Canada pledges $130M for education abroad, including help for Syrian refugees

‘We wanted to send the signal that we can’t forget these kids in crisis situations and need to support them’

WASHINGTON – The Canadian government has promised $130 million for child-education projects abroad, including help for young refugees displaced by the Syrian crisis.

The contribution stems from different announcements made during the annual spring financial meetings in Washington.

International Development Minister Christian Paradis said the bulk of the money will go to a four-year extension of Canada’s involvement in the Global Partnership for Education, which includes governments and NGOs.

“We wanted to send the signal that we can’t forget these kids in crisis situations and need to support them,” Paradis said in an interview at the World Bank on Thursday.

“It’s not right to have children lose their childhood because adults are fighting.”

From that announced sum, $10 million is a one-year contribution to UNICEF for education in crisis-affected areas, notably Syria, as well as the Central African Republic and Sudan.

Paradis made the pledge at an event with former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the UN’s Special Envoy For Education.

Paradis was asked about the huge difference in international development contributions by Britain and Canada.

The U.K.’s coalition government passed a law last month enshrining its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on development.

Canada’s share is declining, meanwhile, according to a global survey released earlier this month.

The annual ranking by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Canadian aid spending dropped to 0.24 per cent of GDP in 2014, from 0.27 per cent the previous year. That put Canada in the lower half of the OECD ranking, despite it being in better fiscal shape than some of the more generous countries, including Britain.

Paradis said he’s interested in results.

“I’m very comfortable with what we’re doing. Canada’s contribution is well-recognized,” he said.

“I’m not looking for announcements or ratios. I’d rather go with results. If you just narrow a problem down to a ratio … you miss the entire point, which is getting results.”

He said the Harper government has decided to focus on specialty areas such as maternal and newborn health; specific countries and more efficient integration with the private sector.

During his Washington trip, Paradis will appear on a panel to talk about integrating the private sector into international development.

He said it makes little sense for governments, NGOs, and the private sector to keep operating in silos. He used the example of a mining company investing in a country, then other actors supporting agriculture, health and infrastructure projects surrounding a mine.

With the international community moving beyond the UN’s Millennium Development Goals which expire this year, he said multibillion-dollar government contributions alone can’t come close to meeting the multitrillion-dollar financial needs of developing counties.

Reaching that level will require non-traditional partnerships, he said. A major conference on new financing models will be held in July in Ethiopia.

Paradis said that co-operation starts with better communication and with parties plugging data into shared software platforms.

“The idea is really to break the information barrier,” said Paradis, who leads an international steering group on redesigning development financing.

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