Find out more. Do more. Stay connected.

About us What we do Working Groups Media RESSOURCES Members
CCIC Publications


CIDA's Canada Making a difference in the World:
A Policy Statement on Strengthening Aid Effectiveness

CCIC’s Summary Highlights and Implications

September 2002

At the end of September, CIDA made public its final policy statement on strengthening aid effectiveness (SAE). Now approved by Cabinet, Canada Making a Difference in the World is the culmination of two years of internal CIDA reflection and intense consultations with external development actors in Canada and abroad. While CIDA President, Len Good, did update CCIC members in April at the CCIC/CIDA Consultations on some issues, the release of the statement comes more than a year after the consultations of a draft SAE document. On the other hand, many of the policy directions summarized below are already being implemented, particularly in the bilateral program branches.

Canada Making a Difference in the World does underline some positive directions such as further untying of aid and principles of partnership in development cooperation. But overall, the document has not addressed major preoccupations of CCIC and its members raised in consultations. Indeed, it reverses some progress in the June 2001 draft statement for consultation and returns to some earlier formulations focusing almost exclusively on government in Canadian aid relationships with selected core countries.


  1. Two outstanding issues from the consultations are highlighted at the outset:
  • "CIDA’s approach to strengthening aid effectiveness must address the role of civil society in Canada’s aid program and in development more generally" (3)
  • "a stronger public engagement program on development issues… [is] essential to buttress CIDA’s program to improve aid effectiveness and build support among Canadians for renewed funding for development cooperation" (3)

These issues were raised with CIDA over a two-year period of discussion and consultation in the evolution of this policy statement. While stated in the introduction, the subsequent content of the policy statement of future directions has virtually no discussion of the important roles of civil society in development cooperation, nor for the effective implementation of new programming approaches for poverty reduction. Even more worrying, the policy statement explicitly returns to an exclusive focus on government-to-government programming relationships, as the primary means for realizing CIDA’s contributions to poverty reduction. This focus was substantially criticized in early consultations as incomplete and new sections on roles for civil society and the responsive programming mechanism were added to later draft versions. These are no longer present in Canada Making a Difference in the World.

On public engagement, the statement confirms that CIDA is working on a new public engagement strategy to replace the current program, which expires at the end of this year, but gives no sense of institutional directions or priorities for this strategy. CIDA needs to treat the importance of strategic long-term commitments and effective approaches for Canadian public engagement in international cooperation with the same priority as it seems to have given to reforming its development cooperation overseas. Where is the leadership at the senior level in the agency on this critical long-standing gap in effective policies for global citizenship?

  1. The scope of the responsive programming mechanism has been limited, particularly for core programming countries, which are likely to receive the bulk of new bilateral program resources from increased ODA:

"CIDA will develop an approach which will prioritize responsive programming that is supportive of nationally owned poverty reduction strategies. Continued discussions with partners on how best to achieve this will be necessary." (3)

The statement goes on to point out that the directions set out apply mainly to bilateral programs and that "work is ongoing to apply the principles and directions set out in this document to CIDA’s programming delivered through its Canadian Partnership and Multilateral Program Branches" (3).

  1. Despite acknowledging that "there is no single path to development" (2), Canada Making a Difference in the World enthusiastically adopts the international donor consensus. This consensus accepts uncritically not only the DAC goals and principles for development cooperation, but also the policies and approaches of developed countries in the Doha "Development Round", and the so-called "development compact" set out in the "Monterrey Consensus".

There is no acknowledgement of strongly dissenting civil society and southern government views on the efficacy of these policies to contribute to poverty-reducing paths to development. New approaches arising from the donor consensus remain linked to conditionalities and pressure for trade and investment liberalization as well as to strict accountability regimes to donor-prescribed policies of privatization, good governance etc.

The World Bank’s comprehensive development model and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) are the central defining framework for situating all CIDA bilateral programming (and responsive programming in core countries) within locally owned priorities. While the statement offers the qualification, "where CIDA is satisfied that this process involves a legitimate participatory approach" (8), there is no acknowledgement of the strong critique of this so-called "participatory approach" in the development of PRSPs to date.

The Millennium Development Goals are highlighted as key benchmarks for donors, including CIDA, as well as developing countries, to measure progress on overcoming poverty. But there is no acknowledgement of recent concerns about the lack of global leadership for reforming north/south financial and governance relationships, accompanied by the necessary resources, to achieve the Goals.

  1. Canada Making a Difference in the World emphasizes the importance for Canada to focus its aid on fewer countries and in programmatic approaches (9-12). It retains a strong critique of the project approach. It asserts that "over time" CIDA will reorient its programming in the poorest countries to increased coordination with other donors in support of sector-wide strategies (SWAps) and other forms of program and budgetary support, in partnership with governments and other appropriate partners, particularly in Africa (5-7).
  • aid to middle income countries involves specific high level technical assistance, not large amounts of resource transfers;
  • aid to low income countries in crisis, "will be limited to emergency humanitarian assistance, peace-building or projects delivered through NGOs; and
  • aid to remaining low income countries will focus on those committed to reform, increased transparency and democracy, with substantial resources, where the main interlocutor for CIDA will be government. (10)
  • CIDA will select a limited number of the poorest countries for enhanced partnership relationships in a small number of sectors, using new resources made available by increased aid budgets (although the statement gives no timeline for when these countries will be chosen). It is stated that the criteria will be improved governance, ending corruption, and locally-owned poverty strategies. (11-12)


Later in the document, the statement points out that aid to middle income countries is restricted by foreign policy considerations and more work is needed: "adjustments in CIDA’s approaches in such countries will await the completion of the foreign policy update now under way [emphasis added] (32).

