767 million – or one in ten people on the planet live in extreme poverty. It is a place where hunger and disease thrive; where too often children don't live to reach school age - let alone attend school, and where simple necessities like a toilet are considered a luxury.
Ending poverty is Goal #1 of the 17 goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The goals have been set by the United Nations and are a blueprint – a guide – for people, organizations, the private sector and governments all around the world to work together to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Canada has committed to the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) but we lag behind other high-income countries in terms of how much we give in Canadian aid (see "Why Canadian aid is important" below). With only 0.28% of Gross National Incomes (GNI) going to Canadian aid, we are a long way from the globally agreed upon target of 0.7%. To put this in perspective, that represents just 28 cents for every $100 Canadians earn.
Investing to combat global poverty is not about being charitable. As a leader on the world stage, it is in Canada’s strategic interest to ensure that it continues to fund programs to support people living in poverty. Extreme poverty leads to country instability and has an adverse effect on the kind of systems that create healthy environments and safe communities.
Thirty years ago, 36% of the world was living in extreme poverty. By 2015 that number dropped to 10%. Canadian aid works and is making a real difference by supporting people living in poverty with access to quality health care, education and economic opportunities. Read more below about why Canadian aid is important.
Countries use many terms to describe what is their funding to support low- and middle-income countries. “Canadian Aid” can be used to describe what the Government of Canada calls “international assistance”. Total Official Support for International Assistance or International Assistance for short is defined as “all officially supported resource flows to promote sustainable development in developing countries and to support development enablers and address global challenges at regional or global levels.”
Since 1970, the United Nations target set under Canadian leadership has been for developed countries to give 0.7% of their gross national income to development assistance (global aid spending). Countries who reached or surpassed the target of 0.7% of GNI 2020 included:
Other high income countries that contribute to aid:
Currently, Canada gives $6.1 billion (2018) to aid annually. From April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, Canada spent CAD $6.6 billion on aid. This represents 0.31% of Canada’s gross national income (GNI). While this is a large number, it equals only 31 cents for every $100 Canadians earn (equal to about 2 Tim Hortons coffees a week ($59,564 yr, at $2/coffee). Learn more.
The Canadian government mobilized more than CAD $2.5 billion in international assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this direct response was warmly welcomed, evidence indicates that the pandemic will have a lasting and profound impact on the socio-economic recovery of the world with low- and middle-income countries expected to be particularly hard hit. Put simply, COVID-19 and the lack of a globally coordinated response and recovery is proving to be a catalyst for the widening of many deadly divides. The pandemic wiped out 25 years of development progress in a matter of months. That’s why now more than ever Canada must increase its investment in aid. With more resources we can reclaim lost progress, ensure equitable access to the tools needed to #EndCovidEverywhere, lead on the world stage, help stimulate the global economy, and generate new political momentum to create an equitable world where we all want to live. Canada’s investments in aid should match the needs of our time and reflect a recognition in the reality that we live in an interconnected global world.
Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy focuses on investment in women and girls and supporting programs that empower them in their communities. This does not mean that it is leaving boys out, but is instead aimed at investing in what evidence suggests is one of the greatest drivers in poverty reduction: the empowerment of women and girls. Investments in women and girls have been proven to help to drive the social and structural changes that will empower entire communities - boys and girls alike.
The Government of Canada can coordinate its efforts with other global governments and donors by investing Canadian aid in multilateral organizations like Gavi and the Global Fund. These investments are highly effective because they mobilise large-scale funding, bring specialist expertise, support innovation, can contribute effectively to conflict situations and provide a platform for action in every country in the world - which no single country can accomplish alone. If Canadian aid were replaced simply by private donations to health organizations, even the same dollar amount could not save the same number of lives that Canadian aid contributes to. The Canadian government can leverage money in ways that an individual or corporation are not able to.
A 2019 survey showed that 81 per cent of Canadians agree that Canada should do its fair share along with other countries to help developing countries. There are currently 14,000 Canadians employed in the non-profit sector. There are also 2.8 million Canadians living abroad, meaning that Canadian aid supports the development of countries that Canadians also call home. Learn more.
Canadian aid directly supports humanitarian efforts reacting to climate crises such as natural disasters, since climate change is a leading cause of migration and displacement. Since climate change disproportionately affects those living in low- and middle-income countries, Canadian aid supports those disadvantaged by the changing climate, whether in humanitarian contexts, through infrastructure, or investing in health and wellbeing.
At the 2021 G7 Leaders’ Summit, Canada announced a doubling of its international climate finance commitment to $5.3 billion over the next five years. Canada’s increased commitment to climate finance recognizes that urgent action is needed to address the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss which disproportionally affect the poorest and most vulnerable.
Without strong commitments to Canadian aid and support for effective global multilateral funds, we risk relapsing on our progress against poverty and communicable diseases which will only cost our government and the world more in the end. For example, while polio eradication is very close, with less than 20 new cases per year globally, without continued support, this number could begin to increase once again and spread to areas that had once seen it eradicated. This means that past aid spending would be wasted, and the disease becomes more difficult and expensive to eliminate in the future.
Canadians will continue to travel beyond our borders and are directly affected by stability and global health threats abroad. Canadian aid not only lifts up people living in poverty, but protects Canadians’ health and security. Canada currently gives less than the 0.7% of GNI target, yet in a recent survey Canadians estimated that Canada’s international assistance contribution was 2.5 times bigger than it is. By limiting Canadian aid, Canada is telling the world that it is content to lag behind on its’ commitment to humanitarian causes and building a more equal and just world, which does not align with Canadian values.