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As More Than 3 Billion People Live on Less Than $2 a Day Ending Poverty Must Be Priority as we Enter 21st Century


Embargo: Dec. 7, 1999

As the millennium draws closer, the gap between those who will prosper in the 21st century and those who will not be able to meet their most basic needs for survival grows ever wider. The poorest of the poor continue to be ignored and the youngest and most vulnerable continue to suffer. More than four million children born in the year 2000 will die before they turn five. A new report released today, The Reality of Aid, concludes that "the fact that more than a billion people are living or dying in poverty is not a tragic twist of fate, but a deliberate turning of heads."

A look at Africa can put the overwhelming magnitude of the numbers of people living in poverty in focus. The African continent is entering the new millennium with nearly half (44%) of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa still living in poverty. During a recent trip to Africa, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien committed to increase funding to foreign aid. This has come none too soon as Canada’s contributions to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) has reached a 30-year low. We now stand in 11th position among the 21 OECD donors, down from 7th in 1996 and well below our long-standing commitment to devote 0.7% of GNP to ODA (without further retroactive increases in the February 2000 Federal Budget, Canadian ODA is expected to fall to 0.27% of GNP).

Betty Plewes, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), a coalition of 100 of Canada’s leading development organizations, says that "now that we have a commitment to increase the aid budget, we should take a serious look at Canadian foreign policy as a whole to ensure that aid is targeting the poor." CCIC is calling for the creation of a Canadian Aid Renewal Taskforce to undertake a systematic review of CIDA’s program priorities and their impact on CIDA’s poverty focus.

On December 7, 1999 CCIC will be holding a Roundtable discussion on the future of Canadian aid. This policy roundtable will bring together key thinkers from a variety of sectors: parliamentarians, senior CIDA officials, academics and the NGO community. The official launch of The Reality of Aid will take place in Ottawa at the Chateau Laurier Hotel, the Laurier Room from 1:30 to 2:00. The Roundtable starts at 12:45 with a speech from Maria Minna, Minister for International Cooperation.

Canada’s aid program lacks an overarching strategic framework to implement its commitments to reduce poverty globally. The challenge is to integrate the goals of the aid program with other government initiatives in trade, finance and environmental policy. These policies must work coherently to end global poverty. "We are confident that we can clarify the objectives of our foreign aid program and make a greater contribution to the elimination of poverty and this Roundtable discussion and the creation of a Taskforce are steps in that direction," say Plewes.

Basic education is a special theme in this year’s Reality of Aid. Widespread access to quality education is necessary before the full poverty-reducing impact of other social services, such as improved health care can be unlocked. But 40% of children in developing countries grow up without completing four years of primary school, the minimum needed to have a chance of acquiring basic literacy and numeracy. In many of the world’s poorest countries, both coverage and quality of basic education have deteriorated badly in the past quarter-century, and gains made over the 1960s and 1970s have been wiped out.

The Reality of Aid concludes that the world is not only entering the year 2000 with the majority of its population struggling on less than $2 a day. It is also entering the new century prepared to accept that almost a billion will remain in poverty in 15 to 20 years’ time. If the globalization of finance, labour markets, communication and commerce is inevitable, the globalization of rights and responsibilities should be imperative in international development policy.


The Reality of Aid is an independent annual review of OECD development assistance. The project involves 30 non-governmental organizations throughout the world. The Canadian Chapter of Reality of Aid was written by Brian Tomlinson, Policy Co-ordinator at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. Brian Tomlinson and CCIC President and CEO, Betty Plewes are available for interviews and will be expanding on their findings at the Roundtable, December 7 from 1:30 to 2:00.

For More Information Contact:

Katia Gianneschi
Media Relations
(613) 241-7007 ext. 311


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