Global Affairs Canada’s Strategic Papers on the Crosscutting Themes for Canada’s International Assistance

Canada’s international assistance is guided by five thematic priorities – increasing food security, securing the future of children and youth, stimulating sustainable economic growth, advancing democracy and ensuring security and stability – and three cross cutting themes – gender equality, environmental sustainability and governance.  These three crosscutting themes are integral to enhancing the sustainability and effectiveness of results.

In order to provide guidance to all Global Affairs Canada staff and partners that are advancing Canada’s international assistance thematic priorities on behalf of the Government of Canada through policies, programs or projects, strategic papers on these themes have been developed. They were consulted across a wide range of stakeholders.

These high level papers provide general direction on how Global Affairs Canada will integrate the themes across its international assistance.  Each of the strategic papers promotes Canadian values and builds upon the Canadian comparative advantage and expertise in gender equality, environmental sustainability and governance, domestically and abroad.

Crosscutting Theme for International Assistance: Gender Equality

Empowering women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key element for long-term sustainable development, economic growth, resilient societies, and social advancement for all. Global Affairs Canada’s commitment to gender equality as a crosscutting theme across Canada’s international assistance policies and programming shall enable Canada to contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development, respond to the needs of the poor, and promote respect for international human rights.

The Case for Action

Gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and the promotion and protection of their human rights are key Canadian values, which are prerequisites to long-term sustainable economic growth, social progress, and sustainable development. When women and girls have equal access to opportunities in life, communities are safer, poverty decreases, opportunities for development expand, and entire families benefit. Currently, more than 900 million women live on less than one dollar per day, and the number of rural women living in absolute poverty has risen significantly over the last two decades. Through its policies and programming, Canada’s international development assistance works to ensure that consistent and substantive results on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are delivered.

However, the challenges to achieving gender equality around the world are significant: achieving gender equality in the world requires improvements in key areas such as:

  • Health - About 800 women around the world die every day from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death for girls age 15-19 in the developing world, 90% of whom are married. High fees for health care and long distances required to reach health facilities also pose a major barrier for women, particularly for poor women, while gender-based inequalities negatively affect the health of women and girls by limiting their decision-making power over their reproductive choices. Additionally, issues such as HIV/AIDS and limited or lack of access to health services lead to significantly poorer health outcomes for women and girls.
  • Education – Although access to quality education for women and girls has been proven to help spur economic growth and to have a positive impact on the overall health of both women and their families, access to educational opportunities for women and girls is still unequal to that of men and boys. Of the 774 million adults worldwide who lack basic literacy skills, approximately two-thirds are women, a proportion virtually unchanged since 2000. Of the 57 million children worldwide who do not attend primary school, 54 percent are girls. Girls’ unequal access to education is further impacted by child, early and enforced marriage; many of the 14 million girls forced into marriage each year in the developing world are pulled out of school, bringing their education to an abrupt end. It is projected that by 2015, 14% of countries will still be nowhere close to reaching gender parity in primary and secondary enrollment, of which three-quarters are located in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Violence – The exploitation of and violence against women and girls, including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), honour killings, and stoning/flogging have devastating effects on their ability to grow into productive and engaged members of society.  National data in 2013 revealed that 35% of women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, with some countries reporting rates as high as 70%. Actual and threatened physical violence impedes women’s and girls’ mobility and their access to education, health and economic opportunities, while sexual violence places them at an increased risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Protecting women and girls and safeguarding their rights is particularly challenging in fragile and conflict-affected situations.  Among women aged 15-44, acts of physical and sexual violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.
  • Child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) – Every year, approximately 14 million girls are married before they turn 18 across countries, cultures and religions. Girls from poor families are nearly twice as likely to marry before age 18 compared to girls from wealthier families, as marriage is often seen as a way to provide for a daughter’s future; however, girls who marry young are more likely to remain poor.  CEFM is a practice with devastating consequences: it is associated with school dropout and notably girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children;  higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, because child brides lack the information or power to abstain from sex or negotiate safe sexual practices with their husbands; and increased risk of violence and abuse as girls who marry before the age of 18 are more likely to experience violence within marriage than girls who marry later.
  • Economic Growth – Women play a central role in lifting themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty through employment, entrepreneurship, and livelihoods that contribute to economic growth. Women represent 40 percent of the formal labour force and own nearly one third of formal businesses worldwide. They also make up the majority of workers in the informal economy, and take on multiple roles within their families and communities. In 2011, the World Economic Forum report on global rates of gender equality indicated a positive correlation between countries with high rates of gender equality and those which ranked high in GDP, Global Competitiveness Index and the Human Development Index. Despite this, women face significant hurdles to leadership, full and effective participation and decision-making in many economies due to legal, social, and cultural barriers, in addition to unequal access to key assets and opportunities such as education and training, property, and financial capital. Addressing these barriers and creating equal opportunities is essential to enable the full contributions of women and girls to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction, and sustainable development.
  • Agriculture and Food Security – Women produce between 60 to 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production. In some countries, rural women’s triple responsibilities – for farm work, household chores and earning cash – and their lack of access to services and technologies to ease their workloads mean much longer working hours compared to those of men. However, women are often either prevented from owning land or have few means of acquiring land and lack political voice. As a result, resources designed to improve agricultural development, such as credit, extension, seed supply, and labour-saving devices, are often not accessible to women.

