International Policy Ideas Challenge 2018

2019 Call for proposals

2019 International Policy Ideas Challenge poster

Past winners

2017 International Policy Ideas Challenge winners
2016 International Policy Ideas Challenge winners

Challenge winners

Brianna Botchwey – Lead Researcher

Brianna Scrimshaw Botchwey is a PhD student at the University of Toronto in Political Science and Environmental Studies. She holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge and a BA from the University of British Columbia. Her doctoral research concerns the impact of the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, on bilateral foreign aid policy and practice. She is also a research assistant at the University of Toronto's Environmental Governance Lab where she is conducting research on initiatives that work to increase sustainable energy access in developing countries. Her doctoral research is funded by SSHRC.

Executive Summary

Both Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change highlight the crucial role of clean energy in mitigating climate change and fostering sustainable development. This brief aims to serve as a first input to inform current and future GAC programming in the clean energy sector. It outlines several potential pathways through which clean energy can improve women’s well-being and livelihoods, as well as, contribute to their empowerment.

Drawing on an analysis of bilateral and multilateral ODA, and current bilateral aid and trade programming, the brief evaluates, using available evidence, three underlying assumptions to current approaches to clean energy and women’s empowerment. It highlights the following lessons learned:

  1. Expanding access to energy can help to address symptoms of gender inequality but may not be the most effective entry point to address the
    causes of inequality and, therefore, women’s empowerment.
  2. Involving women in the systems of provision and in the governance of clean energy is key
  3. More attention is needed to building commitment to gender-equality in the clean energy sector (e.g. addressing symptoms and causes of gender
  4. Women are already organizing to increase their participation in global clean energy value chains

On this basis, the brief makes the following recommendations:

  1. Establish an evidence base about the linkages between clean energy and women’s empowerment
  2. Focus on Gender Inclusive Clean Energy Governance
  3. Collaborate with initiatives already run by women
  4. Take a whole-of-department and whole-of-government approach
  5. Advocate for better integration of gender issues in trade and development ministries among peers

This policy brief calls for a realistic understanding of the potentials and opportunities that clean energy holds for the innovative and resilient women seeking to power empowerment.

Anh Bui – Lead Researcher

Anh started her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition in September 2015 at McGill University, completing her thesis on “The size of middle class and its effect on global food security” in May 2018. She has also recently completed a 6-month internship with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in their Nutrition and Food Systems Division in Rome, working on projects that link nutrition with issues such as gender and climate change. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition in 2015 at McGill University with a concentration in Food Function and Safety. Since joining McGill Institute for Global Food Security research group that year, she has collaborated with colleagues on projects such as a review on livestock diversity and food security in Guatemala. She is now awaiting to join the World Food Programme to work in their Nutrition Knowledge Management team.

Dr. Arlette Saint Ville – Collaborator

Arlette Saint Ville is a Post-Doctoral Researcher with the McGill Institute of Global Food Security, exploring how institutions affect food security, the global food and nutrition security governance architecture, and the interplay of food insecurity, governance and conflict. Since joining the institute, her research outputs have focused on how the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) can improve food security governance, as an experience-based tool that measures direct experiences of the hungry. Arlette completed a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences from McGill University with distinction. Her doctoral research used mixed-methods to explain why scientific advances in agriculture, food and the environment have not translated into sustainable food and nutrition security outcomes for the Caribbean as part of the IDRC-funded McGill/UWI Caricom Project. For twelve years preceding her doctoral studies, she was an independent international development consultant, successfully undertaking high-level, short-term assignments for diverse agencies across the Caribbean region.

Executive Summary

This policy brief provides a guide on how to monitor food security status of the global Middle Class (MC) as a method of predicting threats to political stability from the MC across the world. It explores the steps involved in monitoring the size of the national MC based on food security status informed by preliminary research from a master's thesis that looked at the effect of the MC on food security at global and regional levels.

