April 16, 2014

Visit our new and improved blog on WordPress! Visitez notre nouveau blogue amélioré sur Word Press!

Dear readers, please note that this blog is no longer being used. CCIC's blog is now on WordPress. All the articles previously published on this blog have migrated, so you can find all posts in the new blog.

Thanks for your interest!

Chers lecteurs, veuillez prendre note que ce blogue n'est plus utilisé. Le blogue du CCCI est maintenant sur WrodPress. Tous les articles publiés sur ce blogue ont été copiés sur le nouveau, donc tous nos articles sont disponibles sur le nouveau blogue.

Merci de votre intérêt!

June 10, 2013

Will the world be transformed in 2015?

I am of two minds about the new report by the High Level Panel of Experts on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP).

The HLP was set up in July 2012 by UN Secretary General Bank Ki Moon to present an “ambitious, yet achievable” development framework for what will succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000 and intended to be achieved by 2015. They delivered their final report last week in New York.

So here’s the good news – despite sky high expectations, somehow, the Panel has delivered.

The new framework has brought the environment and development back together. Many have argued (like Open Canada) that the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development that emerged from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, were never integrated into the MDGs. This meant that the two have been running on parallel tracks for the past two decades. But the new framework now “put[s] sustainable development at the core,” building on the outcomes of the Rio +20 review, and framing this as one of five transformative shifts that need to occur post-2015.

Transformation is one of the other welcome themes in the new report. The new framework includes four other key transformative shifts to move beyond business-as-usual. Whereas the MDGs sought to halve extreme poverty and hunger in the world, the second shift aims to “leave no one behind” by addressing issues related to inclusion and inequality (although inequality overall still gets a bum deal).

Third, it seeks to “transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth.” This means tackling growing inequality, youth unemployment and decent work, financial stability, fair and pro-development trade, and sustainable activities, among other things.

The fourth shift tackles something that was sorely missing from the MDGs – peace and conflict (a welcome addition), and open, accountable and effective institutions in all countries to help deliver on all of these transformations.

Finally, it envisages a new global partnership for achieving all of this, and one that embraces all actors in development – from government, to business, to civil society, academics and people.

The framework also builds on the unfinished business of the MDGs by integrating some of the lessons learned from the past 13 years. For example, it draws attention to not just creating decent work for poor people, but securing land tenure for them; it focuses on the quality of education and lifelong learning, not just getting more kids in schools; and it looks at ending hunger, but also ensuring people have nutritious food to eat.

It also introduces a range of important new issues: ending gender violence and child marriage, enhancing access of the poor to social protection systems, universal sexual and reproductive health and rights, increased access to energy and more renewable energy, ensuring basic political freedoms and rights to information and data, and a focus on tax evasion, among others.

All of this it has bundled up into 12 illustrative goals, with corresponding targets, disaggregated indicators (that would measure the realization of the targets) to ensure shared progress by different groups within a country, and a call for a data revolution to ensure that countries can gather this information.

Finally the panel has also been extremely strategic. They have sought to fill gaps and identify new issues, be ambitious but also practical (by translating transformative shifts into concrete goals and targets that the panel argues everyone can rally behind), and ensure that the framework applies to all countries but can also be adapted to national contexts.

So what’s not to like?

While the MDGs have helped spur huge progress on a number of fronts (half a billion less people living below the poverty line, 3 million less child deaths per year, 25% reduction in deaths from malaria), the world is facing a series of global shocks – the financial crisis, a food system in disarray, the Arab Spring – that could completely undo global progress on development. Inequality is on the rise. Carbon dioxide emissions hit 400 parts per million, bringing us closer to a global catastrophic climate crisis.

So yes it is time for transformation. But, to quote renowned development thinker Michael Edwards, “like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, [this means] that something qualitatively different and better, not simply something quantitatively bigger or more of the same, can emerge from old or existing structures.”

While the HLP’s recommendations mark a significant shift in how we need to address these issues, and may have a big impact on the lives of millions, it tackles symptoms rather than the emerging set of systemic crisis we’re facing. This requires not just retweaking and refining the current system so it works better, but doing things fundamentally differently for people and the planet.

I am willing to do so. I guess we will have to wait until 2015 to see whether millions of Canadians (and the government) feels the same.

This article by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, was first published in the Ottawa Citizen Blog on Aid and Development, on June 6, 2013.

May 28, 2013

My Experience Volunteering with CCIC

As a novice volunteer and recent grad, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when it came to volunteering with CCIC.  I have been very focused on studying and working for the last few years but have always wanted to volunteer.  Last spring I volunteered at a Management Development Conference for Women at Carleton University and found the experience to be very rewarding so I jumped at the chance to volunteer at the Forum and AGM.

From the get-go, our volunteer coordinator Amy offered us a choice of meaningful tasks and roles as well as the chance to actively participate in the forum. I joined a workshop for emerging leaders, chatted with those who participated in the public debate and also volunteered as a rapporteur during one of several breakout groups. Other volunteers have been busy tweeting, snapping photos, taking videos and even engaging with parliamentarians.

Although I have no experience in international development, I have worked at Natural Resources Canada through the Federal Student Work Experience Program and was immersed in several international development issues related to sustainable mining in Canada and abroad. During the emerging leaders workshop, I was able to share my experiences and learn from others who were working in their respective fields. This was experiential learning at play, which reminded me so much of the seminars that I had participated in during grad school at Carleton. I was instantly impressed and filled with anticipation of what the next few days would bring.

