At a glance
- Canada is the eighth-largest donor country on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). In 2020, Canada spent US$5.0 billion (current prices, according to OECD preliminary data) or 0.31% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).
- Canada’s ODA grew 8% between 2019 and 2020 driven by increased climate financing and spending on hosting refugees in-country. Since Canada’s climate finance budget remained static between its Paris Agreement commitment and FY2020/21, these increases were likely due to the timing of disbursements for already committed funds.
- According to Budget 2022, in fiscal year (FY) 2020/21 (April 2020-March 2021), Canada spent a record high CAD7.6 billion (US$5.7 billion) on international assistance. Although no exact figures are provided, a chart in the budget forecasts that development spending in FY2021/22 was slightly lower.
- Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) outlines six ‘Action areas’, the first of which (‘gender equality’) is applied as a lens to the following five (human dignity’, ‘growth that works for everyone’, ‘environment and climate action’, ‘inclusive governance’, ‘peace and security’).
- Global health receives significant attention in Canada’s latest budget (Budget 2022). It announced CAD732 million (US$552 million) in additional funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and CAD74 million (US$56 million) in new annual spending for “strengthening global health security”, over four years starting in FY2023/24.
- At the 2021 G7 Leaders' Summit, Canada announced a doubling of its international climate finance commitment, to CAD5.3 billion (US$4.0 billion) over the next five years. In line with its FIAP, 80% of Canada’s climate-related projects will integrate gender equality considerations.
- Budget 2022 states that “the government is committed to increasing international assistance funding towards 2030”, however, does not reiterate earlier commitments to increase international assistance spending every year. Perhaps this is because, according to the budget documents, it has not succeeded in achieving annual increases since these earlier announcements.
- The most recent budget suggests that development spending will increase to just over CAD8 billion (US$6 billion) in FY2022/23. It does not provide projections for total international assistance levels beyond this point.
- Given that the budget table in Budget 2022 lists only one new expenditure starting in FY2023/24 (for global health security), it seems likely that Canada’s development budget will flatten out following the FY2022/23 increase.
Canada is the 8th-largest OECD DAC donor; ODA increased in 2020
In 2020, Canada was the eighth-largest donor country among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), spending US$5.0 billion on official development assistance (ODA; in current prices, based on OECD preliminary data). According to the OECD, the 8% rise in ODA since 2019 was mainly the result of increased climate financing and higher spending on in-country refugees. COVID-19 also played a role in the funding increases.
In the case of climate finance, the apparent rise in funding in 2020 was likely due to the timing of disbursements for already committed funds rather than increased prioritization of the issue. The increase in refugee costs in was likely caused by disbursements from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to provinces and municipalities to pay for temporary housing for asylum claimants through the Interim Housing Assistance Program. The program was started in March of 2019 and was extended until 2021 because of COVID-19. In 2020, disbursements toward in-country refugee costs represented a greater share of Canada’s total ODA than any other DAC donor (almost 13%).
Canada’s total ODA in 2020 represented 0.31% of its gross national income (GNI), up from 0.27% in 2019. This increase in ODA as a percentage of GNI saw Canada rise three places, to 13th among DAC countries.
According to Budget 2022, in fiscal year (FY) 2020/21 (April 2020-March 2021), Canada spent a record high CAD7.6 billion (US$5.7 billion) on international assistance In that fiscal year the Canadian government added CAD1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion) to the International Assistance Envelope (IAE; the main budgetary tool that funds Canadian development assistance) to fund its international response to COVID-19. This represented the largest addition made to the IAE in a single fiscal year in Canadian history. Most of these increases were used towards one-off spending.
Although no exact figures are provided, a chart in the budget document forecasts that development spending in FY2021/22 was slightly lower and that development spending will increase to just over CAD8 billion (US$6 billion) in FY2022/23. It does not provide projections for total international assistance levels beyond this point.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
Canada has a Feminist International Assistance Policy; emphasis on climate change and humanitarian assistance is increasing
In June 2017, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) published a Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) that seeks to “eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive, and more prosperous world” by promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls. The policy applies a human rights-based approach to its core action area — gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls — as well as its five other action areas: 1) human dignity (including health education, humanitarian assistance, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and food security), 2) inclusive economic growth, 3) environment and climate change, 4) inclusive governance, and 5) peace and security. Canada tracks progress in the FIAP’s action areas using performance indicators released in February 2019. These are used alongside indicators that measure progress on the sustainable development goals (SDGs), advocacy, and in-house gender equality at GAC.
Canada’s key development priorities under its Feminist International Assistance Policy:
- Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
- Human dignity;
- Inclusive economic growth,
- Environment and climate change;
- Inclusive governance; and
- Peace and security.