Canada’s commitment to gender equality and the rights of women and girls is consistent with Canada’s policy on gender equality and international consensus, including the 1981 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace, and Security, including Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008) and 1889 (2009).

Gender Equality is Integral to Delivering on Canada’s International Assistance Thematic Priorities

Increasing Food Security, Securing the Future of Children and Youth, Stimulating Sustainable Economic Growth, Advancing Democracy, and Ensuring Security and Stability are thematic priorities that guide the majority of Canada’s international development assistance.  In addition, Canada provides timely, needs-based humanitarian assistance in response to conflict situations and natural disasters. The integration of gender equality considerations is important to achieving sustainable results in these thematic areas. For example:

  • Food Security – Given that the majority of agricultural production in developing countries as well as half of global food production can be attributed to women, they are important agents of economic development and food security. Increasing sustainable agricultural production and productivity by women smallholder farmers is one of the key objectives of Global Affairs Canada’s Food Security Strategy.

Integration of gender equality in food security initiatives includes results such as: expanding women’s economic empowerment through access to and control over fundamental assets such as land; strengthening women’s role in decision-making in community affairs; and improving the knowledge and well-being of women and easing their workloads by facilitating women’s access to basic rural services and infrastructure.

  • Children and Youth – Canada underscores the beneficial multiplier effect of increased attention on the health, education, and safety of girls and young women on their families and communities through investments in its Children and Youth Strategy. This includes a focus on improving maternal, newborn and child health, increasing access to basic education for girls, and ensuring that girls are protected from violence and abuse including through initiatives addressing the causes and consequences of child, early and forced marriage.

Global Affairs Canada programming supports results such as increasing girls’ enrolment and completion in both formal and community-based schools, ensuring water and sanitation facilities are designed to respond to the particular needs of women and girls, increasing access to qualified basic emergency obstetric and neonatal services for women and girls, and strengthening and implementing national frameworks to better protect the human rights of children and youth, particularly girls, who are at increased risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse.

Canada is also intensifying advocacy, programming and multilateral efforts to end the practice of child, early and forced marriage worldwide.  Global Affairs Canada programming supports health facilities to provide adolescent-friendly reproductive health counseling services to young men and women as well as their parents, helping to raise awareness of and end CEFM.

  • Sustainable Economic Growth – Women play a central role as income earners, lifting themselves and their families out of poverty. Yet women continue to face barriers to their full and effective participation in the economy. Priorities for action in the Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy include establishing more women-led enterprises and increasing access to demand-driven basic skills and knowledge for poor women so that they may take advantage of economic opportunities in the formal labour market.

Global Affairs Canada programming supports results such as providing support for poor women entrepreneurs to develop business skills, increase productivity and improve access to financing and markets.

  • Ensuring Security and Stability – An effective, equitable judicial system and respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual are key determinants for the attainment of security and stability. Much of Canada’s programming in this theme explicitly focuses on the reduction of violence against women, children and other vulnerable populations as well as the improvement of women's rights and access to justice.
  • Advancing Democracy – Effective democracies are discernible by the levels of freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights they enjoy, including the principles of equality and non-discrimination, and the freedom of opinion, expression, and association. All citizens, including women and marginalized people, have the right to hold their elected representatives to account and to participate equally in the political process; to form independent associations and organizations; and to seek out alternative sources of information, including through independent media.

Global Affairs Canada programming in this area supports results such as increasing women’s voice and participation in peace processes and representation in political and decision-making processes. 

Canada is committed to strengthening its own humanitarian assistance capacity, as well as working with other donor governments and key humanitarian partners to strengthen and broaden the international humanitarian system. Mainstreaming gender equality into humanitarian policies and programming can improve the capacity of Canada and our partners within the humanitarian system to better identify vulnerable groups, including women and girls, their specific protection and assistance needs, and develop improved, gender-responsive approaches.

