What is International Development Week?

International Development Week (IDW) is an annual initiative established in 1991. It is held during the first full week of February. It engages Canadians on global issues.

This is a uniquely Canadian tradition. It offers an opportunity to pause and to acknowledge Canadian contributions to poverty reduction and international humanitarian assistance in the developing world.

Canadians individuals, the government of Canada and civil society organizations mark this week. They organize hundreds of activities across the country and abroad.

Getting involved in International Development Week

Whether this is your first time celebrating IDW or you are an “IDW expert”, everyone can celebrate this week in their own way.

Learn about international assistance

Participate in an IDW activity

Each year there is a wide range of IDW activities from coast to coast. The organizers are:

  • schools
  • civil society organizations
  • community organizations
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Find most of these activities on the official IDW calendar of events official IDW calendar of events (available several weeks before IDW).

Different organizations working in international assistance in each Canadian province have their own IDW webpage. They have information on how to get involved in your region:

Organize an IDW activity

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we encourage you to organize a virtual version of your IDW activity this year. Think outside of the box. Find new ways to celebrate IDW!

Check out these ideas to help you decide what type of activity you could organize for International Development Week.

Are you an educator?

  • Spark a discussion in the classroom on an international assistance topic (e.g. the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, access to quality education, gender equality, climate change, etc.).
  • Show a film that addresses a global issue.
  • Organize an essay contest on global issues.
  • Highlight books and novels available in the school library that touch on global issues.
  • Coordinate a virtual international assistance fair and invite international assistance organizations or international assistance experts to participate.

Are you part of civil society or a community organization?

  • Invite a guest speaker working in international assistance to give a video presentation to your organization.
  • Share a list of thought-provoking books, novels and films on global issues.
  • Profile the stories or testimonials of coworkers who have international assistance experiences.
  • Highlight the stories of partners in the field.
  • Use social media to communicate the importance of Canada’s role in international assistance to a political representative.

Are you a student?

  • Start an IDW Club at your school to coordinate IDW celebrations.
  • Invite an international assistance expert to speak to your class online.
  • Host a virtual film screening on a global issue.
  • Coordinate a virtual international assistance fair and invite international assistance organizations to participate.
  • Tell other students about IDW by writing an article or a letter to the editor for your student newspaper.
  • Donate your time to a cause or an organization that supports international assistance.

Are you a journalist or a member of the media?

  • Write an article or prepare a news story on a Canadian who has demonstrated outstanding dedication to the cause of international assistance.
  • Highlight a Canadian innovation that contributed to the resolution of an international issue (e.g. insulin, pacemakers, blue helmets, etc.).
  • Cover an IDW event happening in your region.
  • Connect with Global Affairs Canada’s media relation team (media@international.gc.ca) to help promote international assistance in the country.

Promote your IDW activities

To promote your event efficiently, take into consideration the following tips:

  • Use the International Development Week Promotional material (available several weeks before IDW)
  • Promote your events on social media using the official hashtag: #IDW, followed by the current year (e.g. #IDW2021)
  • Add your public activity to the calendar of events (available several weeks before IDW)

Talk about IDW online

If in-person events are not your thing, you can still celebrate IDW online by using these ideas:

  • Subscribe and follow Global Affairs Canada on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube
  • Participate in this years’ IDW social media challenge
  • Share your IDW stories, photos and videos on your personal social media channels using the official hashtag; #IDW, followed by the current year (e.g. #IDW2021)

IDW’s story: a uniquely Canadian tradition

In October 1988, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) introduced “Development Day”. It took place twice. CIDA created it as part of the “Education to Development Program” in order to promote global peace. CIDA is now part of Global Affairs Canada. In 1990, we decided to call it “International Development Week” (IDW). It was first celebrated in February 1991. IDW has had a different theme each year. Since its beginning, the number of schools and organizations marking IDW has grown. Each year, millions of Canadians across the country gather to celebrate IDW. These efforts contributed to the longevity and success of the week over the past three decades.

In 2013, CIDA merged with Global Affairs Canada (GAC). We continue to coordinate IDW. We collaborate with hundreds of Canadian civil societies to organize IDW celebrations.

In 2020, IDW celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Past themes include:

  • “Go for the goals” (2020)
  • “Together for gender equality” (2019)
  • “Partner for a better world” (2018)
  • "Leave no one behind” (2017)
  • “We are making a difference” (2014-2016)
  • “I am making a difference” (2011-2013)
  • “Be the change” (2010)
  • “Equality between women and men. To have a voice. To have a choice” (2007)
  • “Celebrating Canadians making a difference in the world” (2003)
  • “Celebrate Canada’s place in the world” (1999)
  • “The World ahead” (1997)
  • “Together for a better world” (1993-1995)
  • “Environment and development” (1992)
  • “Growing Interdependence” (1991)

Contact us

For any questions, contact the International Development Week team:

Email: idw-sdi@international.gc.ca


  • National Capital Region: 613-944-4000
  • Toll-free: 1-800-267-8376
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