Shrinking civic space and Canada’s global leadership: a key issue for international co-operation organizations

Shrinking civic space and Canada’s global leadership: a key issue for international co-operation organizations

The world seems to be entering a new cycle of heightened protests globally: from Chile to Hong Kong, from Iraq to Guinea. The specific demands of the demonstrators depend on the local context, and sometimes different groups will have contradictory demands. However, a common thread in all these protests is the defence of the very right to peaceful protest without state repression; the transparency of public affairs and the fight against corruption; the reduction of inequalities; and a participatory democracy in which there are free and periodic elections, without indefinite re-election, and with the active participation of civil society.

In several cases, these social movements have been successful in overcoming old societal cleavages that were thought immutable. For example, in Iraq and Lebanon, protests have largely transcended the sectarianism of these societies[1]. Meanwhile, in Chile, the ‘barras bravas’ (organized supporters’ groups of football teams in Latin America) of the country’s three main teams, classically antagonists, decided to protest together in the place where they traditionally celebrate their teams’ victories.

Unfortunately, governments of different ideological persuasions, in different regions, have responded to protests with police repression, militarization and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. In several cases, international human rights organizations have noted serious violations of rights[2]. Among the freedoms most affected are the three pillars of civic space: freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

This is a matter of concern from a rights perspective. It also has an impact for Canadian organizations working in the field of international co-operation. First, because the closure of civic space has a direct impact on local partners with whom development and humanitarian assistance programs are implemented[3]. Second, since the realization of sustainable development goals (SDGs) requires an open and dynamic civic space: development needs civil society[4].

Not all Canadian international co-operation organizations confront this issue in the same way, depending on their role and profile. Some organizations decide on an advocacy strategy and mobilization in Canada and broad. Other organizations will decide to engage policymakers and parliamentarians directly. Yet other organizations will decide on a combination of the two.

Based in this diversity, which itself a strength, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation is a convening and coordination space that fosters and enables its members’ efforts and ensures dialogue with other actors including the Canadian government. These efforts are rooted in a commitment to a human rights-based, feminist and sustainable approach.

As we are about to start the first Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership this Wednesday, November 27, a group of Canada’s foreign policy thought leaders drafted an ‘Initial Vision Statement for Canada’s International Policy’. One of the main points of the statement is that Canada should support peaceful dissent and ‘enable people to express legitimate disappointment with existing political and economic systems while upholding principles and institutions of democracy and inclusion’[5]. The Vision Statement and its Annex, which are intended to be an opening to the debate in the Summit, also highlight the importance of addressing root causes and durable solutions through a long-term approach for ‘early conflict resolution’ and ‘institution and capacity building […] among state and non-state actors’.

Monitoring, fostering and defending civic space will be essential to meet the ambitions of the Initial Vision Statement and the Canadian Feminist Foreign Policy. That is why CCIC and Global Affairs Canada will be focusing their 2019 Annual Dialogue on civic space and the enabling environment for civil society in Canada and globally. The dialogue will offer an opportunity to engage with Global Affairs Canada on the implementation of Canada’s Policy for Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance[6].

Much progress has been made to operationalize this policy, including through the Civil Society Policy Advisory Group. Yet, there is much to discuss and to do, including supporting civil society at risk in countries in different regions and under governments of different ideological persuasions, and ensuring policy coherence across Canadian Foreign Policy, including defence, diplomatic, international assistance, and international trade sectors.


This piece is the opinion of its author and not necessarily that of CCIC or its members.







Sebastián Vielmas
Regional Working Groups Officer
Canadian Council for International Co-operation – CCIC


[1] Lebanon and Iraq Want to Overthrow Sectarianism (Foreign Policy)

[2] Iraq: Rein in security forces to prevent a bloodbath (Amnesty International);

Guinea: Appalling human rights ‘red flags’ ahead of presidential election (Amnesty International);

Chile: Deliberate policy to injure protesters points to responsibility of those in command (Amnesty International).

[3] For example, in the Philippines the last crackdown on civil society has touched Canadian organizations and partners. That is why over 30 Canadian CSOs, many of them CCIC and Asia-Pacific Working Group members, signed an open letter expressing concern about “red-tagging” attacks against labour, churches, human rights and humanitarian organizations that have worked with Canadian CSOs and/or the Canadian government on human rights, humanitarian aid and the implementation of sustainable and equitable development projects in the Philippines.