The rationale for focusing continues to be the desire to have "a certain critical mass of program funds as a precondition for effective participation in … sector-wide effort[s] (10)". Nevertheless, the scale of resources that Canada could potentially bring to the table could never match those of the largest donors – such as DFID or the World Bank – or challenge the latter in determining the conditions of particular SWAps. There is no consideration of other less resource-intense means for CIDA and its development partners to influence country sector strategies for health or basic education, including through niche relationships with civil society actors in these countries.

  1. Canada Making a Difference in the World reconfirms the social development priorities and clarifies that the Prime Minister’s promise at the G8 meeting to double support to basic education in Africa to $100 million by 2005 is in addition to CIDA’s global social development target for basic education set in 2000. The statement also suggests that "a balanced approach to sustainable poverty reduction…also requires measures to stimulate economic growth" (15). Here CIDA will put renewed emphasis on rural development and agriculture and is working on a policy framework to guide programming in this area. The focus is likely to be on improved scientific approaches to agriculture (already in the G8 announcements) and enhanced trade: "there is overwhelming evidence that economic growth will not take place in the absence of expanded trade" (18). Public consultations on the agriculture policy framework may be organized for mid-October.
  2. Canada Making a Difference in the World retains the early emphasis on policy coherence from the draft SAE documents: "In an environment in which investment and trade flows to developing countries increasingly dwarf flows of development assistance, the need to ensure that major policies which affect these areas work in tandem has never been greater (17)." CIDA is increasing its policy capacities in trade and the environment. However, there is no evidence that CIDA is taking any initiative beyond the established agenda of trade-related technical assistance for developing countries and improved market access for the least developed countries. The statement notes that "Canada is reporting on its efforts [for policy coherence in six areas defined by the OECD] in its Memorandum to the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD" and is the first donor to do so. (18)
  3. Canada Making a Difference in the World reviews the arguments for and against further untying Canadian aid. The statement concludes by abandoning the long-standing policy from 1987 of untying a percentage of procurement for LDCs and for other developing countries. The agency will adopt the OECD DAC definition of untied aid "based on the ability of other countries to compete for projects financed by donor countries" (21). The DAC agreement on untying aid to the least developed countries, which Canada will implement, excludes food aid and most technical assistance. CIDA will seek amendments to contracting regulations to permit entities in LDCs and Sub-Saharan Africa to be eligible to bid on CIDA contracts, subject to approval of the Minister. Also subject to approval of the Minister, CIDA may open some contracts not covered by the DAC Agreement on LDCs to international competitive bidding. However there will be no changes to tied aid policies for food aid for the program in Canadian Partnership Branch. Moreover, CIDA will report to Parliament each year in its Performance Review its own calculations of tied and untied Canadian aid.

These policy changes may result in greater untying of Canadian aid, although with a great deal of uncertainty as to the extent of untying beyond LDCs, since it is now "at the discretion of the Minister". But the policy also situates aid untying in a welcomed emphasis on increased opportunities for competitive access on the part of LDC and African entities to implementing development programming in their country.

  1. Canada Making a Difference in the World has added a separate section on "increased focus on Africa", which largely reproduces Canada’s approach to NEPAD. Interestingly it points to four countries with sound policies – Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Botswana. Are we to expect that these countries will receive increased Canadian aid resources? The statement asserts that "the developed world now recognizes that it must go beyond … aid flows to address the continent’s critical needs for increased trade and investment flows" (24). The Canada Fund for Africa will be managed by CIDA, separate from the regular programming for Africa, and focusing on "a small number of large-scale, visible programs, and will include a mix of G8, African and Canadian initiatives".

The statement also more clearly establishes that "Canada will allocate $6 billion in new and existing resources over five years to Africa’s development, including the $500 million Canada Fund for Africa" [emphasis added] (27). When one takes into account "existing resources", including potential debt relief for Cameroon and Ivory Coast, this commitment is no different than the promise to add one half of new resources created by the 8% growth in Canadian aid over these years.

  1. The final section looks at several initiatives for change in CIDA as an institution, including its recent emphasis on transforming itself into a knowledge-based organization. This section also sets out a consolidation of CIDA’s "current 34 business processes" into three comprehensive categories: directive, responsive and core/institutional, with a definition of each (29). But it is unclear how these might affect current partnership relationships with CIDA. CIDA will also be looking to enhance its field presence in countries selected for enhanced partnerships, with greater reliance on its Program Support Units and the engagement of local consultants.

Finally, the section states that CIDA will adopt a new way of doing performance assessments: "evaluations and audits will now be conducted at the program and country levels with the priority on assessing institutions and countries receiving the largest investments from CIDA" (31). Returning to the theme of Canadian public engagement, it might be appropriate then to consider CIDA’s investments in its Canadian programming as a whole as it looks at its impact and the need for new strategies for encouraging Canadian global citizenship.

Brian Tomlinson
CCIC Policy Team
September 24, 2002


  • Employment
  • 10-point agenda
  • Istanbul Principles
  • Code of Ethics
  • Become a Member
  • Who's who
  • CCIC Publications
  • Employment