Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

Speaking Notes for the Honourable Beverley Oda, Minister of International Cooperation to the Munk School of Global Affairs


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Toronto, Ontario
June 16, 2010

 The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, delivers the keynote address at the start of the Munk School of Global Affairs conference.© MAECI/Salvatore Sacco
The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, delivers the keynote address at the start of the Munk School of Global Affairs conference.
Thank you for the kind introduction and for this opportunity to join you once again at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Next week, when Canada welcomes the leaders of the G-20 and the G-8, it will be the first time one country has hosted both summits.

2010 is a critical year on many development fronts.

First, 10 years have passed since the UN adopted eight Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.

To date, we've seen progress made on many, uneven progress on some, and slow progress on a few.

With only five years remaining, at the MDG Summit this September, we will be taking stock and assessing how to meet these goals by 2015.

Second, critical factors continue to influence world development—recovery from the global economic crisis, increasing political turmoil in many developing countries, the rising incidence of insurgency, and the impacts of climate change.

Third, the impacts of the food crisis persist today with high food and fuel costs, compounded by the economic recession.

In the midst of these and other issues, we see questioning regarding the role of the G-8 and the G-20 among development players.

The G-20 is now a permanent forum, primarily dealing with global economic stability.

Do we need both? Will the G-8 be subsumed by the G-20?

What relevance will the G-8 have if the financial and resource needs for development are taken up exclusively by the G-20?

Prime Minister Harper said that: "… the G-8 remains the principal forum for advancing our common agenda of peace and security, as well as democracy and development. This is critical work. Indeed, progress made on economic issues at the G-20 table risks being undone if the world's pressing security and development concerns are not addressed with equal vigor."

I believe that, this year, Canada will demonstrate how the two fora, with separate and distinct agendas, can play mutually reinforcing roles in 'Governing Global Development', the theme of your conference.

This evening, I will limit myself to the G-8 Summit.

Last year, in outlining Canada's Aid Effectiveness Strategy, I said that there were two tragedies afflicting the world's poor. The first, extreme poverty itself.

The other was that despite decades and trillions of dollars invested, too many still do not have the most basic necessities of life.

As time passes, poverty continues to grow, and on top of this, in developing countries, the majority populations are becoming younger—24 years of age or younger—and the majority of them will be women and girls.

I do not believe that the answer to meeting these many challenges lies only in more money, although there will always be a need for aid dollars.

What we need are more results and better results.

As the OECD stated this year in its Development Co-operation Report, on the road ahead, development as usual is no longer an option.

We must be more strategic, focused, and look to non-traditional approaches.

This is particularly true today when taxpayers are demanding value for aid dollar.

We need to get more health for our dollar, more education, more food, and stronger economic growth delivered in developing countries, in their neighborhoods, and in their communities.

Last year, I argued for greater focus on priorities and effectiveness, and more accountability in how we spend aid dollars.

This is a message I underscored at my meeting of Development Ministers in Halifax, and it is one that, I know, Prime Minister Harper will emphasize in Huntsville and in Toronto later this month.

In Halifax, we had wide-ranging discussions on several topics, including the MDG Summit, Haiti, and Afghanistan.

Most relevant to you this evening, however, would be the "Accountability and Effectiveness" opening session and how it framed our subsequent discussions on "Food Security" and "Maternal and Child Health."

We reconfirmed that effective development means:
  • first, making meaningful commitments and fulfilling them;
  • second, being accountable for and transparent about the utilization of public funds; and
  • third, recognizing that coordinated, cohesive, and harmonized approaches can have greater impact and result in more sustainable outcomes.
Fulfilling commitments

In the Accountability Report on Development, it is reported that, since 1975, G7 and G-8 leaders have made 406 development commitments.

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of commitments has more than doubled the number made over the previous 25 years.

The G-8 Research Group has been assessing compliance on a number of G-8 priority commitments, as has the OECD DAC.

The most recent contribution is the G-8 Accountability Working Group's report, which will be delivered and considered by leaders at the Muskoka Summit. This report is a key priority for Prime Minister Harper.

