Hon. Bev Oda (Minister of International Cooperation):
Thank you very much.
I am very pleased to be here today.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss supplementary estimates (B) related to the Canadian International Development Agency.
I'm joined by Margaret Biggs, CIDA's president and accounting officer, and Sue Stimpson, chief financial officer, as well as David Moloney, our executive vice-president.
Over the past three years, since our government first introduced its aid effectiveness agenda, we have accomplished a great deal to make Canada's international assistance more focused, efficient, and accountable. First, we untied Canada's food aid in 2008 and are on track to untie all of our aid by 2012-13. This means that our aid dollars can go further, buying needed food and supplies closer to the people in need and supporting more local and regional economies, reducing high transportation costs.
Secondly, CIDA has strengthened its focus both geographically and thematically so that its resources and efforts have the critical mass needed to achieve the greatest impact, making a real difference for those living in poverty.
I outlined also how CIDA will focus its work on three thematic areas, starting with food security. We will follow three paths: food aid and nutrition, sustainable agricultural development, and research and development.
Under our second thematic focus, children and youth, the three paths we will follow are: child survival, including maternal health; access to quality education; and safe and secure futures for children and youth.
Mostly recently, I outlined CIDA's sustainable economic growth strategy and its three paths: building economic foundations, growing businesses, and investing in people.
We have completed a full review of CIDA's country strategies, aligning them with the national poverty reduction plans of our partner countries and with CIDA's focused priorities. At every step taken, we have maintained our government's commitment to accountability. This means taking our international commitments very seriously and fulfilling those commitments.
Budget 2010 ensured that Canada would double assistance by March 2011, increasing the international assistance envelope by 8% and bringing the annual aid budget to its highest level ever—to $5 billion. We doubled Canada's aid to Africa in 2008, one year ahead of the commitment deadline, and have maintained that level of commitment since.
Our government has also made significant new international commitments. To address the food crisis in 2008 at the G-8 L'Aquila summit, we committed to double our support to food security, with 50% going to Africa.
CIDA is responsible for managing $93.5 million of Canada's fast-start climate change funding in 2010. We are helping vulnerable, small, developing countries meet the challenge of climate change with contributions to the least developed countries fund, the Haiti world food program, for Vietnam, for Ethiopia's climate change projects, the World Bank's forest carbon partnership, and the Global Environment Facility trust fund.
At this year's G-8 summit in Muskoka, Prime Minister Harper announced $1.1 billion in new incremental funding over the next five years to improve maternal, newborn, and child health. Of this, 80% will be directed to sub-Saharan Africa, specifically to Mozambique, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, south Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, because this region faces the greatest challenges in reducing maternal and child mortality.
Canada's efforts will focus on strengthening health systems by increasing access to local health centres that are adequately equipped with trained health workers, improving the nutritional well-being of mothers and children, and reducing the burden of diseases that are the major causes of maternal and child mortality. Canada will also address identified urgent gaps in maternal, newborn, and child health care in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Bangladesh.
Canada fulfilled its G-20 commitments to replenish the African development fund, as announced by Prime Minister Harper in Seoul in November. Our government remains committed to Africa.
As I said, Canada doubled its aid to Africa to $2.1 billion a year. In fact, last year 45% of CIDA's total aid budget went to Africa. Africa received 62% of our total food aid, 55% of all of our agricultural support, and 51% of our multilateral aid. This year we witnessed the devastating effects of major natural disasters that have overwhelmed their governments and have targeted countries least equipped to reduce their impact, the largest being in Haiti and Pakistan.
Haiti has been the poorest country in the Americas, so in 2009 the international community assisted the Haitian government to develop a national poverty reduction plan. Then this past January it was struck by a devastating earthquake that virtually destroyed its capital; thousands died and thousands more were made homeless, and Haitians faced even greater hardship.
In response to the Haiti earthquake, CIDA promptly allocated $150 million in humanitarian assistance, and at the international donors conference on Haiti in New York last March, Canada committed $400 million over two years to support reconstruction efforts, in addition to CIDA's ongoing five-year commitment of $555 million in development.
Due to the extraordinary needs in Haiti, CIDA is seeking $40 million in supplementary appropriations. This summer, when devastating floods affected more than 20 million Pakistanis and damaged more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land, one of the largest humanitarian emergencies ever faced by the international community, Canadians responded once again with great generosity, donating $46.8 million to the Pakistan flood relief fund.
To date, our government has announced $52 million in support of needed humanitarian assistance and early recovery initiatives. CIDA's support is helping to provide food to 7 million people each month, clean drinking water to over 4.6 million, and basic heath care to at least 716,000 victims of the flood.