It is important to distinguish between two key groups in any country: the definitional MC and the “functional MC”. The definitional MC includes those persons in a country who are typically categorized as the MC based on income-based measures.  The “functional MC” is defined as persons in a country who are able to enjoy one of the most basic functions expected of the MC, to be food secure.

We theorize that the difference between the definitional MC and “functional MC” comprises the most vulnerable sub-group of the MC called the lower-MC.

Based on this understanding, we propose that monitoring the differences between the “functional MC” and the definitional MC over time will show that:

We propose this approach as a novel way to measure the heterogeneity in the MC across the world, and to identify changes in the composition and proportion of the lower-MC, and this can be used over time, to categorize the political instability in the MC.


Experience-based tools, like the recently developed Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), directly measure people’s access to food. It does this by using eight questions that are used to categorize and identify changes (as they get worse or improve) over time in their direct experiences with food before its effects have been felt.  As a result, FIES is more sensitive and well suited to register instances of mild food insecurity (experienced by respondents as they begin to worry about not having enough food, which is the first stage of experiencing food insecurity) that may not be detectable to refined anthropometric tools. Furthermore, the FIES has the advantage of being easy to apply, non-threatening, cost-effective, and time-sensitive. This predictive quality of the FIES is an important function of the tool, that makes it well suited for national and global surveillance.

Steps involved in conducting this proposed global monitoring are as follows:


This policy brief provided a detailed how-to-guide for Canadian policy analysts to use easily collected, available data that can be used over time to identify and predict political instability of the MC based on differences in each country between the definitional MC (people who income would categorize them as middle class) and the “functional MC” (people who are food secure). This approach demonstrates fresh thinking that supports a low-cost, data-driven and innovative approach to identify and respond proactively to growing economic and political volatility across the globe.

Craig Damien Smith – Lead Researcher

Craig Damian Smith is the Associate Director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. He earned his Ph.D. in 2017 from the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on irregular migration, migration governance, displacement, European foreign policy, and refugee integration. His doctoral thesis “Malignant Europeanization: Schengen, Irregular Migration Governance, and Insecurity on Europe’s Peripheries” examines the security effects of European migration governance on transit states. Findings are informed by several years of fieldwork throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Western Balkans, and Europe. His current SSHRC-funded research looks at emerging irregular migration systems to Canada. In addition to his scholarly work, he provides commentary on migration and refugee issues to outlets including the BBC, CBC, and NBC, along with various print outlets.

Executive Summary

This brief examines Canada’s support for the Global Compact on Refugees in Central America, in particular the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), initiated as a regional process under the Spanish acronym MIRPS. Findings are based on desk research and interviews with personnel from the Government of Canada, the UN, and civil society organizations working with displaced people.

The Compact on Refugees will be signed in New York in December 2018 after two and a half years of consultations. It is a recognition that traditional humanitarian approaches toward displaced population are inapplicable to complex, protracted, and increasingly urbanized displacement situations. The CRRF, essentially the Compact’s programmatic guidelines, call for linking humanitarian and development programming in order to foster the inclusion and self-reliance of displaced people, and to concurrently relieve the burden on and develop host states.

MIRPS, signed by six states in Central America, seeks to address the rapidly-expanding displacement crisis from states in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rampant criminal violence, gangs, and weak state capacity have given rise to some of the world’s highest homicide rates. Coupled with environmental and climatic pressures, NTCA states have large internally-displaced populations and generate a growing number of asylum-seekers and refugees.  

While Canada has framed existing humanitarian, security, and development funding as addressing root-causes of migration, it has yet to truly engage with the MIRPS process, and does not have capacity to engage at the humanitarian / development nexus. The reasons are the siloing of humanitarian and development work at GAC, a stagnant development budget, and lack of strong state partners, coupled with an unwillingness to acknowledge the scale of displacement.

