A Guide through Canada’s Supplementary Mandate Letters for International Cooperation Actors

A Guide through Canada’s Supplementary Mandate Letters for International Cooperation Actors

 

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.

General trends

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.

Green economy

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.

Gender equality

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

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.

Reconciliation

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.

Final remarks

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.

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

 

 

NEXT STEPS
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.
Global Affairs Canada CSO Partnership Policy – A Brief Guide and a Call for Engagement

Global Affairs Canada CSO Partnership Policy – A Brief Guide and a Call for Engagement

 

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:

  1. Empowering women and girls, promote gender equality, and reach the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized as the most effective means to eradicate poverty
  2. Facilitating a safe and enabling environment for civil society
  3. Protecting human life and dignity
  4. Fostering CSO leadership in innovation
  5. Integrating the role of CSOs as independent actors into international assistance programming
  6. Establishing more predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms
  7. Fostering multi-stakeholder approaches to international assistance
  8. Engaging Canadians as global citizens in international assistance
  9. 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.

Implementation Plan

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.

Next Steps

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 

Pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2021 budget

Pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2021 budget

CCIC has submitted the pre-budget consultation submission alongside the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) and the Canadian Coalition for Climate Change and Development (C4D). Many thanks to all who provided insight throughout the drafting process. Please see the final version here
Equitable Partnerships through Triangular Co-operation

Equitable Partnerships through Triangular Co-operation

CCIC partnered with Global Affairs Canada to understand how Canadian civil society organizations are engaging in triangular co-operation. Over late 2019 and early 2020, CCIC worked to raise awareness among Canadian CSOs about the new definition of triangular co-operation, identified and documented related civil society experiences and consulted Canadian CSOs on key enabling factors for engaging in effective triangular co-operation. The initiative culminated in a synthesis report of key findings and a set of 16 short, 2-3 page profiles for each project examined under the initiative.” 

 

Equitable Partnerships through Triangular Co-operation Report  Full report 

Equitable Partnerships through Triangular Co-operation, English highlights | French highlights  

Profiles of examined projects available* – English profiles | French profiles  

*All profiles will be available in both English and French in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!” 

PowerPoint presentation

Recording – Webinar of March 23, 2020

Humanitarian Discussions, Policy, and Funding

Humanitarian Discussions, Policy, and Funding

HRN Heads of Agencies Meeting

Leaders from members of the Humanitarian Response Network of Canada (HRN) met on September 30th in Montreal at the HRN Heads of Agency Meeting (HoA). This annual event convenes Executive Directors and CEOs of HRN members, their senior humanitarian staff, and Government of Canada representatives to discuss their collective experience in humanitarian response. The meeting contained rich discussions on a variety of topics within the theme of “The role of organisational leadership in strengthening the Canadian humanitarian system”.

The day started off with presentations from leaders on key issues affecting the sector as a whole. Humanitarian policy and funding, charitable regulations, and localization were brought forward as key issues to be tackled by the leaders in the room. A panel discussion was also held to dig deep into the nuances of working in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, exploring how to uphold the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence, and humanity while integrating more sustainable, long-term, resilience-building, and gender-responsive solutions into responses to protracted crises and conflicts. Following the panel, 29 leaders of Canada’s humanitarian organisations signed a joint statement confirming their commitment to work in an integrated, inclusive and principled approach to enable better collaboration between the humanitarian, development and peace sectors. The statement, a first of its kind made by a group of heads of agencies in Canada, affirms that sustainable solutions for crisis-affected people must be the ultimate objective of all integrated approaches.

The afternoon was focused on organisations themselves, building on the policy and programming focus of the morning discussions. Sessions were held to encourage leaders to think about how to support a more diverse and inclusive sector, and an employer’s responsibility to take all steps reasonably possible to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees. The day ended with an inspiring keynote speech from Solange Tuyishime, CEO of Elevate International and UNICEF Canada ambassador. Overall the day was full of opportunities for leaders to connect with one another – a unique moment for the sector.

 

I found the topics quite relevant and believe that there was a lot there that could be taken back to my organization and followed up on. The diversity session was particularly useful for pushing us to think more about inclusion.

Participant feedback

Humanitarian Policy

At the meeting, CCIC presented a review of recent developments in humanitarian policy and funding. Below are the key messages:

After months of consultation through a far-reaching and highly consultative International Assistance Review, Canada launched its new Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) in June 2017. Humanitarian assistance was integrated within this Policy, grouped alongside health and nutrition and education as part of the “Human Dignity” action area.

Yet while humanitarian assistance was in some sense subsumed within the FIAP framework, it stood out in terms of implementation. Some two years later, in April 2019, Canada launched its Policy on Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action as the first of a set of policies on each of the action areas in the FIAP.

The story behind the leadership of the humanitarian sector in FIAP implementation is one of civil society engagement. At the end of 2017, as soon as the government announced that it would develop a suite of policies to guide the FIAP, the Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Group at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation prepared a substantial and comprehensive joint submission proposing principles and activities for a feminist humanitarian policy. This followed up on the longstanding civil society ask for a defined Canadian humanitarian policy – something that, in the context of the FIAP, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) appeared prepared to deliver. In its submission, the humanitarian sector asked for an emphasis on an intersectional approach to humanitarian assistance that recognizes the nexus between humanitarian response, development, and peacebuilding.

After more than a year of back-and-forth between ministerial and bureaucratic staff at GAC, the humanitarian team there reached out in early 2019 to the Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Group and the Humanitarian Response Network of Canada for input on a draft humanitarian policy. The humanitarian sector gave substantial feedback, noting opportunities to enhance rights-based language, clarify the scope, and strengthen the focus on intersectional nexus programming.

This feedback was quite well reflected in the final version of the policy presented at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in April 2019. The Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Group made a joint statement in response to the launch.

As the strong commitments in the FIAP and the humanitarian policy are further implemented through internal guidance and plan, these should be developed jointly by GAC and civil society and informed by both policy and practice.

 

Humanitarian Funding

The change in Canadian humanitarian policy coincides with changes in Canadian humanitarian funding. These trends are presented in a new analysis from CCIC that was presented to the Humanitarian Response Network at the Heads of Agencies meeting and is now being shared publicly.

Please read this analysis here:  Humanitarian Spending 2019

 

 

 

 Aislynn Row is the Coordinator of the Humanitarian Response Network of Canada.

 

 

Gavin Charles is the Policy Team Lead at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.