Ensuring harmonization of gender equality with the other crosscutting themes of environmental sustainability and governance is likewise essential to delivering sustainable results. The linkages among gender equality, the environment, and governance are profound, as women rely more heavily on the environment for income and food security, and are often subject to discrimination and lack of decision-making power within governance systems, institutions, and processes.

Integrating Gender Equality into Canada’s International Assistance

The goal of Canada’s long standing policy on gender equality in its development programming is to ensure that Canada’s international assistance investments support the achievement of equality between women and men, boys and girls, to ensure effective development results and sustainable poverty reduction. Integrating gender equality as a crosscutting theme requires a gender analysis of policies and programs.  This analysis identifies constraints and opportunities to advance equality between women and men and to avoid the risk of reinforcing existing gender inequalities. The application of a gender analysis is adapted to correspond to the type of policies and programming under development. In addition, Global Affairs Canada continues to work with its multilateral, international, and Canadian partners to support them in the integration of gender equality considerations into their own policies and programming.

The specific policy objectives for the integration of gender equality are:

  1. Participation – To advance women’s leadership and equal participation with men as decision-makers in shaping the sustainable development of their societies. Women have a significant impact on the development of their communities when they are engaged in public life and involved in decisions that impact their lives.
  2. Rights – To support women and girls in the realization and enjoyment of their full human rights, through necessary frameworks, which promote and protect the human rights of women and girls; access to services that respond to rights violations (e.g. trafficking and sexual violence); and increased public awareness of the rights of women and girls.
  3. Access and Control – To reduce gender inequalities related to access to and control over productive resources and benefits of development, enabling women and girls have access to assets, decent work, and basic services such as health and education.

The following complementary approaches are used to support gender equality as a crosscutting theme:

I. Gender Equality Considerations Integrated into Policies and Programs

An integrated approach addresses gender equality considerations at the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation stages of policies and programs in order to maximize development impacts and sustainable results in a particular sector or thematic priority. It begins with a gender analysis that identifies gender equality activities and results in the planning and implementation of policies and programs. It uses age- and sex-disaggregated data to establish baselines and targets, and it adopts gender-sensitive indicators in routine monitoring and evaluation.

An integrated approach can also work for multilateral, international, and Canadian partners in support of their integration of gender equality considerations into their own policies and programming. This includes assisting partner countries in realizing their own commitments toward gender equality and women’s empowerment, assisting partners to deliver and report on gender equality results, and promoting the inclusion of gender equality in multi-donor forums.

II. Specific Gender Equality Programming to Safeguard Investments and Enhance Results

A targeted approach invests in gender equality-specific projects within a sector when the particular nature of the gender inequalities requires a more focused approach to achieve results. In these circumstances, Global Affairs Canada designs or supports projects or initiatives to help close specific gender-equality gaps within a sector in which it is working, with the use of age- and sex-disaggregated data when appropriate. For example, given that women often do not have the right to own land, this inhibits their ability to contribute as effective food producers. In this case, a specific initiative may be required to address the legal barriers to women’s right to own land in order to achieve a program’s overall food-security objectives.               

Integrated and specific measures can be used as mutually reinforcing delivery mechanisms, meaning that within a particular sector, Canada could support integrated programs with gender equality included throughout, while providing additional specific support to the program where there are critical gaps in gender equality.

Implementation, Monitoring, and Follow-up

Guidance on the implementation of programs and policies has been essential to the integration of gender equality. Therefore, Global Affairs Canada has developed international development assistance guidelines for gender analysis; a framework to assess gender equality results; and relevant training materials such as the Guidance Note on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Global Affairs Canada has also adopted monitoring mechanisms that track disbursements and assess investments for gender equality integration as well as identified actions to increase its capacity, strengthen its accountability systems and promote increased engagement with partners for gender equality results. Global Affairs Canada also has a National Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security covering the period from 2011 to 2016, which reports publicly on an annual basis including on international assistance policies and programs which relate to Gender Equality in the context of conflict-affected and fragile states. For further information on our commitment to gender equality as a crosscutting theme, please refer to the webpage on gender equality.

Crosscutting Theme for International Assistance: Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is a critical factor in poverty reduction and sustainable development. Due to mounting population pressures and the expected impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, as well as emerging opportunities related to green growth and technology, environmental sustainability will have an increasing impact on development in Canada’s partner countries. Global Affairs Canada is committed to integrating environmental sustainability as a crosscutting theme in its international assistance and providing the guidance, tools, systems, and resources for this commitment to improve and safeguard its development results.

The Case for Action

People around the world, particularly in developing countries, are highly dependent on the natural environment for their physical, social, and economic well-being. From the necessities of life, such as water, food, and air, to the supply of resources for economic growth and resilience to natural hazards, their development is directly linked to the state of the natural environment and the opportunities it offers.

