Did you know that since 1991, Canadians have recognized the country’s contributions to international aid and humanitarian assistance with something known as International Development Week (IDW)?
Largely coordinated by Global Affairs Canada, IDW has historically been a moment for Canada’s international development sector to come together to share expertise and learn from one another, while also demonstrating the value of its work to the Canadian public.
This year, from February 7-13th, it will look a bit different, as all activities will be moved online.
It’s no secret that over the years, IDW has been challenged to break through to the hearts and minds of Canadians.
That’s partly due to increasingly busy digital spaces and competing events, such as concerts, festivals and ski trips. It’s also tough to engage average citizens in development conversations and stories that tend to be rather complex and technical in nature. Or maybe it’s simply because the week is scheduled in February when Canadians are either in hibernation mode or – when not facing a global pandemic – poised to rush off to their favourite tropical destination.
But this year is different. This year, Canadians are thinking about global health. This year, the playing field has been levelled by the virtual nature of events, as attendance costs are now lower and more people can therefore grab a seat around the table.
This year, Canadians are also worried about their own health and wellbeing. Some may even question spending resources abroad when we’re struggling here at home.
It’s been said so many times – to the point where it’s almost starting to sound cliché – but now more than ever, we can understand how viruses and diseases know no borders. If COVID-19 has shown us anything over the past year, it’s how connected we are to others around the world.
Where you live shouldn’t decide the level and quality of access to healthcare that you are able to receive. And surprisingly – and refreshingly – a national poll conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) found that 76% of Canadians support prioritizing the vaccination of healthcare workers at home AND abroad.
This is the chance for international development work to finally break through.
It’s time to make our case to Canadians. You want to go on vacation? Go to concerts? Take a roadtrip? We need to beat this virus everywhere.
Why do the opinions of Canadians matter? Call me an optimist, but public opinion shapes political action.
If International Development Week is ever going to truly engage the public, 2021 is the year to do it.
Lauren is a communications professional with a passion for sustainable development, human rights and humanitarianism, some of the best moments of her career have come from working with students and young professionals interested in global health. This led her to getting involved with ThriveHire to support the professional development of young people interested in international development and humanitarianism.