I spend more on international aid than the Canadian government

Published in Microbiology
I spend more on international aid than the Canadian government

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Today I donated $150 to Save the Children and Last Mile Health. In doing so, I gave proportionally more of my annual income to global health and international development than the government of Canada did. How can that possibly be given Canada's impressive global health credentials?

This is the country that developed an effective Ebola vaccine! We have a bold feminist foreign policy agenda! We hosted the replenishment event for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and donated nearly $800 million!

And yet, Canada spends only 0.26% of its gross national income on official development aid, a rate well below other like-minded countries. When the United States reinstituted the dangerous Global Gag Rule, Canada pledged $20 million to replace a portion of the lost funding. Now, as the United States shows decreased interest in international engagement in general, it is time for Canada to step up and fulfill its role as a global health leader. The first step in this journey must be to fund global health research and international aid at a level commensurate with Canada’s standing and wealth.

I'm living on a graduate student stipend at the moment so I can't hope to make up for Canada's shortfall. But I can demand that in the coming year my government stand up for the health and dignity of people around the world. I wrote to my MP, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking them to increase spending on global health research and official development aid. You could too, feel free to use my letter as a jumping off point.

The world needs more Canada, now more than ever. 

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Go to the profile of Madhukar Pai
over 6 years ago

Brilliant! Loved it!

Go to the profile of Shaun Cleaver
over 6 years ago

Thank you for a provocative post and for linking useful sites (especially donortracker.org).

The one element of your argument with which I would contend is the presentation of this as a comparison of "Canada" vs "you," when in fact you (and me) are a part of Canada. Using this same rationale we could, if we so chose, also take McGill, Montreal, and Quebec to task for contributions that are lower than their/our respective "gross [whatever] incomes." Now that I think of it, that might be a good exercise - please do let me know if you're interested.

The reason I highlight the presentation of the individual versus the collective is because it makes space for the many loud voices to shout "Exactly! It's up to individuals! Reduce my taxes so that I can donate where I want!" (the exclamation points are consistent with the energy that I've heard from *actual people* when making this same claim) 

I agree with your point that Canada can and should do more. Given the extent to which we're beneficiaries of neo-colonialism, I think it's fair to say that it's not even a matter of "should." Regardless of the frame of reference, I fully support your conclusion. And I would be happy to discuss or debate the messaging that brings us closer to realizing that same conclusion.

(I'm sure you noticed on donortracker, the estimate on Canada's 2017 contribution is even weaker than the amount you cited - not a positive trend)

Go to the profile of Sophie Huddart
over 6 years ago

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Shaun. I used myself as an example to drive home how very little a 0.26% contribution towards international aid is but I definitely see how that leaves me open to the potential response you mention. I'll keep that in mind when I argue this point in the future. I certainly agree with you that Canada should be doing more for many reasons, not least the benefits we've extracted while leaving other countries and peoples worse off. 

It would certainly be interesting to see how sub-national bodies spend their money in regards to international research and aid but it'd be a little tricky. I think the official development aid definition only holds at the federal level.