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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.

Policy Papers & Briefs 2011

Food Price Crisis 2007-2008: Lessons for the Commonwealth Caribbean and Haiti
Jean-Charles Le Vallée
FOCAL Policy Brief
August 2011

Haitian farmers prepare the land for planting.In June 2008, global food prices reached their highest levels in 30 years, sparking a global crisis and threatening the livelihoods of many in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Haiti. This intense crisis prompted various policy responses by governments and international agencies in the region to ensure short-term food security and availability of food supplies at more affordable domestic prices. Since then, however, co-ordinated regional efforts have focused on longer-term strategies resulting in a Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy. This policy brief reviews policy responses to the 2007-2008 food price crisis in Commonwealth Caribbean countries and Haiti, as these countries are highly vulnerable to such crises in light of their extreme dependence on food imports coupled with high poverty rates. It assesses the impact of the crisis, the region’s responses and provides lessons for looming food price shocks to come.


Economic Growth and Inequality
Guillermo Perry and Roberto Steiner
FOCAL Policy Brief
July 2011

An indigenous woman sits against a wall on a street in Urubamba, Peru.High levels of inequality and significant social mobility problems still exist in Latin America, despite recent improvements in the distribution of income. Beyond ethical implications, inequality has repercussions on macroeconomic, institutional and social variables. This policy brief analyzes some of the channels through which inequality affects these variables and offers public policy options that could foster improvements in the distribution of income and opportunities. These policy options could be discussed during the next Summit of the Americas as a topic for regional agreement, with the objective of uniting political and economic forces to reduce the high levels of inequality facing the region.

Available in French: Croissance économique et inégalité
Available in Spanish: Crecimiento económico y desigualdad


Low-skill temporary work and non-access to permanent residence
Tatiana Gomez
FOCAL Policy Brief
June 2011

An agricultural worker prepares ears of corn for shipping.In recent years, temporary foreign migration programs in Canada have expanded beyond the agricultural and caregiving sectors, allowing employers in a variety of areas, such as the restaurant, hotel and construction industries, to recruit temporary foreign workers. An unprecedented number of migrant workers have been admitted to Canada, creating two tiers of temporary foreign workers: those who can apply for permanent residence and those who cannot. This policy brief discusses the implications of temporary foreign migration policy and regulatory frameworks for low-skill workers from Latin America and the Caribbean and argues that all workers, regardless of skill, could be given access to permanent residence to equalize opportunities.

Available in French: Le travail temporaire peu spécialisé et l’impossibilité d’accéder à la résidence permanente
Available in Spanish: El trabajo temporal de baja cualificación y la incapacidad de acceder a la residencia permanente


The Caribbean and the Summit of the Americas 2012
Damien King
FOCAL Policy Brief
June 2011

Jamaica: A police officer with his back to the camera faces a crowd.While the Caribbean region shares many of the hemisphere-wide problems that call for attention at the 2012 Summit of the Americas, three are of particular relevance to the region. First, the ongoing security threat from transnational drug trafficking is heightened by weak state capacity, which puts these countries at high risk of increasing insecurity and violence. Second, with its shrinking share of global trade, the Caribbean region sees the Summit as the next-best vehicle for broad progress on hemispheric trade following the collapse of the Doha Round of trade talks. Finally, the Caribbean nations remain vulnerable to natural hazards and face development challenges typical of small states. The Summit provides an opportunity for the hemispheric community to commit to helping the region as it experiences episodic shocks.

Available in French: Les Caraïbes et le Sommet des Amériques 2012
Available in Spanish: El Caribe y la Cumbre de las Américas de 2012


Citizen security, a challenge for the Americas
Hugo Acero Velásquez
FOCAL Policy Brief
June 2011

Two Colombian Senate guardsIn the Americas, the traditional problems of public safety are now complicated by the presence and actions of large mafias —involved in drug trafficking, smuggling, human trafficking and the illegal arms trade, among other activities— that are seriously affecting citizen security by contributing to the growth of violence, drug consumption, kidnapping, extortion and contract killing. Faced with this situation, the countries in the hemisphere must simultaneously deal with local and transnational crime. In the case of local crime, integrated policies for peaceful co-existence and citizen security encompassing crime prevention and control are required. In the case of transnational crime, regional and multilateral alliances are needed to combat mafia activity. In addition to hunting down the big bosses, efforts need to focus on the middle levels of command to break apart these organizations, and on the design of policies to encourage young people to leave criminal groups and prevent others from joining.

Available in French: La sécurité citoyenne : un défi à relever dans les Amériques
Available in Spanish: Seguridad ciudadana, un reto por asumir en las Américas


The Juancito Pinto conditional cash transfer program in Bolivia: Analyzing the impact on primary education
Ernesto Yáñez, Ronald Rojas and Diego Silva
FOCAL Policy Brief
May 2011

IICD Bolivian SchoolgirlIn Bolivia, although primary education enrolment rates are high, major gaps persist for those who face higher opportunity costs to study, such as girls and indigenous and rural students. To address this situation, a conditional cash transfer program known as the Bono Juancito Pinto was designed for primary school students in 2006. This type of program has the potential to improve access to education, foster social mobility and help fight intergenerational poverty. Five years on, has Bolivia’s scheme generated positive results? The ex ante impact analysis presented in this policy brief suggests that the program has led to an increase in enrolment levels and reduced income inequality, yet its impact on poverty remains low. With a view to maximizing the results of the transfer, this document presents policy options that target population groups with high education opportunity costs, each designed and evaluated through micro-simulations.

