The Canadian Council for International Cooperation has identified the following as the most significant trends we must collectively grapple with over the next five years.
Globally accepted rights, norms and values are under threat
With the rise of isolationism in countries both North and South, long-held global human rights, norms and values are under threat. The multilateral system and multilateral cooperation -through which governments negotiate mutual commitments to achieve global public goals -are being challenged. Too many governments are choosing isolation over engagement resulting in a void of effective global leadership and enforcement. In this context, we need to reassert and affirm the value of a global multilateral system, and of shared values, norms, principles and rights through which to advance a transformative and visionary agenda for people and the planet.
Distrust of traditional institutions, facts and experts is negatively impacting
the legitimacy, relevancy and public trust of the development
and humanitarian sector
Civil society organizations in Canada and around the world face internal challenges that affect their legitimacy and relevancy. In the face of many global challenges, there is increasing distrust of traditional institutions by citizens, including global development and humanitarian organizations. Recent cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers have not helped. Citizens see institutions as too traditional, self-interested and bureaucratic to effect long-term change, and institutions struggle to effectively engage citizens around complex issues and challenges on which progress may be slow. Civil Society Organizations will need to determine how to more meaningfully engage citizens in the process of long term change–as contributors, supporters, and volunteers. At a time when the world is making strides toward the Sustainable Development Goals rebuilding mutual trust is of utmost importance.
The space for civil society continues to shrink
Governments alone cannot realize the transformations required under Agenda 2030, the Grand Bargain and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Many governments, including Canada’s, have affirmed that they will create an enabling environment in which civil society organizations can realize their full potential, and contribute to the achievement of these and other agendas as independent development actors in their own right. Yet Civil Society Organizations globally are seeing the spaces in which they operate close and shrink, through constraints on funding, limitations to freedom of speech or assembly, heavy legislative requirements to register as a non-governmental organization, and direct attacks on organizations and individuals. We need to work in solidarity with organizations domestically and internationally to defend and protect free and open spaces for civil society.
Both the funding needs and the models of funding for development
cooperation are changing and need to change radically
An estimated $4 trillion will be needed every year to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, Official Development Assistance remains vital for directly tackling poverty eradication, investing in conflict-affected and fragile contexts, and meeting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s ambition to leave no one behind. Yet Official Development Assistance from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members account for roughly $145 billion annually, falling substantially short of the financing needs of the Goals. Other sources of finance need to be tapped and new models developed.
Rather than increasingly and excessively pressuring Official Development Assistance to leverage private capital, world leaders need to think about innovative ways to leverage and redirect major sources of private and public finance towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and filling key financing gaps. Traditional donors will need to determine how to engage with new and emerging donors, south-south cooperation, and other forms of assistance. Similarly, a recent study of charitable giving in Canada has found that donors aged 50 and older account for nearly three quarters of all donations, and donors over 70 represent almost one third of charitable giving. Declining religious participation has implications for an important subset of faith-based philanthropic and charitable contributions.
The long-term viability of Canada’s charitable sector depends on a new culture of philanthropy among younger and new Canadians, likely alongside new financing models beyond charitable donations and government grants.
New organizational, governance, and partnership models are emerging
due to global networks and multi-sector influence
The ecosystem of actors engaged in the global development and humanitarian assistance sector is increasingly complex. The traditional role and relationship of northern Civil Society Organizations with respect to their southern counterparts is evolving as power and resources shift southwards. Equally, in the context of a universal agenda for change, northern Civil Society Organizations must rethink how they relate to and interface with domestic organizations and environment. In this context, collective impact alliances, public-private-philanthropic partnerships, and shared operational models of working, among other forms of organizing, partnering and mobilizing, are growing in the global development and humanitarian assistance sector, both in Canada and globally. Organizations, legal structures and sectors are becoming more porous and blurry as traditional boundaries begin to blend. This is giving rise to emergent relationships and resources, as well as new considerations around accountability, risk, autonomy, and agency.
The rise of inequality globally is spurring new experiments in ways
of working, capacity-building, financing, and economic growth
As patterns of social, political, economic and income inequality continue and lead to deepening instability and exclusion in and between societies around the world. A rising tide has not raised all ships; we need new concepts of economic growth that truly work for everyone and ensure no one is left behind. We need to foster new thinking and approaches to more inclusive economic progress, which balances growth with social well-being, environmental sustainability and equality. Over the next decade, these experiments could show promising results in helping to close today’s extraordinary inequality gap.
Recognition and active participation of previously excluded groups
are increasing on global issues
Historical power imbalances in civil society have resulted in unequal voice, resources and influence in addressing global issues. While engagement of marginalized groups often remains tokenistic and significantly outweighed by entrenched associations and interests, there is progress being made in recognizing the valuable contributions of such groups. Agenda 2030 underscores the importance of “leaving no one behind.”
To achieve this requires that previously excluded groups participate in policy development and decision-making. This includes narrowing the gaps in the sustained participation globally and domestically of women, youth, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ and Indigenous Peoples, among others. Individuals and groups may be excluded based on multiple and different intersections of their identity, including sex, race, ethnicity, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, or migrant or refugee status.
Beyond its inherent importance, enhancing inclusion will contribute to empowerment, address inequalities, and facilitate the development of new solutions that account for the needs of future generations and foster intergenerational learning, knowledge sharing, problem solving and collaborations across a broader network of stakeholders.
Social and cognitive technologies are ever more accessible, empowering
borderless digital social movements and bold new interventions while creating
new pressures on communication and connection.
Around the world, technology offers immense opportunities for empowering people, movements and solutions. Social networks are creating new civic spaces, giving new voice, and connecting institutions and the grassroots like never before. At the same time, technology is also being used to silence, suppress, extract, and bully. With evermore information available in evermore media channels, each issue is in ever-greater competition for public and policy attention. While harnessing technology for positive impact, there is much work to be done to strike a balance between its potential and its limitations.