Official Development Assistance: Beyond International Development

“Building sustainable cities—and a sustainable future—will need open dialogue among all branches of national, regional and local government.”

– Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General

RESULTS Canada advocates have long pushed for more Official Development Assistance (ODA) to improve global health, nutrition and education. We have shown Members of Parliament that increased ODA is crucial in eradicating polio, preventing and treating tuberculosis, promoting early childhood development, and putting an end to stunting and malnutrition. In recent months, we have reached out to Minister Bibeau, responsible for International Development and La Francophonie, and Minister Morneau at the Department of Finance. But international development does not exist in isolation. The importance of ODA extends well beyond these departments. If we want to increase ODA and end extreme poverty, we need the support of a whole range of government departments. Let’s look at how ODA affects a few key ministries outside of our usual scope of involvement.

Environment and Climate Change

Increasing environmental sustainability is one of Canada’s key commitments for its international assistance. Whether we live in Canada or abroad, we all rely on the environment for everything from food and water, to the resources to grow our economies. A changing climate threatens the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, including women and girls. As the most recent ODA Report points out, “environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change are inseparable from other critical development challenges such as gender equality, economic growth, governance and human rights, peace and security, humanitarian assistance and resilience” (p. 10). Furthermore, environmental challenges know no national boundaries. An increase in ODA would better support programs and policies that address these challenges, like renewable energy and desertification and deforestation. These investments will protect access to life’s basic necessities and bolster economies, both in the Global South and in Canada. Minister McKenna’s mandate as Minister of Environment and Climate Change specifies that she is to help restore Canada’s reputation for environmental stewardship and to provide leadership in combatting climate change. ODA plays an important role in her ability to achieve these goals.

National Defence

Responding quickly and effectively to international humanitarian crises is another key commitment for Canada’s international assistance. The world has been plagued by crises in recent years, like droughts, earthquakes, and widespread displacement as the result of conflict. In his role as Minister of National Defence, Minister Sajjan ensures the Canadian Armed Forces are ready to provide disaster relief and support peacekeeping operations abroad. Since ODA is an important part of the funding required for this, we must involve Minister Sajjan in our work to increase the ODA envelope. Other areas of ODA spending also contribute to national security in a less direct, yet equally important way: research shows a strong correlation between poverty and conflict. By investing in stable livelihoods and economic growth, international development spending creates the conditions necessary for peace to flourish. When we invest in ensuring people have access to the nutrients and healthcare they need, and in making sure children are educated, we set the stage for positive economic growth and stable livelihoods. This in turn helps rid the world of the desperate conditions in which extremism and violence are bred. Increasing our ODA will benefit Canada’s national security in a variety of ways.

Innovation, Science and Economic Growth

The Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Growth, Minister Bains, supports innovation and scientific research. These are crucial for poverty eradication, and ODA can play an important role in achieving this goal. An example of this is the health component of the Development Innovation Fund, which aims to “mobilize scientific communities in Canada and the rest of the world, including the developing world, to address [global] health challenges through competitive selection and funding of projects.” ODA spending on the Development Innovation Fund provides support for Canadian researchers to pursue innovative approaches to global health issues, which sustains economic growth in Canada by providing jobs to the scientific community and also allows Canada to establish itself as a global leader in scientific research.

ODA clearly has a wide-reaching impact on a number of ministries. By pushing all these departments, we can be more effective in increasing ODA and ending extreme poverty.

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