Poverty can be both a result and a driver of environmental degradation and the link between poverty, development and the environment is visible in a variety of areas, such as:

  • Agriculture – The natural environment is the foundation of food production due to its role in regulating water and soil quality and availability, making nutrients available, providing genetic diversity, and influencing climatic and weather conditions. However, unsustainable land use, water use, and agriculture practices, can result in significant negative impacts on environmental systems, among them biodiversity loss, land degradation, pollution, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters. On the other hand, with improved practices and technologies, agriculture offers important opportunities for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, economic growth, and for increased resilience of the population to the impacts of the changing climate.
  • Economic Growth – Natural resources are the primary assets of the poor and their main source of income, fuel, and food security.  Despite this, the poor often only have access to the least fertile and most environmentally fragile lands.  Unsustainable management of resources such as potable water and fuelwood further decreases their availability.  It also increases the burden of work for women and girls, who are typically responsible for their collection, decreasing the time available for income-generating activities and attending school.  When natural resources are managed improperly or inequitably, even where they occur in abundance, the exploitation of these resources can deepen poverty and increase the potential for conflict.  If managed sustainably, however, the development of natural resources can leverage the strength of the private sector for the long-term economic and social benefit of the local population.  Opportunities offered by a low-carbon growth path as well as private sector investment and entrepreneurial interest in the green sectors of the economy are increasingly significant drivers of development.
  • Disasters and relief – The frequency and destructive capacity of natural disasters, including from climate change impacts, are dramatically increasing, demonstrated in part through increased flooding, prolonged periods of drought, and extreme heat.  The poorest of the poor in developing countries are the most vulnerable and the least able to cope when natural disasters occur — a situation made worse by the degradation of natural buffers, such as forest cover, coral reefs and mangroves.  Underlying conditions of food and water insecurity, poor health, conflict and weak governments, coupled with an overwhelming dependence on natural resources for subsistence and income generation, contribute to increased vulnerability in many developing countries. Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief interventions that properly integrate environmental considerations can support the relief and recovery process and minimize health problems, additional loss of life, displacement, aid dependency, and insecurity.
  • Health – Diarrhea, malaria, and respiratory infections are all diseases largely attributable to environmental factors such as water quality and quantity, sanitation and air pollution.  In developing countries, 17 percent of the disease burden is due to modifiable environmental factors, with a pronounced impact on maternal, newborn and child health.  Among children under five years of age, however, that number increases to more than 33 percent, primarily due to contaminated water, poor hygiene, and poor indoor air quality.  As well, women living in unhygienic environments are up to three times more likely to die from maternal health-related issues. Health programming that integrates environmental considerations, such as promoting cleaner and more efficient cooking stoves that reduce indoor air contamination, can help avoid respiratory disease and prevent the exacerbation of existing health issues. 

Environmental Sustainability is Integral to Delivering on Canada’s International Assistance Thematic Priorities

Increasing Food Security, Securing the Future of Children and Youth, Stimulating Sustainable Economic Growth, Advancing Democracy, and Ensuring Security and Stability are thematic priorities that guide the majority of Canada’s international assistance.  In addition, Canada provides timely, needs-based humanitarian assistance in response to conflict situations and natural disasters. The integration of environmental sustainability considerations is essential to achieving sustainable results in these areas.  For example:

  • Food Security – Increasing sustainable agricultural production is one of the key pillars of Global Affairs Canada’s Food Security Strategy. Canada recognises the need to ensure the natural systems that serve as the base for agricultural production are preserved and, where possible, improved by its interventions, thus supporting the sustainability of results achieved.

For example, Global Affairs Canada programming supports the integration of environmental sustainability into national agriculture development plans and encourages the use of locally appropriate agroenvironmental practices that increase agricultural production without affecting the capacity of the environment to produce nutritious food in the future.

  • Children and Youth – Adverse effects from environmental degradation, pollution and climate change are often more acute for children, with direct impacts on their health, safety, and ability to attend school.

Recognizing the pivotal role of environmental factors in improving child survival (including maternal health), Global Affairs Canada supports efforts such as improving water resource management at the national and community levels and increasing access to water and sanitation services for mothers and their families.  Opportunities to reduce indoor air pollution in households, as well as to reduce hazards related to exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals in the context of child labour, are also explored when programming under this thematic priority.

  • Sustainable Economic Growth – Recognizing that results under its Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy depend on the availability of natural resources and a healthy environment, Global Affairs Canada programming helps to ensure that the goods and services offered by the natural environment (e.g., forests that provide clean air, habitat for wildlife, climate regulation) are captured in economic decision-making, beyond their traditional economic uses (e.g., forests = timber). 

