Monday, February 8, 2016

Learning Lessons From Afghanistan: Canadian Aid in 2016

In my new book (super cheap via kindle!), I am most unkind to the late, not so lamented CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency).  Why?  Partly because they would not talk to me, partly because the agency was so centrally managed it could not adapt to events in Afghanistan that well.

Since then, CIDA was merged into Foreign Affairs so that it is now one big Global Affairs Canada.  Which is much better than DFATD but not as good as simply FA.

Anyhow, today I was invited to be part of a workshop on the future of Canadian assistance to Afghanistan.  I didn't have much to say since I am not an expert on aid (and I didn't learn that much over the years since CIDA people would not talk to me).  But I was most impressed that GAC officials had organized a series of roundtables with academics, former military officers, former aid officials, consultants, non-governmental organization reps, etc. to discuss the next steps.

GAC officials working on aid issues (and thus doing what used to be CIDA stuff) were reaching out and seeking outside expertise.  I cannot say what we discussed due to Chatham House rules, except the consensus seemed to be for continued Canadian support for Afghanistan.  I certainly made that argument given that few countries are more needy (Afghanistan still lists among the worst off countries), and Canada developed expertise in this one place that should not go to waste.  Not a sunk cost argument but a built up expertise argument.

Anyhow, I was most impressed that these folks were reaching out.  Hard to imagine that happening in the latter Harper years.  We still need to learn the lessons of Afghanistan for a variety of reasons, including figuring out the next steps in Afghanistan.  My book is part of that effort, but we need to also have the government release its own lessons learned exercise (I need to appeal again in my failed bid for an Access of Information request).

Oh, and I also requested that the government stop archiving websites, which makes it harder to find stuff.  The web is big--no need to archive websites.  Keep the links alive, I say!

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