Written by Nicolas Moyer for The Hill Times
Having worked in international development and humanitarian assistance for the better part of my life, it’s easy for me to understand why some people feel discouraged. Our newspapers and Twitter feeds are filled with stories of extreme poverty, human rights violations, environmental disasters, and international conflicts that seem never-ending. And it’s true that there will always be a need for continued efforts to combat the injustices that exist in our world.
Yet this is no reason to think that nothing is changing. In fact, we have plenty to celebrate.
Life expectancy continues to rise in developing countries. Despite seemingly constant media reports of violence, the fact is that interstate conflict has decreased significantly from past decades. There are more children and adults in school and receiving healthcare than ever before. Under-five child mortality has halved since 1990. We don’t often learn about these notable accomplishments from the daily news, because the results aren’t happening fast enough to make the headlines. But they are happening.
Two years ago, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation asked a research team to poll Canadians on international development and humanitarian assistance. The goal was to find out how Canadians feel about Canadian aid – Canada’s contribution to ending global poverty. The results were beyond encouraging. Two-thirds of Canadians self-identify as supporters of international assistance, and six out of ten Canadians are proud of the leadership role that Canada plays in the world. The majority of Canadians use words like ‘compassionate’, ‘generous’, and ‘outward-looking’ to describe our country. This is a country that aspires to build bridges rather than walls.
We know that international assistance matters to Canadians and aligns with their values. Yet Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), the federal funding that provides support for the world’s poorest countries, has remained stagnant at 0.26% of Gross National Income. The average contribution of OECD countries – Canada’s peer group – is well above Canada’s own, and leaders like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway have met the global standard of 0.7% of GNI. Canadians expect Canada to do its part on the world stage. That includes doing its part to help the poorest people in the world.
By investing in inclusive development and humanitarian assistance, Canada will help reduce forced migration and conflict. There is a strong economic case to be made for development assistance, too: a more peaceful and prosperous world is a world with less need to deploy Canadian troops, which is costly in both lives and money. But what is the number one reason that Canadians want Canada to help? Because it’s the right thing to do.
In my work, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible Canadians who choose to spend their time making a positive difference. These are the people we will be recognizing and celebrating at our 29th annual International Development Week flagship event on Tuesday, February 5 at Canada’s National Arts Centre. This event, called ‘Canada Cares’, will invite residents and visitors to the National Capital Region to engage with photo exhibits, film shorts, live performances, and interactive activities showcasing the transformative work being done by Canadians and local partners around the world.
As Canadians, we don’t often take the time to recognize our own accomplishments. So I want to take a moment to say thank you: to our neighbours, our friends, our family members, our coworkers, and to you. Whether you’re volunteering locally or abroad, protesting injustice, writing letters to your MP, creating art to raise awareness, fundraising for a good cause, or teaching your children the value of generosity – thank you for making the world a better place. Together, let’s keep making it better.