Save the Children advocate says aid cuts hinder Canada’s leadership on youth rights

by MMC
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Posted October 1, 2023 at 8:22 a.m. ET

Tiles representing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are displayed outside the United Nations General Assembly Hall, Saturday, September 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Anthony)

OTTAWA — Save the Children’s global advocate says Canada could lead an effort to have young people lead the reform of global institutions to combat climate change, while urging Ottawa to reverse aid cuts.

“Canada is in a unique position today to really help the world lead differently, to help young people find hope for the future,” said Rotimy Djossaya, the organization’s head of global policy. charity, during a recent visit to Ottawa.

“Canada can play a vital role in ensuring that the world prioritizes gender and human rights.”

In mid-September, leaders gathered at the United Nations to take stock of the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of goals such as gender equality, ending extreme poverty and ensuring secondary education quality for every child. The goals involve 140 specific targets agreed in 2015, to be achieved by 2030.

Yet the United Nations says only 15 percent of these goals have been achieved, and 193 countries have agreed to accelerate progress over the remaining seven years.

“We are off the path. So we need leaders; we need commitment,” Djossaya said.

In Canada’s case, Djossaya said a feminist international aid policy has inspired other countries to take gender equality seriously and reform the way they fund projects in developing countries in order to empower groups on the ground.

Yet he said the funding Canada promised and the deadlines it set do not take into account the challenges these countries face, nor the goals set by the United Nations.

In this spring’s budget, the Liberals forecast a funding cut of $1.3 billion, 15 per cent less than the previous year.

The Trudeau government insists this is not a cut, since the budget remains larger than Canada’s aid spending before the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia. But it fits a trend among Western countries to cut aid spending amid a series of climate disasters and refugee crises.

These trends are hitting children hard, Djossaya said. His organization surveyed 54,000 children in 41 countries and found that they clearly feel that adults are not doing enough to address what they perceive as increasing inequality and climate chaos.

“They have difficulty understanding the world we will live in tomorrow. They have difficulty understanding the unprecedented scale of the impact of climate change and natural disasters,” Djossaya said.

This month, the Overseas Development Institute said Canada had contributed only 51 percent of its “fair share” of the billions needed to help countries adapt to climate change, according to greenhouse gas emissions, gross national income and population size.

Meanwhile, in August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights declared that inaction on climate change amounts to a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which virtually all countries join, which gives more teeth to the legal recourses of governments which do not take the necessary measures. climate change seriously.

“It is urgent that we intensify our efforts,” Djossaya said. “How do we use the tools to actually give the next generation a livable planet? That’s alarming to me.”

At the United Nations, Canada has argued that there is not enough funding available for poorer countries to meet these goals, particularly those facing an increase in natural disasters associated with climate change.

For example, according to the World Meteorological Organization, around 60 percent of Africans do not have access to early warning systems to help them escape disasters.

Ottawa has argued that the most viable way to address these types of challenges is to reform global financial institutions, to provide more funding for carbon-neutral infrastructure that better protects these countries from hurricanes and wildfires.

Djossaya said these reforms are crucial, but Canada and its peers should not shirk their own responsibilities.

He highlighted the existence of an underfunded program in Burkina Faso, designed by young adults, to ensure that families displaced by climate change can ensure their children continue their education, through a network of schools in various regions which can integrate children who have had difficulties. moving halfway through a school year.

This program is implemented in a region where young people have limited opportunities and are recruited by terrorist groups.

“The only way to succeed is to truly put children and young people themselves at the heart of the solutions,” Djossaya said.

“We have no time to waste. We must act now and ensure we shape a world that will remain livable for generations to come.”

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen would not say whether Ottawa would further increase its current aid allocation, but he noted that the United Nations has placed Canada among the leaders of an advocacy project for sustainable development goals.

“Canada is actually a leader in this area,” Hussen said. “Now is not the time to change course, we are halfway there and if we work hard we can get the job done.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 1, 2023.

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