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Time to Reverse the Cuts Made to International Development

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This post was authored by: Heather McPherson, Executive Director, Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC); Julia Sanchez, Executive Director, Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC); Marilyn Coolen, Co-Chair, Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN); Nicci Stein, Executive Director, Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD); Jean-Francois Tardif, Executive Director, RESULTS Canada.

From February 3 to 9, Canada is celebrating International Development Week, a time to mark Canada's contributions to the fight against global poverty. There is much progress to celebrate: child deaths have dropped to 7.6 million from 12.7 million in 1990; 23 million more kids go to school today than in 2002; and with only 4 countries still reporting infections, we are on the verge of eliminating polio from the planet. These are but a few of the life-changing outcomes, and good news stories, that Canada has supported through the generosity of its citizens and the strategic use of our tax dollars.

Yet this progress is being put at risk by the Federal Government's deep cuts to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) announced in the March 2012 budget. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which manages the bulk of ODA, is particularly hit with $319 million in cuts (an 8 per cent reduction) over 3 years.

This is having devastating effects on some of the poorest countries in the world, like Rwanda, Malawi and Nepal, which are being cut from Canadian aid altogether. Cuts in these countries will negatively impact agriculture, health, public sector administration and management, education and democratic participation programs.

Canada has traditionally been a leader in the fight against tuberculosis, the biggest killer of people living with HIV, curable for just $20 per patient. CIDA funding for the TB-REACH initiative in Tanzania has helped control this infectious disease by providing revolutionary rapid testing to under-served rural areas. As part of the recent cuts, however, Canada will be slashing $10 million per year in spending on TB control -- a 33 per cent reduction.

Reinstating this funding is affordable. Three-hundred and nineteen million dollars amounts to $3 per Canadian per year, the equivalent of two Tim Horton's coffees! It represents a mere 6 per cent of the total cuts announced in the budget, yet every dollar has life-saving and real impact overseas.

These choices made by the federal government -- to try to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable -- are out of step with Canadian values and our sense of global responsibility.

Recent polling by Vision Critical shows that the majority of Canadians believe that reducing poverty will have positive impacts in other areas: three-quarters of Canadians believe reducing global poverty helps to fulfill human rights obligations, and more than half of us believe the federal government is most responsible for this important work. At the same time, the government is sliding back on its support to international development and is now positioned at an all-time low of 0.25 per cent of GDP, far below other wealthy nations and its commitment to invest 0.7 per cent of GDP.

Thousands of Canadians and over 45 civil society organizations -- faith-based, unions, and non-governmental -- across the country have endorsed the campaign to "Reverse the Cuts", and the number of Canadians adding their voice is growing. We call on the Federal government to restore the ODA budget to its pre-2012 levels and ensure that aid delivered overseas adheres to Canada's own law, the ODA Accountability Act, which requires that ODA funding contribute to poverty alleviation, be responsive to the needs identified by communities in developing countries, and promote human rights.

Sign the Reverse the Cuts petition here.

The Reverse the Cuts campaign represents a national coalition of development NGOs, labour groups, provincial councils and faith groups. Together, they aim to restore Canada's important role in international development through reversing the cuts to overseas development assistance. www.reversethecuts.ca