Global Affairs Canada programming also helps to ensure that partner countries are able to sustainably use and manage their environment and natural resources in a way that supports long-term growth and development and does not undermine the ability of natural systems to regenerate or provide services.  When opportunities are present, Global Affairs Canada also supports partner countries in pursuing green growth and climate sensitive development pathways, an approach that increasingly attracts private sector investments that can be leveraged by development assistance.

  • Advancing Democracy – Canada recognizes the importance of environmental governance and transparency in maintaining a healthy environment, which in turn provides the conditions for the enjoyment of human rights. Canada's Advancing Democracy programming can lead to a more robust environmental public policy framework.

For example, interventions could support the inclusion of stronger, more coherent environmental regulation in the extractive sector or promote opportunity for increased dialogue on environmental issues with all stakeholders.

  • Ensuring Security and Stability – Canada recognizes that environmental impacts and natural resources scarcity can be triggers of migration, conflict and violence, and are likely to be increasing factors in Ensuring Security and Stability.

For example, interventions could support transboundary resource cooperation initiatives that promote shared governance and use of natural resources across boundary lines.

Canada’s International Humanitarian Assistance programming respects internationally recognized standards to minimize the negative environmental impacts of its operations, while recognizing that the emergency of the situation may not allow for extended environmental analysis and planning. Appropriately addressing environmental risks in humanitarian response can reduce the potential for conflict over access to natural resources and avoid creating or exacerbating health, livelihood, and security challenges.

Ensuring harmonization of environmental sustainability with Global Affairs Canada’s other crosscutting themes of gender equality and governance is likewise essential to delivering sustainable results.  The linkages between women, the environment, and poverty are profound, as women frequently rely more directly on the environment for income and food security. Women are often the primary managers of natural resources through their roles in water and fuel collection and in subsistence farming, yet they are often not included in decision making and have limited access to services.  The linkages between the environment and governance are strong as well, as environmental stress and mismanaged resources can be a source of conflict and destabilization, and environmental regulation and enforcement require strong governance systems.  Improved governance can also support increasing equitable access to productive natural resources on which the poor depend.

Integrating Environmental Sustainability into Canada’s International Assistance

Through the integration of environmental sustainability into its development policies and programming, Canadian international assistance works to ensure that the environment is preserved, and where possible, environmental conditions are improved and environmental opportunities are capitalized on.  As such, the integration of environmental sustainability in Canada’s international assistance is guided by the following principles:

  1. “Do No Harm” – Canada’s development initiatives will not pollute or degrade the environment or the natural resources of its partner countries. Efforts will be made to achieve multiple benefits that improve the natural environment while achieving results in priority themes, particularly in acutely stressed ecosystems.
  2. Mitigate Environment-Related Risks – Environmental risks, including those posed by climate change (e.g., drought, flooding, and extreme weather-related events), will be considered, and mitigation measures will be integrated into strategies, policies, and programming in order to safeguard investments and the achievement of results.
  3. Capitalize on Environmental Opportunities – Canada will seek to capitalize on opportunities offered by the natural environment and/or emerging environment related opportunities (e.g., renewable energy resources, green growth, ecotourism, and climate friendly finance).

To ensure the integration of environmental sustainability as a crosscutting theme, an environmental integration process is applied to Canada’s international assistance, which includes an environmental analysis of proposed policies and programming initiatives and the integration of appropriate environmental sustainability considerations in their design, implementation and monitoring.  This process also helps ensure that Canadian international assistance investments do not result in significant adverse environmental effects in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) and that Strategic Environmental Assessments are undertaken and applied in line with the Cabinet Directive on Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.

The application of Global Affairs Canada’s environmental integration process leads to the adoption of the following approaches for international assistance initiatives:

I. Environmental Sustainability Considerations Integrated into Policies and Programs

An integrated approach is applied to ensure that environmental sustainability considerations are integrated into all initiatives to safeguard or enhance development results and the environment.  With this approach, the environmental integration process identifies environmental sustainability indicators, targets and activities that will increase the environmental sustainability of an initiative’s thematic results.

For example, a country working with Canada to improve its health sector in support of the Children and Youth thematic priority would consider and integrate environmental risks and opportunities into its program design. As the majority of illnesses affecting children are often are tied to the environment (air pollution, waterborne diseases or those spread by vectors such as mosquitoes), indicators, targets and activities related to education on the environmental sources of diseases, as well as on gender-sensitive sanitation could be integrated in the program in order to enhance development results.  In addition, as improper disposal of biomedical waste is a common source of infections and pollution in many countries, waste-management targets and activities related to training and proper disposal systems could also be incorporated.