Later that evening I attended the public debate. After recently participating in some heated classroom debates, I was excited to get the chance to sit back, relax and enjoy. Nevertheless, I found myself taking notes, as if I was still in school anticipating and preparing my rebuttals. During the networking session, the debaters were gracious enough to partake in interviews with volunteers. At times I felt like I was the one being interviewed but was luckily able to integrate some of the issues that were discussed in the emerging leaders workshop. The debaters also took the time to offer young volunteers timely advice to help us in our career ambitions, which I know was greatly appreciated.

Thus far, I would have to say that my role as a rapporteur was the most surprising and rewarding. Our breakout group approached the session in a unique manner by first sharing personal stories and then analyzing these experiences.  Listening to such passionate and open-minded thinking was inspiring. After creating our flip chart, I couldn’t wait to see what other groups had come up with and was proud to see some of the exceptional recommendations that were developed!

The gala awards, dinner and dance capped off day one of the forum. I know that my fellow volunteers were happy to end an eventful day by sitting back and relaxing at the Museum of Nature. What a beautiful setting to enjoy good food, conversation and dance!

I am so happy that I decided to volunteer with CCIC and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Annual Forum. Initially, my motivation for volunteering was to make some sort of contribution while learning more about pertinent development issues. But this was no ordinary volunteer experience and has far exceeded my expectations! Several voices have been represented with the common aim of working together to improve the human condition. I feel like I’ve developed a better understanding of these perspectives and would have to say that my own perspective has been broadened.

Thank you CICC for an amazing opportunity and congratulations on a successful forum!

Zainab Bekkari

Emerging Leaders’ Initiative a Hopeful Sign for Canadian Development Cooperation

This year’s CCIC Forum, which wrapped up on Friday, focused on envisioning what the future of Canadian international development co-operation could look like, 25 years from now. During his plenary presentation, Michael Edwards of Demos led his audience through an exercise where we were actually asked to close our eyes and picture this future. What did we want it to be? What might it look like?

One of the older participants later noted, “When I did that exercise, at first all I could think of was…in 25 years, I’ll be dead!” Certainly, most of the attendees, including almost all the current NGO leadership, hope to be retired by then. Luckily, one of the most prescient moves by the CCIC was to introduce, for the first time this year, the ‘Emerging Leaders’ category of participant. These are younger professionals, most under 30 years old, who work for, and are nominated by, CCIC member organizations. It is these emerging leaders whom we must count on to carry on the baton in realizing the hopes and the dreams of today’s leadership. And of course, since Canada’s international NGO sector values inclusion, it is only right that these young leaders also add their voices to the collective conversation about the future.

This year, 18 emerging leaders registered for the Forum, and it seems likely that this number will increase in future years. Their participation was a resounding success. Paul Heidebrecht of MCC Canada worked closely with Amy Bartlett, this year’s forum coordinator, to put together a special program for emerging leaders, in addition to the regular forum schedule. This included a pre-forum workshop on “Influencing policy in interesting times”, visits with Liberal and NDP MPs most engaged with international development and foreign affairs portfolios, and a final meeting to determine a vision and next steps for the more immediate future of the emerging leaders’ network.

Having sat in on many of these events, I was struck by how well the key themes from the main conference echoed with those specifically for young leaders. Kathy Vandergrift, the chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, spoke to the young leaders group about the changing Canadian political context. According to her view, the leading public discourse is based on fear, and our challenge is to move it to one of compassion. How, Kathy asked us, can civil society organizations develop an “empathetic imagination” within the Canadian public? And how do we find our own courage in doing so, if CSOs are afraid to take up advocacy roles because doing so may threaten their funding bases?

This theme of moving out of, and towards, a vision of hope and compassion came up again and again throughout the forum. It was raised by Michael Edwards, by many Forum participants, and even by some of the MPs we met with. As the legislation around the recent DFAIT/CIDA merger calls for the restructured development program to reflect ‘Canadian values’, there is a wide sense of optimism that these values really are based on compassion and solidarity. Young Canadians clearly share the desire to look outwards with compassion: international development is the most popular undergraduate degree amongst students, despite the uncertainty of future employment in the sector.

Personally, I have a very hard time imagining where Canadian international development cooperation may be in 25 years, because I am simply not sure what the world will look like in 25 years, given accelerated rates of social, political, ecological and technological change. Will we still be dependent on oil in 25 years? What will the gap between rich and poor be? Who will be the world’s super power? What will our national and international political organisation look like? What will the state of the environment be?

I’m not sure about any of these, but I am sure that the world we will gift to future generations is built on the actions we take today. I vote for a world of love, rather than fear, of open cooperation rather than closed competition. For Canadian CSOs, this starts with revisiting and reinvigorating their links with the Canadian public, as well with the world, reminding ourselves of the values we hold dear, celebrating the good work we have already done, and working collaboratively and creatively as we move forward. More than ever, Canadian CSOs depend directly on the Canadian public to understand and support their work, and they must open themselves to greater exchange. Likewise, while Canada has much to give to the world, we also have much to learn from our friends internationally, now more than ever.

I do not mean to downplay the current challenges, nor those that lay ahead, for CCIC and its members. They’re formidable. But I think we’re up to it. Having spent time in the last three days with the first group of CCIC emerging leaders, I can’t help but walk away with the impression that the future is bright.

Sarah Parkinson