This week, the Prime Minister’s Office issued supplementary mandate letters, addressing the heightened expectations Canada’s Ministers face during the global pandemic. Responsibilities listed in these supplementary mandate letters do not replace commitments listed in the 2019 letters – which Coperation Canada (CCIC at the time) analyzed.
Cooperation Canada is proposing below an analysis of the new supplementary letters and what they might signal to the international cooperation sector. The below is a summary analysis by Cooperation Canada from the perspective of the international cooperation sector and should by no means be understood as a comprehensive summary of policy priorities of the current Government.
The mandate letters issued to the newly reshuffled cabinet are aligned with the federal government’s positions so far. The four areas of focus remain, as already announced, those of (i) public health, (ii) strong economic recovery, (iii) cleaner environment, and (iv) fairness and equality. While responding to the direct (public health) and indirect (in this case primarily economic) repercussions of COVID-19, Ministers are advised to scale up the ambition of programs aimed at COVID response and early recovery while refraining from budgetary moves that would have long-lasting fiscal effects long after the pandemic. On a positive note, the Government does not seem to have abandoned the non-COVID priorities of environmental sustainability nor that of equitable societies.
Economy and ODA repercussions
With the economic recovery (predictably) being on top of the Government’s list, Finance Minister Freeland’s role is more important than ever. Her supplementary letter instructs her to “preserve Canada’s fiscal advantage” and “use whatever fiscal firepower is needed in the short term” but also to “avoid creating new permanent spending”. This sends a clear message that budgetary increases obtained during COVID should not be considered permanent. With the Government increasing Canada’s fiscal deficit as a result of the global crises, no budgetary increases in this period can be reasonably expected to expand the fiscal space for specific budget items in the long run.
However, perhaps not all social justice lessons will be forgotten after the recovery. The supplementary letter encourages Freeland to tax the wealthy and multinational corporations while working within the broader community of the Organisation for Economic and Co-Operation and Development (OECD) to strike down on tax evasion and avoidance.
Canada’s global engagement
The current government’s emphasis on a sustainable economic recovery is not limited to domestic policy. Supplementary letters to Ministers Freeland, Garneau, and Gould call for reinforced efforts to ensure “vaccines, therapeutics, and strengthened health systems” at home and abroad. The newly appointed Minister Garneau is particularly called upon to strengthen multilateral approaches to crises such as the current pandemic. What this means exactly, however, remains unclear in the present context of a fragmented geopolitical system and competing foreign policy visions between multiple “donor country” blocks.
Minister Gould’s supplementary mandate letter is interesting for the international cooperation sector considering the encouragement to: “increase investments in international development to support developing countries on their economic recoveries and resilience”. This is an echo of a similar commitment in the Fall Throne Speech. Given that Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) levels are below the OECD donor average and at the country’s historical low in half a century, this objective emerges as a rather complex one. Canada’s ODA levels, which in the last fiscal year represented mere 0.27% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) are a far cry from the international commitment of 0.7% as well as any credible expectations of Canada’s contribution to solving key global challenges that affect us everywhere.
The Government’s commitments to green economy domestically do not seem to reference Canada’s commitments to global finance, which as the recent C4D report shows, are almost entirely allocated to multilateral organizations on a loan basis. Hopefully, the recent approval of Bill C-12: the Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act is a signal that Canada takes its responsibility to mitigate climate change effects seriously so it would be logical for the same ambition and drive will be applied on the global stage.
Similar efforts to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of current and future generations are evident in mandate letters that, for example, call for a climate lens to all government decision-making (Treasury Board letter), planting 2 billion trees, reduction of emissions within Canada’s farming sector (Agriculture and Agri-Food letter), and support Canada’s clean energy transitions including through tax breaks (of 50%) to companies developing and manufacturing zero-emission technology (Finance letter).
Fair and equal societies
The current government seems to be reacting to the uprisings in Canada and elsewhere on the continent, calling on deliberate efforts to address and dismantle systemic racism. Many ministerial priorities focus on expanding the gender equality considerations to include identity factors such as race, (dis)ability etc.
