Saturday, 23 July 2016 00:00

How should Canada rethink its international assistance policy?

A Public Consultation on Aid

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A Public Consultation on Aid

In May 2016, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie launched a public review of Canada's international assistance policy and funding framework. The Goal? Canada hopes to better respond to the challenges and opportunities of the new global context- to refocus on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people, and supporting fragile states, while also advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The consultation focuses on six specific themes:

  1. Health and rights of women and children - Empowerment of women and girls and the protection and promotion of their rights through advancing gender equality will be at the heart of Canada's international assistance;
  2. Clean economic growth and climate change;
  3. Governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights;
  4. Peace and security;
  5. Responding to humanitarian crises and the needs of displaced populations;
  6. Delivering results by promoting innovation and improving effectiveness, transparency and partnerships.

What are USC Canada's Recommendations ?

As a Canadian organization that has spent 70 years working in international development and about 30 years with farmers around the world, we want Canada make food security and agriculture a top priority and invest in small-scale farmers, ecological agriculture, and human rights. We've just released a policy brief identifying the main ways that Canada's international assistance review can accomplish this. Here's a quick synthesis below. Feel free to cherry pick from our recommendations when you make your own.

Food Security: A top Priority for Canada

Canada has been a world leader in providing food security funding since our commitment at L'Aquila in 2009, but this funding has since declined significantly. We believe that aid to agriculture, through those working with smallholder farmers, is a highly effective and a strategic investment in long term development. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in agriculture has been shown, in fact, to be at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating in other sectors. However, 'Food Security' is not currently a stated pillar in Canada's top international assistance review priorities, but rather a component of the Clean, Inclusive Economic Growth pillar. Food Security encompasses a wide range of issues and sectors, and we join many of our civil society colleagues, and the international donor community, to ask that Food Security be a strong component of Canada's international assistance review and policies, with its own distinct section. Food security should be enhanced through the following orientations:

1. Invest in Smallholder Farmers: They Feed the World

There is a huge paradox facing smallholder farmers and food producers. They are the ones who feed the world, maintain crop and livestock diversity, and are at the forefront of the fight against climate change – yet, they are also the ones that most often go hungry. Smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world's food, using less than 30% of global resources. Canada's programming on food security must speak to them. Smallholder farmers – the majority of them women – are central actors in the food system.4 The world's farmers, fishers, pastoralists, livestock keepers, indigenous peoples and their ability to provide food for the world affect us all. Supporting them in their daily lives and efforts is a valuable investment in tackling hunger, climate change, health, and inclusive, sustainable economic growth, among other things. It is a highly effective strategy to address poverty reduction and clean economic growth. Aid to agriculture, through those working with small-scale farmers, can have ripple effects far beyond the farmers themselves – whole communities can flourish.

2. Invest in Ecological Agriculture

Investing in agroecology, agriculture that works with nature and respects the environment, is investing in food security, nutrition, and climate change resilience.

Smallholder farmers are the central to the food system. The farmers we partner with work the land in ways that build the health of the ecosystem around them: rotating crops, using compost and natural pest deterrents, planting diversely, etc. Like a healthy body can better fend off a flu, a healthy farming community cared for by farmers can better weather and bounce back from shocks like hurricanes, drought and floods.

As an added bonus, these sustainable practices are innovative, effective, and cheap. They actually help farmers, who are on the front lines of climate change, adapt to the changing climate. They are also key to climate change mitigation, since they don't rely on synthetic sprays and fertilizers (petrochemicals), and because healthy soils and plants draw greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – they are carbon "sinks."

3. Build Climate Resilience through Ecological Agriculture

USC Canada highly values resilience thinking, as a systems approach that involves strengthening the capacity of a community and system to adapt and respond to adversity and shocks. It involves many dimensions: human, societal, cultural, environmental and economic. In USC Canada's experience, climate resilience is strengthened through an agroecological farming systems approach, featuring diversification and integrated farming practices – including use of multiple crops and crop varieties, mixed cropping, crop rotation, companion planting and agro-forest polycultures, etc. – providing better defences against climate disturbances such as hurricanes, drought, and floods.

USC Canada believes that true 'climate smart' strategies are really more related to agroecology and climate resilience strategies. These agroeocological approaches and programs already exist the world over, are low cost, based on local knowledge and practices, high impact, inclusive and far more adaptive in terms of how they can be applied. Agroecology, a diverse body of agroecosystems knowledge and practice, has taken strong root in civil society, farmer movements, multilateral institutions and donor agencies. The FAO sponsored agroecology conferences of 2014/15 emphatically recognized the importance and urgency of this approach. GAC already has numerous trusted partners applying these solutions on the ground, with strong results. The strategy of 'multiple wins' right across the SDGs is truly achievable through agroecology.

4. Ensure Human Rights

We have witnessed how unregulated investment and speculation on land and food commodities create market and price volatility, food insecurity and conflict in communities around the world.

As a strong champion of human rights, Canada must work with the international community to ensure that trade and investment agreements, policies and practices uphold the Right to Food for all. Countries must be allowed to take national measures (such as domestic supports and protection measures, reserves and stockholding) to protect the human rights and food security needs of their most vulnerable populations. Equally important are protecting farmers' rights, as spelled out under the FAO International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), allowing small-scale farmers the right to save, exchange and reuse their seeds.

LAST CHANCE: Get engaged- Make sure your voice is heard!

Now that the public consultation process is coming to an end, we need you to voice your support for Canada to implement a vision and strategy for international assistance that grows resilience.

We invite you to participate in the review. Here's what you can do:

1) Learn more about the review

BEFORE July 31, 2016:
2) Submit your feedback using the consultation form

  • Check out 10 key recommendations that CCIC suggests and read USC Canada's brief.
  • You can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Let us know what you send in and post it on social media!

AFTER July 31, 2016:
3) Organize a meeting with your MP to make sure your voice gets heard on the Hill

  • Check out this practical toolkit that CCIC just released and that USC Canada contributed to, which includes tips on organizing a meeting and engaging with your MP on this issue.
Read 4132 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 19:04

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LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

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