[4] Development Needs Civil Society –The Implications of Civic Space for the Sustainable Development Goals (Act Alliance & Institute of Development Studies)



Innovation and Impact Awards

Innovation and Impact Awards


The Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), in collaboration with the trustees of the Lewis Perinbam Award, is pleased to launch the Innovation and Impact Awards. Innovation is at the core of CCIC’s work and is captured in our strategic directions. We aim to inspire and support the growth of a more relevant, responsive and effective global development and humanitarian assistance sector that, through innovation, can create sustainable impact.  As such, CCIC and the trustees of the Lewis Perinbam Award would like to celebrate and recognize Canadian individuals and civil society organizations (CSOs) that are doing impactful and innovative work.




CCIC defines an Innovative Practice as: a new or more impactful means of, or approach to, addressing development challenges and improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.  An innovative practice can take many forms, it can be an innovation that is new to a particular context, but tried and true elsewhere.  In addition, the innovative practice could be an approach, technology, business model, policy practice, partnership and more.  To achieve impact through innovation, an Innovative Practice should align with The Whistler Principles to Accelerate Innovation for Development Impact.

These Awards will be granted to an individual and an organization that have demonstrated learning and impact from an innovative practice in international development and/or humanitarian response. The Awards recognize individuals and organizations that are using innovative and impactful means to: (1) address humanitarian, development, and/or peace challenges to build a more just and inclusive world; (2) inspire Canadians to undertake volunteer action on these issues; and/or (3) offer new ways of thinking about development, humanitarian and peace-related challenges.


Honouring Lewis Perinbam:


Lewis Perinbam, O.C, (1925-2007) was a pioneer in building the international development sector in Canada. He was the founding Executive Director of CUSO, the first full time Secretary General of the Canadian National Commission of UNESCO and the CEO of World University Service of Canada (WUSC). He joined a fledging Canadian International Development Agency in 1969 and became the founding director general of the NGO division. He later became the Vice-President of the Canadian Partnership Program where he launched several programs that made Canada a leader in civil society-government collaboration. He led the 2000 Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Public Service which generated deep change throughout Government. The awards recognize his outstanding contributions and provide a reminder and a call for action that ambitious system-wide innovation is always possible.


Nomination Procedure:


  • Nominators must complete the online form here to provide rationale for the nomination.

  • Nominators must demonstrate evidence for how the nominee has fit the criteria and has implemented an innovative practice that has resulted in greater impact and/or learning.

  • Nominations can be peer or self-nominated and must be received by January 6th, 2020.


Criteria for Selection:


To nominate an organization for this award, please see the criteria below. Nominations must be received by January 6th, 2020.


In order to be considered for the award, the nominated organization must:

Be implementing or has recently implemented an innovative practice for development impact, based on the definition above and in line with the Whistler Principles to Accelerate Innovation for Development Impact;

Be implementing or has recently implemented an innovative practice to address the needs of the most vulnerable;

Have, through implementing this innovative practice, demonstrated impact, iterated to learn quickly and/or learned from failure.


To nominate an individual for this award, please see the criteria below. Nominations must be received by January 6th, 2020. The award recognizes Canadian citizens and permanent residents who:

Improve people’s lives in the Global South;

Engage and inspire Canadians to undertake volunteer action in addressing our shared global challenges; and/or

Offer new and innovative ways of thinking about and addressing development, humanitarian and peace-related challenges (in line with the Whistler Principles to Accelerate Innovation for Development Impact).




The winner of the individual Award will be given a prize of $5,000 to acknowledge their contributions.

The organizational winner will not be awarded a financial prize.

Both winners will be announced and highlighted during the International Development Week in February.



Nominate an Individual or an Organization 

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation Reacts to the Federal Cabinet Announcement

Ottawa, ON (November 20th, 2019) – The Canadian Council for International Co-operation welcomes today’s cabinet announcement, which features ministers François-Philippe Champagne, foreign affairs; Karina Gould, international development; Maryam Monsef, women and gender equality; Jonathan Wilkinson, environment and climate change; Mary Ng, small business, export promotion and international trade; Harjit Sajjan, national defence; and Marco Mendicino, immigration, refugees and citizenship, on files related to foreign policy. We look forward to working with these ministers who will be dedicated to fostering a strategic commitment to global engagement and an ambitious international policy for Canada.  