Supporting MIRPS would address a growing humanitarian crisis in Canada’s hemisphere; reinvigorate multilateralism; help meet Canada’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals; and attenuate irregular migration flows to Canada. This latter point is particularly important given that the US will repeal Temporary Protected Status for over 350,00 Salvadorans and Hondurans this year. Supporting MIRPS would help protect Canada’s soft power advantage around refugee issues and give a boost to Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council Seat.

To do so GAC should champion the humanitarian / development nexus internally; identify pilot projects with clear outcome metrics in the region with internally and internationally urban displaced populations; leverage international development financing; incentivize states in the region to recognize and measure the scale of the problem; and offer complementary pathways for resettlement and labour migration.

Dongwoo Kim – Lead Researcher

Dongwoo is a post-graduate research fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. He completed his BA (Honours History and Political Science 2014) at the University of Alberta and MA (Political Science 2016) at UBC. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dongwoo spent a year in Beijing as part of the Yenching Scholars program, completing a Master of Laws in China Studies at Peking University. He is interested in liberalism and democracy and he has been examining ways in which emerging technologies—particularly artificial intelligence (AI)— have been affecting governance, both domestically and globally, through his work at the Foundation. In the past, Dongwoo has served as the editor-in-chief of several publications and some of his op-eds have been published in The Globe and Mail. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Dongwoo has lived in New Zealand, Nicaragua and the U.S. prior to moving to Canada.

Executive Summary

This research project examines artificial intelligence (AI) policies implemented in China, Japan and South Korea. It is qualitative research, based on the analysis of policy documents and on-site interviews with policy-makers, academics, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the field. Following the introduction, AI policies of the three countries will be examined individually followed by a section of policy recommendations.

During the past two years, China, Japan and South Korea have released national AI strategies. While there are differences specific to the national context, these strategies all consider AI as a key technology to transform the country’s economy and society, and therefore address a comprehensive range of issues. More specifically, these governments regard AI as a solution for economic stagnation and social problems. Following are some highlights of these strategies:

China’s Next Generation AI Development Plan seeks to turn China into “the world’s primary AI innovation centre” and increase the size of the core industry to RMB1T (Can$203.3B). Following suit, local governments, academia, and private-sector players have been collaborating to deliver the objectives set by Beijing. The Plan clearly articulates Beijing’s commitment to attaining leadership in AI, and substantiates the view that there is a “duopoly” between China and the United States in the AI space.

Under Japan’s Society 5.0, the cabinet has expressed its intention to use emerging technologies, particularly AI, to tackle economic stagnation and existing social problems. To this end, the government organized the Strategic Council for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems Technology, a “control tower” that co-ordinates intergovernmental efforts for AI. The Council furthermore developed the AI Technology Strategy, which assigns three government ministries and their national research institutes to collaborate with the private sector to conduct further research in areas of health care, mobility, and productivity, and ultimately establish an AI industry ecosystem by 2030.

South Korea’s Presidential Committee for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PCFIR) released I-Korea 4.0, a strategy that seeks to boost productivity and solve social problems through applying emerging technologies, especially AI, in 12 different sectors among 5 different government ministries. Under this objective, the PCFIR announced its AI Research and Development Strategy in May 2018, which expresses the goal of making South Korea one of the top four AI nations by 2022.

These AI strategies are comprehensive and seek to co-ordinate existing resources to further AI research and development (R&D) and application, which demonstrates that they are a continuation of the national development strategies that have driven the rapid economic growth and modernization in each state. As such, it is clear that these nations regard AI development in the context of global competition, underscoring the emergence of AI as a geopolitical space and the urgence of addressing this technology in a comprehensive manner by the Government of Canada.

Jennifer Lee – Lead Researcher; Sue Sriprom – Collaborator; Maka Mohamed – Collaborator

Jennifer Lee is a Master’s student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, specializing in international economic policy. She recently received the Mitacs Globalink Research Award for her project “Managing Talent Migration for Innovation and Growth: The Case of Israel” (Dr. Martin Geiger, Jennifer is currently working at Global Affairs Canada (Health and Nutrition) and is pursuing a strong research interest in international affairs and economic issues.

