Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2008
Canada must stand with the poor of the world
Our country betrays its commitment for development assistance
Special to the WCR
On Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a new government. In the run-up to the elections, the candidates for office must take a stand on development assistance.
Canadian foreign policy has an enormous impact on the populations of the South as they improve their social and economic conditions. As the representative of 13,000 Catholics across Canada who are committed to social justice, Development and Peace urges the candidates to take a position on its recommendations and make international development a priority for our country.
Although Canada has taken steps to improve the quality of its aid programs, with the approval of Bill C-293 in May 2008, legislation that focused official development assistance (ODA) on poverty reduction, there is still a great deal of room for improvement in the quantity and quality of aid.
Canada ranks 16th in the amount of aid given by OECD countries, providing only 0.28 per cent of our GNP to official development assistance. It was our own former prime minister, Lester Pearson, who headed the international commission in 1969 that established the benchmark of 0.7 per cent of GNP as an international guideline for countries to allocate to Official Development Assistance (ODA) in their foreign aid budgets.
Having supported our partners in the South as they were hit by crisis upon crisis in the last few months, we demand that Canadian politicians take responsibility for our country’s role in the global social and economic environment, and that they act to make this environment favourable and more just towards the poor.
Official Development Assistance: Set a timetable and implement it in order to fulfill the commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of GNP toward development assistance.
Debt Relief: Cancel all illegitimate debts owed by countries of the Global South and call for further debt relief programs for countries whose debt burden is unsustainable.
Trade: At the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in bilateral trade negotiations, Canada should support measures to protect the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. Canada should also press firmly for a revision to agricultural subsidies programs by countries of the North to facilitate more equitable trading relationships between the North and the Global South.
Agriculture: Target agriculture as a priority for reducing hunger and poverty and increase support for agricultural production and rural development in the Global South.
Environment: Put a moratorium on oil sands development in order to put in place a comprehensive plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol and post-Kyoto obligations.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Implement the recommendations of the 2007 Report of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries, in order to make Canadian mining companies responsible for their actions abroad.
More than ever, the success of international development and the alleviation of poverty depends on the commitment of our elected leaders in government. It is Canada’s responsibility to lead the world in eliminating unjust social and economic structures.
(Michael Casey is executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.)
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