As minister of International Development and La Francophonie, I have visited 15 or so countries and Canada's re-engagement was pointed out to me during each of them. But what does this re-engagement really mean? Here are five major achievements that speak to Canada's re-engagement on the international scene and the impact of our actions.
Though Canada is far from immune to the forces of intolerance, we generally still self-identify as generous, socially conscious citizens. In this moment of unease and unrest, it's heartening that we see ourselves as the world's helpful, conscientious neighbor. Well Canada, this week we have the chance to put our money where our identity is.
Global health transcends boundaries. But it also transcends domains and disciplines of practice. Canada is positioned to play a strategic role as a leader on the international development stage, and this means that integrating youth leaders into global discourses, particularly relating to health, is vital.
Over 2 billion people, and a growing share of the world's poor, live in the 35 countries considered fragile or conflict states in 2016. And whether we are talking about pandemics, war, or prolonged occupation, these conditions devastate health systems and have lasting impacts on the physical and mental health of affected populations.
Safe drinking water and decent toilets should be basic essentials in every school, everywhere. Unfortunately, it's not the case for millions of children in the world. Take the 500 students at St. John Bosco Gayaza Primary School in Uganda for example. The water source they rely on is an open pool located about one kilometre from their school.
At last year's Paris climate change agreement, all countries committed to help adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. Canada's official development assistance (ODA) now needs to focus on realizing these commitments. Ensuring maximum impact will require attending to areas where need is greatest and where Canada has particular expertise.
Numbered at 1.8 billion, the world is now home to the largest generation of young people aged 10 to 24 in its history. Having grown up in a digital era and more connected than ever before, younger generations are able to see the world's boundaries as more fluid, recognizing their shared interests and values with people around the globe.
I've witnessed the power that water can bring to a community -- not hydroelectricity, but human empowerment. It happens when a single borehole is drilled deep into the ground, and a pump installed. Clean water becomes a source of hydration, refreshment and strength, freeing people up to do great things.
Menstruation is one of the leading causes of absenteeism among adolescent girls, with girls in Kenya missing an average of four days each month. Without access to accurate and essential health information, girls have limited understanding of how their bodies work. Femme International's study in Nairobi showed that 80 per cent of girls had no idea what menstruation was before their first period, leading to feelings of fear, confusion, and shame. A new smartphone game aims to change that.
As a global collective grounded in humanity as a common value and fully aware that millions of people in humanitarian crises and conflicts worldwide are in need of solutions, now is the time to put differences aside and begin to address the suffering of millions of people affected by humanitarian crises -- particularly young girls.
Like many Canadians, I have struggled to understand the importance of something as seemingly mundane as water. With our Great Lakes and mighty rivers, we're used to seeing water everywhere. I began appreciating how critical water is to survival when visiting the Kurdish region of northern Iraq with World Vision last month.
The prime minister and officials in Global Affairs Canada have indicated through both words and action a desire to create a more collaborative and consultative relationship with Civil Society Organizations . But are Canadian CSOs taking advantage of the thaw to engage in advocacy to hold the government to account for the impacts of its policies on global justice?
A key part of being feminist is respecting all people's choices about their own bodies. While a gender-balanced cabinet is a step in the right direction, there is no such thing as gender equality without bodily autonomy. If women aren't able to make decisions about their own bodies, equality is null and void.
Roughly one billion women and girls worldwide -- almost 30 times the population of Canada -- suffer from malnutrition. This has catastrophic consequences not only for them and for their children, but for the world, as the loss of women's full potential hinders the social and economic development of entire countries.
What is a remittance? Simply put, the process of sending money internationally from Canada to a friend or family member in a foreign country. Globally, the flows of remittances have grown substantially in recent years. Even with a projected slowdown in 2015, the World Bank recently predicted total remittances to 'developing countries' would exceed $435 Billion USD. To put it in context, official development assistance/foreign aid in 2014 was estimated at just over $135 Billion USD globally.
In the summer of 2008, Canada's (now) Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Philpott, was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she met with Ethiopian colleagues to explore the possibility of establishing family medicine as a formal discipline in the East African country of 90 million people. For the next decade, she would help spread an initiative to help launch such a program in the East African nation.
For every tragic incident in the world today, there are countless more women and men humanitarians -- changemakers -- making the world a better place in their own respective capacities. Light is more potent and powerful in effacing darkness; let's each of us resolve to spread more light around us, in our communities, and throughout our world.