Global health is one of Canada’s key priorities. In recent years global health security and the COVID-19 response have become a top focus, as evidenced by Budget 2022. In the FIAP, global health sits under the banner of ‘human dignity’. At the ‘Women Deliver’ conference in June 2019, Canada announced that it would increase its support for women’s and girls’ health around the world with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive rights and health rights (SRHR). Canada has also put women and girls at the center of its international response to COVID-19.
‘Human dignity’ also includes Canada’s humanitarian assistance. Canada supports “gender-responsive humanitarian action”, meaning it strives to offer assistance that appropriately meets the needs of people, particularly women and girls, impacted by crises. Humanitarian assistance accounts for 50% of the international assistance increases outlined in the FY2021/22 budget. Budget 2022 highlights support for Ukraine as a key pillar of “Canada’s Leadership in the World”. As of April 2022, Canada has committed CAD145 million (US$109 million) in humanitarian assistance, and CAD35 million (US$19 million) in development assistance in response to the war in Ukraine.
The ‘environment and climate change’ action area has been increasingly prioritized in Canada’s ODA. According to the OECD, ODA growth between 2019 and 2020 was largely driven by higher disbursements of climate finance, however, this was likely the result of the timing of when pre-announced commitments were paid out since Canada’s funding envelope for international climate finance has been static since it made its Paris Agreement pledge up until FY2020/21. Beyond FY2020/21, growth in Canada’s allocations of international climate finance is expected: At the June 2021 G7 Summit, Canada committed to doubling its climate finance contribution, with a focus on adaptation to climate change.
Canada champions the application of a gender lens to climate change; this rhetoric has been sustained through the government’s proposals for ‘building back better’ in the wake of COVID-19. Although the FIAP highlights the government’s intention to adopt feminist approaches to climate finance, it lacks any concrete measures to assess the realization of this goal.
Increasing collaboration on innovative financing with initiatives and ensuring that their activities are aligned with the values of the FIAP are also priorities. A 2020 report from the Canadian International Development Platform and Engineers Without Borders Canada suggests that, despite the government’s rhetorical commitment to blended finance, GAC has not been effective at leveraging private capital.
Canada favors the use of earmarked funding channeled through multilaterals
Canada’s core funding to multilaterals stood at US$1.5 billion, or 32% of gross ODA disbursements in 2019, below the DAC average (41%). An additional US$1.1 billion, or 23% of Canada’s ODA, was channeled through multilateral organizations as earmarked funding for a specific issue or country (DAC average: 14%; reported as bilateral ODA.) A 2018 OECD Development Co-operation Peer Review recommended that Canada provide more core funding to multilateral institutions, but Canada continues to favor the use of earmarked funding to multilaterals within its bilateral programs.
Bilateral funding (excluding earmarked funding) represented US$2.1 billion or 45% of Canada’s ODA (DAC average: 45%) in 2019. Canada channels most of its bilateral funding through the public sector (US$1.1 billion in 2019), followed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs; US$891 million). In 2019, Canada gave 95% of its bilateral ODA as grants (DAC average: 92%), which it considers to be an effective way to deliver increasing amounts of ODA while reducing the administrative burden often associated with loan financing.
The government expects to double its international assistance provided through innovative tools between 2018 to 2022, with the aim of making Canada a leader in ‘blended financing’ for development assistance. In 2018, CAD1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) was allocated to two new measures over five years, starting in FY2018/19: the International Assistance Innovation Program (CAD873 million, or US$658 million) and the Sovereign Loans Program (CAD627 million, or US$473 million). These will complement Canada’s core development activities by leveraging the use of guarantees, equity, and repayable contributions, with additional authority for innovative finance granted to Global Affairs Canada (GAC; see ‘Main Actors’).
Bilateral spending focuses on humanitarian assistance, global health, and refugees
Humanitarian assistance received the largest share of bilateral ODA in 2019 (US$561 million or 17% of all bilateral ODA). This is in line with Canada’s increasing focus on international peace and security, as well as human dignity in humanitarian crises. Under the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), Canada emphasizes gender-responsive humanitarian action; 96% or US$539 million of Canada’s humanitarian spending in 2019 included gender equality as a principal or significant objective.
Health and populations received the second-largest share of bilateral ODA (US$495 million, or 15% of total bilateral spending in 2019). This aligns with Canada’s demonstrated leadership in the areas of maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH), sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and global health at large.
The costs of hosting refugees in Canada accounted for 15% of Canada’s bilateral ODA in 2019 (US$476 million). According to preliminary data from the OECD, funding for refugees in-country increased significantly in 2020 compared to 2019 as a result of disbursements from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to provinces and municipalities to fund the Interim Housing Assistance Program. This program, which provides temporary housing to asylum claimants, was established in March 2019 and extended until 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
All three of the top-funded sectors saw a funding decline between 2018 and 2019: 15% in the case of humanitarian assistance, 13% for health, and 6% for in-donor refugee costs. Meanwhile, the fourth, fifth, and sixth-highest funded sectors saw funding increase: 27% in the case of government and civil society (to US$305 million), 22% for education (to US$278 million), and 8% for donor administration costs (to US$268 million).