In August, CIDA sought access to the government's crisis pool for $16.5 million because of the scale of this crisis, and this is also included in supplementary estimates (B). In Kandahar province, 26 schools have been constructed and another 24 are currently under construction. Another example of our work in Afghanistan is that 23,500 Kandaharis have received literacy training and 5,900 have completed vocational training.
The rehabilitation of the Dahla dam is proceeding well, with 137,500 cubic metres of silt now removed, providing 5,300 hectares of irrigated land for farmers. Over 7.2 million children have received, and continue to receive, polio vaccinations. Over 275,000 tonnes of food have been provided to 9 million Afghans in need; 3,800 Kandaharis have received microfinancing loans; and 66% of all Afghans have access to primary health services within a two-hour walk from their homes, rising from a foundation of only 9%.
Under supplementary estimates (B), we are seeking needed funds to support Canada's ongoing work in Afghanistan.
Finally, there are a number of small transfers to cover a range of operational issues.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, money from these votes will be used to maximize the impact and effectiveness of Canada's development assistance, and I would be happy to discuss any of the items listed with you in further detail.
Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo—Alberni, CPC):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We know, Minister, and we appreciate the good work that CIDA does in delivering aid on behalf of Canadians around the world to many, many nations in need, and many good programs, including governance, capacity-building, and so on around the world. I'd say to my colleagues around the table here, you know, we all realize that many good programs are oversubscribed. Many demands come in. I think of our summer student program, the student employment program, that we all have to make decisions on. I know in my riding we have to make decisions on who's going to get the funding and who isn't. There are always people disappointed because there's never quite enough money to cover all the worthy projects.
Minister, I wanted to draw attention to our work in Africa, because I think sometimes there has been an underappreciation, shall we say, of the amount of investment that Canada is actually doing in Africa. I think you touched on that briefly in your opening remarks. But I do find it unfortunate that some members want to seem to disregard the fact that we've doubled our aid to Africa.
I wanted to ask you about the program related to youth. I think around the table here we'd probably agree that youth are very key to a successful future. I'm aware that CIDA has a skills for employment program engaging youth in Africa. I want to ask you about that. It is engaging some of our Canadian community colleges. I understand you met with them recently and announced some 36 projects that will provide vocational training for African youth, to help them establish strong technical and vocational education and training systems. If I'm correct here, I understand Senegal, Mozambique, and Tanzania may be involved in those programs. I'm just wondering if you could provide for us some context of what CIDA is doing to help create employable skills for youth in Africa.
Hon. Bev Oda:
Thank you very much for your observations about the work CIDA is doing, and also the challenges we face.
As I indicated in my opening remarks, Africa is receiving a substantial amount of international support in many, many sectors.
This is one issue that is really important and that we have to address. If you look at the demographics in many African countries, you'll see that increasingly the majority of the population is under the age of 25 or 30, and this trend will grow as we go forward. So it is important that we address the challenges that youth in those countries will face.
Consequently, we are working with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, which we all know is a quality institution, having done a very fine job for our Canadian youth. We can share and export their expertise to other countries. The ACCC, the association, came forward and proposed doing some work on vocational and skills training in Africa.
If poverty is to be reduced, individuals must have access to opportunities for increasing their income. Without the skills and the literacy training, they will never achieve the opportunities to move out of poverty. Consequently, we are supporting this project by ACCC, called education for employment. There are 25 Canadian colleges and institutions who will be working with their African counterparts. The other exciting part of this project is that they're actually going to be working with institutions in this country. And we're building the capacity in those countries, so they can go on training their youth and improve the quality of the vocational training they're giving.
The range of fields is quite broad. It includes the fields of construction, marine and port activities, agriculture, tourism, mining, fisheries, and the agrifood industry. This program, as I said, is called education for employment. So there is an assessment made of what industries will need in those countries, what businesses are needing, what skills they need, and what they should be trained in, and then the program is designed accordingly.
Building the economy and giving people financial security means, as it does in Canada, more jobs, stable jobs, secure jobs. So if we can give them the tools and skills they need going forward, we believe that our Canadian colleges are probably among the best in the world as a group to do that work in Africa.
Hon. Bev Oda:
I certainly can. As you know, Canadians have been very generous in their response to the needs in Haiti. The government itself has been very generous as well. So we've made a significant commitment to that country.
Just in humanitarian relief, we've disbursed over $150 million. This is an ongoing need, as you know. We've provided, in terms of food assistance, food for 4.3 million people; emergency shelters for 370,000 families; drinking water for 1.2 million people; protective services for 63,000 children; vaccinations for one million children and youth; as well as 11,000 latrines, sanitation facilities, mosquito nets, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets.
