Departmental Plan 2018-19 – Raison d’être, Mandate and Role: Who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

Global Affairs Canada, under the leadership of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, is responsible for conducting Canada’s international relations, including foreign affairs, international trade and commerce, international development and humanitarian assistance, consular services for Canadians, and the Government of Canada’s global network of missions abroad.

Mandate and Role

Global Affairs Canada manages Canada’s diplomatic relations with foreign governments and international organizations to engage and influence international players to advance Canada’s international objectives. The department also delivers consular services and provides travel information to Canadians.

Global Affairs Canada manages Canada’s international platform—a global network of 178 missions in 110 countries that supports the international work of the department and 31 partner organizations (federal and provincial government departments, agencies and Crown corporations).

To improve and maintain market access for Canadian businesses, the department leads the negotiation of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral trade agreements, the administration of export and import controls, as well as the management of international trade disputes. Global Affairs Canada also provides advice and services to help Canadian businesses succeed abroad, attracts foreign direct investment to Canada, and supports international innovation, science and technology.

To reduce global poverty and enhance prosperity and stability for the poorest and most vulnerable, the department manages the majority of Canada’s international assistance. The department also leads coordinated Canadian responses to crises and natural disasters abroad, including the provision of humanitarian assistance.

The department supports global peace and stability and addresses international security threats such as transnational organized crime, the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction, and terrorism.

Global Affairs Canada develops and implements policy and programming based on analysis of available evidence, including through consultation and engagement with Canadians and its international stakeholders.

The department is responsible for fostering the development of international law and its applications in Canada’s foreign relations.

The department’s legal responsibilities are detailed in the 2013 Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act.

For more information on the department’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Ministers’ mandate letters on the Prime Minister of Canada’s website.

Operating Context

This year, the department will continue to advance Canada’s interests on the international stage despite an increasingly dynamic and unpredictable global environment with emerging global players.


Nine years after the global financial crisis, the economic recovery has been slower than expected and is based on a still uncertain global macroeconomic environment. Slow economic growth and income inequality directly or indirectly influence political stability and poverty reduction efforts. Furthermore, they provide ammunition to certain popular and extremist groups that advocate a return to isolationism and openly call into question the gains from globalization and economic liberalism. These isolationist reflexes could seriously hamper responses to global challenges where cooperation is key.

While decades of globalization have contributed to the increased movement of people, commerce and ideas, borders are hardening due to increased nationalism and concerns regarding immigration and security. There is also a growing crisis of confidence among the middle class about the ability of the globalized system to help them better their lives. Amid rising protectionist sentiments abroad, Canada will continue to play a leadership role in promoting progressive approaches to trade and international collaboration in line with the government’s policy priorities to support inclusive economic growth and maintain support for trade.

Another significant challenge impacting all countries is the continued degradation of global ecosystems and climate change. Today, industrial societies have pushed natural ecosystems beyond environmental thresholds to which they can easily adapt. The coming year will be crucial for Canada and its partners in the international community to reverse the trend and ensure that economic development goes hand-in-hand with environmental protection efforts.


The department adapts its strategies and priorities to respond to the evolving external context. In order to deliver results for Canadians within this context, the department ensures that its financial, human and information management and technology resources are aligned with its priorities through rigorous internal prioritization and planning activities.

Global Affairs Canada is a large department operating around the world with a variety of international partners. The sound management of funds is critically important. To strengthen financial management, Global Affairs Canada is improving its decision making and investment activities by linking allocation decisions with risk assessments, performance information and evaluation findings and by providing its employees and partners with clearer guidance on the appropriate use of funds.

Global Affairs Canada employs staff working around the world and serves employees from other government departments operating from Canada’s offices abroad. Keeping federal government employees safe and healthy at headquarters, in all of its Canadian regional offices and the mission network abroad is of paramount importance. The department is committed to overseeing the proper maintenance of its infrastructure, undertaking measures to mitigate environmental- and security-related threats and to provide employees with resources and work arrangements to improve mental health and wellness. The department also recognizes that living and working abroad poses many unique challenges for both Canada-based and locally engaged staff working at missions. Global Affairs Canada’s Office of the Inspector General supports integrity, management effectiveness and psychological health and well-being through its mission inspection, investigation and values & ethics and employee assistance functions.

Risk Management Context

The four departmental risks outlined in the Departmental Plan are drawn from Global Affairs Canada’s Corporate Risk Profile. They represent the outcome of a consultative risk identification and assessment process, based on the department’s operating context and planning objectives. Global Affairs Canada has committed to addressing these risks over a three-year timeframe. The implementation of risk responses will be monitored twice per year. During the three-year period, the risk responses will also be updated to reflect progress in addressing these risks and to respond to potential gaps in risk mitigation strategies.

Risk 1 - International Security Landscape

With over half of its employees working abroad, Global Affairs Canada regards the safety and security of employees, their dependents and mission visitors as a top priority. The evolving and varied nature and location of threats and instability results in the international security landscape remaining a prominent part of the department’s risk response framework. The risk response strategy, which includes threat and risk analysis abroad and headquarters analysis and information for decision making, will further improve the preparedness of employees implementing Canada’s international objectives.

