More than a week after the deadly Cyclone Idai made landfall, Canada announced its contribution of 3.5 million to the humanitarian response. Better late than never? Of course. But our response must go beyond writing cheques in support of relief efforts. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Compassion is fickle, dependence on international benevolence is dangerous, and it perpetuates and reinforces the control of the aid and development agenda by rich countries and well-funded organizations. Canada can use our engagement in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe as an opportunity to build and enable local, national and regional capacity, resilience and response. First, we need to push for further innovation in our development programming, particularly related to disaster risk reduction. Second, we must make real investments in national organizations and regional response mechanisms. And third, Global Affairs Canada must be better able to quickly and effectively respond to crisis. The reward and incentive structure should promote initiative and innovation among our diplomats and humanitarian and development partners, rather than risk aversion that manifests itself in slow and pedantic responses.
Canada’s failure to lead in Mozambique shows how far its foreign policy has to go