There are stages, as you know. There's an immediate need for humanitarian aid, medicine, shelter, and so on. Then there's the stage called “early recovery”. We were in the stage, I would suggest, of starting down early recovery and we wanted to ensure that the commitments made to Haiti were going to actually flow and be done in an orderly, coherent, and logical manner. That's why Canada supported the international approach to reconstruction, which was to set up the interim Haitian reconstruction commission and to work with the international community through a World Bank trust fund.
We are doing that now with committed money, $30 million for the trust fund, to be able to have resources it needs to meet some of the requirements put out by the Haitian government. We committed to rebuilding the hospital in Gonaïves. We've committed to building a new police academy and officer training facilities. We've committed through the Red Cross for some more permanent kinds of shelters.
But Haiti, let me assure you, has had its challenges, and now, of course, it has increasing challenges with the cholera epidemic. As you can imagine, we are monitoring on close to an hourly basis, not a daily basis, the outcome of the election process.
These are all challenges that country is facing right now. They also present a responsibility for the international donor community to follow and to make sure that we can be where we are needed to do what is needed. However, reconstruction itself has challenges. We have millions of tonnes of rubble to remove. We have land titling disputes that have to be settled. We have access challenges in terms of getting materials into that country. Infrastructure is missing as far as roads for heavy equipment are concerned, and so on.
So there are many challenges, but it has to be done in a logical order and in a coordinated way with our partners and also in support of the governing body.
Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for appearing here today, Madam Minister.
I first want to commend you for the extraordinary job you did during that crisis in Haiti during the earthquake, and for the reaction of your staff and your people to get there as fast as you could. Given the circumstances of the country, it must have been an extremely trying and testing time, particularly with the unfortunate bereavement of some of your own people and the people there on the ground too, whom they must have met and known as well.
Congratulations for that. It's a tremendous effort.
Of course, you are aware that I was in Haiti in 2006 for the election and saw for myself first-hand the tremendous need of that country, even at that time. We travelled through Jacmel, and unfortunately it was badly hit by the earthquake too.
At that time, we had some ongoing funding of $555 million that had been committed. To walk into the earthquake with, in my understanding, an additional commitment of $150 million and an additional commitment of $400 million to support reconstruction.... I can just imagine some of the decisions that you have to make on where your priorities should be lying. Of course, I certainly would agree that an extremely high priority of decision-making was required to allocate that money there, and it has to come from someplace too.
Perhaps you could tell us a little of some of the difficulties of rolling out the funding there, because I think it would be interesting for everybody to hear that there are some conditions and circumstances that are beyond everybody's control. You touched a little bit on the huge amount of rubble, but there are other circumstances too.
Hon. Bev Oda:
Thank you, Mr. Goldring.
Many also know that I was very concerned with Haiti and ensuring that Canada fulfilled its task and did the best it could. As you said, immediately as the earthquake hit, not only I but the Prime Minister himself, with the ministers, responded very quickly. We have been very active, I would say, in the international efforts to respond to Haiti.
Some of the challenges, I would tell you, are very similar; you can imagine. The World Bank estimates that there are more than 10,000 non-governmental organizations right now working in Haiti. To coordinate these efforts and to ensure that things are being done in a coherent manner, we have the international reconstruction commission. That commission is chaired by the Prime Minister of Haiti as well as former President Clinton, who was the UN's representative for Haiti just prior to the earthquake.
The commission itself did an assessment with the international community of the needs in Haiti. David Moloney is our representative on that commission. They have presented a list of projects that they have approved and would like to see go forward. Just two weeks ago, CIDA put out a call so that Canadian organizations who want to respond, to actually contribute to this process, have.... We have set aside the resources for that, and the call went out. We have a deadline. We will review the proposals that come in; then those proposals that come in will have to go back to ensure that they meet the interim commission's criteria, so that then we would proceed with funding them.
I share everyone's frustrations when we see a very slow process on reconstruction. Of course, the cholera situation has made it even more difficult. We're hoping for and have asked for stability and a peaceful situation now after the election, so that our fight against cholera and our efforts to ensure that humanitarian needs continue to be met and that we can continue along the road of reconstruction will continue.
I don't know whether Mr. Moloney has something more to add.
Mr. Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent—Essex, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for appearing before us. We want you to know that on this side of the House we're very pleased with your work and the fine results.
I want to talk to you a little bit about Afghanistan, but before I do, I think there has to be some clarification. There must literally be hundreds of applications that unfortunately you have to strike off. Even the ones you may suggest be approved are going to be done away with.
Mr. Goldring and I are going to Africa in January and will be visiting some projects by Engineers Without Borders. I don't know whether or not they've made applications, but there are just so many of them. There's another organization that I've made myself available to and that I want to visit in Africa. It's an excellent organization, too, and I'm sure I will be suggesting to them that they make an application, but they may be turned down, like others are turned down.