Sue Sriprom is a currently a graduate student enrolled at Carleton University, specializing in a Master Public Policy and Administration. Global migration trends, socio-economic development and environmental policies are her areas of interest. Currently, she is employed as a Policy Analyst for the Strategic Policy Branch at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Her work entails implementing a data strategy at ECCC which focuses on cultivating artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data to enhance organizational performance. Additionally, she holds the position SPPA student body President in her program and is a board member at Ottawa Biosphere Eco-city.

Maka Mohamed is currently a graduate student in Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University. Her current interest are immigration and citizenship, gender based analysis, and foreign policy. At present, Maka is completing her cooperative employment at Transport Canada and is working alongside her Program Manager in developing and implementing Information Management directive and standards.

Executive Summary

In July 2017, China released its ‘Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’. Among other strategic objectives, China plans to “actively participate in global governance of AI” by developing laws, regulations, and ethical norms that promote the development of AI.

This research paper analyzes China’s approach to artificial intelligence global governance and draws out cross-border implications for Canada in industry, trade, security, and migration. By outlining Canada’s comparative advantages in artificial intelligence, this project aims to strengthen Canada’s engagement with China in the development of artificial intelligence global governance. We identified four areas in which the Chinese approach to artificial intelligence global governance does not align with Canadian interests. These areas are:

The research resulted in the following recommendations:

Ben O’Bright – Lead Researcher

Ben O'Bright is a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University studying the politics and governance of science and technology, and is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science. He currently works as a Doctoral Researcher with several think tanks and academic institutions, and as an international development consultant, the latter primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. His work focuses on the intersections of emerging science and technology with politics and development issue areas.

Josh Boyter – Collaborator

Josh Boyter joined the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative as Director of Communications in August 2013. Prior to his role at the Dallaire Initiative, he was the Youth Engagement Coordinator for Journalists for Human Rights based in Toronto. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Development Studies and Social Anthropology and a Master of Arts in International Development Studies, both from Dalhousie University. His research explores the intersections between development and the media.

Executive Summary

In the short span of ten years, cryptocurrency has gone from a nascent electronic currency to an active system of financial transaction outside the traditional auspices of banks and other institutions. The increasing popularization of cryptocurrency has led to cautious but open exploration into the capacity and potential of these tools for international development.

This policy brief seeks to investigate the potential applications of decentralized digital assets, or cryptocurrencies, in the achievement of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, particularly by engaging non-traditional funding sources. A central question of this brief asks whether Global Affairs Canada can leverage cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings to encourage new collaboration with non-traditional funding partners, including individual Canadians?

The policy brief is organized into three distinct parts: introducing the concept of cryptocurrency; enticing new partners; and, the democratization of development funding. The first section explores at a high-level the key conceptual, technical, and value tenets that underpin cryptocurrency. The second section investigates how cryptocurrency can be used to entice new partners into contributing to international development funding, particularly through concepts such as crypto-philanthropy and the Impact Economy. Finally, the policy brief provides analysis on the democratization of development funding, including a look at the opportunities and implications of this phenomenon for the Government of Canada in the use of cryptocurrency as a funding tool.

This brief concludes with two broad recommendations for the Government of Canada for enticing new partners and harnessing the democratization of development funding as it relates to the overall question of leveraging cryptocurrency to achieve Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

First, this brief suggests that the Government of Canada can use the narrative of the impact economy as a vehicle to entice individuals in the space of cryptocurrency to join blended finance or public-private initiatives. The policy brief argues that the government should closely regard its ability to contribute both direct and ancillary support to the cryptocurrency space; piloting use cases, disseminating best practices, broaching the Government Regulation Paradox, and considering the use of principle-based regulation are steps that can be taken.