Risk StatementResponse StrategyLinks to Core ResponsibilitiesLinks to Mandate Letters

Fragility and instability (e.g., terrorism, civil unrest) in a continuously evolving international landscape may adversely affect the delivery of Canada’s international objectives.

The department has identified this risk as potentially beyond the department’s tolerance and the risk level to be very high.  Accordingly, a risk response strategy has been developed.

Highlights of risk responses include:

  • Continue to develop a rigorous process for identifying security threats, vulnerabilities and assess changing security environments abroad;
  • Strengthen operational and physical security abroad; and
  • Provide appropriate training.

Links to all core responsibilities.

Expand Canadian diplomacy and leadership on global issues and in international institutions. (Foreign Affairs)

Continue the revitalization of Canada’s public diplomacy, stakeholder engagement, and cooperation with partners in Canada and abroad. (Foreign Affairs)

Risk 2 - Cyber Threats

Governments, companies, institutions and civil society around the world increasingly rely on technology to underpin their operations, coordinate across national boundaries and connect to the world. However, this reliance carries risks due to increasingly organized and constantly evolving cyber threats. Global Affairs Canada continues to work with its inter-departmental partners with a mandate for cyber security to improve its understanding and to respond to these evolving threats and vulnerabilities.

Risk StatementResponse StrategyLinks to Core ResponsibilitiesLinks to Mandate Letters

A cyber attack and/or breach of information could compromise the department’s ability to deliver on programs and services, damage international relations and violate privacy rights.

The department has identified this risk as potentially beyond the department’s tolerance and the risk level to be very high.  Accordingly, a risk response strategy has been developed.

Highlights of risk responses include:

  • Improve Global Affairs Canada’s information technology infrastructure, networking and governance to support operations and business needs, in collaboration with Shared Services Canada;
  • Strengthen employee capacity for managing information securely; and
  • Continue to collaborate with Government of Canada IT security stakeholders—including the Treasury Board Secretariat and Shared Services Canada—to address priority infrastructure, technology and security initiatives.

Links to all core responsibilities.

Expand Canadian diplomacy and leadership on global issues and in international institutions. (Foreign Affairs)

Risk 3 - Simultaneous Emergencies

Recent trends and studies support the notion that climate change has contributed to and will continue to contribute to adverse conditions, including more frequent and severe natural disasters. The department’s international mandate also exposes it to emergencies, such as infectious diseases and civil unrest. These events have the potential to disrupt the department’s operations at missions and during programming activities abroad, while straining resources at headquarters who play a role in coordinating emergency management activities. Accordingly, the department has made emergency management a priority risk for the past several years. Over this period, Global Affairs Canada has implemented several measures to respond to the impact of a natural disaster, hostile attack or emergency event. These responses include establishment of Regional Emergency Management Offices, maintaining a Standing Rapid Deployment Team and undertaking emergency response preparation exercises. In light of the progress achieved in managing a single disruptive event and the evolving nature of this risk, the department will further build its capacity to better respond to multiple simultaneous emergencies.

Risk StatementResponse StrategyLinks to Core ResponsibilitiesLinks to Mandate Letters

Simultaneous emergencies (e.g., natural disasters, terrorist attacks, outbreak of diseases) abroad or domestically could disrupt departmental operations.

The department has identified this risk as potentially beyond the department’s tolerance and the risk level to be high.  Accordingly, a risk response strategy has been developed.

Highlights of risk responses include:

  • Increase and ensure more efficient geospatial support to emergency management programs;
  • Continue to develop comprehensive, all hazards, response coordination capabilities; and
  • Maintain a roster of surge capacity employees from headquarters.

Links to all core responsibilities.

Provide assistance to countries that are vulnerable to the destabilizing effects of climate change (Development)

Risk 4 - Fund Management and Fiduciary Oversight

The department’s global responsibilities necessitate working in inherently risky environments, including for the operation of its global network of missions and partners. These risks include the potential for mismanagement of funds, theft or violation of trust. Such acts against the department can undermine the achievement of results and diminish public confidence in the organization’s operations. In response to this risk, the department will focus on improved fraud prevention and training, monitoring and detection, and mitigation and response.

Risk StatementResponse StrategyLinks to Core ResponsibilitiesLinks to Mandate Letters

Poor management and oversight of funds could lead to misuse of taxpayers’ dollars.

The department has identified this risk as potentially beyond the department’s tolerance and the risk level to be high.  Accordingly, a risk response strategy has been developed.

Highlights of risk responses include ensuring:

  • Partner managerial, technical, administrative and financial capacity is assessed regularly;
  • Fiduciary risk assessments and suitable mitigation strategies for projects and programs are in place; and
  • An integrated approach for responding to fraud and wrongdoing through development of a departmental Fraud Risk Management Action Plan.

CR1: International Advocacy and Diplomacy

CR3: Development, Peace and Security Programming

CR5: Support for Canada’s Presence Abroad

Create a new policy and funding framework to guide Canada’s aid decisions, empower people, and support broad-based, sustainable growth in the developing world. (Development)

Strengthen aid transparency, support better data collection and analysis, and examine current and new aid delivery mechanisms and partnerships. (Development)

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