Canada prioritizes low-income countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean
Canada’s FIAP emphasizes the poorest and most vulnerable. 45% (US$778 million) of Canada’s bilateral ODA in 2019 (not including funding unallocated by income-group) went to low-income countries, while lower-middle-income countries received 35% of funding.
The FIAP dictates that by FY2021/22, at least 50% of Canada’s bilateral ODA will be directed to ‘sub-Saharan African’ countries (meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, according to the African Union’s designation); however, in 2019 just 31% of Canada’s regionally allocated ODA went to ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (DAC average: 32%).
Excluding funding unallocated by region, Latin America and the Caribbean received the second-largest share of Canada’s bilateral ODA (US$472 million or 18% of bilateral ODA).
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region received US$403 million from Canada in 2019 (15% of bilateral ODA). This was driven by flows to Afghanistan (US$117 million) and Syria (US$94 million), Canada’s top two recipient countries overall. This is consistent with Canada’s new multi-year commitments to the region and its emerging interest in the nexus of peace, security, humanitarian, and development assistance.
Canada’s multilateral spending concentrates on the World Bank, UN agencies, and the Global Fund
In 2019, Canada’s top multilateral recipients were the World Bank’s International Development Association (US$333 million, or 22% of multilateral ODA), followed by United Nations (UN) agencies (US$294 million, or 20%) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (US$197 million, or 13%). Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) also received significant funding (US$87 million) for the fourth year in a row.
Contributions to multilateral organizations, including to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, have made up a significant share of Canada’s international response to COVID-19.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the cash-flow basis measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on Canada, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non-ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.
Prime Minister provides strategic direction; GAC drives development policy
Prime Minister provides strategic direction; Global Affairs Canada drives development policy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party, L) sets high-level development policy priorities. Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the governmental department in charge of foreign affairs, steers development policy. In FY2019/20, GAC spent 73% of Canada’s International Assistance Envelope (IAE; the main budgetary tool that funds development assistance).
GAC is headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly (L). The Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan (L) sets development policy and makes funding recommendations to Cabinet. The Deputy Minister of International Development, Christopher MacLennan (L) manages GAC’s development policy units and budget allocation. MacLennan is also the Personal Representative of the Prime Minister for the G20.
At a country and regional level, GAC’s geographic branches set the agenda for managing existing programs and allocating funding. Canada’s embassies provide input on project development and assist in monitoring projects.
The Minister of Small Business, export promotion, and international trade, Mary Ng (L), works with the Ministers of Finance and International Development on development finance issues. The Department of Finance, headed by Chrystia Freeland (L), manages core contributions to — and Canada’s relations with — the World Bank, in consultation with GAC.
- Parliament: Canada's Parliament is composed of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Governor-General (representing the Monarch of the United Kingdom). Within the House of Commons, Standing Committees review government policies in specific areas. The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) supervise the operations and management of GAC. During parliamentary debate of the budget, the FAAE holds hearings with the Minister of International Development. The House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) is responsible for budgetary policy, including Canada’s development assistance. Given their minority mandate, the Liberal Party must cooperate with other political parties in parliament.
- Civil Society: Civil society organizations (CSOs) can submit suggestions on the annual budget and are occasionally consulted in the run-up to major foreign policy decisions. The Development and Humanitarian Assistance Civil Society Partnership Policy (2016) outlines the guiding principles and objectives underlying the government’s engagement with CSOs in alleviating poverty and delivering humanitarian assistance. GAC convenes CSO representatives annually to discuss the implementation of this policy.
Because Canada has a “whole of government approach” to delivering international assistance, other government departments and entities are involved in official development assistance (ODA) allocation. ODA associated with supporting refugees during their first year in Canada is managed jointly by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and provincial governments. In FY2019/20 these costs accounted for 13% of Canada’s ODA.
The Department of Finance mainly manages Canada’s relationship with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It is also responsible for delivering official debt relief. In FY2019/20 it managed 8% of Canada’s ODA.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is mandated to support research, tools, and leadership to address development problems. The government appoints the board, which along with the Centre Management Committee, guides the direction of the center. The IDRC disbursed CA$145 million (US$109 million) or 2% of Canada’s ODA in FY2019/20.
Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada’s state-owned export credit agency, is mandated to support trade between Canada and other countries and to promote Canada's international competitiveness.
