A recent OECD report discusses CIDA and Canada’s aid effort. Canada receive some praise for certain initiatives but recommendations were made for improvements in other areas. The report notes: “Canada’s aid programme stood at USD 5.3 billion in 2011 (0.31% of its national income), making it the eighth largest DAC member. Since 2007 Canada has achieved the challenging targets it set itself for its international assistance volumes; in the decade between 2001 and 2010 it managed to double its aid in nominal terms (i.e., the money of the day). The DAC commends Canada for this achievement. However, some of these gains are likely to be reversed, given that Canada’s ODA volume shrank by more than 5% in real terms (i.e., after removal of the effect of inflation) between 2010 and 2011 and is set to fall further in 2012. Canada still needs to draw up a timetable for achieving the international commitment of giving 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as ODA.”
Canada (2012), DAC Peer Review: Main Findings and Recommendations
Toronto Star “Canada’s foreign aid program needs clarity, more funding, says new OECD report”
Here are some of the key findings of the OECD report:
“Overall framework for development co-operation -
Canada needs an overreaching vision for its development co-operation
Key findings: Canada lacks a clear, top-level statement that sets out its vision for development co-operation. 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.
Engaging with the private sector
Key findings: Canada’s new emphasis on sustainable economic growth is an opportunity for it to engage the private sector in development, particularly creating an enabling environment for business and supporting access to markets for developing countries. This is very much in line with the outcomes of the 2011 Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan regarding public-private co-operation. Canada needs to ensure that development objectives and partner country ownership are paramount in the activities and programmes it supports. As the DAC has advised other members, there should be no confusion between development objectives and the promotion of commercial interests.
Promoting development beyond aid
Strong political will must drive an government-wide approach to policy coherence for development
Key findings: Canada has made progress towards establishing the building blocks for policy coherence for development, which are: political commitment; policy coordination mechanisms; and monitoring, analysis and reporting systems. But, like other DAC members, Canada has yet to show that development impacts (potential and actual) are being considered in relevant policies.
Investing resources to make whole-of-government approaches work
Key findings: Canada shows good practice in implementing whole-of-government approaches in fragile states, particularly in Afghanistan. Its assistance in other partner countries would be more effective if it applied the relevant programme considerations emerging from Afghanistan in those contexts.
Aid volume and allocation
Ensure Canada’s ODA volumes keeps growing
Key findings: Between 2001 and 2010 Canada doubled its aid. These increases allowed Canada to give valuable additional support to low income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; to respond to global emergencies, such as the 2007 food crisis; and generally to strengthen its role in development co-operation. The reductions in Canada’s ODA since 2011 – combined with its plan to concentrate on fewer countries, many of which are middle income – may undermine the support it has given in recent years to poor countries with weak capacity, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Modernising CIDA: decentralising, streamlining and simplifying
CIDA has launched a business modernisation initiative to improve its performance, particularly for accountability, decentralisation, internal efficiency and approval processes. While considerable progress is being made, Canada’s partners and operational staff argue that CIDA’s procedures are still cumbersome and its decentralisation reforms have not yet been completed, slowing down implementation of programmes and putting a strain on low-capacity partners.
CIDA: the challenge of developing, using and maintaining a satisfied workforce
CIDA faces challenges in managing its personnel. Staff turnover is an issue, particularly at senior levels; staff are dissatisfied with CIDA processes; and CIDA risks not having sufficient people with the right skills to support its programmes.
Improving the impact of development co-operation
Translate Canada’s committment to aid effectiveness into better practice
Key findings: Canada has made progress on transparency and use of common and joint approaches. Surveys of donors’ progress towards meeting the Paris Declaration commitments since 2005 show that Canada (along with other DAC members) is lagging behind in implementing the aid effectiveness principles, particularly aid predictability. In Canada’s case, part of the reason for this is that CIDA’s Aid Effectiveness Action Plan combines domestic accountability and internal efficiency with implementing the Paris Declaration principles themselves. This lessens the emphasis on the principles. In addition, the approach taken to date is concerned only with the aid delivered by CIDA (68% of Canada’s total ODA in 2011).
Sustain the significant progress in untying aid
Key findings: Canada has made progress towards untying its aid. This has resulted in better value for money in key areas of Canada’s development co-operation – particularly its food aid, which it untied in 2008. The proportion of Canada’s total aid that is untied was 80% in 2010.
Towards better humanitarian donorship
A consistent humanitarian donor despite lacking a clear public strategy
Key findings: Canada has several strengths as a humanitarian donor, such as cross-government co-ordination and an extensive rapid response toolbox; however, decision-making criteria should be more transparent, including for its “matching fund” mechanism, so as to demonstrate compliance with key humanitarian principles. Canada has also not communicated the results it expects its humanitarian programme to achieve, limiting public accountability and constraining discussions with key stakeholders, including parliament.
From political will to effective programming: the challenges of resilience and recovery
Key findings: Canada recently made strong political commitments to strengthen its disaster risk reduction and resilience programming which should now be translated into practice.”
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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.