Working Group on International Development

Working Group on International Development

The world is in the midst of a complex and dramatic set of transformations. The traditional view of “international development” as solely a matter of charity and moral importance, secondary to Canada’s hard interests, is long outdated. The complex, inter-related nature of contemporary global challenges demands a new mindset, a new coalition of actors, and even new terminology. These are the conclusions of a CIPS working group in their new report “Towards 2030: Building Canada’s Engagement with Global Sustainable Development.” The working group, comprised of leading academics, civil society leaders and former senior officials, argues that “global sustainable development” is central to Canada’s prosperity, security, environment and global influence. They conclude, however, that Canadian society has not kept pace with the evolving global context and offer eight recommendations to kick start a generational shift – spanning academia, business, think tanks, philanthropy, civil society and all levels of government.

CIPS Working Group on International Development :

Margaret Biggs (co-chair): Skelton-Clark Fellow, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University

John W McArthur (co-chair): Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation

Kate Higgins: Adjunct Research Professor, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; Manager, CIVICUS

David Moloney: Senior Associate, Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa; Fellow, Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, Ivey School of Business

Eric Werker: Associate Professor, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University

Julia Sanchez: President-CEO, Canadian Council for International Co-operation

Executive Summary

The world is in the midst of a complex and dramatic set of transformations. Economic globalization, accelerating connectivity and unprecedented environmental strains are affecting all countries’ views on economic power, security risks and global governance. For Canadians, new opportunities, threats and innovations are emerging from places previously considered narrowly to be the beneficiaries of our generosity.

A new mindset is required to advance our nation’s interests while carrying our weight in solving global challenges.

Why Global Sustainable Development Matters

The words “international development” prompt many people to think of moral intentions, humanitarian crises and charity. But that terminology and outlook are outdated in light of the changing global dynamics. In this paper we use the term “global sustainable development,” or GSD, to describe the pursuit of a stable, inclusive, healthy and thriving global society that lives within nature’s means and provides an adequate resource base for future generations.There are profound moral reasons for Canadians to care about GSD, as a challenge that defines the fate of more than 7 billion people. There are also at least five strategic reasons why GSD intersects with Canada’s most vital national interests:

  • Our security is affected by other countries’ development
  • Our future prosperity requires seizing trade and investment opportunities with developing economies
  • Our economic and physical wellbeing depends on global environmental sustainability
  • Being a leader in GSD helps earn global influence
  • We need deep, long-term partnerships with new powers that are rewriting the rules of the global game

Building for a New Generation

Despite the importance of GSD, over the course of a generation Canada has fallen behind its peers in keeping pace with the evolving global context. Why has this happened? We do not believe the issues can be attributed to any particular government. Long-term societal approaches – including government policies – hinge on a robust and interactive ecosystem of societal assets. We believe Canada’s current approach to GSD is a product of many gaps – spanning academia, think tanks, business, philanthropy, civil society and all levels of government. Building a strong national ecosystem therefore requires action on many fronts.


We believe Canada has the potential to build the thriving ecosystem necessary for GSD leadership at a global scale. Much of the international agenda through to 2030 will be framed by the new sustainable development goals (or “global goals”), as adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in September 2015. Canadian society was not deeply engaged in the formation of these goals, but it can be deeply engaged in translating their vision into reality.To that end, we offer eight non-partisan recommendations, focused on medium-term horizons:Get Connected to Get Started: Convene a new Canada-hosted Global Sustainable Development Forum in the lead-up to the UN’s annual High-Level Political Forum in New York.Establish the “How” and “How Much” for Canada’s Investment Priorities: Launch a multi-generational task force of Canadians from business, academia, government, media and civil society to identify the mix and scale of investments, time and money required to advance Canada’s strategic interests in GSD.

  1. Build Communities of Applied Research Expertise: Establish global centres of expertise focused on the challenges of global sustainable development at multiple major Canadian universities.
  2. Ensure Global Education for a Global Generation: Set a target such that, by 2030, every Canadian university graduate completes an overseas learning or work opportunity, with an emphasis on emerging economies.
  3. Forge a Business Leadership Alliance: Create an alliance of CEOs in support of global sustainable development, building on successful lessons in countries such as Sweden and the United States.
  4. Mobilize Canadian Philanthropy to Tackle Global Challenges: Seek to establish at least three Canadian philanthropic foundations, each focused on GSD and investing at least $50 million per year.
  5. Foster Civil Society Innovation and Leadership: Launch a GSD Innovation Hub and a High-Level CSO “Enabling Environment” Review.
  6. Forge a New Role for the Government of Canada: Broaden and strengthen the role of the federal government to become a “systems architect” for Canadian engagement on GSD.

Moving forward

Canada’s societal assets must be built to necessary scale over a period of several years.  No single measure will be enough on its own. We hope that others will consider and improve upon these ideas with a common view toward achieving the desired outcomes. Leadership will be needed at all levels of business, academia, civil society and government.Ultimately, Canada’s success will hinge on our ability to craft a new approach to engaging with global transformations that are increasingly driven by changes in today’s developing countries. If we can commit to engage from many perspectives, reconciling the world’s ever-evolving complexities with our own ever-evolving needs, then our values and interests will be highly aligned. Canadians can then be rightly – and wisely – proud of our contributions to building a more prosperous, sustainable and just global society.

PDF_Logo-118x118.jpgRead the full report here

The authors are solely responsible for the report’s content. The French version of the report will be available in 2016.

Canada and the World Policy ReportsNew Directions for Canadian International PolicyIn Fall 2014, CIPS convened four working groups of academics and policy practitioners to explore new thinking and policy options in four areas: International Security and Defence, International Development, International Trade and Commerce, and International Human Rights. The working groups grew out of the discussion at the May 2014 Ottawa Forum which focused on rethinking Canada’s international strategy. The working groups met, consulted, deliberated and drafted their reports and recommendations over the past year. CIPS is releasing the working group papers as part of its ongoing effort to promote evidence-based discussion of international policy issues in Canada.Canada’s International Security and Defence Policy
Co-Chairs: Rob McRae and James R. MitchellTowards 2030: Building Canada’s Engagement with Global Sustainable Development
Co-Chairs: Margaret Biggs and John McArthurNo Time for Complacency: A 21st Century Trade Strategy for Canada
Co-Chairs: Ailish Campbell and Elaine FeldmanHuman Rights in Canadian Foreign Policy: New Departures
Co-Chairs: John Packer and David Petrasek

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