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Rethinking Canadian Aid

Stephen Brown
Molly den Heyer
David R. Black

Section I: Foundations of Ethics, Power and Bureaucracy

Chapter I. Humane Internationalism and the Malaise of Canadian Aid Policy

David R. Black

Texte intégral

1Why do national governments provide foreign aid? Why should they provide foreign aid? These deceptively simple questions, analytical and normative, are the focus of a voluminous literature within and beyond Canada. Maurits van der Veen (2011) has demonstrated that the way they are answered varies quite widely among donor states and depends substantially on how foreign aid is “framed.”

  • 1 Cranford Pratt is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto. In an illu (...)

2In Canada, the scholarship of, and inspired by, Cranford Pratt has been exceptionally influential in framing analysis of the foundations and rationale for the Canadian aid program.1 With a focus on Canadian aid policy that spanned two decades (e.g., Pratt 1983/84, 1989, 1994, 2001, 2003), Pratt’s conceptual and analytical contributions did much to define the terms of debate and shape normative and prescriptive discussion of the logic that should underpin this important but highly contested policy domain. In particular, Pratt’s conceptualization of humane internationalism and his related articulations of a “dominant class” account of the limitations of Canadian aid and the role of the “counter-consensus” shaped a pattern of debate that did much to illuminate aid policy and practice in Canada. However, it also in effect framed and limited the debate in ways that have constrained creativity and innovation. By re-examining Pratt’s core conceptual contributions and the narrative account of Canadian aid policy they enabled, it becomes possible to understand better the malaise that has settled upon the debate and practice of Canadian aid policy – the sense of insularity, defensiveness, and remove from the real needs of developing countries that has undermined political support for Canadian foreign assistance. Moreover, this analysis allows us to identify some of the ways in which those seeking a renewed and strengthened aid program, properly articulated with other dimensions of development policy and responsive to the imperatives of global poverty and justice, might reinvigorate the debate. These include a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between ethics and interests, a broadening of the constituency for development work in Canadian government and society, and a more grounded and holistic view of the impact of aid and its relationship to other forms of development engagement.

Interpreting Canadian Aid Praxis: Pratt’s Enduring Contribution

3As noted above, Pratt’s analysis of the characteristics and evolution of Canadian aid policy was anchored by three core conceptual constructs. First, he argued that Canadian political culture incorporated a robust and persistent, though eroding, element of “humane internationalism” (HI), defined as “an acceptance by the citizens of the industrialized states that they have ethical obligations towards those beyond their borders and that these in turn impose obligations on their governments” (Pratt 1989, 13). This orientation was, he argued, understood by its adherents to be consistent with the “real long-term interests of the rich countries,” but remained at its core ethical and cosmopolitan in orientation (Pratt 1989, 14). It was also widely seen as the logical external corollary of a solidaristic commitment to social equity at home, manifested in the elaboration of the welfare state policies of the post–World War II era. He did not suggest that HI was uniquely Canadian. Indeed, Pratt’s fullest articulation of this idea emerged out of a multi-volume collaborative study with scholars from several other “like-minded” Western middle powers (e.g., Pratt 1989; Pratt 1990; Stokke 1989), to which Canada compared relatively unfavourably in terms of generosity. Nevertheless, he considered HI the most widely accepted foundation and justification for Canadian aid, as well as the soundest basis for aid “effectiveness” (to put the point in more contemporary terms).

4The evidence for the robustness of the humane internationalist tradition was to be found in several sources: public opinion surveys; key parliamentary committee reports, and at least some government white papers on aid (e.g., CIDA 1975; 1987; SCEAIT 1987); and most substantially, the proliferating range of internationalist non-state actors that Pratt (1983/84) dubbed the “counter-consensus” – so named because they had increasingly coalesced around a critique of the dominant approach to Canadian foreign policy by the late 1970s. The idea of the counter-consensus was Pratt’s second main conceptual contribution to the framing of Canadian foreign policy. It foreshadowed the growing interest in the role and influence of “civil society” and the “democratization” of foreign policy that came to the fore in the 1990s. Pratt regarded this broad coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs), allied in the development domain through the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), as the most effective and articulate custodians of HI, and he worked closely with them over the course of his career.

