Ministerial Mandate letter for Cdn. Development Co-operation


Ministerial Mandate letter for Development Co-operation[1]

You will serve as Minister of International Development Co-operation reporting directly to me as Prime Minister, with full cabinet membership. As Minister you will:


  • rebuild Canada’s capacity to be a strong global development actor after a decade of institutional neglect and distorted priorities
  • develop programs within a broad framework beyond the comfort zone of G7, G20 and OECD. Engaging the South is critical to Canada’s future well-being, economic, political and basic security.
  • have a departmental mandate, independent of the political and trade dimensions of foreign policy. However, policy coherence remains an important partnership goal for all government departments.
  • reconfirm poverty reduction as the core programming goal of this government, drawing substantially on the human and financial resources we allocate to CIDA as an organizational unit. The ODA Accountability Act will be a guiding framework for yourself and all other ministers with portfolios that affect developing countries. Canada’s grant aid should align with the UN’s Post-2015 Agenda. Take risks! Effective development co-operation is inherently risky.
  • present to Cabinet a new list of up to 20 priority countries within the first three months. In this update, least developed and fragile countries should represent at least 70% by number and $ volume of bilateral grant aid. The list should be stable for four years:
    • ‘need’ more than ‘absorptive capacity’ should be the core selection criteria
    • Canada’s Paris Declaration commitment to country ownership means sectoral/thematic choices are to be substantially shaped by the recipient
  • while recognizing the short-term budgetary constraints for Canada, plan for an increase in the ODA/GNI ratio to 0.30% in our first budget.

Additionally plan:

  • for increases to an ODA level of 0.50% of GNI over the mandate of this government
  • to move to multi-year budgetting to increase predictability


  • lead a department with its own DM and a strong decentralized presence in priority developing countries. It shall deliver Canada’s contribution as a donor to implementing the UN Post-2015 Agenda and a new mandate to bring a greater responsiveness to development considerations in the work of other political and economic departments.
    • work with the PMO, Treasury Board and Foreign Affairs on institutionalizing CIDA either as an essentially autonomous part of the existing DFATD or, if judged institutionally more effective, as a free-standing Ministry.
  • adopt the public title of ‘CIDA’ for your department, recouping a proud brand with five decades of global credibility as Canada’s public vehicle for development co-operation. This renaming decision is not dependent on there being a separate ministry.
  • ensure CIDA has these key features in its organizational architecture:
    • recognition that Canada’s economic and geo-political future lies in a broader approach, one based upon global partnerships, including stronger relations with the Global South.
    • resources for development co-operation, people, budgets and institutions, are not to be diverted into short-term benefits for Canadian private entities. [Private sector support will be provided by other departments.]
    • a new core mandate to act as a strong empathetic voice on development issues in government decision-making. The present amalgamation model has failed to deliver this. Critically CIDA will have a mandate that extends beyond delivering traditional aid (ODA) to one of also influencing the substance of related aspects of Canadian international policy, notably in trade, geo-politics/global security, human rights and global institutions, financial and environmental.
  • create a small, truly independent, advisory panel for CIDA. The panel should be a mix of independent Canadians plus two leading thinkers from developing countries.
  • re-authorize and recruit a 50% international board for the IDRC; Canadian board members should be individuals with substantial development experience, drawn from such as academia, CSOs and think-tanks.
  • recognise the rights of CSOs as independent development actors. Provide programmatic financial support to both domestic NGOs and developing country CSOs
  • recognizing the damage in recent years to professional competence and commitment, work over the first 12 months to bring together a re-energised core staff for CIDA, largely of committed skilled professionals/effective bureaucrats who seek a career in international development.
  • appoint a DM with a substantial international experience; seek ADMs for core programs (bilateral, partnership, multilateral, policy) with a solid development policy and programming background
  • create a rotational CIDA cadre mainly serving in bilateral programming positions, with a goal of having half assigned to empowered decentralized positions under decentralized managers with meaningful delegated authority, in all priority developing countries.
  • eliminate, within the next three years, an important inconsistency for international development policy cohesion by moving departmental responsibility for the World Bank Group, still the single most powerful multilateral development institution, to CIDA
  • for deeper policy coherence, ensure that CIDA has effective representation in Canada’s teams managing policy and programming relations with the UN system, BWIs, WTO, plus policy fora such as the G7/G20, Development Committee and OECD/DAC.