These reports are important because donor countries should be held to account for commitments they have made.

Fulfilling commitments reflects the political will behind the commitment.

Too often, donor countries make headlines by promising big—but there are no headlines when they fail to deliver or when you do what you said you would do.

Canada's approach has been to promise what we know we can deliver.

As the OECD reports, Canada's commitments may be modest compared to some others, but Canada fulfills its commitments.

In 2008, Canada met its commitment to double our aid to Africa to $2.1 billion, a year ahead of the deadline, and we continued to maintain that level of support in 2009.

This year, we will meet our commitment to double our international assistance to $5 billion, the highest level ever.

Similarly, Canada is on track to meet its commitments to the Africa Health Systems Initiative and to double our bilateral funding to basic education in Africa, and we surpassed our food aid commitment last year.

Fulfilling commitments also means paying what you pledged, in a timely way.

It is one thing to say supporting a recipient country's policies and plans to achieve sustainability and local ownership is good development practice, and another not to fulfill one's commitment in a timely fashion.

More predictability on when and whether the donor countries will meet their commitments is necessary for budget purposes and is the root of accountability to our partner countries.


Accountability is important as well for our NGO partners and organizations.

Just as donor governments are accountable to the taxpayer, our NGO partners and organizations have a corresponding responsibility to be accountable.

Organizations that receive public funds should be accountable to Canadians for the funds they receive and for the results that those funds are delivering.

It is equally important for recipient countries to account to their own populations on how they are using international support.

Accountability to the Canadian taxpayer, also, means getting value for public funds going toward development.

That is why, in 2008, our government untied all of its food aid and committed to untie all of its aid by 2012-2013.

Untied aid means supplies and services can be purchased more locally, reducing high transportation costs, as well as promoting the development of regional and local markets.

The OECD estimates that untied aid can increase the cost efficiency of food aid by 35 percent and other non-food aid by up to 30 percent.

It means a bigger bang for our aid dollars—more food, more medicines, more textbooks, more seeds, and fertilizers.

Untying our aid is a commitment we made, and it is a commitment we are keeping.

Accountability, however, should not be measured by inputs alone—dollars being the most profiled—but by outcomes, sustainable outcomes.

This calls for credible evaluations and monitoring.

Internationally, the eight Millennium Development Goals were big picture, ambitious goals, such as "to achieve universal primary education," or "to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent."

To reach these goals in a meaningful way and track our progress, further work is required to ensure that we have the right measureable indicators.

To better track our spending and assess effectiveness, we must align development spending more closely to specific indicators or MDG goals.

Spending allocations and the way we report our spending should not limit the achievement of good development results.

Moreover, we must be wary not to let our need to claim and identify our contributions thwart effective approaches that call for improved cohesion and harmonization.

We must extend our aspirations and look to outcomes, not just outputs.

Will universal primary education enrolment, MDG 2, result in the desired outcome—a literate population—when measured by a rate of enrolment indicator?

I can attest, as a former teacher and member of Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office board, not necessarily.

That is why our government has been striving for real, sustainable outcomes that have high impact and will make a real difference in the lives of those we intend to help.

Finally, accountability means transparency and reporting to the public.

Our government has been taking steps to expand CIDA's transparency and has been reporting with improvements on CIDA's website and the publication of a Development for Results Report,in addition to meeting the reporting requirements in the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act.

As you can see, I believe that accountability, in all of its facets, is a primary key to the governing of global development.

In Halifax, recognizing we needed to do more work to improve accountability, we asked the OECD to report on the progress and challenges related to the predictability of aid and to prioritize its work on development outcomes.

As I said earlier, accountable and effective development considerations underpinned the food security and maternal and child health discussions in Halifax.

Food security

As you know, the major commitment of the 2009 G-8 Summit was a focus on food security.

I am pleased to report that Canada committed to double its support for food security with new dollars, bringing it to $1.2 billion, with a significant portion going to Africa.

We were the first country to outline its implementation plans on this G-8 commitment.

