Address by Minister Fantino: Canadian International Council

June 21, 2013 - Toronto

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Good afternoon.

Thank you for that kind introduction and the opportunity to speak to you today.

Your theme—What will Canada next accomplish in the international community?—reminds us of all that Canada has already accomplished.

It also makes us consider the many things that we can do on the world stage.

Throughout the years, the development landscape has changed.

Developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are increasingly driving the global economy and the development agenda.

These countries are prioritizing economic growth, trade, and investment.

For the first time, we are seeing trade between developing economies surpassing trade with developed economies.

A growing number of low- and middle-income countries are not only recipients of assistance, they are also becoming our trading partners.

Since the mid-1990s, many low-income countries have graduated to middle-income status.

Canadian—and indeed global—assistance is being outpaced by private investments, including remittances and private donations.

In the 1960s, official development assistance represented over 70 percent of total financial flows into developing countries.

Today, it accounts for less than 15 percent.

This trend will only continue as more Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs look to their counterparts in Africa, Asia, and the Americas for mutual growth opportunities.

Nearly half of the world's population is currently under the age of 25, with the majority living in the developing world.

This demographic shift presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

Youth in developing countries are an incredible resource.

They have the potential to make great contributions to their communities, countries, and economies.

But when they cannot be agents of positive change, they can often become victims.

When their expectations of education and jobs go unmet, opportunity quickly turns to despair.

These new realities have all put a premium on increased coordination between development, trade, and foreign policy.

Our government has responded to these realities by amalgamating CIDA and DFAIT.

Our government has created a strong foundation upon which this new department can build.

Since 2008, we have made development assistance more focused, efficient, and accountable.

We are investing over 80 percent of our bilateral assistance in 20 countries so we can have a greater impact.

We are supporting country-led, country-owned development plans, and helping them succeed.

We are focusing our work on five key issues:

  • food security;
  • children and youth;
  • sustainable economic growth;
  • safety and security; and
  • democracy.

We have untied all of our food assistance and 99 percent of all Canadian assistance.

This gives our country partners the freedom to use local suppliers for goods and services, seek out the best prices, and build up their local systems.

Operationally, our development work is more efficient than ever before.

Of every dollar Canada spends, 94¢ goes directly to funding development work.

The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will further strengthen the effectiveness of our assistance.

We will do this by:

  • combining the expertise of the two departments;
  • increasing our policy coherence on key issues;
  • placing development issues on an equal footing with trade and diplomacy; and
  • enshrining in law for the first time the mandate for development assistance and the role and responsibilities of the minister of international development.

These changes will make us more responsive to the new realities before us.

And they will allow us to use the best set of tools available to address each country's individual challenges and goals.

Some will need support for their health systems or education sectors.

Others may need technical assistance so they can maximize the benefits of trade.

Our work will continue to be guided by the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty.

And we will continue to respond to humanitarian crises, as we have in the past.

Our work will become more innovative and forward-looking under the new department.

We will continue to push for increased private sector engagement.

We will continue to focus on children and youth—the future and the largest resource base we have to move countries from poverty to prosperity.

We will also remain steadfast about accountability and transparency.

Absolute accountability will continue to be required for the use of hard-earned Canadian dollars, for our partners, and for the results that those who are most vulnerable expect from our work.

In this climate of fiscal constraints, deepening our engagement with the private sector will be key to advancing all of our development goals.

For years we have been working with co-operatives, as well as with private foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

We also support alliances that leverage investments for development.

An excellent example of this is the G-8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition.

It is expected to lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022 through an African-led effort to increase private sector investment in agriculture.

Last year, over 80 African and multinational companies committed to investing more than three billion dollars in every aspect of agriculture, from farm to table.

The concept of working with the private sector to drive development results is not new.

What is new is that we are broadening the scope of opportunities and expectations, for private companies in particular, to become bigger partners in development.

This is not about helping companies make more money, it is about working together, joining forces, and pooling our considerable resources to make a bigger difference around the world.

After all, the private sector brings to the table the capital, innovation, technical know-how, and ability to identify market opportunities.

By combining our strengths, we can modernize traditional forms of assistance.

This can translate into:

  • more jobs;
  • better nutrition and health; and
  • better education for more people.

Let me illustrate this with an example from the field.

Isaac Zulu is a 42-year-old charcoal maker from Zambia.

