Evidence of meeting #35 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 donors.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Philip Baker  Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Leslie Lefkow  Deputy Director, Africa, Human Rights Watch

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Paul Dewar

We'll now go to Ms. Brown.

May 2nd, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Baker. It's nice to have you here.

I had the opportunity to be in Ethiopia just three months ago and I was incredibly impressed with the growth and development that is going on in that country. Addis Ababa, of course, is going to be the centre of the African Union headquarters. If people haven't taken a look on the web at what that building looks like, it is absolutely phenomenal. Multiply the United Nations building by a hundred and you have this brand new wonderful facility. It is really going to be quite the place.

Ethiopia is a member of the economic union in East Africa, COMESA. They have set out some real development goals for themselves.

I know that Ethiopia has what is called Ethiopia's plan for accelerated sustained development to eradicate poverty. They have their own plan.

I wonder if you could talk to the committee a little bit about how CIDA interfaces with a country's plan because we're not there imposing one. But how does the country develop its own plan and then how does CIDA interface with that in order to help build capacity and get the best results both for CIDA money for Canadian taxpayers, and the development of a country like Ethiopia?

3:50 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

CIDA is a very strong proponent, as I am as an RDG, of the point that doing extremely effective development derives from the notion of country ownership. You've mentioned the plan. In the case of Ethiopia, what we call a growth and transformation plan from 2010 through 2015 is basically their poverty reduction strategy paper, which is, in the lingo of the development world, the key paper that each country pulls together to rally support from other countries and from donors.

In this case, through that plan, they take a very serious look at how they've done so far over the last series of plans—there have been several in the case of Ethiopia—and then we take a look at how we mesh best with our own country strategy to dovetail with that planning. The notion is that whatever they are saying are their priorities, we want to look for a piece of it that is an appropriate fit for Canadian talents and skills. But most importantly, it is driven by that recipient country.

In this case, what has come up with this new plan is very interesting. They've had a realization and made a recommendation that if they want to have sustainable growth, they're going to have to see a bit more strength and shift towards bolstering the private sector. Over the past few years there has been very strong growth in Ethiopia, but it's largely been public sector driven. This has been a really interesting development in this new five-year plan.

There are many donors in discussion with the government now. That's the second part of the answer. Through discussion with the government, we have developed options on where we can fit in as a piece of the puzzle.

We've been extremely strong on food security, both on the notion of areas for growth in food-secure opportunities for growing more small business, for example, and in food insecure areas, like some of the programs that we discussed today, such as the productive safety net. Food security has been a strong front for us.

Children and youth is another theme for CIDA, and we have been very strong on the notion of the procurement of health commodities. That has taken us a certain distance, but I'll bring it back to one of the key issues we raised earlier about controls. The Government of Ethiopia is moving its health commodities purchasing towards more of a direct budget support request. Canada, since 2005, has not given any direct funding to the Government of Ethiopia; therefore, on that front of health commodities, we would not propose to continue with that support because of the mechanism they're going to use for the future.

We've got a little bit of room right now to look at possible new directions in this five-year plan. That work is underway.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

One of the areas where we've been very strong is the agricultural sector. I note that among some of the projects we have there, we've got a school feeding program in Ethiopia, improved food security for mothers and children, an agricultural growth program, and support to multi-donor trusts. I don't have them all listed. I was just looking at agricultural market growth in Ethiopia. So there are a number of areas.

We visited a farm in Ethiopia where we're helping the farmers. It wasn't just a farm. We also have a veterinarian there who is helping to assess the health of the cows in order to impregnate them and develop better herds.

Food security is one of the most important things, and so is getting the right kind of food.

Could you talk about the micro-nutrient programs that we have?

3:55 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

Fair enough.

I mentioned in my opening remarks the notion of not just getting food on the table, but the right food on the table. We talk about human rights, the rights of children and the protection of the rights of children as an important aspect for our programming wherever we work. In the case of nutrients for both pregnant and lactating women and for children, that's a key tenet of our work in Ethiopia.

Through the Muskoka initiative, there's been a very large, $50-million initiative on nutrition designed to assist three million children and pregnant and lactating women right across the country that will allow the right micronutrients to get to them, such as vitamin A, so that they've got their best start on life and for mothers to stay healthy and be able to raise their children better. On that front, nutrition has played a really important role for us.

You mentioned livestock, as well, and the notion of the food gap, which I mentioned earlier, is a critical one. It even links to the human rights discussion. If you talk about the amount of the food gap, the length of time that a family is without security on the food front, it leads them to measures such as selling off their livestock, in order to survive that short-term gap of getting across that absolute lack of food.

If we can shorten and reduce that food gap, then we avoid the need for them to sell off livestock that could have provided a long-term productive route to food security for that family. It's another key aspect of both food security and nutrition for families.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

With 8% growth in their economy year over year, we have some hopes that things are going in the right direction, do we not?

3:55 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

The United Nations has stated that Ethiopia has been the top sub-Saharan performer in the last five years, in terms of development progress towards the UN millennium development goals. There are eight development goals. Admittedly, on two of them there are still some challenges, but on six of them they're making great progress.

