More solidarity, more aid: a prescription for Canada’s international response to the COVID-19 pandemic

April 6, 2020
Montreal

Development and Peace — Caritas Canada has joined over 180 international development organizations in signing an open letter to the Hon. Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development.

Written by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation in consultation with signatories, the letter describes the challenges that Canada’s international development and humanitarian aid sector faces in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and underlines that the global health system is only as strong as its weakest link.

“We believe that strong, decisive and ambitious actions now — domestically and internationally — will help all emerge stronger from this crisis,” states the letter, which welcomes Canada’s early leadership in global engagement on the COVID-19 pandemic, through its pledge of $159.5 million to the international assistance envelope.

The letter encourages Minister Gould and the Government of Canada to:

  • Support a globally coordinated cooperative response to COVID-19
  • Increase official development assistance targeted at the current crisis by $1.5 billion
  • Use this money to expand existing programs and fund the UN’s response plan
  • Include Canadian organizations working internationally in employee retention subsidies
  • Continue working on sustainable development priorities while responding to COVID-19
  • To maintain a focus on human rights and justice for women in Canada’s response to COVID-19
  • Allow flexibility on how partner organizations use project funding and who qualifies as a funding recipient
  • Expedite funding renewals for multi-year international programs
  • Increase inter-departmental cooperation within government and with the NGO sector

The letter also invites Minister Gould to further dialogue on her challenge to NGOs “to enhance communications with Canadians,” recognizing the present crisis as an “opportunity to reshape mindsets and language around… development cooperation.” With its history of education and advocacy campaign successes, Development and Peace is already well-placed in this regard.

As Canada’s leadership experience during past crises—including the Ebola, zika and H1N1 epidemics—has shown, Canadians are best protected from global crises when Canada helps the world respond to them. To mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the dignity of the most vulnerable people, Canada must ensure that its response to the crisis does not disrupt its support for ongoing global needs like climate action, gender equality, education, food security, economic development and civic space.

Like its cosignatories, Development and Peace remains committed to supporting its international partners, who are surmounting monumental challenges in responding to the COVID-19 crisis in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.