Part of this agenda is aligned with previously announced efforts to further enable transformative efforts towards gender equality. The present government is reacting to the fact that women are bearing the brunt of the current pandemic response, which is why numerous letters focus on improving Canada’s education system, child care structures, and women’s access to gainful employment and services. The Deputy Prime-Minister is expected to develop an Action Plan for Women in the Economy (which should, like always be intersectional and holistic). Other agenda items, across various ministerial letters in this area, include providing shelter and transition housing to marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as women victims of violence, improving country-wide early learning and childcare systems, and supporting progress towards gender equality in Canadian companies. The pandemic, however, is clearly not being used as an excuse to hinder ongoing policy processes such as that of the consultations for the development of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy, which started in November 2020, and re-appears in the letter to the newly appointed Minister Garneau.
Racial justice appears more prominently as a policy objective in the latest round of ministerial mandate letters. This is particularly evident in the supplementary letters to Ministers of the Treasury Board, Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Crown – Indigenous Relations, International Development, and Finance. Each of these Ministers has been asked to integrate diversity and inclusion in their work and/or elaborate sector-specific strategies that integrate these considerations. Letters also explicitly name the problem, referring to, as it is the case of Minister Chagger’s letter “systemic discrimination and unconscious bias in our country, including anti-Black racism”.
The most notable agenda item related to the Government’s heightened focus on diversity and inclusion is perhaps that of revising Canada’s gender-based analysis (GBA+), which all ministries have already been mandated to integrate. GBA+ should be reassessed as an analytical tool that allows for (i) greater data disaggregation to account for other identity factors such as race, (dis)ability, genders, indigeneity etc. Such an approach signals readiness to build on the progress made towards more gender-equal policy approaches and expand the definition of “equitable” to include other identity factors. This commitment is further substantiated by specific calls to advance reforms addressing “systemic inequities in the criminal justice system” as well as updated the Employment Equity Act requires. Diversity and inclusion are also agenda items for Canada’s Public Service, with the Treasury Board expected to form a Centre for Diversity to support public service bodies in their work in this area.
The supplementary mandate letters rightly highlight the importance of the reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, particularly prominent in the calls to accelerate the implementation of the National Action Plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Call for Justice, as well as accelerate the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. Lastly, Canada’s global commitments are put to test in this area, as Ministers Benett and the Lametti are expected to pass legislation that would enable the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Overall, the Government seems to clearly recognize its limitations vis a vis fair and equitable policies and services and has articulated clear policy priorities for each of the newly confirmed and/or appointed Ministers in advancing this work.
Overall, the latest policy priorities listed in the Government’s supplementary mandate letters gives limited clarity to the Canadian international cooperation sector, with mixed messages of fiscal conservativism and the need to strengthen Canada’s global engagement on a historically low official development assistance budget.
Encouraging news are almost entirely in the area of green economy, although the international agenda remains to be significantly strengthened, and diversity and inclusion, which is finally addressed with the intentionality it requires. With uncertain and likely short-term fiscal plans the Government is likely to offer the sector and Canada as a whole in the next few months, Cooperation Canada invites colleagues and allies of the sector to consider the uneven impact the current crisis has had on most historically disadvantaged countries, especially given the mounting debt crisis and argue for Canada’s global engagement that reflects its national commitments to environmental protection and more fair and just societies.
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.
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
The ambitious objectives outlined in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) can only be achieved in consultation with international and local civil society. Coherent with the Istanbul Principles and related frameworks such as the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness and the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, FIAP is strengthened by a Policy on Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance (the CSO Partnership Policy). Constructed in consultation with civil society, this policy outlines and defines how Global Affairs Canada (GAC) will engage with civil society actors on the implementation of the FIAP across nine action areas.
Nine action areas include:
- Empowering women and girls, promote gender equality, and reach the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized as the most effective means to eradicate poverty
- Facilitating a safe and enabling environment for civil society
- Protecting human life and dignity
- Fostering CSO leadership in innovation
- Integrating the role of CSOs as independent actors into international assistance programming
- Establishing more predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms
- Fostering multi-stakeholder approaches to international assistance
- Engaging Canadians as global citizens in international assistance
- Promoting sustainability, transparency, accountability, and results
Policy objectives – CSO implications
The human rights-based feminist approaches of FIAP require fundamental shifts in the structures, policies, processes, and programs of civil society actors working with GAC. Many of these shifts require institutional prioritization and resources, as we learned from civil society organizations (CSOs) partaking in the Women’s Voice and Leadership initiative.