I'm pleased, though—and maybe I'll give you a quick opportunity to just comment on this—with the direction the government is going. I believe, and I think I can speak for this side of the House as well, that Canadians want to see results. When they talk about $7 billion being given out in aid, they want to see where it's helping people. Maybe you can quickly comment on that.
The next part of my question, and then I'll let you just go right ahead, is about Afghanistan. Nobody has talked about Afghanistan. We know about the deplorable conditions there when we arrived. In this part of my questions I want to talk about the schools--and I'm sure some of my colleagues may want to carry on with this, because you have another 40 minutes.
How did you find the conditions in the schools when you first came to Afghanistan? What was the attendance by gender? What's happening today, and how have you been able to make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people, especially the children?
Ms. Biggs, I'll let you answer at your leisure.
Ms. Margaret Biggs:
Thank you very much.
I heard three separate questions. The first one was on the number of applications we receive.
Particularly in reference to our partnership programming with Canadian organizations, we fund more than 500 or 600 organizations a year, but we get applications from many more. Also, we often get applications we aren't able to fund in their entirety. I can't give you the exact ratio, but it is a fairly competitive process. We have to pick the ones that we feel are the strongest, that will deliver the strongest results.
All of them in our partnership programming are expected to show a commitment that they're also going to be able to bring resources to the initiative, and then we would match it, as I said, up to one to three. So that ends up leveraging their money, and they leverage us, and you can end up with a stronger impact. There is much more supply than we're able to fund, actually.
On the second issue, with respect to results, you're absolutely right that Canadians want and expect our international assistance dollars to deliver the strongest results possible. As with any government expenditure, they expect value for money. But also, in particular, when you're talking about trying to address poverty in developing countries, it's extra important that we do the very, very best with every dollar we have.
As to what we've been doing in that area, we really feel strongly that the more we can focus on fewer areas of concentration geographically and concentrate our efforts in some thematic areas, we're going to be able to have a stronger impact in terms of the delivery of results. I think CIDA has a very strong reputation for results management. We've done more in terms of reporting on that as well. So I think we have had a very strong effectiveness and results-oriented agenda over the last couple of years.
On the third issue, with respect to Afghanistan, you're right. There were many issues, going back to 2001-02, after many decades of conflict. There was a lot of destruction. There was underdevelopment to begin with, but also a great deal of need there.
In 2001, Afghanistan was the second-poorest country in the world. There are probably about seven million children right now, but only 700,000 of the children were actually in school. Of course, very few of them, if any—
Ms. Margaret Biggs:
With respect to untying, the government did untie all its food aid, and we're also on track to untie all of our assistance by 2012-13. We're at 93% now.
As to the significance of untying food aid, it means that the World Food Programme or the organization with whom we're working can buy food that is the cheapest or the closest or the quickest to get to or the highest quality without having to respect a particular supplier, and that can increase the value for money by 25% to 30%. That has been verified on a number of occasions. That means that for every dollar, you're getting $1.30's worth of food assistance, and that saves lives. That's the significance.
It also means, for the World Food Programme, for example, that they can source locally, which means they can.... Sometimes you can have famine and drought and food insecurity in one part of a country, but there can be—this can happen in a country like Tanzania or Ethiopia—food somewhere else. They can then procure locally, and that can help encourage production and have lots of good effects in terms of development.
Just on the World Food Programme, you're quite right, Canada is the second-largest bilateral country donor to the World Food Programme and is looked to not just for the volume but also for the fact that we are long-term suppliers. They like that; it gives some stability to their financing. Also, we then help them with some of their innovations, such as school feeding and food for purchase, which means that people can work and also get food for purchase. These help to stimulate local development, so we've also been innovative with them.
As I mentioned, food security was a priority for the G-8 in 2009. Maybe I can draw attention to some of the things we have done there in terms of food security. It signifies the kinds of things we're doing in our food security strategy.
One is on food aid. The second is on agricultural development, which we are doing, as I have indicated, in many of our own countries, but also with the international food and agriculture development organization, which really zeroes in on small landholders, who are largely women, mainly in countries in Africa, which are some of the poorest. If you can get them producing, you can not only create economic growth, but livelihoods for their families and their communities—one of the key engines for both poverty reduction and economic growth in those countries. So IFAD is particularly important, and that's one of the things we are funding. We increased our funding as a result of our L'Aquila commitment.
CIDA, with IDRC, has an international food security research fund, which we created to identify, with Canadian institutions and developing country institutions, really practical, pragmatic ways to increase productivity and innovation in food production. It's getting very good results.
I don't know whether you want me to stop there, but I could go on. As I say—