[1] This blog is a mock document representing a preferred Mandate Letter from a next Prime Minister to his new ministers. The principal recipient of this draft is a new Minister of International Development Co-operation. Copies as guidance might go to new Ministers for Trade, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Treasury Board, Defence and Environment.


First published as a MG Blog – June 16/2015.



Universality and the SDGs- what’s good for the goose

What’s Good for the Goose: Universality and the SDGs

McLeod Group Blog, June 1, 2015:  John Sinclair

Universality – the idea that certain norms should apply to all countries alike – is a crucial feature of many aspects of international life, from the United Nations Charter to the Declarations of Human Rights. Still, the idea that wealthy nations should be submitted to the same standards as poor ones can be a surprisingly touchy political subject. The latest example is the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are the successors to those simple, easy-to-understand Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of 2015. The MDGs centred on core social issues: poverty, basic education, maternal health and child mortality – simple, but seriously lacking in their comprehensiveness.

In September 2015 global leaders, including a hesitant Mr. Harper, will sign off on the UN’s Post-2015 Agenda. The centrepiece will be the SDGs, which apply to everybody, wherever they live. Unlike the MDGs, they are not targets designed by rich donors for poor recipients.

Universality in the SDGs has strength as a statement of solidarity, of rich with poor, of donor sharing with recipient. However, universality is not without its technical complications – for example, how can the same health target be used for Chad and Canada, yet still be a challenge for both? For some in Canada, universality has also become sensitive politically. To put it crudely: ‘How dare the UN try to judge us, a G7 country?’

In a globalized world, we need a universal agenda. The SDGs are that agenda, framed against three dimensions of sustainability – social, economic and environmental. They embrace a universe of challenges: ending extreme poverty; water for all; safe and sustainable cities; promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, with justice for all.

The new ‘universal’ targets will be voluntary. Each UN member-country will set its own targets for each SDG. This is a kind of global democracy at work. It also reflects the frustration of the less developed countries, who feel they were set up for failure by the old MDGs, which ‘imposed’ impossible targets. This humiliation was compounded by the failure of donors to deliver the financial and technical support needed by the poorest to reach those goals.

What does this all mean to Canada? As universal targets, the SDGs concern ordinary Canadians as much as Brazilians – safe births, cities without pollution and justice for everybody. Of course, solidarity involves effort, such as new funding for a neglected Statistics Canada to help collect more comprehensive data at home.

Instead, by refusing to engage actively, we have had little impact on the specifics of setting international goals, and the Harper government has had many moments of angst about the idea of universality, insisting that such rules simply cannot apply to a country like Canada. Conservative ministers say they have had enough already of busybody UN special rapporteurs coming to Canada and daring to tell us that we neglect, sometimes abuse, our indigenous people or our prison populations. In 2012, Minister Jason Kenney didn’t mince words in response to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food’s concern with hunger in Canada, stating: ‘Canada is one of the wealthiest and most democratic countries in the world. We believe that the UN should focus on development in that the UN should focus on development in countries where people are starving’. We see another example of this evasive attitude towards universality in the Harper government’s refusal to set meaningful Canadian climate-change targets ahead of this year’s UN environment summit.

The same government pontificates on the importance of accountability in multilateral fora, insisting upon tough reporting regimes for developing countries. However, when it comes to Canadians, the government seems to say that international goals are not applicable to us.

Universality is seen in Europe and even in the US as a positive thing, as an act of global solidarity, as well as an opportunity to promote international goals by acting first at home. Universality should also be seen by our blinkered government as a helpful mechanism to encourage emerging economies to share global roles that Western countries have assumed for decades – the provision of development assistance, for example. Solidarity with old OECD colleagues is not enough. As Canadians, we should worry that our government’s egocentric behaviour regarding the SDGs will leave it evading some of its shared responsibility for tackling global poverty, and at the same time discouraging others from doing so.

Not least, ordinary Canadians have to be puzzled as to why a wealthy society such as ours would not wish to accept bold international targets that might also do some good for our own most vulnerable citizens.