On maternal and child health, on maternal mortality especially, they're making good progress, but they're still not quite on track to meet the goal. That's something that we keep looking at through our Muskoka work to advance that progress.

Growth of 8% is pretty stellar on that front. Again, you want to make sure that the growth is reaching the people, and that's why we design our programming to get to the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia. We're talking of roughly 30 million people among a population of 85 million. There is a massive number of poor people in Ethiopia.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Paul Dewar

Thank you, Ms. Brown

We're going to the Liberals and Mr. Eyking. You have seven minutes.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Mr. Baker, for coming.

You have a big responsibility. It's a big area. It seems like an area that's always having some sort of weather problem or conflict.

I have a couple of questions for you.

Not too long ago, our foreign affairs minister visited Ethiopia, I believe. There's been a Canadian in jail there for the last five years. You might be aware of him. I think his name is Bashir Makhtal. He's been five years in jail. The NDP already brought up human rights abuses.

Paragraph 4(1)(c) of our aid accountability act deals with international human rights and making sure they're taken care of. It's always complex, sometimes, when you're giving money to an underdeveloped country or a country in turmoil. How does the money get spent? Is it being spent on fair judicial systems and various things?

It's a pretty big thing when the Minister of Foreign Affairs goes to a jail and sees a Canadian. But I'm surprised that with the amount of money we give this country—I think it was $168 million in 2009-10—we couldn't have any leverage or couldn't have any positive outcome after that visit to get him out of jail.

Have you been using a bit of a carrot and stick on this file?

4 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

You've mentioned the Makhtal situation. It's a Foreign Affairs lead, obviously, for the situation.

Our overall approach in any country where we work is one of collaboration between Foreign Affairs and CIDA to get the best effect for the aid dollars we spend. In the case of Ethiopia, we work closely on human rights with Foreign Affairs. We work closely with all donors through something called the Development Assistance Group, or the DAG, as I'll keep referring to it today. We look for opportunities to bring these messages on human rights, generally, to the government wherever we can, and we drive those messages home. We make our expectations extremely clear. We seek out ways to improve the situation in any country, including in Ethiopia, in terms of human rights.

I won't speak to the specifics of the case. There's actually a court case related to it, a Federal Court case. But in terms of our general approach to human rights in Ethiopia, yes, again with our ambassador, we work together in approaching the government and stating our expectations, and then we work with them to try to find solutions. There have been a number of examples where there has been progress on that front. As I say, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is now able to have better access at the regional level.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

And you're not kind of mixing the aid up with the foreign affairs and saying, “Look guys, we're doing a lot for your country, so cut this guy some slack”?

4 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

Our drive is poverty reduction, and that's our mandate.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

The other thing, of course, is that we have four or five countries in the Horn of Africa that seem to face challenges all the time. We have Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Tanzania. There are borders there. Of course, they are countries, but climate doesn't have borders, and animals move. There are pirates and terrorists floating around.

I notice that you're a director for that whole area, and we're only talking about Ethiopia, but every country hinges on another one and what's happening there. Sometimes there are kidnappings and various things. Will there always be instability there?

Let's assume that we can take care of the food production to a certain extent, maybe with irrigation and better practices, as you've mentioned. Given the African Union's mandate or vision and how they're dealing with the area, are we, as the Canadian government, working closely with the African Union in dealing with a regional approach? If so, how are we doing it?

4 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

If I may, I will refer to two areas. We work closely with the AU, and it's a fact that our ambassador sitting in Addis has the most direct contact with the AU given that the headquarters is in Addis as well.

There are several mechanisms within the AU, such as what they call CAADP or the comprehensive Africa agriculture development programme. CAADP applies right across the continent. Each country looks to build its plan on how it will improve its agricultural productivity.

That's an AU initiative that's driven and lead by the AU in terms of policy, but then implemented at the country level by each country. CIDA works hard to assist in developing those CAADP plans. For example, in Mozambique we were the lead for the past two years in helping the government pull together its agricultural work. In Ethiopia we are trying to help on CAADP as well.

Then, you have the other issue of mechanisms within the AU, such as the various regional economic communities. IGAD is one of them, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. With IGAD there's another arm of the AU that's looking at the Horn of Africa specifically. They are trying to build on the notion that there's an emergency response required, but there's a long-term resilience issue too.

With IGAD's supporting network, it tries to pull together all the neighbourhood players to try to get some coherence in their policy and decisions. We support that work as well as a donor. On that front you can see progress on something like the Horn. In fact Nairobi, under the auspices of IGAD, hosted a large meeting just after the summer responses on the drought in the Horn of Africa, trying to pull together some longer-term solutions. A specific program we've done in Ethiopia called the productive safety net program was highlighted as a key sample showing how you can achieve resilience in food security in the region with some innovative work.

You mentioned climate change shock or disasters. On the climate change front there's a very large and successful program called MERIT, which leads work in Ethiopia. It rehabilitates the land and allows it to be put back into productive agricultural use. CIDA has been a huge supporter on that front, with great success. In fact there is over 500,000 kilometres of retainer walls that allow you to hold the moisture in place from flooding to allow previously drought-ridden land to become more productive. You can fence it in a bit to keep grazing livestock out so that you don't harm that market access possibility for poverty reduction.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Do I have a minute?