Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, on this exceptional bill, Bill C-293, on an issue that I think is of interest to many Canadians.
It deals with international development and how we can make it more effective. Why do we want to do this? As a matter of course to the taxpayer. However, the people we are dealing with are some of the most underprivileged people in the entire world and, quite frankly, it is a matter of life and death for many of them.
I will focus on Africa. Why? Because it is the only part of the world where the social parameters and economies are in decline. It is ironic that 40% of the world's natural resources are in the continent of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, yet we see the worst cases of poverty on the entire globe.
In the 24 times that I have gone to Africa to work as a physician and engage in other aid and development projects on the ground, I can tell the House, and all of those who have been there know full well, that the people there are the most industrious, caring, compassionate and resourceful individuals. Acts of absolutely breathtaking charity and kindness are exercised by these people in the midst of abject poverty. It is extraordinary to see and humbling, coming from the west.
All the more ironic and heart-rending is the fact that there are massive resources of extraordinary amounts. The tragic irony is some of the poorest people live in the richest countries in the world, with resources of oil, diamonds, gold, minerals, timber and hydro in abundance. Why do we evidence all of these resources on one hand, but on the other hand we see abject poverty?
Let us go through some of the challenges and problems.
First is corruption. Corruption is the cancer that has eroded the continent. The fact that we as western countries have chosen to neglect this is a pox on our houses. We have chosen to neglect the gross excesses of leaders, from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe to the Angolan government that has massive surpluses from oil, yet it is one of the worst places in the world for children to live. There are areas where there are conflicts, from Darfur to Chad, to the CAR and the Congo. We have seen countries ripped to pieces, innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire between groups that are fighting over resources, in part supported by western interests. We have done absolutely nothing. We have turned a blind eye.
How can we make our aid and development work better? I spoke of the problem of corruption, of a lack of capacity. We have umpteen numbers of solutions and frameworks that take place. We spend millions of dollars and those frameworks go absolutely no where. How on earth can we implement a framework if we do not have the people on the ground who have the capacity to execute them? It is an absolutely absurd situation, yet we expect these countries to get on their feet by giving them a framework that they cannot implement. They do not have the resources nor the people to do that. We give them the framework, we walk away and we are happy, with no effect on the ground. That is what we are talking about today.
There is a lack of basic infrastructure, human capacity and basic needs. When conflict arises and is in full force in front of us, when it is entirely possible to prevent those conflicts what have we done? Absolutely nothing. I have mentioned Darfur, Chad, CAR, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the list goes on.
Aid is like a funnel. Money goes in one end and trickles out the other end to the people. Our aid is scattered, unfocused, disorganized, within government, between governments and within countries of need. Can we fix it? Absolutely. This is in no way a mark on the very good people who we have in CIDA. They have been labouring under umpteen numbers of troubles through decades, but we can and we must fix this.
For example, we do not support the partnership branch, which supports the smaller NGOs that do exceptional work on the ground. Rather, we give huge tranches of funds to large international NGOs, and we lose accountability and effect. Again, it is the funnel effect with huge amounts of money through large NGOs, international organizations, with a trickle down to the people on the ground.
What can we do? Let us focus on the millennium development goals: 12 countries; primary health; primary education; water security; food security; governance; and anti-corruption work. Let us focus on these six particular areas and we will have an effect.
How do we execute them? From an administrative perspective, we should use the “Three Ones” that has been championed by UN aids, one framework, one implementing mechanism and one oversight mechanism. We can do that with CIDA and through our programs abroad.
When look at health care, which is a particular interest of mine, we should focus on maternal health. Why? If we get maternal health right, we will have our health care personnel, our medications, clinics, water and food. If we affect the maternal mortality statistics, we will know our health care systems are essentially correct and this will affect the entire population.
It is a mistake to focus on a silo mechanism for dealing with health care internationally, for example, A's focus only on antiretrovirals. If we simply deal with diseases as silos, but we do not have the health care personnel, the diagnostics, the treatment facilities, the clean water and the nutrition, how on earth will we have an effect on the ground? How will we affect those parameters and the people who have been ripped to pieces by the worst scourge that has ever affected humanity.
What else can we do? Why do we not take the Canada Corps, which is a moribund, rump of an organization within CIDA. Why not tap into the potential within our own country, Canadians who desperately want to work abroad, both young people and those who are part of the early retirement group? They have the desire, the will, the time and the expertise to do this.
How would this work? The Canada Corps would be the interface between a country and our people at home. Our CIDA people would then be on the ground and they could ask the people what they need. How many nurses, doctors, engineers, judicial experts, agronomists, hydrologists and veterinarians do they need? It then brings a list back to Canada. The corps then asks various groups, such as the Canadian Medical Association, the nursing association, Lawyers Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders, the Canadian Teachers Association, to fill those areas. If we do that, a big gap will be filled. Those people would not only provide care, but they could also teach people in those countries how to be veterinarians, doctors, nurses or agronomists. A long term stable effect would be felt on the ground.
We need to focus on the partnership branch. We need to increase moneys to it and ensure Canadian NGOs are used. They do incredible work on the ground. People here in the House as well as their families are involved in this work.
In the end, the big answer to Africa is the private sector. How can we provide an environment with infrastructure where people will invest in developing countries, an environment where people can use the ample resources for their benefit and not for the benefit of the leaders who swan around in Mercédes-Benzs while their people live in gutters. That is happening right now. We can do this.
I encourage members to look at the example of what Sir Seretse Khama did in Botswana. He was a leader for the continent. He had the resources and he ensured that they were tapped into and his people benefited from that. Despite the fact that Botswana has tragic levels of HIV-AIDS, it has a relatively stable economically, and it is to the credit of Sir Seretse Khama and other African leaders like him who were able to do this.
I encourage the government not to ignore Africa because it is a continent of great hope and potential. It has extraordinary people who can definitely change the course of their future. They do not want handouts. They want a hand up. All they want is the same as all of us. They do not want to be shot. They do not want to be killed. They do not want their children to be abused. They do not want to have a leadership that robs their country blind.
They want to have clean water. They want to have access to clean food that they can get themselves. They want education for their children. They want roads that are clear and free of landmines.
They want a stable playing field, and if we enable them to have that, if we do not give it to them, there will be an opportunity where these people will be able to take care of themselves. They have the internal personal resources. They have the capability to do this themselves. They just want an opportunity.