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Address by Minister Paradis: Canadian Council for International Co-operation Leaders’ Forum

February 5, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario

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Thank you for that kind introduction.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today with our civil society partners. It is great to have the opportunity to discuss how we can work better together to increase Canada’s leadership in development and humanitarian assistance.

Today’s discussion is part of a larger conversation that has been happening all week in every city across the country.

From Vancouver to Hamilton, from Halifax to Ottawa, Canadians have held events in schools, churches, universities and community centres to mark the 25th anniversary of International Development Week.

This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges facing developing countries.

To discuss how we can work better together to reduce global poverty, alleviate suffering and improve lives.

And to celebrate the incredible difference we are making around the world.

Canada is a world leader in promoting maternal, newborn and child health.

It remains our top development priority.

I am especially proud of our leadership in saving mothers and children.  

Thanks to the Muskoka Initiative, maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.

Although significant progress has been made since 2010, too many mothers and children continue to die from preventable causes.  

Therefore, we have taken steps to ensure that this issue remains an international priority.

In May 2014, Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed Canada’s leadership by hosting the Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach summit.

This meeting was a success, largely because of the contribution many of you made.

Building on the momentum generated by the Toronto summit, Prime Minister Harper attended the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City and announced that Canada, along with its partners, was founding the Global Financing Facility for Every Woman, Every Child, to which we would contribute $200 million.

In 2015, we will continue to honour the commitment made to the world’s women and children under the 2010 Muskoka Initiative and the recent Toronto summit.  

We have quintupled the funding set aside for the request for proposals aimed at establishing Canadian partnerships in this area.

And so, more than ever, your contribution will strengthen our country’s leadership role in maternal, newborn and child health.

But above all, together we must ensure that this issue remains high on the international development agenda in the years ahead.

On the humanitarian front, 2014 was an unprecedented year. 

For the first time, the world was faced with responding to four level-three emergencies, including the crisis in Central Africa, South Sudan, Syria/Iraq, and the Ebola virus diseases outbreak.

Our government responded rapidly to these major events and to various other humanitarian crises. 

It is important to note that in all of these crises, Canada is punching well above its weight. We do so because bringing relief, food, water, medicine and shelter when a disaster hits, is a clear demonstration of our values as Canadians.

Friends, we all know that 2015 is a pivotal year for global development. 

The Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) are set to expire this year—to be replaced by a new set of development priorities as part of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

While the debate on priorities and number of goals are now kicking into a higher gear, there is clear consensus that official development assistance (ODA) alone will be insufficient to finance the post-2015 development agenda.

Therefore, it is important that Canada play a leading role in designing a new global structure that will seek to harness the various flows of financing for development.

This is why it was important to me to chair, on behalf of the OECD-DAC and World Economic Forum, the Re-designing Development Finance Initiative Steering Committee.

The steering committee aims to create a global structure that would allow for the blending of public and private capital to finance development goals, increase impact and achieve sustainability.

Let me categorically state that I am not looking to replace ODA, but rather, to build a framework that would expand the ecosystem for development finance.

And we are doing this in response to the needs identified by people in developing countries, and the recognition by these recipients that multiple sources of funds are needed to address poverty.

Two weeks ago, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, I addressed business leaders and heads of international organizations about blended finance. 

I am happy to report that there was tremendous support and we secured partnerships with organizations like MasterCard International and the Rockefeller Foundation.

And in my meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, he acknowledged the importance of blended finance and the need to include this approach in the plan of action for financing SDGs at the upcoming financing for development conference in Addis Ababa.

I look forward to working with many of your organizations to harness the resources from both Bay Street and Main Street to finance development.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention our joint leadership in Mexico City.

At the High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, Canada’s commitment to protecting and promoting an enabling environment for civil society in developing countries was loud and clear.

This commitment represents our shared values of democracy, freedom, human rights and rule of law.

A vibrant civil society enables people to hold their governments to account, lead a life of dignity, and participate in decision-making that affects them.

This reduces poverty and ensures sustainable development.

I have seen how civil society in developing countries can hold its governments to account, build social cohesion, and provide basic services. And I have seen how it can save lives.

In the Philippines, I accompanied our civil society partners as they delivered life-saving assistance to those who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

In Haiti, I met Canadians working alongside Haitians to rebuild the country following the devastating earthquake in 2010.

And in Senegal, I spoke with women who received maternal health services for the first time, thanks to your assistance. 

The Government of Canada recognizes that an empowered civil society is key to achieving our development goals.

You are the heart of a strong and dedicated team of Canadian development professionals.

Professionals who play a critical role in strengthening civil society in developing countries.

Whether it’s working with local communities to build healthy and prosperous futures, or ensuring that people are fed, sheltered, and comforted in the face of often unthinkable crises – your contribution is essential to those who need it most. 

Most importantly, our government knows that we must have an effective partnership between government and civil society to achieve maximum development results.

We must learn from each other’s experiences.

We must recognize our different roles and our diversity.

We must leverage our strengths.

We are all working towards the same goals of reducing poverty and providing effective humanitarian assistance.

Last year, at the annual CCIC conference, I told you that Canada is committed to strengthening our partnership.

We then agreed that we needed to adopt a formal policy, which recognizes the contributions of Canadian and international development civil society organizations to reach that goal.

Today, I am pleased to launch Canada’s new Civil Society Partnership Policy.

This policy outlines the guiding principles and overall objectives of our engagement.

It describes our approach to enhancing effective development cooperation with Canadian, international, and developing-country civil society organizations.

First and foremost, I am committed to working with you, our civil society partners, as actors in your own right.

In that spirit, this is a policy that was developed in collaboration with you—through an open and transparent consultation process.

You highlighted the importance of many areas. You mentioned:

  • augmenting the voices of the poor;
  • facilitating an enabling environment for civil society in developing countries; and
  • fostering Canadian civil society leadership.

I want to thank you for this feedback. It improved the policy, and it will help us strengthen our efforts going forward. It is going to drive our actions.

You told me that it was important to institutionalize our dialogue to maximize our partnership.

That is why I would also like to announce that my department will meet civil society on an annual basis to discuss implementation of the policy.

And, as part of our efforts to build multistakeholder dialogue, I will be forming an advisory council with representatives from civil society, the private sector, and academia.

In order to achieve the objective of making Canada a global leader in international development, responsive to development trends, and focused on results, the Council will advise me on key issues, including:

  • how to bring civil society, the private sector, and government together to work in a more coordinated way to achieve development outcomes;
  • the strategic direction and priorities of the development program;
  • the policy initiatives and program frameworks that govern its operations;
  • the implications of the latest development research and practice for Canada’s development policy and programming; and
  • how to best engage Canadians on international development issues.

Basically, I expect the Council to serve as a challenge function on policy and programs.

In closing, I would like to say that, now more than ever, Canada is a leader in international development.

But we aspire to do more.

And for that, we need partners like you in order to succeed.

Guided by our partnership policy, and through our enhanced collaboration, we will together find innovative ways to reduce poverty in developing countries and provide effective humanitarian assistance during crises.

I thank you very much for your hard work, your dedication and your commitment.

And I look forward to working with you and achieving those results together.

Merci. Thank you.