Canada must do its fair share globally to mitigate and address the impacts of extreme climate change and growing global instability. 



Increased instability and climate change are being compounded by rising populism, nationalism and authoritarianism, and are challenging global structures and values Canada has helped to build. As the US withdraws from its multilateral engagements, and the UK goes through Brexit uncertainties, it leaves an opportunity for Canada to play a leading role. Together, we can lead a process to establish a timetable of real increases to Canada’s Official Development Assistance that will meet the ambition of Canada’s international assistance policy. 

Nicolas Moyer

President and CEO, Canadian Council for International Co-operation

The Canadian international cooperation sector has welcomed strong commitments in the Liberal government’s previous mandate to partnership with Civil Society.  We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively in advancing the quality and influence of Canada’s international assistance policy. We particularly look forward to working with Global Affairs Canada to realize the full potential of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance policy to generate lasting and inclusive global progress. 



For more information and to request an interview with Nicolas Moyer, please contact: 

Sophie Rosa, Director, Public Affairs and Member Services / Phone: (613) 219-6514 

 About the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) 
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) is Canada’s national association representing international development and humanitarian organizations. Together with our member organizations, CCIC seeks to end global poverty and to promote social justice and human dignity for all. CCIC is committed to making this goal a public priority and to encouraging the actions necessary to make a poverty-free world a reality. 

The “F word”: Realizing Canada’s feminist foreign policy ambitions in a divided global and national context

The “F word”: Realizing Canada’s feminist foreign policy ambitions in a divided global and national context

By Dr. Kate Grantham, International Development Consultant and Vice President of CASID


With the results of Canada’s recent federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has been given another opportunity to advance its widely touted feminist foreign policy. However, this time around, the Liberals face the uphill battle of being a minority government, in a global context where right-wing nationalist and anti-feminist movements are on the rise.


Since taking office in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s federal government has made several major announcements demonstrating its commitment to a feminist foreign policy agenda. Most prominently, in June 2017, the government introduced its Feminist International Assistance Policy which “seeks to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world… [by] promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.” Other examples include the government’s decision to make gender equality a centerpiece of its 2018 G7 presidency, its efforts to include gender protections in several recently negotiated free trade agreements, appointing Canada’s first-ever Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, and committing to invest $1.4 billion over ten years for global initiatives promoting women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.


The government’s ambitions are certainly admirable, and necessary to correct historical inattention to the diverse experiences of women and girls in Canadian foreign policy. Yet realizing a comprehensive feminist approach across all three pillars of Global Affairs Canada’s portfolio – diplomacy, trade and development – presents real challenges, particularly in the current global economic and political climate.


Countries in North America, Europe and around the world are witnessing the proliferation of right-wing nationalist and anti-feminist movements, which can be largely attributed as backlash against the perceived threat of a feminist agenda like the one Global Affairs Canada is pushing for.


In the United States, just two days after the historical Women’s March on Washington, Donald Trump reinstated the Obama-repealed “global gag rule”, banning funding for organizations that perform abortion services, referrals or advocacy. Trump also expanded the policy to include, for the first-time, non-governmental organizations that support other groups that provide or merely discuss abortion. The current international climate makes Canada’s global leadership on gender equality – and on sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular – a critical and uphill battle.


Very real tensions also exist for realizing a comprehensive feminist foreign policy because the objectives of Canadian development, diplomacy and trade sectors are not always neatly aligned. Case in point, the Canadian government faced intense criticism earlier this year for proceeding with a $15 billion sale of light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia, despite reports those vehicles may be used for military repression, in direct contradiction of feminist principles.


Similar tensions exist for Canada’s economic interests abroad, put into sharp focus when the government backtracked on a commitment to create an independent ombudsperson on corporate human rights. This was in spite of evidence of widespread and egregious human rights abuses by Canadian companies and supply chains abroad, including in mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors.


