Many pressing global problems, such as the spread of infectious disease, financial crises, or climate change, are too large for any one country to tackle on its own. These problems affect the well-being, security, and prosperity of all countries, and dealing with them calls for the joint resources and commitment of the world community through multilateral organizations or global initiatives.
Multilateral organizations help set the rules for the governance of the world economy and in areas such as health, agriculture, human rights, peace and security, and humanitarian assistance. They influence the development agenda, set international objectives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), help catalyze funding for humanitarian crises and for global development challenges—for HIV/AIDS, as an example.
Multilateral organizations monitor progress on the ground and play a significant role in countries where bilateral donors cannot engage individually. They provide economies of scale and of scope, making it easier for individual donors, such as Canada, to help many more countries than they could effectively help on their own. They are called 'multilateral' organizations because they are supported by many countries.
Multilateral organizations can be divided into three groups:
- Organizations offering international humanitarian assistance, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the World Food Programme
- Organizations formed around specific global initiatives, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Catalytic Initiative to Save a Million Lives, and the Education for All movement
- Organizations traditionally defined as multilateral development institutions as a result of their governmental membership, such as La Francophonie, the Commonwealth, the United Nations development agencies (UNDP, UNFPA,UNICEF), and international financial institutions (World Bank, regional development banks, and hybrid organizations, for example, the International Fund for Agricultural Development)
CIDA contributes to international development and humanitarian efforts on behalf of Canada by providing financial support to multilateral organizations and helping them shape their policies and programs throughout the world. At the same time, CIDA's multilateral partners are key to helping Canada advance its priority and crosscutting themes.
While DFAIT manages Canada`s political relationship with the United Nations and the regional development banks, and Finance Canada leads with the World Bank, CIDA manages Canada`s day-to-day relations with multilateral organizations on development issues. Health Canada, Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and others are also involved. More than one third of Canada's development assistance is channelled through multilateral organizations.
CIDA's Multilateral and Global Programs support initiatives that strengthen the ability and effectiveness of multilateral organizations to reduce poverty and to meet the MDGs in health, education, food security, equality between women and men, and environmental sustainability. A stable, effective multilateral system not only contributes to achieving these development goals, it also helps create a secure and prosperous environment for Canadians at home and abroad.
- Canada was the second largest single country donor to the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2009, providing a total of $259 million and helping feed more than 102 million individuals in 78 countries. CIDA also supports the WFP's school feeding programs, ensuring that 20 million children get at least one hot nutritious meal every school day—vital to keeping children in school, improving their learning and health, and promoting food security, according to the World Bank.
- Canada is recognized as a world leader in supplying micronutrients—essential vitamins and minerals—to children around the world. With CIDA's support, the Ottawa-based Micronutrient Initiative (MI) has distributed almost 6 billion vitamin A capsules to children in developing countries since 1998, contributing to lowering child mortality rates. Additionally, in 2009 alone, the MI, through its salt iodisation programs, protected more than 230,000 children from the risk of being born with mental impairment caused by iodine deficiency in their mothers.
- Canada is a member of the board of directors of all four regional development banks and is contributing to improved results-based management within these organizations.
- As part of its work to increase aid effectiveness, Canada actively participates in the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) Common Approach assessment-an annual assessment examining the effectiveness of a select number of major multilateral organizations in several countries.
- Canada has played a leading role in improving policies and practices pertaining to equality between women and men within many multilateral organizations, such as the Inter-American Development Bank.