Good afternoon. I am extremely pleased to be here today. Thank you for inviting me.
In terms of a bit of background, these are obviously my personal views, not the views of Global Canada, which I'm in charge of.
I'm from western Canada. I was a consultant at McKinsey and Company for a number of years, and then I became global head of strategy at Bombardier and then president of Bombardier International group before working at IDRC as a scholar looking at Canada's role in the world. I was asked to serve as president of CIDA for three years under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, and then for six years I was managing director of the World Economic Forum, the folks who organized Davos, among other things, and who are very engaged in collective actions to share global problems.
It's with that background that I will provide my perspective here.
In terms of a strategic context, over the last 15 years or so we've gone from a G7 world to a “G7 billion” world in which a multitude of states and non-state actors can affect our collective future. In this kind of a world, innovations and improvements can be shared rapidly across boundaries. Similarly, negative developments, whether infectious diseases, cybercrime, or terrorism, can be shared with equal speed.
This world is at a crossroads. It is possible that over the next 15 years, we could eradicate absolute poverty. We could stabilize a number of the most fragile states in the world. We could have a record number of states and a record number of people entering the middle class. We could secure a more just and stable and prosperous world, all while respecting planetary boundaries. It is possible and it would be historic.
Unfortunately, I think it's less likely than the other alternative, which is that we'll actually go down a wrong path such that international co-operation will falter; a number of fragile states will collapse; key income states will be captured by extremist groups or authoritarian vested interests; a number of western states will disengage or lash out; the world will enter a downward spiral of tension, conflict, environmental degradation, and, in some areas, ecological collapse; and we will potentially see a catastrophic failure of the international system.
Just because we haven't experienced it yet, we should not imagine that we will not experience it in the next 10 years. In a sense, we're sort of in a 1928-1929 kind of world—not with the tensions of fascism, but with collective challenges and pressures on the system. I think we need to appreciate that we really are at a historic crossroads.
It's also clear that the more likely scenario is the negative one, which would be disastrous for Canada and a terrible legacy for our children. I believe that is the context.
I also believe at this critical moment that Canada can play a more significant role than any we've had in the last 60 years. Probably we're positioned to have the kind of influence we had in the late 1940s and early 1950s, for two reasons.
The first is our capacity to make a difference. We actually have the fiscal room and the domestic support for decision-makers in Ottawa to make bold moves internationally if we choose to. There is Canadian support for a globally engaged Canada.
The second is that we have the mindset and the skill set that correspond with any of the challenges of today, and we have international credibility. We are trusted to do the right things for the right reasons, so in an absolute sense, we can make a difference.
Perhaps even more striking—and, in a sense, more worrying—is that in a comparative sense, we really stand out, because although we are the smallest G7 country, we are perhaps the G7 country today that has the greatest unused capacity to make a positive difference, since many other G7 partners are tapped out. The United States is going through a very difficult period politically. The U.K. is tapped out in terms of its fiscal commitments to defence and development, which are well beyond ours or those of many others, and it's also going through an existential crisis. France is in a very challenged space. Italy and Japan are in a financial morass. If you look through the G7, we're the ones left standing in terms of being able to actually engage in a significant way if we choose to.
Given that context, I believe we have the opportunity and also the obligation to engage in a way that's consequential: not just to be present, but to actually make a real difference.
So how does one do that in this complex world? I would argue we do it by being very focused and very determined.
What I'm going to lay out in the next five minutes is a development diamond with four points.
The first point is a very sharp focus. There are, as Eric mentioned, a number of geographies where we can be very useful. I would argue that there are only a limited number where we can truly be game-changing.
If we look at countries that have regional or global significance in terms of world stability and that are also countries where we can actually make a difference in outcomes, there are two.
The first is Haiti, which Eric mentioned. It is the only fragile state in Latin America or in the Americas—although Venezuela is trying to catch up—and it has a huge impact on the entire Caribbean region. It's at a critical point in its own political and economic development. We are, together with France and the U.S., the three major players there, but we have a credibility and objectivity that the other two do not. We can make a unique difference there, should we choose to.
The second is Afghanistan. It's obviously one of the poorest countries in the world. It's a critically challenged country. It is very important not just for its own sake, but also for the impact it has on Pakistan and the region. It is a place with which we have a unique relationship, not just because of the sacrifice of treasure and blood that we've collectively made, but also because of the capacity that we have in our civil servants, in our leaders, and in civil society here in Canada, and the tremendous respect with which Canada is held from the lowest level right up to the president of Afghanistan. It is another place where, should we choose to, we can make a real difference. These are the two.
Let me go to the other part of focus, which is thematic. When looking at our way in the world, think about this as a T. We can go very deep in a limited number of countries, and there are a few areas where we can engage globally in a way that again would make a difference.
These aren't exclusive. There are other things that we will be doing as well, but in terms of the places sectorally where there is again a great unmet need that has global implications—not just that it's nice to improve them, but that they could actually change the track of the global outcome—and where we have a unique contribution to make, I would argue that again there are two.