No matter how hard Isaac worked, he always struggled to feed his family and keep his five kids in school.

All of this changed two years ago when Isaac joined COMACO, a Zambian agriculture business that received funding from our government.

COMACO provides more than 60,000 small-scale farmers with training, raw materials, and opportunities to connect their products to market.

Through COMACO, Isaac learned how to farm groundnuts, a new crop that can be sold for a variety of peanut-based products.

He now earns $400 in additional income per year by selling his groundnuts to COMACO.

This practically doubles his income.

In turn, COMACO helps to ensure that he gets consistent demand, fair pricing for his crop, and a premium for his conservation efforts.

For Isaac and his family, this has completely transformed their lives.

They now have more money for food and to send their kids to school. They have even managed to save enough to buy a cow.

This is just one among many examples of how working with the private sector can give people the skills and tools they need to improve their lives.

Canada is also pursuing greater collaboration with the extractive sector to positively improve lives.

As an extractives success story, Canada is ideally positioned to help developing countries overcome their challenges and implement their vision for this rapidly evolving sector.

The new Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development is an example of how our government is taking a leadership role in helping developing countries manage their extractive sectors.

This Institute will bring together the best expertise in Canadian government, the private sector, academia and civil society under one roof.

The Institute will provide developing countries with the support they need to manage and govern their natural resources responsibly.

Developing countries will then be able to generate the substantial revenues required to support their people.

It is truly a win-win-win, particularly for skilled workers in the regions where extractive industries invest.

Today's generation of children and youth are our future leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, and engineers.

How we support them will determine the pace of global security and growth.

But first, we must help them to survive!

Our investments in health, nutrition, education, and child protection are making significant gains.

In 2010, Prime Minister Harper led a G-8 initiative to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in the developing world.

The goal of the Muskoka Initiative is to prevent the deaths of as many as 64,000 mothers and 1.3 million children under the age of five.

Globally, Canada's support has helped to enroll 23 million more children in primary schools, construct more than 37,000 classrooms, and train more than 400,000 teachers.

Sadly, throughout their childhood, many children—particularly girls—face the risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation.

As a former police officer, this is an issue particularly close to my heart.

In countries like Colombia, children and youth represent 57 percent of those who live in poverty.

They live in constant fear of landmines, internal displacement, sexual exploitation, and recruitment by illegal armed groups.

Our government is working with UNICEF to educate parents about these issues.

And we are helping UNICEF provide safe and healthy activities for children and youth.

Of course, it is not enough to just declare a desire to help, we must deliver on our commitments.

And we must be absolutely accountable for how we spend hard-earned public funds.

As a publicly elected official, I am acutely conscious of the fact that Canadians—in fact, all of you here today—are funding our work.

When Canada commits to providing millions of dollars, Canadian taxpayers deserve to know what results are being achieved.

Similarly, we owe it to those receiving our help to be able to demonstrate what is being done with our contributions.

Being accountable and transparent is our government's priority.

By making information about our development work more accessible, Canadians will learn more about development and become more engaged if they can see where their money is going, and who it is helping.

Being accountable and transparent also improves our government's coordination with our partners.

I am often asked why any of this matters.

Why should Canada spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars to improve lives in the developing world when we have problems right here at home?

It matters because, as the saying goes, "no man is an island" and Canada is a compassionate neighbour.

Challenges in other countries affect our investments, our health, the price of our food and gas, our security, and our opportunities to trade with other countries.

Similarly, Canada's investments abroad protect our interests here at home.

When we help other countries advance their economies, we create the conditions for growth, trade, and development.

When we help countries stabilize and secure their societies, we stop the aftershocks of violence, criminal activity, and terrorism from spilling onto our shores.

When we provide millions of people with access to health care and vaccinations, we all become more resilient to global pandemics.

Development is an integral part of our government's efforts to promote a more secure and prosperous world.

It is my hope that in fifty years, there won't be any need for development assistance.

It is my hope that we can collectively establish a world where every person is healthy and has enough nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink.

A world where every child has the opportunity to go to school.

And where every person can get a decent job, support their family, and contribute to their community and country.

A world where every person can participate fully in society, free from violence, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse.

In other words, if I can ensure that my grandchildren's children won't need to live in a world where poverty is endemic, then we will have done our jobs.

Thank you.