Engineers Without Borders

January 18, 2008 10:16 ET

Hundreds Engineers Without Borders (EWB )Members Participate in a Massive Public Demonstration Against Canada’s Foreign Tied Aid Policy in Front of Complexe Guy-Favreau in Montreal.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Jan. 18, 2008) - At 9pm last evening, hundreds of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) members will participate in a public outreach event to speak out against Canada's "tied aid." EWB explains that nearly half of all Canadian foreign aid sent to developing countries does not benefit those who need it most. The majority of the aid that is considered tied is actually spent on Canadian consultants and administrative costs. Canada's policies require recipient countries to use the aid dollars to purchase Canadian goods and services, a fact that is often overlooked.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines "tied aid credits" as official loans given to developing countries where procurement of goods or services involved is limited solely to the donor country. Receiving tied aid is costly and inefficient; in receiving tied aid, countries are automatically limited in their ability to seek appropriate, low cost goods and services. This decreases the development impact of the aid; commercial objectives win over and capital-intensive projects tend to be favoured over smaller, poverty-focused ones. Experts have estimated that tied aid is approximately 30% less efficient than untied aid. Tied aid has led to many unsustainable projects that run out of funds or are unable to be maintained once the donor country leaves.

Tied aid obscures the donor country's intentions, which on the surface may appear generous, but in reality are guided by self-interest. Tied aid can be used to create new markets for Canadian products or to "dump" oversupplies of Canadian goods; this can wreak havoc on recipient markets, not to mention the livelihood of locals already producing goods and providing services in the recipient country. According to the 2006 Commitment to Development Index compiled by the Centre for Global Development, Canada ranks 17 out of the 21 richest countries in the world, with a massive 43% of its aid tied.

At the 2001 G8 Summit, leaders endorsed an agreement reached by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC). This agreement committed donors to untying certain categories of aid to Least-Developed Countries (LDCs). The agreement specifically exempts food aid, all freestanding technical cooperation and management services arrangements. After 2001, Canada agreed to implement the OECD agreement; untying aid in some categories to LDCs. As of late, Canada has been reducing the proportion of Canadian aid that is tied. Even more promising, the government established a new policy in 2005, allowing up to 50% of Canada's food aid to be sourced directly from developing countries. Prior to this policy, 90% of food aid given by the Canadian government was sourced in Canada. Eight years since its establishment, Engineers Without Borders is hosting its seventh National Conference in Montreal.

Seven hundred conference delegates will do their part to untie Canadian aid. They will assemble in front of the Federal Government Building located in Complexe Guy-Favreau on Rene-Levesque Blvd. to urge an end to Canadian tied aid. Kimberly Bowman, EWB's Director of Outreach and Advocacy, says, "We talk to thousands of Canadians who tell us that they care about development in Africa. Yet most don't know that Canadian aid often ends up right back in the pockets of Canadian corporations, rather than where it is needed most." She adds, "We hope tonight's event will influence government policies towards ending tied aid." During tonight's event, Zuruba's traditional African-Brazilian music will keep everyone's spirits high despite the cold weather. Conference delegates are urging Canadians to become informed, unite as one, and take positive action.

Editors Note: A photo for this release will be available on the CP picture wire via Marketwire.

Source: Bhavna Patel (bhavnapatel835@hotmail.com)

Contact Information

  • Engineers Without Borders National Conference 2008
    Sadia Arshad
    Communications Coordinator
    514-467-9816
    sadia.arshad@polymtl.ca