To improve our work as G-8 countries, in Halifax all other G-8 countries agreed to accelerate the implementation of their G-8 L'Aquila commitment and continue reporting on their efforts, particularly at the country level.

We also identified the need to agree on a framework for assessing food security results.

To support our work on nutrition, we asked the UN High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security to identify a set of common nutrition indicators and an operational guideline.

Maternal and child health

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister reminded us of the stark realities behind MDG 4 and MDG 5—the high rate of maternal mortality in childbirth and of mortality in children under five.

The numbers represent both personal tragedies and the tragedies of lost possibilities.

Although some progress has been reported related to MDG 4 and MDG 5, we cannot be sure of the real magnitude of these tragedies nor of the real progress made because the data is not reliable and the reports are based only on estimations.

This much is clear however.

We know what to do; we have the necessary tools, and most of these deaths are preventable using proven, effective, cost-efficient means.

Of all the MDG goals established with such optimism 10 years ago, we are perhaps furthest away from our objectives to reducing maternal and child mortality.

Child mortality has decreased, but the progress is uneven and remains high among newborns and children under two.

Similarly, progress in reducing maternal mortality has seen some progress; but it too is uneven and remains highest for those in sub-Saharan Africa and for mothers in remote and rural regions in developing countries.

Despite knowing what can be done and having the needed tools, reducing maternal mortality is the MDG that is lagging the furthest behind and that has seen the least support.

In the face of the challenges and the distance to cover, under the Prime Minister's leadership, maternal and child health will be at the international forefront at Canada's Summit.

The G-8 meeting in Huntsville will provide a necessary shot of adrenalin to the richest, most advanced nations to do more to save the lives of mothers and children.

My G-8 colleagues and I agreed to recommend to our leaders that there is no need for new mechanisms, fund foundations, or structures, considering the multiplicity that currently exist.

We agreed, however, to work more effectively, according to a set of principles that would achieve long-lasting results.

The principles focused on the long-term sustainability of results, using proven, high-impact, cost-effective, evidence-based interventions, and the need for fuller accountability.

We agreed that accelerating progress requires comprehensive, high-impact and integrated interventions in-country and at the local level through increased coherence, coordination, and harmonization of our efforts.

It would need to cover the full continuum of care: from pre-pregnancy, through delivery, to the child's age of five.

To be effective, we agreed that strengthened health systems that provide integrated services with trained health workers in properly equipped and resourced facilities were the foundations that countries needed.

The importance of working within country health plans and increasing access to full primary care services at the local level, particularly in the remote and rural areas, will be critical.

This means bringing vertical, single-issue, or disease campaigns into our overall approach for the local delivery of integrated comprehensive prevention and care.

G-8 ministers agreed to a list of possible interventions that could be included in their individual response to Canada's call to save the lives of mothers and children.

We also recognized other factors that contribute to improved health, such as water and sanitation, equality between women and men, and nutrition.

I can report that we spent some time considering how to increase the effectiveness and accountability of our 2010 G-8 maternal and child health initiative.

To that end, we requested a number of expert multilateral institutions to:
  • develop appropriate indicators and effective and affordable baskets of integrated interventions, adaptable to a country's needs;
  • develop the tools needed for the training and supply of health workers and the strengthening of health information systems using new technologies to track pregnancies, births and deaths; and
  • importantly, improve the tracking of investments related to maternal health and that of children under five.
These steps will go a long way in meeting the health needs of mothers and children, but whatever the investment, the intervention, or the program, the real measure of success is the outcome—healthy mothers, healthy children.

As G-8 leaders, we must now couple investments with improved effectiveness, governance, and accountability.

The G-8 countries have the financial resources.

They also have the courage of leadership.

After nearly half a century, after trillions of dollars invested in development, results fall short of our true objective—a world free of poverty, disease, and oppression.

As the Chair of the OECD DAC has said, "The world has changed profoundly, but our development goals remain the same."

In 2010, we stand on the threshold of a new era in development.

And Canada is proud to lead the way.

Thank you.