5Given what he understood to be HI’s public resonance and firm societal roots, the puzzle was why it had not had greater influence on the policy and practice of Canadian aid, which virtually all scholarly commentators saw as bedevilled by “mixed motives,” among which ethical considerations were typically (though not unremittingly) subordinated to more narrowly self-interested priorities. To explain this puzzle, Pratt elaborated a “dominant class” approach, combining an emphasis on the relative autonomy of permanent officials within the state with an understanding that their conception of the “national interest” showed a persistent bias towards the interests of “capitalism in Canada.” Influenced by structural Marxism, combined in a “non-doctrinaire” manner with international realism and, in later versions, a neo-Gramscian attention to the precepts of neoliberal globalization, Pratt’s emphasis on the enduring influence of dominant class interests provided a basis for understanding the policy choices that were made (e.g., regarding tied aid, the choice of recipients, and the use aid funds to promote private sector activity in developing countries) under the ethical cover of the aid program.

6Taken together, these three conceptual constructs underpinned an analytical narrative concerning Canada’s “limited and eroding internationalism” (Pratt 1989). Pratt argued that due to a “strategic conjuncture” of favourable conditions, both domestic and international, the rapid growth of a more generous and ethically driven aid policy took hold for a ten-year period, from 1966 to 1976. “Because of the strength of social idealism in Canada at that time,” wrote Pratt, “a major foreign aid policy that was genuinely committed to reaching and helping the poorest peoples and countries was seen as particularly appropriate” (Pratt 2003, 89). However, a determined push to win Cabinet acceptance of the 1975 Aid Strategy that seemed to cement this trend paradoxically led to a systematic backlash from other quarters of the state and initiated a retreat from this high-water mark of HI. The story that Pratt tracked over the next couple of decades featured a CIDA that, for the most part, sought to protect its core HI mission and the autonomy to pursue it in the face of repeated efforts to modify its policies to serve better Canadian material self-interests.

7Moreover, CIDA was periodically required to resist efforts to gain direct control over its policy branch and direction from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) (e.g., Pratt 1998). Depending on the administrative leadership of the agency, these efforts sometimes took the form of policy shifts to bring aid policy into closer alignment with the self-interested priorities of Foreign Affairs and Finance – as, for example, during Marcel Massé’s tenure as president when CIDA pre-emptively embraced the promotion of structural adjustment in recipient countries as a core priority (Pratt 1994, 354–57). “Humanitarian considerations have not been obliterated,” wrote Pratt “and even periodically resurged under particular ministers – but they have been required increasingly to yield place to self-interested … economic and international political objectives” (Pratt 2001, 67). In the meantime, despite Pratt’s “underlying pessimism about the prospects for the future triumph of progressive internationalist values” (Matthews 2002, 171), he sought through his own writing and advocacy, as well as encouragement of the efforts of others within the “counter-consensus,” to make the case for a more humane and cosmopolitan internationalism and a more generous aid program flowing from it. Over this period, CIDA was unable to resist deep cuts to its budget in times of fiscal austerity, during the 1990s and again after 2010. More recently, with the surprise announcement of its merger with Foreign Affairs in the March 2013 federal budget to form the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), CIDA’s resistance to encroachments on its policy autonomy was finally swept aside.

  • 2 For an indication of Pratt’s influence and the respect and affection in which he continued to be h (...)

