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Analysis of Canada’s Countries of Focus

by Aniket Bhushan

Published: June 3, 2016

Prepared for the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE).

Download the FAAE final report issued in November 2016, Development Cooperation for a Stable Inclusive and Prosperous World: A Collective Ambition. The report cites the work of the Canadian International Development Platform and data analytics extensively, including the submission that can be downloaded below.


Background and Introduction

Over the past decade there have been three major changes to Canada’s development countries of focus.

  • In 2005, efforts to improve the focus of Canadian aid, which had been criticized as highly fragmented, resulted in the announcement of 25 priority countries and a commitment to increase the proportion of bilateral aid to priority countries. However, the 2007 OECD-DAC peer review of Canada’s development program noted that Canada should focus its aid on fewer partner countries and be more predictable about its aid flows.
  • This in part led to the second change in 2009 when the focus list was reduced from 25 to 20, with a commitment to allocate 80% of bilateral assistance to the 20 priority countries.
  • In 2014 the list was changed again. The “Focus Countries” list was increased, from 20 back up to 25 countries, with a commitment to allocate 90% of country programmable bilateral assistance in these countries. An additional 12 “Partner Countries” were added. Taking the total number of Focus and Partner countries to 37. This is the list in use at the moment.

Aid allocation decisions and frameworks have become overly politicized in Canada. This submission takes a data analytics based approach. While it is recognized that aggregate level data and data driven approaches are not a panacea, they should not ignored either. Discussions about further changes to where Canada focuses its development efforts and aid allocation criteria should be grounded in at least a basic understanding of (a) trends and patterns in Canadian assistance; and (b) trends and patterns in the changing geography of poverty and development challenges.

The first section will address these by framing data and analytics (provided in an annex) around key questions:

  • What do we know about the changing geography of poverty and development challenges?
  • What are the key trends and demographic patterns in Canada’s current focus and partner countries (human development, income and non-income poverty, inequality and other factors)?
  • How aid dependent are the current focus and partner countries?
  • What share of Canadian assistance goes to these countries?
  • Where does Canada rank as a donor in these countries and what share does Canadian assistance make up relative to all assistance received from other sources?

Second, we compare Canada’s focus and prioritization framework with that of other donors.

Third, we discuss higher order factors, many of which are beyond Canada’s direct control, but impact how we think about current and future ODA allocations, prioritization and policy frameworks.

Fourth and finally, we conclude with specific recommendations.

Combining aid allocation and poverty factors for Canada’s development focus and partner countries



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