Foreign Assistance Reform Network urges practical steps to modernize Canada’s role in the world

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Feature-Special Feature

Feature-Special FeatureTORONTO – At a time when our country is grappling with a significant deficit and Canadians are being asked to tighten their belts, the Foreign Assistance Reform Network (FARN), led by Engineers Without Borders, is asking all political parties to join us in endorsing a plan to modernize Canada’s approach to foreign assistance – maximizing the impact of every dollar spent and ensuring Canada’s efforts to reduce global poverty are as effective as possible. This plan is about how Canadian taxpayer money can be spent for greater impact, rather than how much money is spent.

Official development assistance accounts for roughly $4.5 billion in taxpayer money. Yet at a time when all parties claim to be focused on responsible spending, Canadians have yet to see any concrete, specific plans to ensure their aid dollars are being spent in the most effective, efficient way possible.

“With many Canadian families and businesses struggling at home, people deserve to know that their Government is doing everything it can to spend their money in a responsible way overseas,” said George Roter, CEO of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). “Canada spends billions on foreign aid, yet our efforts are inefficient because our approach is outdated, overly bureaucratic and short-sighted. Canada was recently ranked 21st out of 35 countries in terms of aid effectiveness in a study by the Center for Global Development.”

“While we welcome statements by both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party putting an emphasis on maximizing the effectiveness of our foreign aid, we’ve yet to see any tangible policies that would help us achieve this goal. We look forward to seeing specific commitments made by Canada’s political parties.”

FARN hopes that all political parties will, during this election campaign, commit to FARN’s practical and specific plan for spending Canadians’ money to put Canada back on the map as a leader in international development and poverty reduction.

FARN’s platform for modernizing Canadian foreign assistance, found below, will enhance the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of our development investments and build Canada’s reputation for intelligent development and global engagement.

Priority actions for modernizing Canadian foreign assistance:

  1. Reform the structure of Canada’s development assistance by creating an expanded, senior Cabinet-level Department for International Development. The mandate of this new department will include aid policy but also extend to ensuring a coherent development policy across the Government as a whole (working on equal footing with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Department of National Defence). This new department would incorporate all the existing responsibilities of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
  2. Improve the accountability of our development assistance:
    1. Establish an expert-led Independent Commission for Aid Impact to ensure aid projects are delivering maximum value for money and achieving the greatest impact in poverty reduction. The Commission should be accountable to Parliament and make its reviews publicly available.
    2. Report and share the impact and results (including our failures and lessons) of Canada’s development efforts in a thorough, evidence-based annual report to Parliament.
  3. Promote more creative, performance-based aid:
    1. Create a venture-focused “Implementation Innovation Fund” to finance the expansion of promising initiatives. This would complement the existing research-focused Development Innovation Fund and provide later stage financing to take ideas to scale.
    2. Pilot cash-on-delivery or a “pay for performance” style of aid, an outcomes-based approach to aid that focuses on results and promotes recipient country ownership.
  4. Strengthen the transparency of Canadians development assistance:
    1. Join 18 of the world’s leading donor organizations – comprising over half of global aid – by signing on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which creates a common global standard for reporting and making comparable information about aid projects publicly available.
    2. Create a new open data/information web portal for Canada’s ODA modeled on the US Government’s www.foreignassistance.gov and the World Bank’s www.data.worldbank.org.

The Foreign Assistance Reform Network is a coalition comprised of leading international development practitioners, business leaders, foreign policy experts, private sector organizations, and concerned citizens. FARN was established out of a belief that to remain relevant and competitive in 21st century, our country must do more to address global inequality.

For more information on Engineers without Borders visit: www.ewb.ca

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