Government of Canada statement in response to the report by Canada's special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues

December 2020

The Government of Canada would like to thank Special Envoy Bob Rae for his dedicated work, as the Special Envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues and for his report, A Global Crisis Requires a Global Response. Following on his previous role as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Canada is very grateful for his continued efforts to improve the lives of refugees and other displaced persons.

Canada welcomes the Special Envoy’s Report on humanitarian and refugee issues, and we value the useful insights contained within. We agree that we must not lose our sense of urgency in addressing the unprecedented levels of forced displacement, particularly with the additional impact of COVID-19 on crisis-affected populations. Canada is committed to maintaining and building on our leadership on refugee and humanitarian issues. The Government of Canada strongly supports comprehensive responses to refugee situations, and we embrace collective action and a rules-based international order.

The Special Envoy’s report brings to light the importance of these values for Canada’s refugee policy and programming, as well as the need for gender equality and a human rights-based approach in humanitarian action and refugee protection. We live in complicated times, and Canada must continue to do our part in responding to the humanitarian and protection needs of those who face increased vulnerabilities.

Underlying all of Canada’s diplomatic engagement, humanitarian assistance and refugee protection support is our human rights-based and inclusive feminist approach. Canada provides gender-responsive humanitarian action in order to address the specific needs and priorities of people in vulnerable situations, particularly those with intersectional identities, and to support their empowerment through their participation in decision-making processes and as agents of change. With full and systematic consideration of gender equality in all humanitarian interventions, we are able to better identify the specific humanitarian and protection needs of crisis-affected individuals.

Because of the extremely negative health and social consequences of COVID-19 and the increase in humanitarian and protection needs of crisis-affected people, Canada remains focused on continued funding to support our humanitarian responses and partners globally. Since February 11 2020, the Government of Canada has announced commitments of nearly $1.6 billion to support the global response to COVID-19. Canada has also made an additional $1 billion available for IMF loans related to COVID-19. As part of this amount, Canada has allocated over $154 million in humanitarian assistance funding, which includes $9 million to respond to UNHCR’s Coronavirus Emergency appeal. Further, we recognize that crises unfolding before the onset of the pandemic have not disappeared during this health crisis. As such, humanitarian funding provided by Canada to respond to the humanitarian impacts of the coronavirus was made available in addition to our ongoing humanitarian assistance to ensure that existing programs can continue to be implemented.

In addition, Canada is committed to ensuring equitable access to successful COVID-19 vaccines. On December 14, 2020, the Government of Canada committed a further $485 million to the ACT-Accelerator: $230 million will be provided to UNICEF to procure COVID-19 therapeutic treatments, with the remaining $255 million allocated to various partners for the effective deployment of medical solutions against COVID-19 in developing and vulnerable countries. Of the $255 million, $75 million will go to Gavi to support the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in low and lower-middle income economies as part of the Gavi COVAX AMC, and up to $5 million of that will go to the development of a mechanism to equitably reallocate vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility, either by donation or exchange.

Despite all of these new pressing challenges posed to the international community by the spread of the virus, we agree that we cannot afford to lose sight of the ongoing plight of the millions of forcibly displaced persons worldwide. As noted in the report, there are new record numbers with every passing year, while durable solutions continue to be an enormous challenge for the international community. As a leader on refugee issues, there is a great deal that Canada can and should do to address this, including through comprehensive refugee responses aligned with the principles of the Global Compact on Refugees.

The implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees remains one of the main priorities of Canada’s efforts to improve the lives of refugees and better support host communities. This means finding new ways of working together – between development, humanitarian, peacebuilding and immigration actors – that advance durable solutions. To date, Canada has pursued this approach through our Middle East Strategy, as well as holistic responses to the Venezuela and Rohingya forced-displacement crises. For instance, Canada’s education programming in Jordan successfully leveraged Canadian humanitarian and development support to address the needs of Syrian refugees and vulnerable children from host communities in a sustainable and integrated manner. Working closely with the Government of Jordan, as it became possible assistance gradually transitioned from humanitarian to development, with a view to helping improve access to quality education for both Jordanians and refugees, and reduce the cultural and financial barriers for enrolment and retention in schools. In Bangladesh, Canada’s development assistance supports efforts to address the health and basic education needs of Rohingya refugees through an innovative financing mechanism with the World Bank. Funding helps increase refugees’ access to nutrition, sexual and reproductive health services, learning opportunities and psychosocial support, while simultaneously enhancing the Government of Bangladesh’s service delivery systems to benefit host communities affected by the crisis.

In the Americas, Canada is proud to be a cooperating state in the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) Support Platform, launched at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019.  This concrete application of the Global Compact on Refugees seeks to galvanize political, financial and material commitments in support of countries affected by forced-displacement flows in the North of Central America region. We look forward to seeking the chair of the MIRPS for its second year, from June 2021 to June 2022 in order to support MIRPS countries as they work towards a coherent, regional implementation of the principles of the Global Compact on Refugees.

As highlighted in the Special Envoy’s Report, local partners are often play a critical role in humanitarian responses, including the COVID-19 pandemic. As an active supporter and signatory of the Grand Bargain, Canada supports the localization commitments under the Grand Bargain and recognizes the critical role played by local actors who are often on the frontlines of humanitarian responses. To that end, Canada contributes to the Country-Based Pooled Funds, including as part of our overall humanitarian response to COVID-19, because of their unique ability to channel funds directly to local NGOs. Canada supports localization commitments through funding to national societies as part of its support for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and through support to local organizations through multilateral partners like UNHCR, who in 2019 supported over 700 national NGOs. Further, the Equality Fund and Women’s Voice and Leadership initiative are two examples of Canadian programs that strengthen local women’s organizations, also in humanitarian settings.

Improving access to quality education for refugees and other forcibly-displaced persons remains another important priority for the Government of Canada. In line with the Global Compact for Refugees and the 2018 Charlevoix declaration on quality education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries, Canada seeks to ensure the continuity of education for refugees and other forcibly-displaced children, through our advocacy and collective action and through our programming, particularly in light of COVID-19 school disruptions. Canada will be furthering its engagement on refugee education in the coming months through a campaign to promote education for children in forcibly-displaced situations.

Canada will continue to advocate for those most in need and for collective action to improve the lives of refugees and other crisis-affected populations.

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