Secondly, this brief proposes that through using concepts and practices including the democratization of development aid, officials can leverage best practices from crowdfunding and the ability of initial coin offerings to connect funders directly with recipients as a means of encouraging Canadians to contribute directly to development programming budgets and priorities. This suggestion comes under the implicit caveat and suggestion of leading from behind, as onerous leadership and bureaucracy could stifle potential new partners.

Michaela Pedersen Macnab – Lead Researcher

Michaela is a PhD student at the University of Toronto in the Department of Political Science, and a policy researcher at the China Institute at the University of Alberta. Her research focuses on international environmental governance and data sovereignty, with an area focus on Chinese politics. In 2017, Michaela participated in two research fellowships in mainland China and Taiwan, where she conducted research on China’s national climate strategy and the carbon emission enforcement gap in Asia. She has provided governance consulting to a variety of municipalities in Western Canada, and is also a contributor to the digital magazine, Policy Options. Previously, Michaela completed an MA in Political Science at the University of British Columbia, and a BA in Environmental Studies at the University of Alberta.

Executive Summary

Space debris are human-made objects in earth’s low or geostationary orbit.  Unlike pollution on earth, space debris (usually) does not break down, and increases with every collision. It is posited that a single collision between space infrastructure and debris could cause a collisional cascade that would render human activity in space impossible. While Canada has made progress on this issue, more could be done to mitigate the future accumulation of space debris, and to develop technology to actively remove debris and prevent the militarization of space.

This paper recommends:

  1. Canada should align its mitigation and collision avoidance policies with the 2014 ESA mitigation standards, and pursue remediation policies and advocate for others to do the same
  2. Canada should engage in formal partnerships to co-develop in order to disincentivize the siloed development of “dual-use” active removal technologies
  3. Canada should seek to clarify liability and jurisdictional ambiguities in the existing legal frameworks, and support emerging space programs to reduce the liability burdens of emerging economies

Nathan Sears – Lead Researcher

Nathan Alexander Sears is a PhD Student in Political Science at The University of Toronto, and holds a Master's degree in International Relations from NPSIA, Carleton University. From 2012 to 2016, he was a Professor of International Relations at the Universidad de Las Américas in Quito, Ecuador. His research interests include International Relations theory, international security, great power politics, and global catastrophic risk. His PhD dissertation plans to explore the nature of "Global Politics in an Age of Existential Threats".

Executive Summary

This policy brief examines the international policy challenge of “global catastrophic risk” (GCR), or threats that are global in scope, catastrophic in intensity, and non-negligible in probability. The brief shows that human beings face the proliferation of GCR scenarios that, at the maximum, threaten civilization and human survival in the twenty-first century. The spectrum of GCR scenarios includes a number of anthropogenic threats, such as nuclear weapons, climate change, biotechnology, geoengineering, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Despite the broad spectrum of GCR scenarios, there are significant overlaps in the prevention and mitigation measures available to policy-makers, and opportunities for international policy coordination on GCR threat reduction.

Policy Recommendations:

Julia Smith – Lead Researcher

Dr. Julia Smith is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. She has a PhD in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, in the UK. Her research interests center around global health policy and the role of non-state actors in health and development. She has authored over a dozen peer reviewed publications, as well as the book The Role of Civil Society in the Global Response to HIV/AIDS. Julia has lectured in both the Faculty of Health Sciences and Department of Political Science at SFU, as well as the Department of Political Science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Specific research and teaching interests include the tobacco industry, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and feminist theory. A Rotary World Peace Fellow Alumni, she has worked in Africa, Europe and North America.

Executive Summary

Despite renewed efforts to improve global health security, global health actors and states are struggling to respond to current threats and are unprepared for future disease outbreaks. Past responses have particularly failed to consider how outbreaks impact women, men and marginalized groups differently. In order to inform improved disease outbreak preparedness policies, this report applies a Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) approach to identify policy gaps and make recommendations. GBA+ is an analytical tool used to assess how diverse groups of women, men and marginalized groups may experience policies, programs and initiatives. 

