International Action for Children Throughout the decade, the rights of children have been a priority within Canada=s foreign policy and official development assistance. Canada has been a leader in promoting the rights of children throughout the world and in ensuring their survival, development and protection from exploitation and abuse. Canada has effected change by creating and sustaining constructive bilateral relationships with other countries and through cooperative efforts with international agencies such as UNICEF and by encouraging partnerships with both Canadian and developing country NGOs and other members of civil society. Key international initiatives supported by Canada include initiatives for war-affected children and for reducing poverty and debt among developing countries.
The Government of Canada will continue to maintain its commitment to the world's children. In April 2000, Canada and Ghana co-organized a Conference on War-Affected Children in West Africa, which produced a comprehensive Declaration and Plan of Action addressing the range of problems faced by war-affected children. Canada carried this approach to the International Conference on War-affected Children that took place in Winnipeg in September 2000. Following the Winnipeg Conference, the government is committed to timely, effective follow-up and implementation of the Agenda for War-Affected Children, agreed to at the Ministerial level meeting attended by over 40 ministers and representatives from 132 governments. Canada has also agreed to form a steering committee, including Ghana, the Secretary General=s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict and UNICEF, to move the international momentum generated at the Winnipeg Conference forward to the United Nations Special Session on Children in 2001 and beyond. Canada, as one of the six initiating countries of the World Summit for Children, is actively participating in the preparations for the 2001 UN Special Session for Children and the subsequent new global agenda for children for the next 10 to 15 years.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) plays a key role in ensuring Canada meets its commitments to promote the rights and improve the lives of children in developing countries and countries in transition. Many development efforts benefit children by improving the well being of their families and communities. Canada also supports projects that directly benefit children. In 1996-97, CIDA supported 156 projects (with a direct or indirect impact on children) in the areas of child and maternal health, immunization, basic education, micronutrient deficiencies, institutional capacity-building in favour of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and improved protection for children.
The goals of the World Summit for Children placed a special emphasis on the most basic human needs of children, including their health and nutrition. Since the 1980's, Canada has been a strong supporter of international immunization and efforts in universal immunization, in particular the eradication of polio and the elimination of measles. During the 1990s, Canada provided approximately $14 million per year in financial support for international immunization efforts. Moreover, CIDA continues to fight priority childhood diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis, through such cost-effective interventions as insecticide-treated bed nets for malaria and improved access to diagnosis and treatment. CIDA has also been the co-founder and lead donor to the Ottawa-based Micronutrient Initiative, the lead bilateral donor to salt iodization programs, and a lead donor to fortify foods around the world with vitamin A, iron and other vitamins and minerals.
On September 5, 2000, Canada=s Minister of International Cooperation unveiled Social Development Priorities: A Framework for Action. The Framework outlines how Canada will bolster and strengthen programming devoted to four priority areas of social development C health and nutrition, basic education, HIV/AIDS, and child protection C with gender equality as an integral part of all these priority areas. The Framework will also strengthen Canada=s international aid programming by building on existing expertise in these priority areas and by implementing new and innovative approaches to development. Over the next 5 years $2.8 billion will be budgeted for these 4 priorities.
Children are a key beneficiary group of the health and nutrition, education and HIV/AIDS components of CIDA=s Social Development Priorities. For example, the Health and Nutrition Action Plan: Draft for Consultation, will have a strong emphasis on child nutrition and health. Because of the known relationship between inadequate diet and disease, child survival, growth and development requires special attention to improvements in nutritional status. Canada will continue to work with international health initiatives such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Roll Back Malaria (RBM) and the Global Stop Tuberculosis Initiative (STB). Also, CIDA=s HIV/AIDS Action Plan will put greater emphasis on children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, such as orphans. Programming will focus on providing shelter and schooling, supporting early childhood development projects, strengthening networks within the children=s communities and promoting best practices, including child to child and participatory research approaches. The Basic Education Action Plan: Draft for Consultation, in addition to targeting efforts to eliminate gender disparities by 2005, will focus on strengthening the access and quality of universal primary education with a special emphasis on girl child education.
If all children are to benefit from the goals set at the 1990 World Summit, more attention must be paid to those children who need special protection and who may not be reached by mainstream development programs. The Child Protection Action Planfocuses on child labourers, war-affected children, children in conflict with the law or in the care of the state, disabled children, street children and children from ethnic minorities. Over the next five years CIDA will invest $122 million on programming for these children. Initially, over the next two years, CIDA will concentrate on child labour and war-affected children. As part of the Agency=s commitment to developing new approaches to development assistance programming, a $2 million fund for research on child protection has been established over the next five years to support innovative research in this often overlooked area.
High debt burdens represent a critical obstacle to poverty reduction in many developing countries, especially of Sub-Saharan Africa. Debt payments displace spending on health, education and other social sectors.
Canada has been at the forefront in urging a swift and decisive approach to debt relief for the world=s poorest countries both multilaterally and bilaterally. Canada recently challenged donors at the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank to place an immediate moratorium on debt service payments from Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). In December 2000, the Government of Canada announced its own moratorium on debt repayments from eleven heavily indebted poor countries, with debts to Canada amounting to $700 million. The debt from these countries will be officially written off as they complete the HIPC process. In addition, Canada has contributed C$215 million to the debt relief trust funds at the IMF and World Bank to ensure timely debt relief. Canada is helping the poorest countries by committing to forgive 100 percent of the commercial bilateral debt owed by all nations qualifying for debt relief and making real efforts to reduce poverty and to improve governance.
Canada has always encouraged increased involvement by developing countries in a rules-based multilateral trading system, and recognizes that developing countries need assistance in building their trade-related capacity. Canada champions the view that social justice and environmental policy issues need to be addressed in tandem with trade liberalizing initiatives and other economic growth strategies if long-term poverty alleviation is to be sustainable. This approach applies to Canada=s participation in the WTO, the FTAA, and other regional and bilateral trade fora. It will treat these issues as priorities in future trade negotiations. Free and fair trade make an important contribution to the growth and sustainability of developing economies, and to poverty alleviation throughout the developing world. Active Canadian participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) underscores the Government of Canada's determination to see agreement on common rules to govern business transactions around the world. To reap the benefits of trading internationally, all players must know and agree to operate by the same rules in global markets. They must balance trade goals with a commitment to social justice and a sustainable world ecology.