8Where does this leave Pratt’s account of Canadian aid policy and our assessment of it? Much about Pratt’s account is both admirable and illuminating. His dominant class approach continues to highlight enduring biases within the state policy-making apparatus – biases that have tended to fade from view in policy debates on aid (e.g., regarding the aid “architecture” and particular thematic and country priorities), but should not. His precise and exacting approach to the reading of successive parliamentary reports and policy documents, seeking in their formulations clues to the emerging directions of aid policy and the configuration of forces within government, showed an attention to detail and to the power of language at a time when the “discursive turn” was in its infancy, particularly in the study of Canadian foreign policy. The clarity of his thinking and reasoning, and not least the persistence and passion with which he engaged this issue, were inspirational to many.2

9Nevertheless, Pratt’s work was not always on the mark. More to the point, even (perhaps especially) when it was – that is, much of the time – his great influence in shaping the debate has had some unintended consequences that may have forestalled a healthier and more forward-looking consideration of the foundations upon which Canadian aid could be renewed. Identifying and critiquing these tendencies can help us think about ways forward in the current, dynamic, and uncertain policy environment.

Assumptions and Implications of the Debate

Right Intention

10Embedded in both Pratt’s analysis and much of the broader debate concerning Canadian aid policy is the assumption that foreign aid can and should be driven by “sentiments of human solidarity and … an awakening acceptance of obligations towards those beyond its borders” (Pratt 2001, 61). This is reflected, for example, in former Foreign Minister Mitchell Sharp’s oft-cited assertion, originally made in 1961, that, “There is one good and sufficient reason for international aid and that is that there are less fortunate people in the world who need our help … If the primary purpose of our aid is to help ourselves, rather than to help others, we shall probably receive in return what we deserve and a good deal less than we expect” (cited in Spicer 1966, 6). Yet Pratt and many others have equally shown that, in practice, Canadian aid policy has rarely attained this clarity of purpose – this right intention – and has indeed been routinely corrupted by more selfish and narrowly self-interested motivations. The result has been a Manichean juxtaposition of “right” versus misguided if not “wrong” intent in the formulation of Canadian aid policy.

11Of course, such ideal-typical contrasts have important analytical utility. However, they also have certain risks and ramifications when applied to the “real world” of policy. First, the ethical clarity of purpose associated with the “pure” articulation of HI is virtually impossible to approach in practice. Certainly, all state officials concerned with aid policy must engage in compromises, both internally in relation to their bureaucratic counterparts and externally in the complex terrain of recipients. The ethically defined actors within the counter-consensus have also reflected and faced a range of acute dilemmas as they have been obliged to balance competing interests and motivations. The very political risk is that, in setting a standard for aid practice and practitioners that is impossible to meet, a debate framed by a stark contrast between ethical and self-interested motivations runs the risk of undermining the legitimacy and public acceptance of the aid program as a whole (see Chapnick, this volume). In other words, if aid is persistently failing to fulfil its ostensibly “true” or “right” purpose, its supporters are liable to become disaffected and its opponents emboldened.

12On the other hand, a discussion of development that does not embed a forthright and sophisticated discussion of ethical purpose will be an impoverished one. A policy domain that is centrally preoccupied with addressing the causes and consequences of global poverty will be infused, inevitably, with conceptions of and arguments about obligation and justice. What is needed, therefore, is a discussion that better captures the dilemmas and ambiguities of ethical purpose, without (implicitly or explicitly) discounting it as somehow “too hard” or too naïve.

The Robustness of the HI Tradition in Canadian Political Culture

13With hindsight and the benefit of subsequent research, Pratt’s analysis appears to be most off-target in his assessment of the robustness of the HI tradition in Canadian society. To be sure, Pratt always portrayed this tradition as “limited and eroding.” He also emphasized that as support for policies dedicated to poverty alleviation and social equity within Canada faltered in the neoliberal era, a parallel recession of support in the external domain was to be expected. Nevertheless, he persisted in treating the HI tradition as substantial and resilient, if embattled, so as to juxtapose this tendency with the more self-interested orientation of much of the Canadian political and economic elite.

