Evidence of meeting #15 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was zinc.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Yvon Bernier  Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins
  • Christina Dendys  Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative
  • Doug Horswill  Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

9:40 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

You've hit on something incredibly important, particularly in the area of nutrition, because we know the only way we are going to make progress is for governments themselves to prioritize this and for it not to be siloed. Nutrition has been forgotten and underfunded, in part because it gets shoved off somewhere and it is not prioritized. There is a movement afoot globally called the Scaling Up Nutrition movement. Canada has been a leader on that, but governments around the world in 21 developing countries have signed on.

It is not just a sign-on campaign that means nothing. Somebody has to be a leader within those governments to say that nutrition, for example, is cross-sectoral. It is cross-departmental. It fits within agriculture, economic development, and health: a variety of divisions within a government mandate and operations.

There is a real move about horizontality and synergies and ensuring they are not siloed, because when things are siloed they don't get done. You have hit on something incredibly important. Canada and the world are recognizing that siloed interventions can be problematic.

Having said that, we need to be cautious that when we try to incorporate something into everything that it doesn't get lost again, right? Using this as an example, vitamin A, which is responsible for saving millions of children's lives, has been integrated into what are called child health days. Those campaigns happen a couple of times a year. So it's a little about not throwing out the baby with the bathwater to ensure that the low-cost, high-impact interventions that breach the most vulnerable also don't get lost in all of it.

A bit of a game needs to be played to ensure that it is recognized as important across spectrums but also that we don't lose progress or traction on the ground that we've already covered.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

If you're trying to get these pills to the kids, and half of them are not in school, it's kind of like this Catch-22: in order to get them to take a pill a day or a week or whatever, the ideal is for the teacher to pass the pills out with a glass of clean water. You would think that would be a simple thing in our society, but it's not a simple thing in those societies.

Is reaching these children on the street a problem too?

9:45 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

You know, the price of commodities is so small when you're talking about micronutrients, for example, that really the bulk of the investment is in delivery through health systems and other things, which we do need to be building up. By the way, it's literally two capsules a year--one in the spring and one in the fall. That's it. That's why we've been doing them in partnership with UNICEF through child health days.

Have you heard of these child health days? There are campaigns that are supported by national governments and INGOs and aid organizations. You go out and kind of grab all the moms and kids. You do social mobilization; you get the word out, and moms and kids come. Oftentimes they will be linked with immunization campaigns, or in the past they were linked with polio updates or with bed-net distribution, and you kind of do this social mobilization whereby you bring families together for that one-stop shopping. Apparently, if you go it's enough to bring tears to your eyes, because it's a massive sort of campaign.

Now there's more of a move to really integrate them within health systems, particularly the health systems that are valued by the Muskoka Initiative investments. You can reach people close to home, at the district or community health posts at the farthest mile. You have hospitals in cities and district clinics. Then you have these remote health posts that reach families where they live. This sort of stuff needs to be integrated within that sort of last-mile approach.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

I have only so much time. I guess one of my other questions--and I'm in the opposition, and I'm trying not to beat up on these guys--is I think we're looking at a proactive approach and at what we can do better as Canadians. I think we're trying to achieve these goals and get more aid, and sometimes it's easiest just to give to multilaterals like the UN and say “Okay, we did our job, there's the money”, so we don't have to be as accountable. Is that the right direction for us, or should we be rolling up our sleeves more and getting involved in how the money you say is from Muskoka is getting to where it needs to go?

Maybe somebody else can answer that.

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

That's a very good question. It's a major issue. We've contributed to CIDA briefs in order to offer our orientations on international aid. In general, Canada is one of the best perceived countries with regard to cooperation. Canadians are held in high regard for the way they do business with local partners, and in that sense I believe they clearly distinguish themselves from a number of other countries that engage in cooperation.

Canada must clearly carry out its own projects as far as possible. However, that depends on the sectors. In some sectors it has to collaborate with major organizations, such as UNICEF and other large global organizations that have extremely specific targets, such as childhood, for example. I believe that's necessary.

However, not all programs must become multilateral programs. Canada at times remains distinctly in the background, except when it makes a financial contribution. We don't really see any contribution of Canadian expertise, the image of Canada that is projected as a result, the influence that Canada can have on those countries with regard to values and ways of viewing development, and so on. All that is toned down when we contribute financially to bilateral programs. Canada has to strike a balance through very broad-based programs and much more specific programs.

Thank you.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

That's all the time.

Christina, did you want to add a quick comment?

