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Ending Poverty Should be Sole Focus Of Canada’s Aid Program Say Leading Development Agencies and Prominent Canadians

News Release

Embargo: March 11, 1999

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, more than 30 prominent Canadians from the cultural, domestic, labour, business, environmental and international sectors joined the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), representing 100 voluntary agencies, in calling on the government to renew its commitment to end global poverty.

The letter states that "We are proud of Canada’s worldwide reputation for upholding justice and humanitarianism…But this reputation for strong leadership is in jeopardy." Recent trends in Canadian foreign aid are cause for concern. Although many of the poorest countries in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa, aid to those countries fell by 30% between 1992 and 1996. In fact, Canada’s aid to the 48 least-developed countries declined by a third in the same period. On the other hand, in South America there has been a marked increase in spending in sectors of commercial interest to Canada. Canadians, however, have clearly and consistently stated that they want their aid dollars directed towards poverty eradication.

"The Prime Minister and Cabinet must clarify CIDA’s mandate," says Betty Plewes, President and CEO of CCIC. "Currently, disparate interests diffuse Canadian aid and undermine its effectiveness. The foreign aid program must be guided by an unequivocal focus on the elimination of poverty."

"Canadians are clear about the values that should underlie our action around the world. We care about helping those most in need. We care about helping to break the cycle of poverty. We care about Canada being a respected leader,"says Plewes. "We are simply asking for a foreign aid program that measures up to that."

CCIC calls on the Prime Minister to assemble a Taskforce, of Canadians and Southerners, that would examine ways to enhance and accelerate the implementation of poverty-focused foreign aid programming. This Taskforce would submit a report for the early this fall so that we can start the year 2000 with a re-tooled aid program that could more effectively contribute to addressing the challenges of building long-term human security into the 21st century.

"We are confident that we can clarify the objectives of our foreign aid program and make a greater contribution to the elimination of poverty. When there has been political will, the proposals and programs we initiated have been recognized internationally. The landmines treaty, our work in the area of gender and development and our leadership in support of an international criminal court testify to this," says Plewes.

The signatories to the "Call to End Global Poverty" are:

Warren Allmand, Jann Arden, Margaret Atwood, Keith Bezanson, Paul Brandt, Ed Broadbent, Tim Brodhead, Iona Campagnolo, Roger Clark, Bruce Cockburn, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Roy Culpeper, Françoise David, Marion Dewar, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, John Evans, Fen Hampson, Al Hatton, Fabien Leboeuf, Flora MacDonald, Elizabeth May, The Most Reverend Michael Peers, The Right Reverend Bill Phipps, Betty Plewes, Cranford Pratt, Janice Stein, Maurice Strong, Mary Walsh, Bob White, Nettie Wiebe, and Art Wright.

For more information contact:

Katia Gianneschi
Media Relations
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
(613) 241-7007 ext. 311


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