14Yet the breadth and depth of HI in both the “mass” and “attentive” publics has always been questionable, and is arguably increasingly so. Several insightful analyses have elaborated this point. David Morrison, in his landmark 1998 history of CIDA, noted that “while polls have consistently shown humanitarian sentiment as the leading reason people give for supporting aid, they have also revealed scant general knowledge about the nature or extent of Canadian development assistance – and, except for a small minority, a low ranking in comparison with other public goods” (Morrison 1998, 440). Noël, Thérien, and Dallaire (2004) used publicly available polling data to elaborate on this point, and further noted that there was a deep divide between a soft majority of Canadians who were broadly supportive of aid and a substantial minority who were deeply sceptical or even hostile towards it. They further demonstrated that this division closely aligned with partisan political preferences: Those self-identifying on the party-political “right” were generally more sceptical about aid and suspicious of the agencies responsible for it. This understanding has clearly influenced the Conservative Harper government, whose electoral “base” is considerably less attached to the HI tradition as Pratt conceived it than those of the other two major federal parties.

15A related point concerns the depth of parliamentary support for HI as the principal foundation for the aid program. An important theme within Pratt’s work was the degree to which key parliamentary committee reports – notably the Winegard Report (SCEAIT 1987), but also the report of the Special Joint Committee reviewing Canadian foreign policy (House of Commons 1994) – consistently supported an HI-and poverty-oriented rationale for Canadian aid policy. The implication was that parliamentarians were more inclined to reflect the orientations of their constituents than relatively autonomous permanent officials of the state and therefore that these reports clearly indicated societal support for HI, whereas the deviations from their recommendations in government responses to them clearly indicated the “dominant class” bias of key state agencies.

16I have argued that there is, in fact, a discernible weakening of the erstwhile HI constituency among contemporary parliamentarians, reflecting broader societal trends (Black 2012). Nevertheless, these committee reports, as substantial as they were, are probably better understood as a reflection of the viewpoints of a committed and at least partially self-selected minority of parliamentarians – those inclined towards membership and leadership on foreign affairs committees – rather than the viewpoint of parliamentarians as a whole. In short, without discounting the significance of the HI tradition in Canadian society, it has proved to be a weaker foundation for a stable, informed, and effective aid policy at both mass and elite levels than Pratt anticipated.

The Counter-Consensus as Repository and Champion of Ethical Values

17I have noted that the ethically and development-oriented counter-consensus in civil society was regarded as the best-organized and most persistent promoter of an HI approach to aid, both in Pratt’s work and in much scholarly and popular commentary. This role and image has been significantly diminished over the past decade, for a number of reasons. Others are far better qualified to elaborate upon this trend than I am (e.g., Plewes and Tomlinson 2013; Smillie 2012), but a few points bear noting in the context of this analysis.

18First, and ironically, as t he “partnership” between non-governmental development organizations (NGDOs) and CIDA deepened and was institutionalized, these NGDOs became increasingly professionalized and dependent on state funding in ways that compromised their advocacy and policy roles. Second, this same process contributed to the erosion of their local social foundations, as their time and energy was focused on project implementation and upward accountability to CIDA and other funders, especially with the onset of “results-based management.” This erosion was also a reflection of broader socio-cultural trends – notably the decline of the organized mainstream Christian institutions that had been such an influential presence within the counter-consensus and such a strong influence on Pratt and many other humane internationalists. Third, roughly the same segment of the Canadian public that has been sceptical of the usefulness of aid, associated with the party-political right, has been deeply suspicious of what are termed “special interest groups.” Under the Harper government, therefore, there has been a steadily growing estrangement between the government and traditional pillars of the counter-consensus, as well as a growing instrumentalization of NGDO roles in relation to government policy (see Smillie 2012). In short, the multiple changes and challenges facing NGDOs and civil society have led veteran analysts to characterize this sector as being at a difficult and uncertain crossroads (Plewes and Tomlinson 2013, 222). Like public opinion more broadly, its role as a bastion of HI has clearly weakened.

