2020-21 Departmental Plan – Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Global Affairs Canada, under the leadership of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, and the Minister of International Development, is responsible for advancing Canada’s international relations, including:

Global Affairs Canada manages Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations with foreign governments and international organizations, engaging and influencing international players to advance Canada’s political, legal and economic interests, including poverty reduction, the empowerment of women and girls, the promotion of a rules-based international order, international peace and security, human rights, inclusive and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism, inclusion and respect for diversity, and environmental sustainability.

To eradicate global poverty and to contribute to a more peaceful, prosperous and inclusive world, 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 needs-based humanitarian assistance.

Global Affairs Canada also manages Canada’s international platform—a global network of 178 missions in 110 countries that supports the international work of the department and 41 partner departments, agencies and co-locators.

To improve and maintain market access for Canadian businesses, Global Affairs Canada 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. The department also provides advice and services to help Canadian businesses succeed abroad and attract foreign direct investment to Canada, and supports international innovation, science and technology.

The department delivers consular services and provides travel information to Canadians.

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

The department helps ensure Canada’s strong and sustained engagement in La Francophonie’s various institutions, in particular the Organisation internationale de La Francophonie. It works with member states and governments of the Organisation to better define its core mandate, improve its functioning and transparency, and increase its impact.

Global Affairs Canada develops and implements policy and programming based on analysis of available evidence, including through consultation and engagement with Canadians and 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 ministers’ mandated commitments, see the minister’s mandate letters.

Operating Context

As the department responsible for Canada’s international engagement, Global Affairs Canada operates around the world, often in difficult or volatile environments. This brings a variety of potential risks and challenges not present domestically, including the rise of protectionism and authoritarianism; competition or conflict among major and regional powers; crime and failures in governance; the growing influence of non-state actors as well as the effects of economic inequality, social instability and increasing disruptions from climate change.

The department has a long history of introducing innovative approaches to delivering results for Canadians while securing its network and protecting its people and partners. Global Affairs Canada is working to enhance its capacity for experimentation across its operations. It is also implementing a data strategy to leverage this important asset. The department is currently revamping its risk management strategy. It will continue to build its control mechanisms and enhance its resilience to better respond to and mitigate the impact of known and unknown threats.

In addition to these internal steps, the department is collaborating closely with a variety of partners at the country, regional and multilateral levels, including civil society partners, to develop collective responses and solutions to cross-border and global challenges.

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