What is going on at CIDA? [Aid dollars support miners] – by Elizabeth Payne (Ottawa Citizen – January 19, 2012)


Canada’s aid agency is becoming more politicized, less effective, and less transparent, writes Elizabeth Payne

Something is rotten at the Canadian International Development Agency. Many things, in fact, according to increasingly vocal critics who say Canada’s international development organization is becoming more politicized, less effective, and less transparent under the Conservative government, despite persistent claims to the contrary.

If CIDA has really introduced “more transparency, timeliness and predictability” as International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda claims, there is little sign of it.

Aid agencies are frustrated and demoralized by delays and lack of transparency in their dealings with CIDA. Some have cut programs and laid off staff as a result.

And the government’s recent habit of prioritizing and then deprioritizing countries for foreign aid dollars makes it difficult for aid agencies to build long-term relationships and has perplexed many in the international community. Some suggest it even played a role in Canada’s failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

More problematic still, significant aid dollars are supporting the work of Canadian mining interests overseas, something University of Ottawa professor and CIDA critic Stephen Brown terms a blatant effort to “whitewash the negative effects of their resource extraction.”

Oda announced four CIDA projects – totalling $26.7 million – in September that will “help developing countries in Africa and South America manage their natural resources to ensure they are the source of long-term sustainable benefits to their people.”

Perhaps. But these projects also help highly profitable Canadian mining companies. CIDA will provide money to help Canadian companies Rio Tinto Alcan, Barrick Gold and Iamgold create corporate social responsibility projects with aid agencies near mining projects.

The projects include one run by Plan Canada in partnership with Iamgold to provide training in Burkina Faso and another by the World University Service of Canada to provide training in Ghana, in partnership with Rio Tinto Alcan.

CIDA has set aside nearly half a million dollars for a third project – in which World Vision Canada will work with Barrick Gold in Peru to “increase the income and standard of living of 1,000 families affected by mining operations.” Barrick Gold says it also contributed $500,000 to the project.

Brown calls it “scandalous” that some of the most profitable companies in Canada are, in effect, supported by foreign aid dollars to set up programs that compensate for the negative effects of mining.

In a time of shrinking foreign aid dollars, taxpayers should not be on the hook for corporate social responsibility projects. The programs might be welcome and worthwhile, but they should be paid for by the companies that are reaping the profits and getting much of the credit. CIDA’s involvement in the partnerships potentially tars all Canadians, by default, for any bad corporate behaviour, or environmental damage, that results from those mining operations.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Ottawa Citizen website: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/What+going+CIDA/6017006/story.html

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