In 2018, the Canadian government created FinDev Canada, a development finance institution capitalized with CAD300 million (US$226 million). FinDev Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EDC and aims to be financially sustainable, generating returns on loans and investments while producing favorable economic and social impacts in the communities where its clients operate. Budget 2021 proposes to recapitalize FinDev Canada with CAD300 million (US$226 million) over three years, starting in FY2023/24, drawn from the earnings of EDC. This would allow FinDev Canada to build a CAD1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) portfolio.
IAE is the primary ODA budget tool
The main budgetary tool that funds development assistance in Canada is the International Assistance Envelope (IAE). Generally, the IAE accounts for around 86% of Canada's overall international assistance, and on average; around 96% of the country's total international assistance is ODA-eligible.
The IAE has grown in recent years. For example, Budget 2018 added CAD2.0 billion (US$1.5 billion) incrementally over five years. Budget 2019 outlined a much more modest increase of only CAD100 million (US$75 million) in FY2023/24. Although the government did not release a budget in 2020, Canada’s response to the global COVID-19 crisis resulted in the largest ever single increase to the IAE. In FY2020/21, Canada’s spending on international assistance reached a record high CAD7.6 billion (US$5.7 billion), according to the latest budget documents.
In April of 2021, the Canadian government tabled its first budget in more than two years. Unsurprisingly, Budget 2021, focused on Canada’s recovery from COVID-19. Although no exact figure is provided, the latest information from the government suggests development spending fell slightly in FY2021/22, despite their commitment to increase IAE every year in the lead up to 2030 (see Chart 5.2 in Budget 2022).
In Budget 2022, published in April of 2022, the focus of the chapter on “Canada’s Leadership in the World” is support for Ukraine and global health security (including its COVID-19 response). Again, no exact figure is provided for total funding to Canada’s IAE, but Chart 5.2 suggests funding for international assistance will exceed CAD8 billion (US$6 billion) in FY2022/23. The 2022 budget commits CAD1.0 billion (US$775 million) in new funding for international assistance over five years (see table). This includes a new commitment to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) in FY2022/23, and funding for Global Affairs Canada for priorities including infectious disease prevention and response.
Budget 2022: New* funding for international assistance
|The Global Fight Against COVID-19 (through ACT-A)||732||552|
|Strengthening Global Health Security||296||223|
|Total for Providing International Assistance||1,028||775|
Source: Budget 2022; *New meaning not announced prior to Budget 2022
Fiscal year runs from April to March
Canada’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. Key stages in Canada’s budget process include:
- Central agencies work with departments to develop budget strategies: In June, the Cabinet reviews the budget. From June to September, central agencies — Privy Council Office, Department of Finance, and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) — work with government departments to incorporate the results of the Cabinet review and develop budget proposals for the Finance Minister. By September, all departments send budget letters to the Finance Minister, which include requests for budgetary changes.
- Pre-budget consultation process begins, including public outreach and parliamentary consultations with external stakeholders: From June to August, the Department of Finance invites civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders to submit suggestions on the budget, including on development. The pre-budget consultation process provides direct opportunities to advocate for issues around the overall official development assistance (ODA) file.
- Minister of Finance consults with Parliament: Between October and December, the Minister of Finance releases Budget Consultation Papers and begins consultation with the House of Commons’ Standing Committees. Participants from within government, as well as other experts, are invited to give testimony on policy areas and budget lines. Results of the consultation process and recommendations of the committees are considered by the Finance Minister. The Department of Finance launches its annual consultation on ODA, as required under the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act. While not part of the official budget consultation, this is a critical opportunity to advocate for increases for overall ODA or specific initiatives.
- Fall Fiscal Update and Public Accounts of Canada are released: Around November, the Department of Finance tables its Fall Fiscal Update and Public Accounts. These provide an update of projections since the previous budget. Around this time the House of Commons’ Finance and Foreign Affairs Committees hold consultations. These may provide direct opportunities to advocate for development issues, especially during the discussion of the Public Accounts, when the status of the execution of the previous year’s budgets is released.
- Finance Minister develops budget strategy, Cabinet reviews it; Prime Minister and Finance Minister make final decisions: In early December, the Minister of Finance develops a budget strategy with input from the ‘Memoranda to the Cabinet’ from all departments. It outlines policy priorities and financial asks. The Cabinet reviews these and budget proposals from December to January. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister may make final adjustments until February/March.
- ‘Main Estimates’ are tabled; Finance Minister delivers budget speech; budget is approved: The budget is usually presented to the House of Commons in February/March in a speech by the Finance Minister. The Main Estimates, which are the detailed spending plans for each department for the upcoming financial year, are be tabled by the president of TBS in April; however, there are areas of surplus not included in the Main Estimates, as the government aims to maintain a ‘surprise’ factor around highly political areas, including development spending.