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Working to reduce poverty and inequality in the hemisphere

Beverley J. Oda

Canada has a strong relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only are we neighbours, but we are members of the same regional institutions that work to reinforce good governance, security and economic prosperity in the region.

While Latin America and the Caribbean generate dynamic economic growth, countries in this region are facing the challenges presented by some of the highest levels of inequality in the world. This includes unequal access to economic opportunities and basic essential services, such as health care and education.

As a result, more than 225 million people live in poverty in the region. Institutions are struggling to meet the needs of their societies. Unemployment is high and crime is on the rise.

The Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) country strategies for the Americas and the Caribbean take into account both the great potential of this region and the challenges it faces. The strategies all have one common thread: helping our neighbours reduce poverty and inequality.

The Government of Canada is committed to making a difference and providing support to the people in the region through its Aid Effectiveness Agenda. By bringing greater accountability, increased efficiency and more focus to our international development assistance, our work will have greater impact in achieving sustainable results.

This includes focusing our bilateral aid to five countries in the Americas —Bolivia, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras and Peru— and to the Caribbean region. In some sectors, supporting regional solutions can bring mutual benefits to many individual countries. CIDA is working with respected inter-American institutions, such as the Organization of American States, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Inter-American Development Bank to capture the effectiveness of this regional approach.

CIDA's Aid Effectiveness Agenda includes both geographic and thematic areas of focus. Its three thematic priorities are increasing food security, securing the future of children and youth, and stimulating sustainable economic growth. CIDA’s country strategies in Latin America and the Caribbean are guided by these themes, and are bound together by a vision of equal opportunity for all. To achieve meaningful, sustainable results, we are integrating democratic governance, environmental sustainability and equality between men and women into all our programming and planning.

For example, in Colombia, Canada is the lead donor for children’s rights and protection with programs aimed at protecting vulnerable children from violence, preventing their recruitment into armed conflict and providing young people with positive alternative options. Canada is also a leading donor in basic education in Peru. In Northern Peru, for instance, CIDA's support has helped significantly improve mathematics, reading and communications skills among poor girls and boys, especially in rural areas. In Southern Andean and Amazonian Peru, we are working to give poor, rural, indigenous children equal access to quality education in their first language.

In the Caribbean, CIDA's programming will increase economic opportunities and help the region adapt to a single market that will improve its trade and competitiveness. Training a new generation of Caribbean leaders through strengthened vocational training means that at-risk youth will have the skills needed for employment.

In Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, Canada is working to increase food security for the most vulnerable, particularly the rural poor who rely on the agriculture sector. To address this, CIDA’s programs focus on helping small-scale farmers gain access to credit, new agricultural technologies and more diversified crop systems.

Canada recognizes that every country’s needs and development priorities are unique and so our approach supports the development priorities of each country’s national development plans.

In Haiti, where the poverty and inequality levels are the highest in the region, Canada plays a leadership role within the donor community. Haiti is the largest recipient of Canadian development assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the days and weeks following the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, Canada led the international community in responding to the needs of the Haitian people. The Government of Canada has committed more than $1 billion to Haiti between 2006 and 2012. This response is part of our long-standing commitment to the Haitian people. Long before the earthquake, CIDA was supporting Haiti’s central institutions and its election processes, contributing to school feeding and immunization programs, providing electricity to remote areas, and helping raise HIV-AIDS awareness.

Canada believes that the immense potential in the region provides the basis for a brighter future, particularly for people who are still living in poverty without the basic necessities of life. Canada will continue to support its neighbours and regional partners to meet the basic needs and opportunities of all people, so they can lead safe and productive lives. We share this hope with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda is Canada's Minister of International Co-operation.


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