CIDA’s Relations with Other Government Agencies

19Pratt’s identification of a widespread, systematic tendency within those departments primarily concerned with Canada’s foreign relations (notably DFAIT, Finance, Defence, and the Treasury Board) to conceive of the “national interest” in ways that fundamentally aligned with the preferences of the “dominant class” was a powerful and illuminating insight. His portrayal of CIDA’s residual HI orientation and the policies flowing from it as being in tension with, and at times under attack from, officials within these other, more powerful, agencies also held considerable explanatory power. This portrayal, however, reinforced tendencies towards political defensiveness and risk-aversion within CIDA – both in relation to their bureaucratic counterparts and towards the academic and non-governmental development communities.

20It is hard to disentangle cause and effect in these tendencies, which I would argue have persisted since at least the early 1990s with the onset of deep budget cuts under the Chrétien Liberals. Regardless of how it began, it produced an unhealthy sense of insecurity and a reluctance among CIDA officials to engage in vigorous policy and intellectual debate about how best to conceive and pursue development objectives, through aid and other related policies and practices.

21Conversely, the view that other government agencies – particularly, though not only, DFAIT – were ineluctably “captured” by a dominant class/international realist orientation and were persistently pursuing opportunities to distort aid policy to support their conception of the national interest was a potent, albeit overgeneralized, perspective. If CIDA could only seek to defend itself from these narrower objectives and perspectives, pursued by considerably more powerful bureaucratic actors, the struggle was bound to be Sisyphean and deeply demoralizing. It meant, as well, that development analysts and practitioners were less attentive than they might have been to opportunities for forging strategic relationships and alliances with people and branches in other government departments, so as to enlarge and strengthen the constituency for development assistance within government. It would be naïve to think that this could be easily or widely achieved, but it could potentially broaden the range of opportunities and support for development issues within the apparatus of the state.

Aid Policy and the “Political Class”

22In line with the theoretical assumptions of both structural Marxism and statism (e.g., Nossal 1988), Pratt emphasized the interests and orientations of permanent officials within a relatively autonomous Canadian state. There are persuasive reasons for this emphasis and it has delivered powerful insights. At the same time, to echo Adam Chapnick (this volume), in a liberal democratic political system (however class-based) it is possible for political elites to impose agendas and/or deliver change if they are determined to do so. Chapnick notes that the key lesson of the UK’s remarkable cross-partisan support for a strong and growing aid program, anchored by the Department for International Development (DFID), is the importance of strong and committed political party leadership in making it happen. Similarly, the Harper Conservatives have demonstrated their ability to impose far-reaching policy and institutional changes with remarkably limited consultation and consensus building, as exemplified by the abrupt decision to roll CIDA into the new DFATD. This suggests a need to give closer attention to the macro-political role of political party elites in building the foundation for better aid policies.

An Introverted Debate

23The debate concerning the quality and purposes of Canadian aid described above was fundamentally, and paradoxically, focused on the internal politics of aid. The fundamental purpose of the HI orientation that Pratt conceptualized and promoted was to foster a more reciprocal, generous, and solidaristic response to the poorest people in the poorest countries, with the ultimate objective of promoting greater global justice. However, the measures of HI and the analysis of whether it was advancing or retreating were largely Ottawa-centric, preoccupied with the balance of forces and decisions taken by Ottawa-based agencies and actors.

24There were good and obvious reasons for this focus: These dynamics were important in shaping policy outcomes and there was much to track and analyze in the Ottawa hothouse. It was also (and remains) very difficult to research, analyze, and discern the discrete developmental impacts of Canadian aid efforts in developing countries themselves, given that Canadian aid was typically a small portion of an increasingly diffuse and complex aid regime.

25Nevertheless, the increasingly pressing question for many aid sceptics, on both the right and the left, was whether aid was doing any good at all for those it ostensibly sought to assist. Would, for example, a more generous aid program translate into better life prospects for poor people and communities? Would the gains made be sustainable, or would they deepen distortions and dependencies? Would the good work undertaken by aid agencies be effectively undermined or even negated by macroeconomic policies or foreign investments (e.g., in the extractive sector) promoted by other arms of the Canadian state? The debate on Canadian aid that unfolded for much of the past few decades provided little insight or reassurance concerning these sorts of questions, either way. What was required was a more systematic and scholarly analysis of substantial Canadian aid programs in the context of recipient countries, rather than the anecdotal and sometimes sensational examples highlighted by advocates on both sides of the debate.

