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Update for Canada’s international development sector: Progress of COVID-19 Dialogue and Solutions Groups during the pandemic

Since the pandemic was declared 8 months ago, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and its Canadian partners have been working closely together to explore how best to facilitate programming activities in the field during these challenging times. We have engaged frequently at all levels. This collaboration has resulted in concrete changes to help Canadian partners implement projects and contribute to Canada’s response to COVID-19.

To coordinate these efforts, Canada’s international development sector and GAC have launched 2 COVID-19 consultative groups:

Dialogue Group: The Dialogue Group has been meeting on a biweekly basis since late April to identify and prioritize areas of concerns, exchange updates on GAC and sector responses to the pandemic and discuss the operational needs of partners in delivering programming. The following international development networks are represented in this forum: Cooperation Canada, the Canadian Association of International Development Professionals, Climate Action Network Canada, the Inter-Council Network (ICN), and the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH).

Solutions Group: The Solutions Group has been meeting weekly since mid-June to review COVID-19-related project-delivery challenges faced by the sector. The following sector representatives were nominated by international development networks to participate in this forum: Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Alinea International, CanWaCH, the Canadian Red Cross, CARE Canada, Cooperation Canada, Cowater International, CUSO International, the ICN, iDE Canada, Oxfam Québec, Project Services International, and the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation. The Solutions Group recently moved to a biweekly format.

New measures

Based on these ongoing consultations, GAC has been able to introduce a series of flexible measures to help Canadian organizations implement programming during the pandemic. Our discussions at the Dialogue and Solutions groups have also informed a set of questions and answers related to these flexibility measures. 


Some partners have seen reduced overhead contributions from GAC because their activities in the field have been reduced. At the same time, partners have incurred increased costs related to the shift to project delivery through virtual means.  

Based on Solutions Group discussions, the following additional project costs are on a case-by-case basis now deemed eligible expenses and have been posted to the website:


As fundraising has declined and travel has been restricted, partners have indicated they have challenges in meeting cash and in-kind cost-share requirements. In response, GAC has allowed deferrals of cost-share requirements, consideration of other types of eligible contributions or waivers of cost-share for those projects in their last year of operations that are not seeking an extension, per guidelines posted on its website.


Sector representatives indicated challenges in meeting holdback requirements due to unpredictable cash flow. In response, GAC implemented a temporary approach to holdbacks for projects ending in fiscal years 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022 to allow GAC’s project management teams the flexibility to reduce or waive holdback requirements on a project-by-project basis.

Other short-term measures

To further help relieve pressure in the short-term on Canadian organizations, GAC has issued other flexibility measures, including:

Other pandemic-related issues

We continue to discuss a number of other issues related to the pandemic, including the following:

Resumption of travel

The Solutions and Dialogue groups continue to discuss this in the context of the Government of Canada’s current travel advice, duty of care responsibilities of Canadian development partners and public health considerations related to the spread of the virus. Currently, both the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories and the terms and conditions of GAC agreements stand as the applicable provisions.


The Solutions Group has been discussing the questions of localization, partnerships and project sustainability, which long predate COVID-19. The group has focused on identifying concrete short-term changes in response to the pandemic. Given the increasing need to use local partners and capacity for implementation and monitoring, some partners have indicated a need for measures to better support localization.

Monitoring and measuring results

The Solutions Group has been discussing the challenges of monitoring and measuring results in the current context. Members of the Solutions Group have provided presentations and exchanged best practices on project delivery and monitoring, on results measurement and on verification, data collection and storytelling.The group is currently considering how to best share these insightful presentations with the broader sector.

Volunteer-related issues

The Solutions Group has been discussing with representatives from the Volunteer Cooperation Program eligible costs related to volunteering across all programs.

Future measures

As the situation evolves, we will seek to identify other measures to support project delivery and achieve development results during the pandemic. We will keep you informed of these changes.

A message from the COVID-19 Dialogue and Solutions Groups

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