The first is reproductive health. In international development programs, people have too often tended to cherish girls but abandon or forget about women. In some developing countries that we're involved in, a girl has an 80% to 90% chance of being immunized or going to school. She has less than a 10% to 20% chance of having access to modern contraception when she becomes a woman.
The impact of 200 million women being without the contraception they are often dying to get means 100,000 women and 600,000 children perish every year. The implications on the development of a country go beyond that.
When women are empowered to choose when they have children and how many they have, they tend to have smaller families. These smaller families allow more workers per dependent, which increases per capita economic growth by up to 30%. It also tends to reduce the ecological burden on the country and, in fragile states, the chance of resource-based conflict. Therefore, empowering women is not only good for rights; it actually changes the demographic destiny of countries and regions. If we look at issues like the Sahel, we see that countries like Mali and Niger will collapse in the next 30 years unless there is full empowerment of women there.
This is therefore not just a rights issue: it is a geopolitical issue. It's a place where Canada is uniquely positioned because of our credibility on MNCH, which the present government is continuing, and because of the present government's focus on women and girls and our general credibility on dealing with sensitive issues. That would be one theme.
The second one is within our own DNA: it's peace, order, and good government. When looking at the world and looking at development, we see that whether it's fragile states or low- and middle-income states or states that are more developed like Brazil, governance is key. To paraphrase James Carville, it's the state, stupid. That's the key issue.
Canada has a great tradition of working on governance. It's a place that we have understood right from the beginning of our own country. Particularly within peace, order, and good governance is the peace and order aspect: policing, judiciary, penitentiary systems. These are places that the world needs help and these are places where Canada has a tremendous credibility. I would argue that peace, order, and good government are Canada's strongest competitive advantage and the world's greatest unmet need.
Those, then, are the geographical and sectoral points of focus.
The third point is how we do it. We need the right resources, focused at the right level. That would mean that for these countries and for these particular areas we need to invest with the intention of becoming the best in the world. If we're going to focus on good governance, including the resource governance that Eric mentioned, we should say that Canada and Ottawa are going to become global centres of good governance. There's no UN institution for good governance in the way that the WHO is for health. This is something we can own.
Beyond the idea of putting resources into a specific area, there is the question of resources overall. In my last two minutes, I want to note where we are in terms of overall commitment in order to make sure our resources can match our rhetoric.
I draw your attention to the next four slides.
The first shows where Canada is compared with its peers, those being other G7 countries and mid-sized open economies such as Norway and Sweden. We are well below average in that group. In 2014, we contributed about 0.24% of GNI; in 2015, it was about 0.28%. The average is almost twice that, at about half a per cent of GNI. If you look at countries that we refer to as “like-minded”—the Scandinavians and the U.K.—you can see that our minds are in the same place, but our pocketbooks are not. We're generally spending one-half to one-third of what our real peers are spending.
The second point, as shown in the third slide, is that not only are we spending less than our peers, but we're now spending much less than we have spent historically. For 30 years, across Conservative and Liberal governments, there was a strong commitment to development. We were leaders, at about a half a percent of GDP. In the early 1990s, with our fiscal and constitutional crises, that fell, and it hasn't come back.
The situation today will be the worst we've been in if we continue at this level. Last year was the second-lowest commitment of our resources in history in relation to GNI. Today we're at about 0.28%; under Prime Minister Chrétien, it was 0.31%; under Martin, it was 0.3%; under Prime Minister Harper, it was 0.3%.
Don't think of these hundredths of a decimal point as a fraction of a per cent. Each one-hundredth is about $200 million—more importantly, it's about 25,000 lives. It's about 50,000 refugee families, 2 million girls going to school, and 1.5 million women having access to family planning. That's what you can do with one one-hundredth of one per cent. This isn't a fraction of a decimal point—this is millions of lives.
If we continue at this level, we will have the lowest level of commitment of any Canadian government in the last 50 years. With respect to our campaign for the UN Security Council, one of the reasons we lost was that we were seen as not being committed to international development. Our commitment at that point was 0.34%. To go back up to a level seen as too low several years ago, we would have to commit an extra billion dollars a year.
This isn't to be defensive about the past; rather, it is to point out that we need to be determined about the future. We need to step up and move forward.
The U.K. is the only G7 country that has reached 0.7%. It reached it across three administrations—Labour, a Social Democratic-Conservative coalition, and Conservatives. It reached it over a period of 15 years of sustained commitment. They started on this journey in 1997, and they realized this end in 2013.
The U.K. in 1997 is almost identical to us today. Their unemployment rate was about 7%; ours is about 7%. Their deficit was about 2%; ours is about 2%. Their commitment in terms of ODA, official development assistance, to GNI was about one-quarter of 1%, which is where we are today. Where the U.K. was then is where we are now. The question is whether we have the collective ambition to be, 15 years from now, where the U.K. is today, which is in a position as a true leader in international development.
We're not talking about aid and we're not talking about assistance. We're talking about an international investment in our collective well-being. This is about investing in preventative maintenance for the planet. That's what international development engagement is in the 21st century. That's why I think the role that you're playing in reviewing bilateral development assistance is so critically important.
Thank you for your time.