Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OECD Report slams Canada's approach to foreign aid ...and...and...and...

By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press, in Globe and Mail, June 20, 2012
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Tuesday that a decade’s worth of progress by Canada through doubling its aid spending could be reversed by the recent budget cut to overseas development.

This year’s federal budget cut $380-million, or 7.5 per cent, from Canada’s $5.3-billion annual aid budget.
The report urges Canada to adopt a plan to boost aid from its current 0.31 per cent of GDP to 0.7 per cent, the international target for aid spending first espoused by former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson.
And it says that while Canada has done good things in Haiti and Afghanistan, it still lacks a broad vision on how it wants to do development in the Third World.
“Canada lacks a clear, top-level statement that sets out its vision for development co-operation,” the report said.
“The new approach to Canadian aid is not yet supported by sufficient or transparent decision-making criteria, complicating its processes and public accountability and constraining discussions with key stakeholders, including Parliament.”
The six-month, peer-reviewed study of Canada’s aid program was conducted by the OECD development assistance committee with the help of France and the Netherlands.
The report commends Canada on a number of fronts, including its decision to largely untie food aid, which allows developing countries to buy food locally for less money.


“Canada lacks a clear, top-level statement that sets out its vision for development co-operation,” the report said.

“The new approach to Canadian aid is not yet supported by sufficient or transparent decision-making criteria, complicating its processes and public accountability and constraining discussions with key stakeholders, including Parliament.”
  • Imagine, no clear, top-level statement of vision for development co-operation
  • Imagine also, new approach not supported by sufficient or transparent decision-making criteria
  • Imagine that omission complicating its processes and public accountability and constraining discussion with key stakeholders, including Parliament.
Where to begin to unpack the OECD report's criticism of Canada's foreign aid "program"?
First, how can there be a top-level statement of vision for development co-operation, when this government, while mouthing platitudes about econommic growth and jobs, has no vision for any of its policies, other than "if it concurs with the base's position, we will adopt it"...because we need to be free from any long-term commitment to any program, especially one for which there is little or no political pay-back, like foreign aid.
Next, the new approach is not supported by sufficient or transparent criteria...nor is any other "approach" taken by this government for any of its many files...
  1. new prison construction and longer sentences when crime rate is significantly declining across the country
  2. the end of the long-gun registry when all police forces used it up to 1000 times daily in their pursuit of criminals and criminal activity
  3. the end of the long-form census, when all the professional and academic voices in the land demonstrated their need for its information to do any long-term planning
  4. a fiat of 6% for health care funding, without a single conversation with the premiers into whose lap the ball falls for implementation
  5. cuts to budgets in fisheries, in spite of four (4) former ministers (2 Liberal and 2 Conservative) who articulate the devastating impact these cuts will have on the fisheries and the environment
  6. the purchase of billions of dollars of fighter jets and both armed and unarmed ships, in a world facing more and more danger from cyber-intervention, terrorist gangs and their impromptu bloodshed anywhere, everywhere and any time
  7. such bungled processes of procurement that even the parliamentary watchdogs, including the Auditor General, have written scathingly about lack of oversight, and no clear process and no acountability on the spending of literally billions
Finally, the omission of clear decision-making criteria making public accountability difficult (let's agree it is literally impossible) and contraining discussion with stakeholders, including Parliament.
This government holds discussions, one has to assume, only with itself, certainly not with Parliament, and obviously not with other agencies such as non-govermental agencies, and governments themselves, who are also participating in the foreign aid theatre, while Canada plays whatever hand it is holding close to its vest, and while Canada remains dumb in the literal sense of that word, at the table where such discussions for collegial, collaborative planning might make every country's aid more effective, less overlapped and more efficient.
For Ms. Oda to indicate that her department will consider the recommendations of the OECD seriously would have to mean that the government is about to undergo some radical transformation in the way it habitually conducts itself, on all files. And that, ladies and gentlemen, "just ain't goin' to happen"!

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