26Moreover, the analytical emphasis in the HI-influenced scholarly literature on Canadian deviations from these principles and the self-interested distortions that kept encroaching on the aid program raised obvious doubts concerning the results that Canadian aid could hope to achieve, given its flawed foundations. Meanwhile, a wounded CIDA, wary of the potential for further damage resulting from negative stories from the field, became less open to these kinds of investigations, or to explorations of the complex lessons they would generate. In short, what has unfolded is a relatively shallow and ill-informed public debate, which the scholarly literature has been unable to raise substantially.

A Preoccupation with Aid as the Means for Poverty Alleviation and Development

27A final ramification of the way the debate stimulated by Pratt unfolded was that it ended up being heavily preoccupied with the twists and turns of aid policy in general and CIDA in particular, at the expense of a more holistic emphasis on the full range of policies and practices that bore on poor countries and peoples. This was certainly not Pratt’s intention. Indeed, the Middle Powers and Global Poverty project, which essentially launched the idea of HI, was a broadly balanced assessment of North–South policies, including the campaign for a New International Economic Order and the results of various “non-aid” policies towards the developing world (see Helleiner 1989; Pratt 1989). Over time, however, perhaps as a result of the neoliberal reforms affecting all governments that seemed to foreclose a range of alternative policy avenues, this debate became heavily preoccupied with what we might somewhat dramatically characterize as the battle for the soul of CIDA. As broader aspirations towards North–South reforms faded into history, “developmentalists” focused on the policy domain that still seemed accessible and in some sense controllable. This trend was reinforced over the past two decades by the complex and intense politics of “aid effectiveness,” including the sustained efforts to achieve consensus around what ultimately crystallized as the Paris Principles and the Millennium Development Goals.

28In doing so, however, Canadian development scholars and analysts arguably neglected a series of critical trends in migration, remittances, investment, ecology, and the like. To be sure, they (or rather we) did not ignore these important trends. Nevertheless, given the ongoing emphasis on the study of Canadian aid policy and the debate about its underlying motivations and purposes, less attention was given to the interconnections between development assistance and these broader trends than their importance warranted.

Conclusion: Ways Forward

29In sum, the debate on Canadian aid policy that unfolded over the past generation has tended to be excessively moralistic, Ottawa-centric, and defensive – seeking to protect the “core (HI) mission” of CIDA, while remaining deeply sceptical of CIDA’s capacity to advance that mission. It has given insufficient attention to the softness of popular support for HI and the political and institutional weaknesses of the civil society organizations combined under the banner of the counter-consensus. Similarly, it has taken a relatively un-nuanced view of the other bureaucratic actors with which CIDA has been required to interact, and has been relatively inattentive to the importance of the viewpoints held by elected parliamentarians and cabinet ministers. Finally, while recognizing the importance of a range of non-aid factors in shaping Canada’s role in the global South, it has tended to study the dynamics and impact of aid policy in isolation from these factors.

30The debate concerning the foundations and purpose of Canadian aid policy has now entered a new phase. Whatever the pros and cons of the submersion of CIDA into DFATD, as well as the increasingly tectonic changes unfolding elsewhere in what we used to refer to as North–South relations, it is clear that new questions, approaches and issues will become increasingly prominent. How, in this context, can we foster a more productive, creative, and positive debate concerning Canadian aid policy? The critiques and characteristics of the debate highlighted above provide, if not a coherent agenda, at least some key pointers and parameters:

  • Development scholars and analysts must learn to accommodate and interrogate ethical tensions. In the newly integrated era of Canadian aid policy, tensions and contradictions may – indeed, should – be revealed and confronted routinely. The clear and compelling constructs of HI versus class-defined self-interest will coexist in various permutations. A more forthright consideration of the difficulties of balancing them needs to be integral to the policy debate.
  • The case for an ethical dimension to foreign (aid) policy must be continually refreshed. At the same time, ethical arguments require a robust connection to conceptions of interest. The basis for this already exists, as Pratt noted in his scholarship; it may coalesce around the notion of “self-interest, properly understood” (Smillie, this volume). Complicating this process of ethical argumentation is the degree to which, in an era of “global citizenship,” many people’s sense of ethical community transcends and/or cross-sects the state. For those (often youthful) Canadians with such a cosmopolitan outlook, the relevance of bilateral aid may seem dubious. Linking the virtual and transnational communities with which they associate to national development cooperation policies will present new challenges.
  • The groups associated with the erstwhile counter-consensus have lost much of their presumptive moral authority and must renew both their sense of purpose and their connections to community within Canada, along with their solidaristic linkages to counterparts in the global South. Some CSOs have chosen to become primarily service providers for government agencies, at some cost to their reputations and advocacy roles. Those that continue to adhere to a more solidaristic ethos must find new ways to connect Canadians in their communities to counterparts in the developing world in order to foster a shared sense of the challenges they confront and their collective interest in addressing these challenges. No one understands this better than the non-state (or civil society) actors themselves.
  • Development scholars and analysts need to develop a more complex empirical and strategic analysis of the Canadian state. Besides understanding how political dynamics play out within the new DFATD, they must identify loci for internationalist thinking and connections in the widening range of departments and agencies with international mandates. They must make the case for poverty-focused and justice-oriented policies across a broader front.
  • Like Chapnick (this volume), I think more attention needs to be paid to engaging and educating the “political class,” including parliamentarians, cabinet ministers, their staffs, and political party elites. Development analysts and advocates need to challenge the increasingly insular patterns of political debate and articulate the advantages to Canadians of a more expansive vision. We need to foster a political foundation for intelligent development aid policies that are both stable and adaptable.
  • This should be grounded in stronger evidence concerning the impact of aid in the field, based on a transnational research effort involving developing-country researchers. Longitudinal studies and longer term, relationship-based policies need to be fostered in recognition of the protracted time frames and imperfect understanding on which more successful development policies are based.
  • Students, scholars, and policy analysts need to study the effects and effectiveness of aid in conjunction with the range of other issue areas that bear critically on prospects for poverty reduction. This is now starting to happen, with the growing emphasis on the more holistic idea of development effectiveness, rather than merely aid effectiveness (e.g., Bülles and Kindornay 2013). Again, we need to question the easy assumptions of complementary interests on which main-stream policy has been based and confront their implications. Scholars have a particular opportunity and responsibility in this regard, since the political space and institutional capacity for policy analysis by NGDOs has narrowed considerably.

31Changing internal and external circumstances require renewed analysis and debate concerning the problems and prospects of development aid. Ethics and interests in a world of growing inequalities and persistent deprivations demand it.



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1 Cranford Pratt is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto. In an illustrious career spanning more than four decades, Pratt initially established himself as a leading Africanist and was the first Principal of the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from 1960 to 1965. Later, his work focused principally on foreign aid and human rights in Canadian foreign policy. He was also a deeply respected teacher and mentor. Like many others, I owe a significant intellectual debt to Cran Pratt. In addition to his inspiration of my own thinking on several areas of shared interest (e.g., Black 2012), Pratt was the external examiner for my doctoral dissertation and provided crucial insight and encouragement both prior to and following this personal milestone.

2 For an indication of Pratt’s influence and the respect and affection in which he continued to be held by those who knew and worked with him, see the special issue of International Journal devoted to his work (vol. 57, no. 2, Spring 2002).


The Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Development Studies and Professor of Political Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax. His research has focused on Canada’s role in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on development assistance, human security, multilateral diplomacy, and extractive industry investment; post-apartheid South Africa in Africa; and sport in world politics and development. He is the author or editor of numerous articles, chapters, and collections on these subjects


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