The Global Affairs Canada Consultation Roundtable

10 Jul Youth Take On Canada’s International Assistance

Josh Layton from our communications team shares some insight on Youth Challenge International’s recent participation in the youth consultation for Canada’s International Assistance Review.

Last week I was invited to represent YCI at a youth consultation reviewing Canada’s International Assistance policies. It’s not every day you find yourself walking up the steps of 125 Sussex Drive to share insight and ideas with Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister for International Development and La Francophonie, but it was an opportunity that I took with excitement and curiosity.

Who would be in the room? Would there be a diverse representation of voices? Would we actually get down to discussing innovation and big ideas?

Artist impressions of the Global Goals at Global Affairs Canada

Artist impressions of the Global Sustainable Development Goals at Global Affairs Canada


So, what is the International Assistance Review?

Last year a historic milestone was achieved in the movement towards a more sustainable, just and opportunistic world for all. The Millennium Development Goals came to an end, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) took their place.

The Global Goals are a universal set of 17 aspirations designed to improve the future of the world by 2030. From ending poverty to combating climate change and fighting injustice and inequality, the Global Goals set forth targets that we have a collective responsibility to achieve!

What makes the Global Goals so progressive is their universality. They apply to everyone, regardless of their home or nationality. They also recognize the interconnectedness of global challenges, meaning that to address poverty we must simultaneously address gender equality, economic growth, climate change, etc.

What’s interesting is that this new approach is slowly starting to shift development thinking. Throughout June and July, the Canadian Government undertook a process to review its International Assistance policies to ensure that Canada actively works towards the 2030 targets. To do that they invited the public, NGO’s and youth to the table to share their experiences and expertise in a variety of consultation forums. This approach has felt more participatory and is a welcome shift that I was keen to partake in, especially given YCI’s focus on empathy-driven Human Centred Design.

Discussing solutions in breakout groups.

Discussing solutions in breakout groups. (Source: Global Affairs Canada)


Getting Down to Business

The conversation kicked off around a massive, video-laden roundtable where government staff and facilitators joined 100 youth. After a brief but relaxed video introduction, we split into smaller groups to discuss how Canada could innovate in a variety of core areas; mine was Poverty, Inequality, Vulnerability, and Fragility.

I shared a table with a development student from Ghana, a Strategic Partnership Manager at Water Aid, an international volunteer, a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council, an entrepreneur and an enthusiastic staff member from Global Affairs Canada. We spoke candidly from multiple perspectives, using chart paper to outline not only why poverty exists, but HOW we can start to address it through innovation and policy reform.

The week before, our team at YCI took some time to reflect on our 25 years working in the youth development sphere to articulate some recommendations. I had the opportunity to share these ideas with my group:

  1. Put youth at the core of the policy agenda
  2. Foster a culture of cross-sector collaboration
  3. Create safe and supportive spaces shaped by empathy and Human Centred Design
  4. Develop more flexible funding structures that account for pilot testing, iteration, and evolving global circumstances


These smaller group discussions were valuable because they encouraged us to build on each other’s ideas and create a series of action items that we would eventually present to the Minister. This approach gave everyone a chance to contribute with personal stories and experiences, making for a much richer outcome.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister for International Development and La Francophonie

Presenting solutions to Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister for International Development and La Francophonie.


The Big Picture

Following the smaller group discussions, each group came together with the Minister around the large round table to share and discuss our ideas. Although each group addressed a different challenge, we were all seemingly unified in our response.

What were the cross-cutting themes we shared with the Minister?

Put youth, especially young women, at the core of Canada’s International Assistance strategy. It’s young people who, when given the opportunity to put their assets into action, will solve local challenges in more effective and unconventional ways.

Accept Risk. Innovation does not exist without accepting that we may fail, or we may succeed in unimaginable ways. By embracing risk and with more flexible funding structures and robust data collection our international assistance programs open the door for the types of learning that can lead us to greater success.

Draw on our diversity. Canada is home to almost every nationality on earth, and with that, we have the opportunity shape our policies in more empathetic and culturally responsive ways that could bring the expertise of our diaspora communities into the conversation.

Throughout the process, the Minister and her staff conversed with eyes and ears wide open. In the networking session that followed, we actively discussed their eagerness and excitement to hear what we had to say. There was also a feeling of where do we go from here? How do we ensure our voices would be translated into action?

Throughout the process, I also couldn’t help but ask myself: What do the people who receive Canadian assistance think? How would they reimagine the system? Isn’t their voice critical to this process as well?

Hopefully, these people will have a chance to be heard during this consultation to ensure that we’re designing policies and actions that align with the actual needs of those who will receive it.

Participants of the youth consultation

Participants of the youth consultation (Source: Global Affairs Canada)


What Comes Next

It was special to be part of an afternoon, hosted by Global Affairs Canada, where innovation was actively discussed and promoted. It’s important for people to shape policy in meaningful ways and this forum presented a welcomed way to start doing that.

YCI recognizes the importance of new ideas, perspectives and observations to this process and we’re asking you to get involved as well! Check out our new #HaveYourSay campaign and join the conversation by telling Global Affairs Canada how we can reimagine Canada’s International Assistance by July 31!