Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is CIDA Slowly Becoming an Instrument of Canada's Imperialist Policies?

Canada in the past has had a commendable reputation in terms of international aid and development. But in recent years as capitalist globalization is forced onto underdeveloped nations by the world's powers in response to the perpetually worsening crisis of capitalism, Canada's foreign policy spurred on in part by the ascendance of the Conservatives has taken on an increasingly imperialist agenda, and CIDA (The Canadian International Development Agency) has also been severely compromised as a result.

In an October 18th article in The Globe and Mail last week was revealed a report on CIDA which blames the organization's shortcomings mainly on political and government instability at home, and on its efforts being streched too thin throughout too many countries. "While CIDA is responsible both for policy and for implementing the major portion of Canada's development assistance, its mandate is weak, and its reports to parliament are not sufficiently development results-oriented." Interesting that CIDA's activities are not "sufficiently development results-oriented" since the one and only goal of a development agency should be, clearly, international development. CIDA's website clealy states that "the purpose of Canada's Official Development Assistance is to support sustainable development in developing countries, in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world." It is also important to note that despite Canada's reputation for exceeding expectations in terms of funding for international development, and despite the fact that Canada increased its official development assistance to $3.7 billion last year, it still falls "well short of the UN goal of 0.7% of GDP." The report printed in The Globe and Mail also goes on to say that "CIDA is too heavily focused on its headquarters in Gatineau, Que., with less than 10% of its Canada hired staff actually working abroad." This begs the question that if the majority of CIDA staff are not actually working abroad creating tangible social development results, then what exactly are they doing? They are so heavily soaked with hefty bureaucratic processes, that their energy is being wasted at home rather than being more internationally oriented. This report was undertaken by the OECD(Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), a token organization of the capitalist world much like the World Trade Organization or the World Bank, and so the fact that it is speaking badly about one of its own players does not bode well for CIDA.

In August of this year, the Senlis Council released a report on CIDA's role in Afghanistan entitled; The Canadian International Development Agency in Kandahar: Unanswered Questions. The Good News highlights the great work that the International Committee of the Red Cross has accomplished. The Bad News reports on a wide range of failures in CIDA's missions. "Mirwais Hospital: We could not find evidence of CIDA work or of CIDA funded work at Kandahar Hospital that matched the information given to us by CIDA. We were not able to find the Maternal Waiting Home project at Kandahar Hospital listed by CIDA as one of their projects there, not did we see evidence that the funds CIDA states have been given to hospital had reached the hospital. The situation at the hospital remains desperate."

The report goes on to criticize CIDA's work in terms of food aid saying that "CIDA stated that through their funded partners on the ground in Kandahar, they have distributed thousands of tons of food to starving people throughout Kandahar. We were not able to obtain information on any specific food distribution points so as to validate this claim."

As far as infrastructure development goes, something the Canadian government frequently boasts about, this is what Senlis had to say: "CIDA stated that they have given 18.5 Million Canadian dollars towards Kandahar infrastructure development. We found evidence of 5 Million Canadian dollars having been transferred to Kandahar. During the period of this research we were able to visit one CIDA-funded project in this category: CIDA is funding the construction of a new bridge in Kandahar. Construction on the bridge began earlier this year and is expected to continue for just over two years. This is a potential example of important development progress that puts local Afghans to work. According to workers interviewed at the site however, there is no accident or medical insurance included for the workers so that if they are injured on the job, they are replaced without compensation. Also, children were seen as part of the construction work force."

In regards to refugees and displaced persons Senlis stated, "We had previously raised deep concerns and questions with regard to the large numbers of Afghans living in informal conditions through Kandahar province who had fled fighting, bombing, drought and crop eradication. It was confirmed that the largest refugees settlement in Kandahar province has not received food aid since March 2006. We were unable to find comprehensive programs for these groups of people. CIDA uses at least five different bureaucratic categories for hungry or starving people in Kandahar and if Afghans are unfortunate enough to fall into the wrong category, they go without aid. As stated above we were not able to validate any widespread CIDA food aid program in Kandahar."

Something else to consider is the role CIDA played in support of the coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in 2004. The American, Canadian, and French backed interim government of Gerard Latortue was qucik to seek a complete rehaul of the administration with the appointment of brand new ministers and the recall of ambassadors mainly from Caricom neighbour countries. The then Deputy Minister of "justice" in Haiti during the interim phase was Phillipe Vixamar, an employee of CIDA, who was given his position by CIDA, and oversaw the illegal arrest and detention of political prisoners, and the release of notorious right-wing paramilitary death squad leaders. I also found out from an Ottawa based activist from Haiti Solidarity group, that top CIDA officials in 2004 during the coup were pulling strings behind the scenes to urge the interim government to sign on to an IADB(Inter-American Development Bank) or IMF(International Monetary Fund) economic package. It is completely unconstitutional for an interim government to sign on to any sort of economic agreement, contract, or package, economic or otherwise, yet CIDA officials were actively pushing for this, evidence that in contrast to their lofty development goals, and contradictory to the agency's vocation of democratic governance, a people's right to self-determination is clearly not on CIDA's list of top priorities.

When talking about Canada's role in Afghanistan supporters of the mission are always quick to mention the crucial role Canada is playing in the development of infrastructure, the building of bridges, an aspect of the mission both Canadian soldiers and CIDA are suppossedly involved with. I had a conversation the other day with a Canadian soldier who had been stationed in Afghanistan, and he told me he strongly supported the mission, that he believed it was a good mission, "what about the bridges they're building?" he told me. These fantastic bridges are something I hear about quite often, but if that is the only thing they have to boast about, then there is reason to seriously question the human objectives of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. CIDA's official list of priorities in addition to poverty reduction, democratic governance, health, basic education, equality between women and men, and environmental sustainability, also includes PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT. This is simply not compatible with CIDA's humanitarian principles because private sector development is not synonymous with human growth. The fact that Canadian efforts in Afghanistan have been very successful at building bridges to facilitate the implementation of neo-liberal policies, is very far from indicating that the mission is an honest and altruist one.

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