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What’s Good for the Goose: Universality and the SDGs

Financing for Development – new integrity needed

Financing for Development, the Net New challenge

– blog for  published Jun 4/2015. by John Sinclair 

 The UN Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) meets this July in Addis Ababa. It is designed to mobilize the trillions of new dollars needed to fully implement the UN’s new Post-2015 Agenda. The Agenda embodies the principle of ‘leaving nobody behind’ and has a bold core goal, the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030.

All very worthy, but will Western donors be seen as evasive in Addis and deliberately avoiding the need for ‘Net New’ resource? This is economist jargon for asking two things: that donor support is genuinely additional, the ‘new’; also that there is no false labelling, that we recognise that the new private investment will be substantially recovered as profits or declared as loans from development banks, the ‘net’.

We know private flows far exceed traditional grant aid. But worrisomely donors now talk about these trillions of investment dollars as being equivalent to ‘aid’.

It is becoming political cover for the reality of almost stagnant grant aid. Is this fantasy, window-dressing, even a practical possibility? Critically will it be ‘net new’? Practically, developed country governments cannot instruct private companies to invest in poverty reduction, rather than profit maximization.

We need to recall that most private flows are going to the richest of developing countries, to China not a Cambodia. This distribution runs counter to a goal of ‘leaving nobody behind’. The least developed countries for sure want both: more private investment and a bigger share of traditional grant aid.

So is there too much donor ‘window-dressing’?  However for those who believe in fairness (don’t we all?) it means that developed nations are expected to contribute substantially the ‘Net New’ stuff that is needed by the poorest nations.

However global equity does not seem to be in vogue. Many traditional Western donors have let their grant aid stagnate.  Canadian aid is down to 0.24% of national income (GNI)…  and still falling. We boast of our competence in handling the global financial crisis, but then say it has left us too poor to contribute.  A better model is the UK.  It chose to protect its budget allocation for meeting the UN’s 0.7% target. Western donors are not searching for ‘new net’ but rather for innovative ways of reporting and boasting about other things we can count as ‘sort of like’ aid.

Private sector activities have always been the life-blood of national economies in developed and developing countries alike. But now it is to be the big innovation in development. In practice, this means the money multinational and their shareholders in such as New York and Toronto spend clearing tropical jungle to grow oil palms in Indonesia or building jean factories in Haiti. Donors, including multilaterals such as the World Bank, note these huge gross flows in the IMF statistics, but conveniently overlook the large matching item called ‘remitted profits’.  This can leave as the only ‘Net New’ benefit for say Bangladesh low-paid jobs, sometimes even tragic death in a factory fire.

To compound the problem multinationals often find the means of not paying taxes on their profits. Sometimes this is technically legal, sometimes essentially fraud via false documentation. The net effect is the same – a loss of public funds for social investment in the developing country (and often also to the investor’s home country as profits are parked in tax havens). This massive leakage is now a major topic of discussion in the OECD and the G20, but there is all too little action on reformed global taxation systems, binding codes of good practice for multinationals, rules on fair taxation in the country where production occurs, etc. We need to make tax avoidance history.

One last example of missing ‘net new’ are the $ billions recorded as  ‘remittances’ in the IMF statistics. Key at the human level is the money saved by individuals born in the South, now working in the West as say a taxi-driver in Montreal or picking strawberries in California. The remittances are the personal savings they send home to even poorer mothers in Guatemala or Ethiopia. It is somewhat offensive that these millions of tiny personal transfers back home are now being discussed as new ‘treasure’ discovered by Canadian and other aid officials that can be boasted of as some sort of national ‘aid’ money.

We need a new integrity in the debate about financing global development, notably the Post-2015 Agenda. Its implementation will be costly.  As in the past most will be born by developing countries themselves, hopefully with more effective local tax efforts. Private and public external contributions are all needed and valid but they must be measured in ‘net new’ terms, not as repackaged old goods. Much better be honest with Canadian citizens who when polled say they want to be seen as generous donors to the most needy, surely not as tax avoiders or trying to double-count the savings of a poor Haitian taxi-driver living in Montreal.