Back at home, Canadian public support for international development assistance is seen to be waning in some circles. The promise made by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to cut Canadian foreign aid spending by 25 per cent if elected signals the deeply politicized and insecure position of Canadian foreign aid spending. Scheer’s announcement was met with alarm bells by those working in the aid sector, who were particularly critical of the misinformation being spread during the campaign. The broader Canadian public, however, remained relatively disengaged from the issue. While most Canadians agree that we have a duty to support the health, education and economic opportunity for the world’s poorest and most marginalized, public opinion research from the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) finds that nearly one quarter of Canadians disagree with this idea.


If the federal government has any serious ambition of moving the needle on Canadian foreign aid spending from the current 0.28 per cent of GNI to meet Canada’s decades old commitment of 0.7 per cent, then it must work to generate broader public education and support for the goals of a feminist international assistance policy.


These are real challenges and tensions that need to be tackled head on in order for Canada to realize the critical ambitions of its feminist foreign policy agenda.


The Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership, taking place in Ottawa on November 27 and 28, is a unique opportunity to discuss Canada’s foreign policy with individuals working across the development, diplomacy and trade nexus. Several different plenaries and breakout sessions will address this issue, with diverse speakers from Canada and internationally scheduled to take part in the program.


The opening plenary on November 27, “Setting the tone: What should Canada’s foreign policy agenda be?” will feature Shirley Kimmayong (Founder of Hagiyo Organization Inc.), Shirley Pryce (Founder of the Jamaican Household Workers Union) and Hugh Segal (Former Conservative Senator) discussing a shared vision for an ambitious and impactful Canadian foreign policy agenda.


On November 28, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, Jacqueline O’Neill, and General Jonathan Vance, Canadian Armed Forces Chief of the Defence Staff, will headline a post-lunch plenary on “Strengthening Women’s Participation on Peace Processes and Conflict Resolution” moderated by Ketty Nivyabandi of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. This session will address the intersections of gender and women’s leadership in global challenges to peace and security, and how these intersections can inform Canadian foreign policy.


Multiple breakout sessions will also touch on the issue of feminist foreign policy, including “Beijing+25: Influencing priorities and opportunities for engagement” on November 27, and on November 28, “Feminism(s) in gender equality and women’s empowerment programming” and “Justice climatique féministe”.

Dr. Kate Grantham is an international development consultant specializing in feminist research and approaches. She is also Vice President of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID). Follow @KateGrantham on Twitter.



Centre of Expertise on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Serving Canadian international development and humanitarian aid organizations 

In 2018, many leaders from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) expressed their determination and signed a pledge to prevent and address sexual misconduct in the international development and humanitarian aid sector

 If you haven’t yet signed the pledge and wish to do so, please click on the following link:


In order to fulfill these commitmentsa number of actions were identified, including establishing a Sector Hub, based at CCIC, with the following mandate: 

Gather and make available resources to equip International development and humanitarian organizations to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) through the effective implementation (mainstreaming) of gender-responsive best practices and policies. 


The PSEA Sector Hub is slowly taking shape. In order to collaborate on this great societal challenge that is the prevention of SEA, we would like to know your specific needs. Brigitte Demers, manager of the PSEA Sector Hub, will be attending a number of events to answer your questions on the Hub, exchange ideas, build partnerships, and collect your main concerns and needs. These events include:  


Spur Change National Conference 2019, November 20-22, 2019 

Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) : Tools and Resources for SMOs,  November 21, at 3 pm 

Organizational development: How to integrate gender equality in operations and programming?, November 22, 2019, at 1:30 pm 


Summit on Canada’s Global LeadershipNovember 2728, 2019 

Can sexual violence in the workplace really be prevented? Thursday, November 28 at 2:15 pm 


To share your specific needs if you aren’t able to visit us during the above events, you may do so by: 

  • Filling out the questionnaire that will soon be posted on this site 


We look forward to the official launch of the PSEA Hub in March 2020Until the Hub’s activities are fully underway, we encourage you to visit us regularly for up-dates and resources that will be made available as they are compiled. 

MEDIA STATEMENT: Alberta Government ends 45-year commitment to Alberta charities

MEDIA STATEMENT: Alberta Government ends 45-year commitment to Alberta charities

October 30, 2019 –The Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) is disappointed that the Alberta Government is eliminating the International Development grant stream that was included in the Community Initiatives Program. Cutting this 45-year-old program will have a substantial impact to civil society organizations that are making a difference tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time: global poverty, inequality, women’s rights, human rights, environment protection, peace and democracy around the world. 