Integrating considerations that account for gender norms and existing inequalities as well as devising tools and processes that allow for more gender-responsive and gender-transformative programs is a sector-wide challenge that can be achieved through collaboration, predictable and inclusive consultations, and continuous learning among diverse partners. To support these efforts, GAC and Canadian civil society crafted a policy outlining the entry points for strengthened government-civil society collaboration.
The CSO Partnership Policy highlights the responsibility of civil society actors to consult marginalized groups, including women and girls and ensure their perspectives are integrated across all areas of program design, delivery, and evaluation. Specifically, organizations are called to employ human rights-based approaches and institutionalize gender-based analysis in all of their work. CSOs should also collaborate with local/national responders as indicated through the guidance A Feminist Approach: Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action to strengthen the organizational and response capacity of local humanitarian actors as well as their long-term sustainability.
The CSO Partnership Policy is operationalized through the Implementation Plan, which lists proposed action for each of the nine action areas outlined above. To ensure progress towards the targets outlined in the Implementation Plan, Global Affairs Canada and Cooperation Canada have convened a Civil Society Policy Action Group (CPAG), which is open to civil society actors across the country. The two co-leads comprise the CPAG Secretariat, which on the GAC side reports to the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) for the Partnerships for Development Innovation Branch. CPAG gathers specialists from the sector, with each of the nine action areas co-led by representatives from relevant GAC teams and CSOs, who in consultation with broader coalitions formulate recommendations for policy implementation.
In 2018, CPAG devised a national survey, which informed the prioritization of: Objective 1 (Empower women and girls and promote gender equality); Objective 6 (Establish more predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms); and Objective 8 (Engage Canadians as global citizens). The implementation plan for the remaining objectives were approved in 2019, offering a policy tool for CSOs working towards a range of FIAP targets.
During the initial stages of the COVID-19 response, which called for GAC-CSO consultations on urgent matters related to the pandemic and its impact on the sector, CPAG activities were paused. Given the usefulness of tools and commitments outlined in implementation plans for all nine action areas, CPAG is currently calling on CSOs to engage with the group as a platform for improving the effectiveness of GAC-CSO collaboration.
CPAG is re-convening in 2021 to provide an overview of the group mandate and the progress made so far, articulate priority areas for 2021. To support an accountable and a forward-looking approach, CPAG will also be producing snapshot reports on the progress made for all nine action areas.
Canadian civil society organizations are called to engage around the work of CPAG to ensure this forward-looking and ambitious policy for CSO engagement is effectively translated into institutional systems and processes. Stay tuned for information sessions and updates related to this work.
UnyimeAbasi Odong, Policy intern, Research, Policy and Practice
A new report calls on the government to increase spending on official development assistance to support the global recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic
OTTAWA, ON, 8 December 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has displayed how deeply interconnected our global community is, including the unbreakable connections in public health, economics, and peace and security. Without proper investment in official development assistance, the ripples of this pandemic will not only impact the growth of historically disadvantaged countries around the world but also the lives of Canadians at home for decades to come.
Cooperation Canada’s In this Together: A Case for Canada’s Global Engagement argues the only path to a just global recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic must include a substantial and sustained increase of spending on official development assistance. The report includes a series of Together for Impact reports which highlight the value of investing in issue-specific solutions to global challenges like health, education, food security, climate change and gender equality.
“In the face of the greatest international crisis in a generation, a strong global response by Canada is not a matter of charity; it’s about progress that is of mutual benefit for Canada and our global partners,” said Nicolas Moyer, CEO, Cooperation Canada.
The case of Vietnam illustrates this well. The Government of Canada reports that, since 1990, it has contributed over $1.5 billion in development assistance to Vietnam. Within those 30 years, Vietnam has grown from one of the world’s poorest countries into a lower-middle-income status, with an international trade portfolio that includes Canada. Every two years, Canada makes as much in sales to Vietnam as it provided in 25 years of official development assistance.
