Letter to the editor: International Development Week

This week we celebrate 'International Development Week,' though the word 'celebrate' seems unjustified.

It was my mother’s birthday yesterday, and soon it will be mine. As the world turns, my daughter’s birthday will naturally follow. When she was born I received a card that said: “Your new baby will bring you love small enough to hold in your arms, but big enough to fill your world with love.” Even while I held her in my arms, I could picture the black and white photographs of my mother holding me.

Now let’s travel to Africa, shall we, but don’t forget the bond of love that I have just described between mother and child. Only this time something is terribly wrong. The child is dead or dying and the mother is crying. Why is it so easy for us to forget or dismiss the pain that a mother there endures when her child dies? Is that mother or child any less deserving than those of us who have so much?

This week we celebrate ‘International Development Week,’ though the word ‘celebrate’ seems unjustified. While worldwide Overseas Development Aid (ODA) rose by 6.1 per cent in 2013, for a total of 134.8 billion USD in net official development assistance, Canada’s contribution dropped by 11.4 per cent in 2013, a decline of more than $600 million from the previous year. This drop means that Canada spent only 0.27 per cent of its Gross National Income on ODA, far from the UN goal of 0.7 per cent, which is a target all countries agreed to in 1969. It was our own Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson who suggested that number.

The end of extreme poverty is actually within reach. All we lack is political will. We have an election year upon us, and an opportunity to make our voices heard, to ‘be the change we want to see.’ If you like the scene described in the first paragraph, don’t simply dismiss and ignore the real life misery described in the second scenario. Do something – appeal to your MP. Exercise and experience your democracy by writing or talking directly to your MP. Let your voice be heard in this election year. What a great way to celebrate ‘International Development Week.’ Do it!


Connie Lebeau

Victoria, B.C.