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The Globe and Mail

Julian Fantino: Why CIDA merged with Foreign Affairs

Canada is a compassionate neighbour. We are known to lend a helping hand to those suffering the ill effects of cyclical drought, weak governance or an earthquake. Decades of the Canadian International Development Agency's investment of tax dollars in the developing world have made significant human development gains, in such areas as basic health and education. We have also assisted some of the world's most vulnerable people during times of grave humanitarian crises as we did after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the ongoing crisis in Syria. These are results that Canadians can take great pride in.

The Harper Government is proud of our record of achievement in this regard. We have been steadfast in our commitment to invest Canadian tax dollars in a prudent, transparent and accountable way. Prime Minister Harper has been resolved in his support for development that delivers tangible results, as we saw with his G8 leadership on the Muskoka Initiative to prevent newborn deaths and improve maternal health in the developing world. This initiative has meant that over 1.5 million children have been treated for malnutrition in Ethiopia and it has helped immunize over 2.7 million children against measles in Mozambique, to name just two notable achievements.

The results of other Canadian investments in development have been equally staggering: We have made education accessible to over two million children around the world last year. In countries like Afghanistan, our assistance has increased the enrollment of girls to over 80 per cent. Under the Taliban regime, girls were virtually banned from receiving even a primary education. Furthermore, we have vaccinated more than nine million children against polio, and continue to play an active role in the closing stages of the battle to consign this crippling disease to the ash-heap of history. We do this not only because it is an expression of the best of Canadian values, but also because it addresses the roots of insecurity, that left unchecked can destabilize our own country and economy.

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While we can take stock of these individual results, and celebrate them, we must not lose site of the greater trends happening around us. Countries like South Korea, India, China and Brazil, once recipients of Canadian assistance, are now at the forefront of the global economy. By growing their economies, they have pulled millions of people out of poverty in just a few decades. Each has grown to the point that they too are investing their own taxpayers' money on international development.

At the same time, the bulk of the capital from Canada to the developing world no longer flows through CIDA. Private foundations and non-government organizations provide significant charitable support. Canada's vibrant diaspora communities also contribute through remittances. The World Bank estimated that Canadians sent more than $23-billion in remittances last year alone. Canadian businesses are looking to Africa, Asia and the Americas for their growth strategies.

Our government is keeping our eyes firmly on these trends, and are looking to leverage them to move more people from poverty to prosperity in the developing world. We have convened innovative partnerships with the private sector that have led to meaningful employment opportunities for young people with cost-effective investments in skills training and small business development in countries such as Ghana, Mongolia and Peru.

I'm reminded of Worknesh Wade, a thread spinner whom I met in Addis, Ethiopia. Through Canadians' investment, she received basic business training, access to seed capital and supply chains to market. In less than a year, she went from barely getting by to being the supplier of a high quality product to local and international fashion designers. Most importantly, she has become the bread winner of her family, purchased a home and has been able to invest in her business. Success stories like these are not just feel good moments. They are also long-term investments in our own prosperity. When we set individuals, families and countries on a path to prosperity, we also lay out the ground-work for mutually beneficial relationships in the future.

The Harper Government believes in the noble mandate of poverty alleviation in the developing world. That is why we are enshrining this important mandate in law and maintaining a significant budget for development. We are also retaining our ability to respond to humanitarian crises in a timely way. Like our approach to maximizing Canadians development investments by leveraging private sector dollars and expertise, the announcement that CIDA will amalgamate with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Canada's Economic Action Plan 2013 is not the signal of a revolution; it is part of a natural evolution.

Julian Fantino is the Minister for International Co-operation.

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