Increase in the International Aid Budget: A Mixed Success | Development and Peace
2018 Federal Budget

Increase in the International Aid Budget: A Mixed Success

March 8, 2018
Increase in the International Aid Budget

Development and Peace-Caritas Canada welcomes the budgetary increase in Canada’s international development assistance that was announced in the recent 2018 federal budget, but calls on the Government of Canada to increase its efforts to bring the budget level of aid closer to 0.7 per cent of GDP, the internationally recognized target.

A budget that begins to put “women at the heart of peace”

The budget increase echoes the call of our Fall education and action campaign, “Women at the Heart of Peace,” which asks the Government of Canada to: 1) adopt a strategy and timeline that will enable it to achieve a level of official development assistance equivalent to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI); and 2) to ensure that the resources allocated will be directed towards women and women's organizations working to prevent violence and build peace in countries affected by armed conflict.

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This budget increase is intended to support the federal government's new Feminist International Assistance Policy, presented last June by the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. This policy represents a new Canadian approach to international development and security, by placing the empowerment of women and girls at the heart of programs and initiatives.

In the text accompanying the budget, the government indicated that it wants the focus to be on, among other things, championing “the voice and participation of women and girls, including supporting local women’s organizations to defend women’s rights and address barriers.”

However, we doubt that the attributed amount will be sufficient to achieve the goals of strengthening and empowering women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, climate change and conflict.

The government plans to increase the budget by $2 billion over five years, which is the largest investment in this sector in 16 years. Nevertheless, until this announcement, the Liberal government had been content to keep the aid budget at the same level maintained by the previous Conservative government. Thus, last year, the amount invested in international assistance represented 0.26 per cent of gross national income (GNI), compared to 0.49 per cent of GNI in 1988. This places Canada in fifth place among G7 countries, behind the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

Despite the additional amount budgeted for Canadian assistance, it is still not enough to raise the level of international assistance beyond 0.26 per cent of GNI. In fact, the allocated amount will barely cover inflation rates.

It should also be mentioned that the significant increase in the military budget—nearly $14 billion over 10 years, an increase of 70 per cent—has been maintained, despite the fact that armed conflicts represent one of the main causes of vulnerability and insecurity in many countries around the world, especially for women and girls. Our hope would be for the Canadian government to prioritize approaches that are focused on building peace and respect for human rights rather than on military reinforcement and that this would be reflected in the budget.

The federal government will certainly take advantage of the upcoming G7 Summit, which it will host next June in Charlevoix, to promote this new approach and its additional financial commitments. However, Canada stills has a lot of catching up to do, both within the G7 and especially on the international scene, if it is to ensure that its commitments lead to concrete results in the lives of the poorest communities in the Global South that are exposed to violence and natural disasters.

Amount allocated to the Human Rights Ombudsperson

Development and Peace also welcomes the news that the federal budget includes $6.8 million over six years for the new office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, whose creation was announced in January 2018. This modest amount will provide an adequate foundation to establish the office, but it is hoped that as investigations of the office ramp up, the government will allocate the necessary supplemental funds that will be required to perform collaborative and independent investigations.

Disappointment on the climate change front

Finally, despite positive steps in the right direction, one of the main disappointments of the 2018 federal budget is the lack of fiscal measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, there is no clear indication of a reduction in federal financial support for fossil fuel production, a commitment made to the G20 in 2009.

Here again, Canada has fallen short: most of the G7 countries have started and even completed a review of their fossil fuel subsidies, while Ottawa has submitted neither information on existing subsidies, nor a roadmap on how it plans to eliminate them by 2025.

It is now widely recognized that in order to keep temperature rises below 2° Celsius, developed countries must begin their transition to a fossil fuel-free economy but Canada’s new budget does not show much progress on that front.

For more information, read the reaction from the Climate Action Network, of which Development and Peace – Caritas Canada is a member