Canada, a preferred development partner? Think again

By Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy

A new study puts Canada in the bottom tier of what international partners consider the most helpful, influential donor countries.

AidData, a research lab located at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., has just released a report that examines aid effectiveness from the perspectives of those that are being advised and assisted by donors.

Between January and March 2017, AidData asked public, private, and civil society leaders from low- and middle-income countries to identify their preferred development partners among various bilateral and multilateral development agencies. Specifically, leaders were asked to share their views on how donors were influential in shaping policy priorities and how helpful donors were in implementing policy
initiatives or reforms.

These leaders held positions of responsibility between 2010 and 2015 and were thus knowledgeable about various development policy initiatives during that time. The results show how various bilateral (including Canada) and multilateral donors performed on “influence” and “helpfulness” metrics.

So how did Canada do? On “influence,” Canada is ranked 27th out of 35 bilateral and multilateral donors. Various stakeholders—government officials, local representatives of development partners, and civil society organizations—ranked Canada very poorly.
On “helpfulness,” Canada is ranked 25th out of 35. Canada again received a poor ranking by government officials and local representatives of development partners, and does somewhat better with civil society organizations.

Canada’s ranking within regions (sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Pacific, and Latin America and Caribbean) or by sector, on both influence and helpfulness, is also quite poor. It is hard to find a region or sector where Canada stands out.

Since it may be unfair to compare bilateral and multilateral agencies because of their different mandates and portfolios, a look at how Canada does relative to other OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) bilaterals would seem more appropriate.

Unfortunately, Canada’s ranking among bilaterals is
again quite low. Among OECD DAC donors (and excluding the European Union), Canada’s rank on influence is 11 out of 13, and on helpfulness, nine out of 13. So, overall, Canada’s performance leaves much to be desired.

But there are a few key takeaways. First of all, money and client base matters; large multilaterals such as the World Bank and the IMF, and bilaterals such as the United States and the United Kingdom, work with many people, and they are ranked among the most helpful and most influential partners. How much is spent in terms of volume of aid dollars is positively associated with performance.

Smaller and more specialized agencies such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) are also highly rated. They tend to serve a specific target audience and are thus able to establish deeper ties with them.

Thirdly, bilateral donors that don’t do so well overall can be helpful and influential in specific regions (for example, Australia in the East Asia and Pacific region) and sectors (for example, Japan on the environment, and Sweden on governance).

Finally, unsurprisingly, non-DAC donors (that often adopt a policy of non-interference) are not viewed as being very influential. But they are not particularly helpful either because they tend to work mostly with government stakeholders. However, when we compare the rankings in this survey with an earlier one conducted in 2014, some non-DAC donors such as China and India are becoming more influential relative to OECD DAC donors.

And this has implications for Canada, because our aid disbursements in volume terms have not changed a lot recently, varying roughly between $5-billion to $5.8-billion between 2010 and now. The aid-to-grossnational-income ratio has also been quite low and below the average of all OECD DAC donors in recent
years.

Such numbers make it more challenging to be influential and helpful.
Low aid disbursements become even more problematic when they are spread across many countries/regions and sectors. Does this mean that specialization is the way to go? Not necessarily. As the report indicates, being specialized may also mean less influence because many development issues such as poverty or lack of governance require a cross-sectoral approach.

Finally, will Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), released in 2017 be influential and helpful? Money matters but the success of the FIAP will ultimately depend on how much it engages with domestic stakeholders and aligns with the national priorities and strategies of recipient countries.

 

Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy is a full professor and Director at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

This article was originally published in The Hill Times

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What should Canada’s portfolio for private sector engagement in development look like?

By Shannon Kindornay

In my first blog on private sector engagement in Canadian development cooperation, I highlighted some of the overarching lessons for Canada’s engagement with the private sector in development cooperation based  on my years of research in this area. In this blog, I take a closer look at Canada’s current approach to private sector engagement and offer some lessons which could inform a consolidated and expanded approach in the future.

Canada’s current approach to private sector engagement

The Canadian government does not have an overarching policy that sets out the objectives of and mechanisms for private sector engagement in development cooperation. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has a website which does however articulate some of the key elements of Canada’s approach. It notes that Canada “pursues strong results” in the following areas: coordination, investments, partnerships and innovations.

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Canada’s development finance plan: How to go beyond low-hanging fruit

By Aniket Bhushan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his coterie of eloquent ministers went to considerable lengths last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos to rebrand Canada and double down on the “Canada is back” message. While it was good to see that innovation in development financing was one of the many areas the government targeted, its focus on one relatively small initiative is problematic.

In a joint release, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, welcomed the launch of a “new Canadian initiative [that] will support investment in emerging markets.” The initiative is a platform called Convergence and it will be run out of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District. Canada is investing $23.5 million to get Convergence started, and the expectation is that this relatively small investment will lead to projects worth $10 billion over the next five years.

This is great and very welcome. Except it is not new.

