Development Assistance: A Job and Opportunity for Business

By Labelle, Hughette | Canadian Speeches, September 1997 | Go to article overview
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Development Assistance: A Job and Opportunity for Business


Labelle, Hughette, Canadian Speeches


President, Canadian International Development Agency

Canada's stake in development assistance has never been as great. Globalization means that what happens anywhere has a greater impact here. It also means that development assistance is no longer just a government job: it is a job and an opportunity for business. The good news is that development assistance works. In the past three decades, remarkable progress has been made in alleviating poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy -- but more than a billion people still remain severely afflicted. Development assistance that helps them, helps us. Speech to the International Finance Club of Montreal, Montreal, January 21, 1997.

Economic reform and political liberalization are part of a process of irreversible global change. Governments everywhere are giving up all or part of programs long seen as their exclusive jurisdiction and leaving them to the private sector. In this new environment, international development is no longer solely a government responsibility, and private enterprise is no longer on the fringes of the development process. In fact, international financial flows from private corporations to developing countries -- mainly the countries in transition -- are three times as large as from official sources.

I believe that all segments of society can contribute something to international assistance. One way or another, that contribution benefits us all, and I would like to take this opportunity to explore that idea in some detail. I will start with the international environment and then examine why co-operation in this area is important. I will then look at the importance of international development to the countries concerned, how it benefits Canada's economy, and the opportunities it offers for our private sector.

Not all businesspeople will become involved in international development or form joint ventures in developing countries. In our era, however, events in these countries affect us all. Globalization is not a cliche. It is a reality.

Globalization has broken down borders. We see this in the proliferation of international business and financial ties, made possible by revolutions in transportation, information and communications technology. Until recently, the 1960s were considered the golden age of world growth and business expansion. Today, that is no longer true. Between 1985 and 1994, the ratio of global trade in relation to GDP grew three times faster than in the previous decade.

But growth needs security -- and security may be just as important to a country's prosperity as the economic aspects of globalization. A nation's real security no longer depends on the barrel of a gun, if it ever did. Security is increasingly expressed in human rather than military terms. The Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Program in 1994 defines security as follows:

"...human security is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, a job that was not cut, an ethnic tension that did not explode in violence, a dissident who was not silenced. Human security is not a concern with weapons -- it is a concern with human life and dignity."

Crime, including drug trafficking, political instability, environmental degradation and disease has cross-border impacts. The results of poverty, including social and economic instability, are a familiar sight on our television screens and they are felt in many aspects of our lives. Economic exclusion leading to insurrection, as in Chiapas, Mexico, has implications for the Canadian banking sector. We are touched by famine in Africa or conflict in the Middle East. Disease can often take a greater toll than war itself. Tuberculosis kills more adults than AIDS, diarrhea, and malaria -- and it is returning to North America: some 2,000 new cases are reported in Canada each year.

So, we have two pictures of globalization. We have the economic picture, with the tremendous opportunities that arise if the billions of people living in the developing world are integrated in a meaningful way into the global economy.

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