9:50 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

I just wanted to say it's about results. It's about ensuring that we're having an impact and making sure that we do in monitoring those. There's a multiplicity of ways to get to that last mile, that woman with those four kids. That's what really matters. So if the best way is through multilateral organizations, or the best way is through an INGO, or the best way is through a good government that carries an agenda for the poor, there's a multiplicity of ways. We can't lose sight of who we're doing it for, and we have to ensure that we're measuring impact.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

9:50 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

Doug Horswill

As one last thing, as part of a company engaged in this and just learning it, I think that last point is the key one--measuring, monitoring, reporting, and keeping transparency. That's how we run our business. That's how this business needs to be run.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

Mr. Dechert, you have five minutes for the second round.

December 6th, 2011 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank each of you for your appearance here today and for the good work that your organizations are doing to help people in need.

I want to start with Mr. Bernier and Desjardins. I understand that Desjardins has developed something called Desjardins fund for inclusive finance, which utilizes equity investments and strengthens micro-financed institutions in the delivery of certain financial products. I wonder if you could describe the fund and how it in your view improves the governance of micro-financed institutions in the countries it operates in. Can you also describe the international development projects that you undertake, and in which countries you operate?

9:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

This may be a long answer.

First of all, the Desjardins fund for inclusive finance is a new fund that emerged from an experiment that we've conducted over the past 10 years on an international development fund managed by Développement international Desjardins and a limited partnership to draw a clear distinction among the various uses of the funds.

The purpose of the Desjardins fund for inclusive finance is to make loans—to use capital—to microfinance institutions that deal with the poorest and most disadvantaged clienteles. It may do so in the form of loans or debentures with financial cooperatives to provide them with liquidity and especially to offset a medium-term shortage of resources at the financial institutions in developing countries. The local savings being used are a demand resource, and thus are lent for the very short term. And to enable the institutions to meet the regulatory ratios of the central banks of those countries—the institutions that need medium-term capital—we provide that.

The other important action is that we have invested in corporations. We therefore acquire capital and we become a member of the board of directors of a limited company, which is not a cooperative, together with other international investors. This fund serves as a lever to mobilize additional resources.

We are currently working in partnership with the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the FMO of the Netherlands and Bluewater Investment Group, which is an enormous microfinance investment group.

Our approach is always to promote local investment and local ownership. We bring in domestic community investors in the new businesses and, in partnership with the board of directors, provide extremely strict and rigorous governance rules, which makes it possible to form organizations.

Currently, DID strongly supports four financial institutions of this kind in Zambia, Tanzania, Panama and soon Uganda, because a project is starting up there.

All the development projects that we are conducting are scattered across 15 or 20 countries as well. We are taking part in bilateral projects in Haiti designed to support a national financial cooperative institution, the Le Levier federation. We are also taking part in a structural project at the national level with the Haitian government to develop agricultural financing mechanisms.

In Mali, and in fact in four West African countries, we are working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce new technologies in the financial institutions engaged in microfinance to enable them to go further in the rural areas and to access even more disadvantaged clienteles. In Burkina Faso, we are working with the largest cooperative financial institution to develop financial centres for entrepreneurs. In Senegal, we are working with the Senegalese government to support the microfinance sector as a whole through structural actions to clean up the sector and provide technology to the smallest microfinance institutions, and so on. In fact, 40 active projects are currently underway.

Does that answer your question?

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

It was very good, and I commend you for all of those projects. I think that's very important to get on the record. I want to move back to something you mentioned in your presentation about the CFE financial centres for entrepreneurs. You mentioned that there are ten and they provided over $220 million U.S. in loans to 82,000 small entrepreneurs and have created in the neighbourhood of 53,000 jobs. In the time we have left, can you give us just maybe one example of a small enterprise that's been assisted this way and of the types of jobs that have been created?

9:55 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Yes, of course.

Consider the example of Zambia, which may be one of the most recent.

In Zambia, the average amount of loans granted to entrepreneurs is approximately US$4,000. The entrepreneurs are often cabinet-makers, people who work with metal and people who are engaged in various businesses.

So the typical entrepreneur has a small cabinet-making business. The idea is to finance his working capital so that he is in a position to acquire his goods so that he can then process them and to help him finance his marketing. In general, approximately three or four jobs will subsequently be created. Often it's initially a single worker who, with the help of a loan, manages to increase his production.

We also do a lot of housing finance for small entrepreneurs. This is another sector where effects are observable. The idea often is to finance the workshop that is attached to the individual's house or cabin. So we finance construction of an additional part of the house or room, for example, to create the workshop. Here again, jobs are gradually created in that workshop. Some four or five jobs are generally created by the first loan.

It has to be noted that the procedure in the case of an initial loan is extremely rigorous. It is hard to obtain the first loan, but when the entrepreneur's loan history is established, he may subsequently obtain a second and third loan. We are able to assist him until he becomes a more stable entrepreneur if he continues his activities in his field.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

Ms. Sims.