Available in French: Le programme de transfert conditionnel de fonds Juancito Pinto en Bolivie: Quel impact sur l’éducation primaire ?
Available in Spanish: El Bono Juancito Pinto en Bolivia: Un análisis de impacto sobre la educación primaria


Vulnerabilities of female migrant farm workers from Latin America and the Caribbean in Canada
Evelyn Encalada Grez
FOCAL Policy Brief
April 2011

Hands holding grapesSince 1999, the number of temporary foreign workers from Latin America and the Caribbean employed in Canada's agricultural sector has tripled. Most temporary workers on farms are men, but the number of women is on the rise. In Canada, female temporary foreign workers endure precarious working and living conditions on the farms and face gender-specific challenges. This policy brief documents this new trend in temporary migration and highlights the vulnerabilities of female workers employed in Canada’s agricultural industry.

Available in French: Sous le signe de la vulnérabilité : Le travail agricole des femmes latino-américaines et caribéennes au Canada
Available in Spanish: Vulnerabilidades de las trabajadoras agrícolas migrantes de América Latina y el Caribe en Canadá


Mexico-Canada trade relations
Jaime Zabludovsky and Odracir Barquera
FOCAL Policy Brief
April 2011

zabludovsky_trade_edit The economic and trade relations between Canada and Mexico must be deepened, beyond what has been achieved under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This policy brief explores economic and trade exchange options, investment strategies, leadership directions, and export opportunities in key Asian markets.

Available in Spanish: Relaciones comerciales entre México y Canadá




Enhancing the movement of people between Canada and Mexico
Mark B. Salter
FOCAL Policy Brief
March 2011

salter_ID_editWhile Canada for some time has been following the general trend of bilateral visa-free travel with a number of important partners in order to facilitate good diplomatic, cultural, touristic and business ties, it decided to go against the current when it imposed a visa requirement on Mexican travellers in July 2009. This policy brief looks into the rationale for Canada’s imposition of a visa on Mexicans and puts forward a practical, alternative idea to facilitate the movement of people while meeting security and immigration concerns.




Beyond trade: Sub-national diplomacy between Canada and Mexico
David Parks
FOCAL Policy Brief
March 2011

GovernorandMinister_GovAlberta_editThe Canada-Mexico relationship is enhanced, and in some cases driven, by an emerging set of relationships between the provincial and state governments of the two federal countries. Largely unmanaged and often unmentioned at the federal level, increasing provincial-state co-operation will be a key factor to developing a more profound and lasting partnership between Canada and Mexico.




In search of relevance for Canadian-Mexican energy relations
Lourdes Melgar

FOCAL Policy Brief
March 2011

Melgar_wind_power_editedThe transition to a low-carbon economy offers the opportunity of furthering energy security and sustainable development in North America. This policy brief argues that Canada and Mexico could benefit greatly from considering their energy relations within this emerging framework, an approach that could open up an array of options to strengthen, beyond rhetoric, bilateral energy integration and co-operation.




Upper secondary education and the labour market in Colombia
María Margarita López
FOCAL Policy Paper
March 2011

SENA_1_small_cIn Colombia, only a third of young people of upper secondary age —corresponding to Grades 10 and 11— are enrolled at this level. To resolve the situation, over the past decade government policy has aimed to facilitate a successful transition from Grade 11 toward both higher education and the labour market by broadening the education system coverage, making vocational training programs more relevant and ensuring better co-ordination with the productive sector. This policy paper presents an outline of the measures adopted and uncovers some of their shortfalls.

Available in Spanish: La educación media y el mercado laboral en Colombia



Improving access to birth attention of marginalized populations in Peru
Janice N. Seinfeld
FOCAL Policy Paper
February 2011

© CECI, Michel Huneault

To reduce maternal mortality in Peru, economic, access and cultural barriers to institutional deliveries will have to be overcome. Despite significant improvements to maternal health over the past 15 years, Peru remains well behind developed countries and is still faced with major inequalities across different groups and areas, especially for poor women living in the Selva region and in rural areas. This policy paper analyzes these policy gaps and offers recommendations.

Available in Spanish: Mejorando el acceso al parto institucional en las poblaciones marginalizadas del Perú



Reaching the “cocobai”: Reconstruction and persons with disabilities in Haiti
Cassandra Phillips
FOCAL Policy Paper
January 2011


In Haiti, Handicap International estimated that 800,000 people were living with disabilities before the Jan. 12,2010 earthquake; they were among the poorest in the country. With the quake, the number of people with disabilities has increased dramatically, putting an even greater strain on an already weak infrastructure. Many newly-disabled children have also lost their parents and their homes, and the disabled previously congested in Port-au-Prince have shifted into outlying regions where services are scarce. The situation is compounded by prevalent myths about disability that erect strong barriers to assistance for persons with disabilities —who are called “cocobai” in slang Creole, implying they are worthless. This policy paper offers recommendations to address the main inclusion gaps with regard to health, justice, education, employment and access to public buildings. Please visit Disabled Peoples' International for further reference.

Available in French: Aller vers le “cocobai” : La reconstruction et les personnes handicapées en Haïti
Available in Spanish: Debemos llegar a los cocobai: La reconstrucción y las personas con discapacidad en Haití


A View of the Hemisphere



Explore the link between governance and development.