II. Specific Environmental Sustainability Results

In addition, a targeted approach is used when the state of environmental degradation in the targeted area is such that other development efforts would be compromised (e.g., deforestation in Haiti). This approach is also adopted when specific environment-related opportunities exist (e.g., climate change mitigation and adaptation investments) that, if capitalized on, would lead to important gains in the Department’s thematic priorities. With this approach, the environmental integration process helps develop specific environment-related results, with related targets and indicators, in direct support of the ultimate objective of the initiative.

For example, in order to capitalize on economic growth opportunities from enhanced climate change actions in developing countries, Canada is working collaboratively to catalyze private sector investment in climate-friendly sectors, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. This encourages investment into initiatives that would otherwise not be economically viable.

Implementation, Monitoring, and Follow-up

Implementation guidance for the environmental integration process clearly identifies points of entry for environmental integration within the Department’s international assistance business processes, establishes clear accountabilities for environmental integration and results, and provides tools that are relevant to current operational realities and programming channels.  As well, appropriate systems, processes, and resources are maintained to monitor and follow up on the integration of environmental sustainability in Canada’s international assistance to help ensure that expected results are achieved and lessons learned for the future are identified. For more information on our commitment to the integration of environmental sustainability as a crosscutting theme refer to Global Affairs Canada’s webpage on environmental sustainability

Crosscutting Theme for International Assistance: Governance

Governance is essential for poverty reduction, economic growth and long term sustainability. Ultimately, effective governance is about how the state, individuals, non-state actors and civil society interact to effect change, allocate resources and make decisions. By integrating governance as a crosscutting theme in policies and programs related to Canadian international assistance, Global Affairs Canada will ensure that its assistance is more effective, transparent, equitable and inclusive, and will lead to sustainable results for poverty reduction.

The Case for Action

The achievement of sustainable results in all sectors of international development depends on efficient, stable and effective governance systems, and institutions that reflect the will of the people. Strengthening governance is therefore a key means of achieving poverty reduction, sustainable development and addressing drivers of conflict and fragility in states at various levels of development.

Effective governance influences the capability of country partners to attract and host foreign investment, create a predictable base for domestic business growth, lower environmental and political risk, capitalise on emerging opportunities, and share equitably the benefits of these investments among their populations. For Global Affairs Canada, these characteristics are key success factors for its international assistance investments.

As strengthening governance is an underlying factor in the long-term development of a country and is critical to the sustainability of the development results, it should be considered across all sectors. To improve governance, there is a need to strengthen key areas such as:

  • Public Sector Management – Lasting, inclusive and sustainable development depends on a strong public sector with the capacity to effectively plan, provide advice, implement legitimately enacted laws and regulations, manage finances, procure or deliver services, efficiently respond to citizen needs, accurately report on results and expenditures, and promote and protect human rights.
  • Service Delivery – The capacity of all levels of government and their institutions to manage and make available quality public services such as water and sanitation, education, health care, social protection or infrastructure, is essential to ensuring inclusive socio-economic development.
  • Fight against Corruption – In developing countries, corruption hinders economic growth, undermines democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and fuels conflict. It distorts local, regional and national government priorities, decisions and disbursements, and has disproportionate effects on the poor and on women and youth, who rely more on public services for basic needs. Corruption leads to a lack of resources to fulfil state responsibilities, poor development results, and ineffective use of public monies and aid dollars.
  • Justice for the Poor and Rule of Law – People living in poverty are typically excluded from formal institutions of justice. When the rule of law is not effectively and predictably enforced by the justice and security system institutions in place, people and their livelihoods are vulnerable to insecurity, to predatory practices, and to violations of human rights, which threaten their well-being and hinder their opportunities to improve their own lives.
  • Inclusion of Marginalized Persons – People who are marginalized on the basis of gender, age, origin, religion, language, disability, social status, sexual orientation or gender identity, are often neglected in policy-making, in legal systems, and in access to public services. They often do not receive equal protection or equal benefit of the law without discrimination. This increases the risk that marginalized persons will be vulnerable to poverty, reduced participation in the economy, violence and exploitation, extreme living conditions and dependency, and will be more likely to be afflicted by life threatening diseases such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, or disorders, such as mental health disorders.
  • Enabling Environment for Civil Society – In many countries, a lack of checks and balances on the actions of the state leads to marginalisation and exclusion of certain populations. Voices are often threatened and silenced by dominant interests. Civil society is a vehicle for civic participation in the development and implementation of government policies and programs, playing a part in holding governments to account, and ensuring and delivering sustainable development results.

Global Affairs Canada’s continued commitment to integrate governance as a crosscutting theme will help contribute to poverty reduction, respond to the needs of the poor, and be consistent with international human rights standards. Through this strategy paper, Canada will be better positioned to deliver on its mandate and priorities related to international assistance, to support its obligations under article 4 (1) of the Canadian Official Development Assistance Accountability Act, and to strengthen its international engagement and positions.