This is just one of the many issue-specific cases from many countries highlighted in In this Together: A Case for Canada’s Global Engagement.
“Canada has historically prioritized international assistance, but today, as a proportion of the economy, the current government’s record on ODA is the lowest it has been in 50 years. We have the opportunity to change this as we navigate the COVID-19 recovery. Without a global focus, the pandemic will cut deeper and last longer” continued Nicolas.
A recent study found 79 per cent of Canadians agreed, that unless COVID-19 is controlled in all parts of the world, Canadian’s cannot return to normal life (Abacus Data, CanWaCH). Another recent study further found, by a two to one margin, Canadians agree that Canada needs to do its part to help poorer countries in their recovery from the pandemic (Abacus Data, Cooperation Canada).
Canada has the opportunity to chart a new path forward with investments across the humanitarian and development spheres to enable a global recovery while supporting its own. When Canada invests in its partners abroad, there are returns for Canada.
“The pandemic has shed light on the gross inequities that exist at home and around the world,” said April Ingham, Executive Director, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership, Co-Chair, Cooperation Canada Board. “What COVID-19 has shown us, is that when we prioritize the needs of the most marginalized, we all benefit. When we prioritize vaccinating the most at risk, the rest of the population is safer; when we invest in the poorest, economies are strengthened”
“During this period of global crisis, Canadians have come together to support their neighbours at home and on the other side of the world,” said Richard Veenstra, Executive Director, Mission Inclusion, Co-Chair, Cooperation Canada Board. “It is through a unified approach that we will overcome these global challenges. Canada relies on the wellbeing of our international partners, just as our health and wellbeing has an impact internationally. No one will recover sustainably if half the world is left to navigate the pervasive effects of this crisis alone.”
A global solution requires Canada. We are in this together. To discuss the launch of the report, Cooperation Canada will bring together champions of international development to join the virtual event In this Together: A conversation on Canada’s global engagement on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, at 12 p.m. ET (French) and 2 p.m. ET (English).
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About Cooperation Canada: Since 1968, Cooperation Canada (formerly known as the Canadian Council for International Cooperation) has brought together more than 90 organizations working in the international development and humanitarian sector. Cooperation Canada is an advocate for these groups by convening sector leaders, influencing policy and building capacity. Together, Cooperation Canada works with partners inside and outside Canada to build a world that’s fair, safe, and sustainable for all. To learn more, visit cooperation.ca
The Government of Canada has completed the first round of consultations to inform Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy. The goal is to help inform a white paper that will guide Canada’s feminist policy as a whole, in line with the already existing commitments and principles, such as those outlined in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP).
The Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group has collected sector-wide inputs here. Below is Cooperation Canada’s submission in English and French, which has been informed through sector-wide consultations and member feedback. Below are key messages outlining Cooperation Canada’s position in this important process of devising an future oriented, rights-based, and coherent feminist foreign policy.
Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy must adopt a human-rights based approach that amplifies the voices of feminist actors and marginalized groups in multilateral and bilateral decision-making arenas. Canada should aim for transformative change, which addresses deeply rooted norms and core causes, as informed by local contexts.
Canada’s feminist approach to its global engagement should define leadership through collaboration. Working alongside like-minded peer countries, acting as an enabler and accelerator of local feminist actors is needed for integrated and sustainable approaches.
Canada’s Feminist Foreign policy should entail processes of institutional transformation. This calls for a shift in focus away from prescriptive outcomes and towards more flexible and context—specific structures and processes of Canada’s institutions including Global Affairs Canada, relevant ministries, and Canada’s missions abroad.
Coherence must be a key pillar of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy, linking structures and agendas of international trade, diplomacy, defense, and international assistance. Mutually reinforcing strategies must be developed across these areas of intervention to allow for future-oriented and equitable solutions.
Measuring the success of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy is needed for a continuously evolving policy that leverages policy learning and builds on the expertise of Canadian civil servants, partners, and communities the policy aims to support. Quantitative benchmarks should be accompanied by qualitative reporting processes that allow for the identification of innovative solutions.
Click here to read Cooperation Canada’s submission.