Extreme poverty is the most severe form of poverty -- in Canada, it equates to living off just $1.75 a day for everything in life. This tiny dollar amount has to pay for food, housing, medicine, water and education costs -- all for less than the money we would spend on a single bus fare or a morning coffee.
When I first heard about the dismantling of the Canadian International Development Agency in the government's recent budget, I was rather dismayed. Nonetheless, upon delving into the issue further, it became clear that my initial reaction was quite misguided. International aid from Canada is not coming to an end; the budget has merely initiated the merging of CIDA with the Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim is not to slash aid, but rather to have a more synergized approach to its deliverance in developing countries. The merger of CIDA with DFAIT ensures the money our government spends internationally will be more focused, effective and better reflect and preserve the national interests of Canada.
The Harper government would do well to learn from the approach of the Conservative government in the United Kingdom which, in a difficult economic situation, has made the laudable commitment not to cut its aid budget. Scaling back our development assistance is, frankly, out of step with Canadian values.
In recent weeks, we have heard statements from leaders on the international stage that we are on the path to eradicating absolute poverty in the next two decades. I'd prefer we wait to 2030 to really celebrate how much we did to close the gap and assure that these numbers reflect all countries and the people in them -- and that no one gets left behind.
Since 2004, Canada's foreign aid strategy has experienced a noticeable move along a spectrum from morality to national self-interest. Whether you call it a tipping point or a crisis, the shift in Canada's aid policy poses some fundamental questions of us as Canadians; for instance: why do we give foreign aid?
While "Giving Tuesday" hasn't fully migrated north to Canada, the idea behind it is appealing. With all the ads and other reminders to shop and give at this time of year, I think it's worth stepping back for a moment to consider how and why we give and also the far-reaching results certain gifts can generate.
Hurricane Sandy certainly got our attention. Billions of dollars (and counting) in damages. Communities crippled and left in the cold without electricity. Nearly 200 lives lost. Sadly, with the stark realities of climate change and frequency of extreme weather events, this likely won't be the last natural disaster we experience or witness in our lifetime or even this decade. So, what are we to do about that?
On October 11, 2012 the world marked the first-ever International Day of the Girl. The celebration was bittersweet, though, given it occurred against the backdrop of worldwide shock and headlines concerning 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a young activist from Pakistan, shot in the head by a Taliban member because of her ongoing work and advocacy to ensure more girls get to go to school.
This fall, we released a report from this study called, Hopes and Dreams, which provides a detailed look into the girls' lives at the tender age of five. There was good news: the majority of the girls in our study have parents who have high aspirations for them and who promote gender equality in their households.
Julian Fantino earned his reputation as a hard-nose -- a take-no-prisoners hardliner who frequently preferred the stick to the carrot. Making him Minister of International Co-operation is like putting Donald Trump in charge of a micro-enterprise initiative among the poor of Haiti -- the consequences will be devastating because the need to be in charge will surely eclipse the need to be smart.
Kampala has many advantages driving growth. It is resource rich. From a tourism perspective, the country is beautiful and, in comparison to Nairobi or Cape Town, it's quite safe. In some ways the country is well suited to lead Africa in economic development. Like being in the dark, literally. Unreliable electricity goes beyond being a mere hindrance; it can be life threatening.