We Canadians seem to have a unhealthy (or healthy?) preoccupation with our international reputation. Unfortunately, since the current government took power things seem to be headed downhill–and fast. We lost our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the first time in 50 years, our reputation with regards to climate change talks has been trashed, and our Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda (right) has already been caught in a fiasco where she admitted inserted the word “not” into a memo from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)–after lying and saying she didn’t know who did it–to completely reverse the intention of the letter and make it fit with her point of view.
But it gets worse. William Eastery, who I talk about often, and Claudia Williamson have released a paper where they rank international development agencies based on a number of criteria including overhead, transparency and aid effectiveness. The Canadian International Development Agency finished in the bottom half of the pack among 42 different national, mutlinational and UN agencies.
We did particularly poorly in the specialization and ineffective aid categories. Basically, our aid is not specialized enough because we’re trying to do too many things at once and not focusing on the specific types of aid that Canada is good at. Perhaps compounding our lack of specialization, Canada was found to be particularly bad at giving aid through ineffective means. In fact, only two other countries, Portugal and Australia, were worse in that category. Too much Canadian aid is tied up in what’s called technical assistance. From the paper:
Technical assistance is also seen as a way for rich countries to promote their own interests by allocating aid that must be used to hire consultants from the donor country. Not only are benefits flowing back to the donor country, but consultants hired under these circumstances often have poor incentives to respect recipients’ priorities and lack essential local knowledge.
Something tells me things aren’t likely to get better in the next four years.