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Does Merging Improve Aid Efficiency?

By Rachael Calleja

In foreign aid, ‘efficiency’ (which is distinct from ‘effectiveness’) usually refers to the costs associated with administrating aid programs, that is, the costs of running aid agencies and activities related to ODA programming and delivery. Despite being necessary for operating an aid agency, administrative costs are frequently referred to as a negative function of ODA that donors seek to reduce. In Canada, for example, the 2007 Budget listed “improving efficiency through reduced administrative costs…” as a key way to improve the effectiveness of Canadian aid.

The 2013 merger of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to form the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) led some to speculate that the reorganisation would spark efficiency gains for the government by reducing the duplication of efforts and cutting administrative costs. While efficiency gains were not the main or official justification for the merger, which was said to improve the coherence of Canada’s foreign policy, some observers at the time remarked that job cuts and efficiency gains would be “hard to avoid”.

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A Backwards Decade on Foreign Aid: How Commercial Gain Came to Replace Poverty Reduction as the Primary Goal of Canadian Foreign Aid.

By Stephen Brown

A decade of Conservative rule has had a profound impact on Canadian foreign aid — and mostly for the worst.

With respect to aid level, we are back where we started. The Harper government initially embraced the Liberals’ goal of doubling aid. However, having reached it, they froze and then cut aid spending. When measured as a percentage of gross national income, foreign aid is now lower than when they came to power — and barely a third of the target to which Canada committed in 1970.

For a while, security interests seemed dominant. Afghanistan became the largest Canadian aid recipient ever. Under a new “whole-of-government approach,” the government increasingly linked aid with other elements of foreign policy, including diplomacy and especially defence. The result was disappointing on all levels. An internal government evaluation recognized that an overemphasis on short-term goals undermined the achievement and sustainability of long-term results. For instance, after Canada withdrew its troops from Kandahar, it left its much-touted Dahla Dam “signature project” for the Americans to complete, but the latter had other priorities.

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The trouble with Canada’s approach on maternal health

By Valerie Percival

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proud of Canada’s engagement on maternal health. The Muskoka Initiative, launched during Canada’s G8 presidency in 2010, has committed US$7.3 billion (with $2.85 billion from Canada) to address maternal mortality and child health. During the current election campaign, the Prime Minister refers to it as an example of Canada’s leadership on the world stage. Supporters include Melinda Gates and Ban Ki-moon. The money has undoubtedly shone a light on a key global health issue and saved lives.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that we don’t want women and girls just to survive. We want them to thrive. Canada’s current approach to maternal health may keep girls and women alive, but it does not promote a context that improves their life chances. It’s simply not good enough. Not for a country like Canada.

A scroll through the list of projects funded by the Muskoka Initiative reveals a clear focus on the provision of health care services: Canada builds delivery rooms, provides equipment, and trains health care workers.

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ISA Preview: Organizing Aid and Canada’s IR Discipline

Over the next few days, we will be posting abstracts that summarize papers that NPSIA faculty and students will be presenting next week in New Orleans at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association.  Some of the posts will have links to the actual papers.

The first two are:

  • Rachel Calleja,“Organizing Aid: A Cross-Comparative Analysis of the Determinants of Aid Agency Structure”
    This paper offers the first cross-comparative analysis of the determinants of the organizational structure of bilateral aid agencies. Based on the understanding that organizational structure constrains agency function, this study asks why donors organize their aid agencies differently. Focusing specifically on the five models of aid organization identified by the OECD, each of which depicts a different structural relationship between aid agencies and foreign ministries, this paper tests whether aid agency organization can be statistically linked to key structural and political factors. Using a unique dataset that covers all OECD donors from 1990-2012, this paper conducts regression analysis to test competing hypotheses from the organizational theory and donor behaviour literature. It is expected that variation in the organizational structure adopted by donors is linked to domestic political sentiment towards aid programs, where donors that primarily view aid as a foreign policy tool are more likely to adopt organizational structures that place aid agencies within foreign ministries to maximize the alignment of aid spending with national interests. Alternatively, donors that primarily view aid as a tool for poverty reduction are likely to adopt autonomous aid structures that allow aid agencies to pursue policies aligned with international standards of donor best practice.
  • Stephen Saideman, The State of Canadian International Relations Research and Teaching
    This paper examines the Canadian data collected by the TRIP project to assess the state of Canadian IR scholarship. In the first part of the paper, Canadian survey results are compared with survey results from the surveys of the US, the UK, and the rest of those studied by the TRIP project to see if Canada is closer to its American or British cousins. The focus then turns to considering an intra-Canadian divide: between the three most prominent Political Science programs and most of Canadian IR scholars. The results indicate that the stereotype that the Big 3 are more “American” is based on some real differences, although there is much diversity in what is valued at both the big three and in Canada. After addressing preferences in epistemology and paradigms, the paper considers rankings of scholars, presses, and journals before moving onto perceptions about hiring and promotion.