What impact will the 2012 budget have on global hunger?

Less money for the world’s neediest citizens – that’s the result of the 2012 budget, announced by finance minster Jim Flaherty Mar. 29.

Over the next five years, Canada’s Overseas Development Assistance (or ODA) will decline by $790 million, from $5.6 billion to $4.8 billion, making Canada among the least generous of traditional aid donor countries as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI). It will fall by almost $600 million in this fiscal year alone.

While the exact nature of the cuts has not yet been made public, this reduction in the total aid budget will mean that Canada has less money to spend on reducing global hunger through support for agriculture, food aid, and nutrition in developing countries. These activities have been a priority focus of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) since the global food crisis in 2008, which saw a sharp rise in the number of hungry people in the world.

This cutback is especially unfortunate, since CIDA’s extra investment in food security from 2008 to 2011 has helped reduce hunger by providing emergency food aid to the horn of Africa and other troubled areas, and enabled small family farmers in poor countries to improve their livelihoods.

The cut also means Canada will fall further behind the recommended United Nations target of 0.7 percent of GNI for Western donor countries. In the fiscal year which just ended, Canada’s aid was about half of that (0.34 percent). Based on the budget projections just announced, Canada’s aid will fall to about 0.24 percent by 2015.

Unfortunately, Canada is not alone in cutting its aid budget: other G7 countries are doing the same. Some of the larger countries in the developing world, such as China, India, and Brazil, are picking up the slack. However, their aid budgets are not as large as Canada’s, even if they are increasing by 10–20 percent per year – while G7 aid budgets are stagnant or declining.

The 2012 budget is not expected to have any direct impact on the programming work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which signed a five-year funding agreement with CIDA in 2011.

—Paul Hagerman directs public policy for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (a partnership of 15 churches and church agencies working together to end global hunger). Learn more at www.foodgrainsbank.ca.

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