Address by Minister Gould at Canadian Partnership for Women and Children's Health (CanWaCH) and Canadian Council for International Co-Operation (CCIC) celebration for International Development Week (IDW) 2020


February 6, 2020 - Ottawa, Ontario

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

I would like to acknowledge the land on which we gather is the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin nation.

Thank you to the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children's Health, and the Canadian Council for International Co-Operation, for organizing this event to celebrate International Development Week 2020.

Nearly 30 years ago, the Government of Canada dedicated the first week of February to highlighting the actions of Canadian international assistance workers striving to improve peoples’ lives and our planet’s well-being.

Since then, we take this opportunity to celebrate the vision Canadians have for a better world, and to celebrate the people, like many of you in this room, who are committed to working every day to help improve the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world. 

The whole international assistance landscape has transformed over the last 30 years. We have made important strides in effectiveness, coordination, advancing gender equality, and innovation. We are seeing real advances in health outcomes, access to education, and food security, among others.

But we have also seen new threats from climate change, the rise of populism and isolationism, massive displacements and greater humanitarian needs.

The challenges the world faces are global in nature. 

As Canadians we need to, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to International Development.

Because a more stable, secure and prosperous world matters for the stability, security and prosperity of Canadians.

The drive to help the poorest and most vulnerable is fundamental to the Canadian identity. This was true 30 years ago, and remains true today. 

It is what guides us in our commitment to implement Agenda 2030.

This is about supporting the empowerment of Indigenous women in Guyana to make their own flour and stake out financial independence.

It’s about using innovative technology and existing cellphone networks to make getting a birth certificate in Tanzania possible.

It’s about supporting young women in Bangladesh to study post-natal care and help mums and babies succeed.

And it’s about projects like Sama Sama in Ghana or the hard work from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank that we just heard about.

Allow me to extend and add my congratulations to both iDE and Jim Cornelius for the inaugural impact and innovation awards.

Canada’s international assistance and the important work of Canadian development organizations like all of you has made a difference. There is no doubt of that.

As we enter the UN decade of delivery, Canada’s commitment to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda is more important than ever.

That is why this year’s IDW theme is “Go for the Goals”, to highlight the urgency that exists, push for greater awareness, and build momentum for the decade of action that remains. 

Canadians are engaged and they are passionate about our role in the world. There are 2.5 million Canadians who will participate in IDW activities this year. That is awesome. 

But what about the Canadians who aren’t following our activities. Are we doing a good enough job of telling them our story? Of sharing why the work we do matters to them?

Last month, I had the privilege of travelling to the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While in the DRC, I visited an IDP camp. I had the privilege of speaking with the people living there, seeking refuge from violence, living in the most challenging conditions. 45% of the households in this camp of 3,000 were led by women. One young mother who had just arrived, told me she walked for one week with her two children and her mother to reach the safety the camp afforded. They arrived wearing only the clothing on their backs. They had barely eaten throughout their journey.

She undertook the trek so her two boys could find safety. So she could begin to build a life where they had a chance.

Her story is all too familiar. There are 40 million people around the world who are internally displaced. One is in ten of them are in the DRC. Canadian support is reaching our world’s most vulnerable populations. Meeting this young woman, who courageously led her family to safety, reaffirmed for me the vital work that Canada does, and that you and your organizations, do around the world.

It reaffirmed to me why providing support to this woman and her family matter for Canada. Inequality and instability in the world does not serve the interests of Canadians, be it at home or abroad, does not serve the interests of Canadians.

A poorer world reduces our own opportunities, and a more unstable world is a threat to our own security.

You have stories too. Stories of how Canadians and Canadian organizations are making an impact. Contributing to better maternal, newborn and child health. Improving access to SRHR. Immunizing millions of children against polio.

It strikes me that what we should also be doing during International Development Week, is to retell the role Canadian civil society has played and continues to play in shaping the development agenda of the Government of Canada.

Polio is a prime example of where Canadian civil society has been – and continues to be – a key driver of Canada’s commitment to eradicating polio globally. And I want to acknowledge the important role of Rotary International in being an early and committed champion.

More recently, the role you played in the development of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy cannot go without comment. I was incredibly fortunate to attend many of the consultations that your organizations participated in and I am so delighted to be able to deliver on our policy that is truly a reflection of your input.

I would also like to highlight your vision and leadership as a sector when you came together in an unprecedented way to ask the Government to prioritize a truly comprehensive health and rights agenda. We listened and were able to announce the Thrive agenda last June at Women Deliver.

Because of your advocacy, because of your commitment, Canada now has a 10 year strategy on global health for 2030. This means we are going to deliver SRHR services to 18 million women around the world. That is profound.

I want to thank you for your fierce dedication to development. I want to thank you for your belief in a better world. I want to thank you for your continued advocacy.

We will continue to need to work together, in partnership, to deliver our Feminist International Assistance Policy. 

To end poverty and hunger, to achieve gender equality, to foster peace, prosperity, and partnerships, and to protect the planet for today and future generations. 

I am excited to carry on this important endeavour with you.

We count on you to share your expertise and experience. To continue to have the conversations with local leaders, health workers, and women’s groups at the community level. And to share with the government, and with me as Minister, what you have heard.

My commitment to you is to continue to engage, continue to listen and learn and to be an ally and partner to reach our development objectives.

But I too need your help. 

You have extraordinary networks of Canadians who are passionate about development. I’d like to challenge you to think creatively together as a sector about how you can leverage those networks to reach the Canadians who are compassionate, who care about the world, about our environment, fighting climate change and inequality, to share why our international development matters just as much to them.

As I have said before, Canada’s international efforts need to be embraced as part of our national identity just as much as peacekeeping has become part of the Canadian identity.

So, I look to all of you, to continue the extraordinarily important work you are doing, and to reach out to Canadians and talk about why development matters and why, as Canadians, we can be proud of the role we play. 

You are champions of the work you are doing – in health and nutrition, gender equality and empowerment, education, and so much more. 

Reach out to your networks. Share your stories, and please collaborate strategically on how best to communicate on the impact our work has around the world.

As Prime Minister Trudeau says:

“Together, we can shape a world where no one goes hungry, no one feels unsafe, and no one is left behind.”

Thank you! 


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