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Climate change is certainly partly to blame for droughts that destroy crops, kill livestock and dry up rivers. However, the main cause of hunger crises is conflict. If the guns were silenced and humanitarian access were restored, it would save more lives in the short term than the return of the rains and crops.
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Already in the grips of an impending famine, fragile Somalia can't handle much more. But while hunger rates grab news headlines, there is a much quieter killer at work: tuberculosis. TB is one of the top ten causes of death globally, and Somalia is estimated to have one of the highest incidence rates in the world. Meanwhile, here in Canada, it's International Development Week. It's a chance to highlight and celebrate all the good work Canada has done globally. I find this difficult.
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The difference I have with foreign aid is the very limited role it plays in the long term commitment to helping society become self-sufficient and independent. At best, foreign aid has created dependency, produced corruption, intensified war and made unhealthy heroes of celebrities. Trade is the better option for Ethiopia.
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A Crown corporation that reports to Parliament through the foreign minister, the International Development Research Centre, broadly aligns its positions with Canada's international objectives. IDRC funds various journalism initiatives and development journalism prizes. Canada's aid agency has also doled out tens of millions of dollars on media initiatives over the years.
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Members of the Ethiopian community in Winnipeg recently called on Canada to sanction the country. The protesters are angry about the regime's violent crackdown in the Oromiya and Amhara regions. Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been killed and many more jailed since unrest began over a land dispute 10 months ago.
In seeking out concentrations of expertise in Canada, it is difficult to ignore the extractive sector. Given the (good and bad) history and size of this sector, and the lack of global rivals in the density of expertise (other than Australia), should international assistance not leverage this expertise to achieve a lasting impact in developing countries?
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At these one-year-later moments, headlines inevitably reappear. There's no denying the challenges are real, and there's no doubt we can expect more. But let's not allow ourselves to become cynical. As donors, we need to be patient, flexible and think long-term. To do the most good in the long run, Canadian support needs to allow for the ups and downs of an unpredictable recovery in Nepal.
Agenda 2030's Universality principle requires all developed (and developing) countries to set published targets for the Sustainable Development Goals. But these are days of economic distress, both globally and in Canada. Can we any longer afford to increase our support for the poorest nations or even the catch-up bill for our indigenous population, long left behind?
Millions of women in the Philippines could become the economic market that Canada wants and live freer, more prosperous lives if they were given access to healthcare with the autonomy to decide how many children to have, when to have them, and how to have them safely.
Recognition of mothers shouldn't end with fancy speeches or photo ops in front of tulip-decorated monuments. It needs to be expressed with lasting and meaningful actions -- like putting women's rights at the heart of national and international policy-making, like making sure women's voices are heard in public discourse and by advancing gender justice and women's empowerment with our aid dollars.