CIDA's funding of mining companies is a new perversion of the old discredited tied aid formula (Published as a letter to the editor in Embassy Magazine, Feb 8, 2012)
Two articles in the February 1, 2012 edition of Embassy Magazine (“Mixing apples and rowboats” by Ian Smillie and “Promote inclusive growth through trade in Asia” by Stephen P. Groff) make it clear that the Harper government’s use of foreign aid as the handmaid of an export-driven foreign policy is counter-productive both to effective development assistance and to our country’s industrial health.
The linking of Canada’s development assistance to the activities of Canadian mining corporations in Africa and South America is another recent example of the corruption of our country`s foreign policy values. This is not a genuine“innovation”, as a beleaguered CIDA claims, but a new perversion of the
old discredited tied aid formula. CIDA’s funding of Canadian NGOs to work in
poor villages under the umbrella of Canadian mining companies is a 19th century throwback that will probably deliver more harm than good and turn poor villages into little neo-colonies or factory towns, with the NGOs serving as paternalistic, if not parasitic, social overseers.
I agree with Stephen Groff that Canada could help poor countries, while providing opportunities (but not tied aid contracts) for Canadian engineering and construction companies, by investing in the development of infrastructure – for example, roads and bridges to enable poor rural farmers to get their goods to major urban markets in their own country or children in remote villages to get to school instead of being cut off for weeks or months from their district school by the seasonal flooding of dry river beds.
Beyond such basic but critical forms of assistance, (as Rahim Rezaie explains in his“Note to Harper”) Canada has sophisticated and well integrated knowledge and communications industries (including health, medical and pharmaceutical sectors) that could provide immense benefits to developing countries everywhere in the world, at the same time as they create respectable global commercial opportunities for Canadians.
Unfortunately, our government has its head in the oil sands and tends to think of the earth as something to be dug up and sifted, rented or sold, and its people as just buyers or sellers.
Burris Devanney is a Canadian educator, development worker