03/18/2019 15:48 EDT | Updated 03/18/2019 15:50 EDT

What Does Maryam Monsef Have Planned For International Development?

Canada has a chance to streamline its efforts to make gender equality a reality in Canada and around the world

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Minister of International Development Maryam Monsef returns to her seat after being sworn in during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Mar. 1, 2019.

March came in like a lioness, following the testimony and ministerial resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould. The first of the month roared with news of a Cabinet shuffle that saw long-standing Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau moved to the agriculture file.

Over the past three and a half years, Minister Bibeau worked closely with the Canadian global development and humanitarian sector to develop an ambitious agenda for Canada's international assistance. In June 2017, Minister Bibeau announced Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), a huge step forward for gender equality and an inspiring moment for the international cooperation sector.

The evidence is clear the world over that the fight against global poverty is best served by investing in women and girls. Canada has been rallying the world to this cause. Yet in Canada, at both domestic and international policy levels, the bold ambition of gender equality is yet to be fully realized.

Against this backdrop, the appointment of Maryam Monsef for minister of International Development, in addition to her role as minister for Women and Gender Equality, represents a formal unification of two files that have been inextricably intertwined in recent years. There is the concern, of course, that one file might overshadow the other, or that something might be lost in the shuffle, so to speak. Both portfolios have too often suffered relegation to the margins of parliamentary interest. But there are reasons to be optimistic that this dual mandate can drive progress on gender equality both within and beyond our borders.

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The same day as the Cabinet shuffle, Global Affairs Canada released Key Performance Indicators for the FIAP's six action areas, with a focus on gender equality and empowering women and girls, signalling the government's commitment to tracking its own progress.

A few days later, Minister Monsef launched a national advisory committee comprising 16 leaders committed to advancing gender equality and "to improve the lives of women and girls at home and around the world", dispelling the myth that we need to choose between helping people at home and helping those elsewhere in the world. In fact, as suggested by the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, our efforts will be much more fruitful if we do both.

Members of this new committee were joined at their first meeting by Katja Iverson of Women Deliver, the world's largest gathering on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. This year's conference will take place in Vancouver from June 3-6, giving Canada a critical opportunity to advance gender equality on the global stage and draw attention to our country's record on this issue.

This week, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau will reveal the 2019 federal budget, which will include a section on Official Development Assistance — Canadian aid — detailing the percentage of Canada's Gross National Income that the federal government is willing to contribute to ending extreme global poverty. Canada currently contributes 0.26 per cent of GNI, which is a near record low for Canada over the four last decades, and well below the average of Canada's peers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is Canada's opportunity to step up and prove that our country, too, is willing to do its part on the world stage.

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The vision is set. The values are clear. The verdict on the government's ambitious policy will ultimately hinge on implementation. The government has demonstrated accountability and transparency by publishing the targets it has set for itself. Yet such an ambitious new agenda for change will not be achieved without equally ambitious new resources.

With the appointment of Minister Monsef in her dual role, Canada has a chance to streamline its efforts to make gender equality a reality in Canada and around the world. Regardless of where they are born, girls and women must be offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts: to be educated, to be employed, to access health care, and to be leaders in their communities.

Minister Monsef now has a clear mandate to work with her Cabinet colleagues to ensure that Canada delivers for women everywhere.

Nicolas Moyer is the President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation

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