Governance is Integral to Delivering on Canada’s International Assistance Thematic Priorities

Increasing Food Security, Securing the Future of Children and Youth, Stimulating Sustainable Economic Growth, Advancing Democracy, and Ensuring Security and Stability are the thematic priorities that guide the majority of Canada’s international assistance spending. In addition, Canada provides timely, needs-based humanitarian assistance in response to conflict situations and natural disasters. The integration of governance considerations in the development of policies and programs to support these priorities is critically important to achieving sustainable results, and to the full participation of all in economic, civic, social, cultural and political areas of society. For example:

  • Food Security – Transparency, accountability and institutional capacity are key determinants for the attainment of food security objectives in many countries. For example, an effective and transparent legal system that enforces equitable land tenure rights is critical to enabling smallholder farmers, particularly women, to increase agricultural yields.

To fully integrate governance as a crosscutting theme, a project in agriculture could focus on strengthening the monitoring and evaluation capacity of a ministry of food and agriculture to increase information-based decision-making, or on supporting smallholder farmers to gain the skills required to organize collective action, engage effectively with local government institutions and to advocate for their interests.

  • Children and Youth – Effective governance capacity in education and health helps make these systems more responsive to the learning needs of children and youth and in delivering effective health outcomes. Likewise, strong national protection frameworks and public sector capacity to protect children and youth from violence, exploitation, abuse and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) are critical to enabling children to meet their full potential. Indeed, analyzing the power structures and social norms that lead to CEFM or to harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting is essential to developing adequate programming responses.

To fully integrate governance as a crosscutting theme, a health project could focus on strengthening local government capacity to manage district-level health care to increase the survival rates and health of newborns, children and mothers. An education project could focus on promoting inclusive access by vulnerable or marginalized groups, such as children/adolescents with disabilities or children from indigenous communities, to education programs.

  • Sustainable Economic Growth – Efficient, transparent and accountable governance systems are essential foundations to the management of public finances, the effectiveness of economic institutions, the functioning of markets, the transparency and accountability of economic actors to citizens, and the delivery of core functions and services.  A focus on strong capacity for fiscal and economic management or legal and regulatory frameworks can encourage positive governance outcomes. Governance is also an essential element of effective financial sector development, and in building up the public institutions that foster the development of skills for employment.

To fully integrate governance as a crosscutting theme, a sustainable economic growth project could focus on strengthening the capacity of the budget office to publicly report on revenue generated by the natural resources sector, or strengthen the capacity of a country’s National Employment Authority to develop systems that will provide job-ready skills training for marginalised groups.

  • Ensuring Security and Stability – Societies are vulnerable to conflict, such as conflicts over land or over access to resources, and instability when their institutions are unable to protect individuals from abuse or provide equitable access to justice and economic opportunity.  In fragile and conflict-affected states, restoring confidence through inclusion and early, visible results at the local level is important before undertaking broader institutional reforms. Broader reforms include multi-sector programs linking community structures with the state, security system reform, national employment policy and programs and phased approaches to corruption.

To fully integrate governance as a crosscutting theme, a security and stability project could focus on police training that includes aspects of community policing and human rights coupled with reforms to improve due process. Another example is promoting wide stake-holder engagement in peace building and reconciliation processes to foster inclusivity and legitimacy.

  • Advancing Democracy – Through this priority, programming and policies advance Canada’s commitment to fundamental democratic values and the realisation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights by all individuals. Effective democracies are characterised by rule of law, regular free and fair elections leading to the creation of legitimate governments, functional separation of powers, enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of expression, religion, belief and association, and the principles of equality and non-discrimination. This means that all people of a country, including women, ethnic minorities, and people living in poverty, can hold their elected representatives to account, participate equally in the political process, form independent associations and organizations , and have access to information including through an independent, professional media.

To fully integrate governance as a crosscutting theme, an advancing democracy project could focus on strengthening the capacity of the public service to report to parliament and citizens on government spending and programs.

Canada is committed to strengthening its own international humanitarian response capacity, as well as working with other donor governments and key humanitarian partners to strengthen and broaden the international humanitarian system. By promoting and respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, Canada and the broader international humanitarian system help ensure that assistance is provided on the basis of needs to populations affected by conflict and natural disasters.

Reinforcing governance and capacity ensures that crucial institutions are made functional, and that newly formed local authorities are resourced and competent to provide public services in areas as important as water and sanitation and health.  For this reason it is important to ensure coordination and linkages between humanitarian and development actors on the ground, so that governance capacity is developed in the longer-term through national systems.