Policy gaps at the global level:

Policy gaps at the national level:

Policy gaps at the local level:

Now is an opportune moment to promote a GBA+ approach to disease outbreak preparedness, and Canada is well placed to lead on policy related initiatives. In doing so, Canada will not only champion the right to health for those most in need but will also improve global health security.


  1. Advocate for a gender focal point on the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board
  2. Advocate for the inclusion of the gender indicators into the Joint External Evaluation framework
  3. Promote and provide funding for International Health Regulations Shadow Reports
  4. Draw on peacekeeping experience to inform security sector engagement
  5. Fund health system strengthening that integrates GBA+
  6. Promote adoption of the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health during disease outbreak responses
  7. Provide support, through bilateral programs and partnerships, for home-base care and health promotion programs that apply a GBA+ approach

Chris Walker – Lead Researcher

Chris Walker is a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) doctoral candidate in the International Development Studies Department at Saint Mary's University (SMU). His research and publications have focused on international development policy, South-South cooperation, bilateral medical agreements, global health, medical education, health systems evaluation and policy, the political economy of health and development, as well as modes of health care capacitation for rural, poor and marginalized populations. He has conducted research in Timor-Leste, Cuba, Venezuela and throughout Canada.

Executive Summary

While Canada may not be able to compete with other larger Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economies in terms of donor assistance, Triangular Cooperation (TrC) is a possible development modality for achieving Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as for expanding the rights and development outcomes of women and girls in line with Canada's feminist foreign policy. As a development modality, TrC can easily be branded as Canadian — especially given Canada's extensive history of multilateralism. Canada has also taken the lead on many key conferences, workshops and papers exploring the potential of this modality. It is particularly applicable to SDG 17, strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, while also, if navigated well, having potential for pursuing SDG 5, gender equality.

It seems apt for Canada to align these Agenda 2030 goals in a region with important Canadian strategic and resource interests. Latin America is possibly one of the most important areas in this regard and has long been a focus of Canadian development yet provides unique challenges for Canada's feminist foreign policy — specifically the male-dominated machismo culture. Aligning these interests with a feminist foreign policy approach that appears to run against the regions cultural grain may appear daunting. However, TrC may be one of the most important development modalities to overcome this challenge with the right pivotal partner, ideally a partner with a strong history of success in both Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as SDGs. Additionally, it would be beneficial to find a partner that also has a history and knowledge of challenging machismo, which is a key area of concern that Canada may be unfamiliar or unable to grapple with.

Cuba has the potential to be an effective TrC pivotal partner in this respect. Its strong institutions, such as the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas / Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual / National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), including their strong female leaders, have all been at the frontlines of expanding a strong feminist agenda throughout the country as well as ensuring it is a part of their South-South Cooperation (SSC) approaches, regardless of geography. If Canada hopes to shape culture through its feminist development approach, it needs not only the resources and human capital, but also a deep context-specific knowledge and experience to confront machismo's male-dominated norms.

There appears to be a strong alignment between Canada and Cuba. Cuba has succeeded in achieving the MDGs, has already achieved the SDGs on gender equality, health, education and the environment, has a long history of challenging male-dominated policy, institutions, norms and culture of machismo, as well as has the strongest feminist approach in the Latin American region. It is also strategically positioned throughout Latin America with SSC agreements established in most countries. Cuba also appears to be considered a safe TrC partner by many other OECD countries, including Australia, Germany, and Japan as well as intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Importantly, after several discussions with experts and academics on Cuba, it appears that Cuba is also looking to expand its TrC agreements. Thus, Canada can potentially benefit from Cuba's knowledge, experience, resources, expertise and human capital to expand its feminist foreign policy goals throughout Latin America. The following policy brief highlights the reasons for considering feminist TrC between Canada and Cuba in the Latin American region.

Date Modified: