The absorption of Canada’s aid agency into the foreign affairs and international trade ministry has been widely condemned
By Stephen Leahy
Monday 25 March 2013 17.37 GMT theguardian.com
Following the unexpected announcement that the Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) will be folded into the ministry of foreign affairs and international trade, the Canadian government has made it clear there must be a direct return on its aid “investment”, primarily access to resources in other countries.
“It is a fundamental change. Canada is tying aid to its commercial interests. This is going to leave a bitter taste out there,” says Samantha Nutt, executive director of War Child Canada, which has received CIDA funding for more than a decade.
As Nutt acknowledges, all aid is politicised to some extent. But Canada has taken this to a new level. Civil society aid organisations working with CIDA are no longer aid delivery partners but sub-contractors, bidding on aid programmes and increasingly forced to work with the private sector, says Nutt.
“This puts Canadian aid organisations in ethical conflict. How can they criticise the actions of the mining companies they have to work with to get funding to help the poor?”
Cida’s fate has startled not only Canada’s foreign aid community but, by all accounts, Cida staff, who learned of the agency’s fate through the media.
The new department of foreign affairs, trade and development will continue to tackle poverty in developing countries with its $4.8 billion aid budget intact, the government said.
“This is Canadian money … Canadians are entitled to derive a benefit,” said international co-operation minister Julian Fantino last December, adding that Cida is working with the private sector to help Canada “maintain a global advantage”.