Ensuring harmonization of governance with the other crosscutting themes of environmental sustainability and gender equality is likewise essential to delivering sustainable results. The linkages between environment and governance are strong, as governance bridges the link between relief, rehabilitation and development. It reinforces the need to strengthen local governance systems, capable of addressing the challenges posed by climate change, environmental sustainability and natural disasters. Similarly, the linkages between gender equality and governance are profound, as women are particularly vulnerable to marginalization from political, social and economic representation, and often denied full access to rights and citizenship within developing countries.

Integrating Governance into Canada’s International Assistance

For Global Affairs Canada, the overarching goal of integrating governance in its international assistance policies and programming is to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of Canada’s development investments abroad, leading to improved, more resilient development results and lasting poverty reduction. The specific objectives for the integration of governance are to:

  1. Enhance the Accountability and Transparency of Partner Countries’ Institutions –To strengthen accountability and transparency mechanisms, partner governments will be assisted to track and review performance against their national plans, and allow for meaningful oversight by citizens to support development results and  aid effectiveness principles.
  2. Support Citizen Participation and Ownership in Development Processes to Sustain Social and Economic Progress – Program design will take into account stakeholder perspectives, including governments and beneficiaries, to ensure that barriers to meaningful participation are removed. This participatory design, implementation and monitoring process will be focused on the most marginalized to ensure Global Affairs Canada initiatives lead to inclusive development and sustainable results.
  3. Strengthen Service-Delivery Capacity at all Levels of Government – To achieve desired development outcomes, the necessary institutional capacity of its partner countries will be strengthened. The capacity to manage core governance functions and to deliver services effectively and responsively (e.g. quality education, accessible health and social protection services, public services in urban and rural areas, and trade and commerce services) are prerequisites to improving development outcomes.

To achieve these objectives, a governance analysis must be conducted at the most appropriate level and time, given the type of programming and policies being developed (e.g. at a program, country/regional, or project level). The purpose of this analysis is to identify, where appropriate and in collaboration with developing country, multilateral and Canadian partners, the need to strengthen governance systems, institutions and processes to address governance gaps or risks.

Key governance considerations include:

  • ­Capacity and responsiveness of governments, institutions and public organizations to the needs and demands of their populations;
  • ­Efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector in fulfilling the state’s responsibility to protect equitably and inclusively, and to consult with the public;
  • ­Transparency and accountability of government and public administration  in their  policies, actions and use of funds, to ensure that the public has access to information and can hold their governments to account;
  • ­Equity, equality and non-discrimination protections for all human beings through policies, regulations, programs and practice, regardless of characteristics such as gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language, religion, ethnicity, political opinion or any other status; and
  • ­Participation and inclusion of all people’s voices and interests, including marginalized people, in formal and informal institutions, processes, public policy choices, decision making, resource allocation and in service delivery.

I. Governance Considerations Integrated into Policies and Programs

In integrating governance as a crosscutting theme across its international assistance, Global Affairs Canada will consider the governance systems and development objectives of its country partners, including support to institutional models that best respond to the context. This encompasses civic, political, economic, cultural and social structures at different levels of government. Through the governance lens, Global Affairs Canada will be better positioned to assist country partners in reinforcing capable, transparent, responsive and accountable public sector institutions, and to promote civic participation, independent media, and human rights. We will continue to encourage increased participation of stakeholders in the design, development, implementation and monitoring of initiatives.

II. Specific Governance Programming to Enhance Sustainable Development Results

Specific governance programming in addition to integrated programming can contribute to the thematic priorities. This targeted approach invests in governance-specific projects. In these circumstances, Global Affairs Canada designs or supports projects or initiatives to strengthen public management systems within sectors in which Canada is working. For example, improving the rule of law and public management capacities of human resources and financial resources can contribute to reinforcing sustainable results in health or education sectors relating to the Children and Youth priority.

Both integrated and targeted approaches can be used as delivery mechanisms. This means that within a particular sector, Global Affairs Canada can support integrated programs with governance included throughout, while providing additional specific support to the program where there are critical governance issues.

Implementation, Monitoring, and Follow-up

There will be continued efforts to monitor the integration of governance into Canada’s international assistance policies and programming and to ensure its relevance to Canadian priorities as they evolve. Effective follow-up through program evaluation, portfolio reviews and other types of data collected will help to ensure that expected results are achieved and lessons are identified.

This strategy paper provides a starting point for implementation guidance. Detailed guidance and tools to support programs in integrating governance, tailored to specific programming channels and operational realities, will be made available. For further information, please visit Global Affairs Canada’s webpage on governance as a crosscutting theme.