Solidarity, compassion and respect for human dignity are the main reasons why Albertans care about international development and achieving global Sustainable Development Goals. In an era of climate change, mass migration and challenges to the international order that affect all Canadians, including Albertans, we need to continue to act to end global poverty and inequality. 

“Even in the face of challenges in Canadaour country remains one of the wealthiest in the world.  We have a responsibility to contribute to global progress.  In the face of mounting global challenges which increasingly affect Canadadoing so is also in our interest.” 

Nicolas Moyer

CEO, Canadian Council for International Co-operation

Media Contact: 

Thida Ith, Media and Communications Officer 
Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) 
Phone: (613) 241-7007 ext. 343 | Cell phone: (437) 779-0883 


Alberta Government ends 45-year commitment to Alberta charities

Press Release by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation

EDMONTON, AB (29 October 2019 ) – Albertan charities working to end extreme poverty and reduce inequality in the world’s most vulnerable regions got a shock on Friday after receiving letters from Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and the Status of Women stating that the government has cut all funding to their projects.

“The Government of Alberta has been providing financial assistance to developing countries through the International Development program since 1974,” reads the letter sent out by department staff late Friday evening. Yet, to realize their commitment to Albertan citizens and to balance the budget, “the International Development grant stream has been discontinued effective immediately.”

While the grant stream was small, at only $1.5 million dollars in the 2018-9 budget, it was a vital source of dollar-to-dollar matching funds that Alberta organizations could access to carry out their activities. Over the past year alone, 69 projects were funded, including a project to supply technical training to improve access to clean water Malawi, a program to bring affordable energy to remote communities in Peru, and even a project supporting the operations of a low-risk midwifery-led birthing centre in Tanzania. While projects were implemented outside of Alberta, they leveraged the skills, expertise, technologies, passions, and private donations of Albertans to achieve their results. At a cost of only 34 cents per Albertan a year, the fund helped ensure a healthy and active charitable sector in our province as well as a diverse and vibrant economy.

“ACGC is deeply disappointed that the Government of Alberta has decided to eliminate the International Development grant stream, which for 45 years supported Alberta charities and service clubs who work with partners around the globe building strong, resilient communities,” stated Leah Ettarh, Executive Director of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.

In the Alberta Budget 2019 released Thursday, the Community Initiatives Program, which hosted the international development fund stream, was reduced from $28 million to $23.5 million. Rather than making cuts across all grant streams proportionately, the government reduced the budget in most streams while completely eliminating the long-standing international stream, a move which Ettarh says sends a pointed message.

“Eliminating the International Development grant stream sends a powerful signal that the current government is not concerned with achieving global sustainable development,” states Ettarh. “Furthermore, it sends the wrong message—one that Albertans do not care about those outside of our borders, and do not care about the world’s poor—a message which will not be lost on other Canadians, nor on our partners across the globe.”

“It’s an extremely simplistic view to state that we have to choose between reducing poverty in Alberta, or reducing poverty abroad,” states Ettarh. “While we must work to ensure all Albertans are living lives full of dignity and free of poverty, we must in tandem realize our global responsibility to provide support to the world’s most vulnerable communities. This small but important funding has been the commitment of the Province of Alberta for 45 years, and I believe many Albertans will be disappointed to hear this commitment has effectively ended.”

This recent decision by the Alberta government follows a similar one made in Saskatchewan in 2016 when the government of Brad Wall ended its 45-year commitment to funding international development. After the Thursday cut, only the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec remain providing grants to charities working to tackle poverty and extreme inequality abroad.

The Alberta Council for Global Cooperation will be working with the affected charities to understand the impact this cut will have on their ability to continue operating and assist them in mobilizing Albertans to support their essential work.

About the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation

The Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC) is a network of organizations and individuals, located in Alberta, working locally and globally to advance sustainable development and global citizenship. The mission of ACGC is to mobilize Albertans to become global citizens engaged in sustainable international development. We do this by building the capacity of network organizations, representing members’ interests with government and others, and increasing the awareness, knowledge, and connections of Albertans in global issues and sustainable development.


Media Contacts
Leah Ettarh, Executive Director
Alberta Council for Global Cooperation
Phone: 780-988-0200

Kendra Thompson, Communications Coordinator
Alberta Council for Global Cooperation
Phone: 780-988-0200