5.2 Making poverty history

The current state of planetary health and equity is not encouraging. Despite years of rhetoric and broken promises, despite real progress in development, the number of people living in absolute poverty, defined as living on less than U.S. $2 a day, is now nearly half of the world’s population. Those living on half that now number 1.2 billion people.

Poverty is fatal. An estimated fifty thousand people die from poverty-related causes every day. The situation for children under five is worse. Every three seconds a child in poverty dies.

Canadians have rallied to the call to Make Poverty History. In 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, Canada re-committed to increasing Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of our gross domestic product (GDP). This commitment presented a target set by Canada three decades earlier. In 1992, Canadian ODA stood at 0.45% of GDP. In the ‘program review’ deficit-cutting era of the Chrétien Liberals, ODA dropped to 0.25% of GDP in 2000/2001. Subsequently, in 2002, Chrétien set a goal for 8% annual increases in ODA. Yet, when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, Canada was still below 1992 levels.

Based on 2009 announcements, government aid commitments may be increasing, but transparency is missing. It is clear, however, that under the Harper Administration, the development priorities have shifted more than usual to strategic priorities, even though they were always quietly influenced by non-poverty concerns. Currently, the largest recipient of Canadian ODA is Tanzania.

More disturbing is the politicization of aid decisions. Organizations with a great track record for effective delivery of poverty reduction strategies have been targeted, and their funding eliminated, by the Harper administration. Funds for groups such as Planned Parenthood, MATCH, and KAIROS have been cut. Likewise, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, the over-arching umbrella group for all Canadian development NGOs, has seen all its federal support cancelled. Ideologically-based attacks on good organizations, because they advocate for access to abortions, or women’s rights, or climate action and social justice, diminish Canada’s reputation in the world.

The Green Party believes that those development NGOs in Canada with consistent and evidence-based, effective and reliable programs deserve respect and fair treatment.

Meanwhile, we will work tirelessly to ensure that Canada meet its commitment to allocate 0.7% of GDP to ODA and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). By offering far less than one one-hundredth of our GDP, we can help our world meet the most basic of goals: to make poverty history, reduce disease, foster democracy, and support ecologically sustainable economies.

We will ensure our commitments for the provision of HIV/AIDS retroviral drugs for Africa is fulfilled, and that Africa will be a significant focus of our development priorities. This will include support for African plans for adaptation to the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change in Africa.

“I said earlier this year that we are ‘sleepwalking towards disaster.’ in truth, it is worse than that − we are asleep at the controls of a fast-moving aircraft. Unless we wake up and take control, the outcome is all too predictable.”

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General to the United Nations, November 28, 2006

Green Party MPs will:

  • Re-establish CIDA as a stand-alone agency of the Government of Canada;

  • Prioritize the restructuring of ODA delivery while making responsible and consistent increases that will achieve the target of 0.7% of GDP within a decade;

  • Revamp CIDA to focus more on developing community-based green economies, on poverty alleviation and programs to combat and adapt to climate change, especially strengthening its Partnership Branch for the delivery of ODA;

  • Fulfill our commitments for the provision of HIV/AIDS retroviral drugs to Africa;

  • Instruct Canadian embassies and consulates around the world to develop effective and rapid early disaster reconnaissance and assessment capabilities in order to greatly speed up Canadian response time;

  • Oppose using the United Nations R2P doctrine after a natural disaster to force aid relief on governments refusing it, as a military rather than diplomatic solution, as this can be counterproductive;

  • Restore funding to KAIROS, CCIC, MATCH, and Planned Parenthood.