidarity, and sustainability, must continuously improve in advancing social and racial justice. As a signatory, you are signalling your readiness to do precisely that. Signatories will contribute to gathering data on our sector’s anti-racism efforts, but also work together, through working groups, to foster collective learning, develop tools and policies, accelerate innovative approaches to racial justice, and overall strengthen individual and institutional capacity for anti-racist efforts.

This Framework is not perfect or final, nor is it our destination. This Framework, however, will provide a common ground, guiding instruments, and a momentum for a more anti-racist international cooperation sector. We invite you to sign on to the Framework, reach out to others to do the same, and engage with us moving forward. This is just the beginning, and we can’t wait to begin this work with you.


In solidarity,

Hugues Alla, Cooperation Canada
Nancy Burrows, l’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (l’AQOCI)
Marietou Diallo, Inter Pares
Jessica Ferne, the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH)
Rachel Logel Carmichael, Save the Children Canada
Odette McCarthy, Equitas
Gloria Novovic, Cooperation Canada
Tiyahna Padmore, World Vision Canada
Aislynn Row, Cooperation Canada
Maïka Sondarjee, Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID)
Simran Singh, CARE Canada
Musu Taylor-Lewis, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank
Unyime Abasi Odong, Cooperation Canada



Signatories will be contacted soon to learn more about what’s to come and with instructions to compile a baseline survey by March 21. To see the questions ahead of time, please click here.



3 takeaways for greening your organization: The role of environmental impact assessments and green teams

3 takeaways for greening your organization: The role of environmental impact assessments and green teams

On November 17as part of its Greening CSOs initiativeCooperation Canada convened civil society organizations to examine the intersection of baseline environmental assessmentsgreen teams and improved operations and programming. Our webinar explored CARE Canada’s experience with a baseline environmental impact assessment of its operations and programs and the role of its green teamFocused on peer learning and exchange, the webinar showcased the ins and outs of these greening tools, challenges, successes and lessons learned. For those of you that missed it, here are our takeaways from the lively discussion.  


1. Baseline environmental impact assessments can be done by any organization – small, medium or large, regardless of budget. 


Although baseline environmental impact assessments appear complicated and out of reach for some in the sector, simple tracking of utility expenses, travel and workplace habits around water, waste and power, for example, are concrete ways to get each and everyone of us started on the path to greening and becoming carbon neutral. While such activities do have human costs as they require staff time, they do not require the use of costly consultants. Participants expressed concern over the initial investment required for retrofits. Yet, others advised that starting with simple changes, gaining leadership buy-in and proposing larger changes once an assessment is completed are critical starting points for success, rather than focusing on costs as an upfront barrier. For simple ways to kick start your organization’s efforts, check out our repository of tools and resources   


2. A green team can go a long way – but even farther with leadership support.


Organizations should gather common interests and aspirations for greening, identify small objectives and make use of internal expertise so as to gain momentum and trigger lasting positive results. For many participants, green teams were mostly initiated informally and were on a volunteer basis. Those that were more successful tended to have specific plans in placeSome organizations noted that once green team gained a bit of momentum, leaders were then more likely to give support and, in some cases, green teams were formalized within governance structuresFor some organizations, senior executives’ presence in the green team was instrumental in achieving success and pushing forward the agenda. Summing up, a green team is an important starting point for organizations but does not always guarantee action; leadership buy-in is a much-needed driving force for lasting effects.    


3. Greening requires targeted awareness-raising and active staff engagement for positive behavioural changes. 


The topic of greening and sustainable operations is often perceived differently among staff, as well as from one country to anotherIn some instances, participants advised that different means of communication were required for outreach. Messaging for countryoffices requires more context-specific information and consciousness of different levels of capacity and knowledge. For some country offices, a how-to-guide for greening operations and programming may be needed.  Once behavioural changes occur, green efforts can more easily be formalized into policies and organizational strategies. Formalization and policies were said to also come in handy to maintain momentum as well as to ensure organizational accountability and persistence through challenges such as staff turnover and loss of knowledge. Noteworthy global events such as the Montreal Climate march and COP25 were also said to trigger internal discussions and in turn highlight the urgent need for action and teams to lead the way.  


Cooperation Canada’s “A path to Greener CSOs” peer learning session was the second of a series of peer learning sessions from the Greening CSOs initiative. Stay tuned for more opportunities and resources! 


Arianna Abdelnaiem, Research Assistant, Research, Policy and Practice 


Luiana TembaResearch Intern, Research, Policy and Practice