Recap: AKFC at IDW 2023

International Development Week (IDW) is an opportunity for Canadians to come together and learn about Canadian contributions to eradicating poverty. IDW aims to inform, inspire, and involve Canadians in Canada’s global development efforts. See all the ways AKFC participated this year!

Photo taken during AKFC’s event for IDW 2023. Credit: Bronwynn Bradley / AKFC

Uncertainty is a stark theme in today’s world – climate disasters, economic instability, and conflict are just a few of the disruptions threatening our future.

In partnership with Cooperation Canada, AKFC hosted an event on February 9, titled “Navigating Uncertainty in Human Development.”

Focusing on the 2021-2022 Human Development Report (HDR) from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), our event brought together policy makers and leaders in international development for a discussion on uncertainty and the responsibilities we all have in advancing human development.

Mr. Pedro Conceição, Lead Author and Head of the Human Development Report Office, delivered a keynote address, speaking about the decline in progress on the Human Development Index.

“There is a sense of unsettlement in people’s lives, both from what people see, what they glean, and in objective indicators,” he said.

This was followed by a panel discussion with Mr. Conceição, CARE Canada President and CEO Barbara Grantham, and AKF India’s CEO Tinni Sawhney, moderated by UNDP Research and Strategic Partnership Advisor Heriberto Tapia.

The panelists stressed the importance of the need for collective action, particularly in the face of climate change, which was highlighted in the HDR as the first novel uncertainty.

“There is a risk of explosion in inequality for human development [due to planetary change],” said Conceição.

Sawhney spoke about the connected impacts on areas like biodiversity, water quality, and access to food, adding, “The interlinkages are definitely there, it’s all interconnected, and the solutions need to be interconnected.”

Grantham further emphasized the importance of understanding the interconnectedness of challenges to human development, citing conflict, COVID-19, climate, and cost as key factors to consider.

“Investments must recognize the interdependence of these four things,” said Grantham, giving an example of how the pandemic lockdowns had a devastating impact on women, preventing them from obtaining food, taking care of children, and other consequences on their health, nutrition, and safety.

During the event, participants were asked to share a few words about what brings them hope in navigating uncertainty in human development.

Closing out the event, the panelists reflected on the challenges and opportunities for international development work, and how the nature of the work will change in Canada and abroad in years to come. As Conceição alluded to in his opening remarks: “The context of uncertainty can be an opportunity… Opening up opportunities for both new policies and unprecedented breakthroughs.”

Read the UNDP Human Development Report.

Watch the event recording:

AKFC CEO Khalil Z. Shariff at “Failing, Innovation, and the Culture of Learning in International Development”

Khalil Z. Shariff, AKFC’s CEO, was part of a panel at “Failing, Innovation, and the Culture of Learning in International Development,” an event held by Global Affairs Canada.

This event centered around the importance of learning in the international development sector.

“Failure gives the impression of a binary situation. This is not the way international development works in the real world. It is rare to have anything that is an outright success or an outright failure,” said Christopher MacLennan, Assistant Deputy Minister at Global Affairs Canada, in his opening remarks.

Shariff highlighted AKDN’s e-health programming as an example of learning. The AKDN’s healthcare system serves millions in Africa and Asia, with travel and transport being one of the largest barriers to accessing care.

“We were trying to be thoughtful about the roles of each health facility, overcoming distance and isolation for patients and health professionals,” said Shariff. “Conceptually, e-health made sense. But in practice, adoption of e-health technology was difficult to predict and manage. But we persisted and found that these problems were soluble over time.” Learn more about the AKDN’s digital health work.

According to Shariff, designing programs with resources, support, and time for innovation and learning at all levels – from organizations in Canada to communities in Africa and Asia – is key for inclusive and sustainable development.

The importance of engaging youth in Canada’s international development efforts

Canadian Minister for International Development Harjit Sajjan hosted a small delegation from the CanWaCH Youth Working Group for a roundtable discussion focused on best practices for youth engagement. Sophia Mirzayee, Education and Youth Engagement Officer at AKFC, was part of this roundtable.

After this event, Mirzayee offered a few reflections.

“It was a pleasure meeting with Minister Sajjan to discuss the granular and big-picture issues that are prevalent in international development work,” she said. “The experience of sharing innovative and forward-thinking ideas to move the needle forward on sexual and reproductive health rights, youth engagement, and Canadian leadership in the world was both inspiring and invigorating. We all left the room ready to dream big and do big.”

Empowerment, climate finance, and gender-transformative change

On February 9, Liam Thorne, Programs and Partnerships Officer at AKFC, presented at “Gender Transformative Change in International Climate Finance,” an event held by Global Affairs Canada. Liam was joined by Diana Mbogo, an entrepreneur in Kenya who was able to grow her engineering business thanks to support from AKFC and the Government of Canada through the Accelerating Women Climate Entrepreneurs (AWCE) project.

“AWCE made strong progress on addressing the barriers and opportunities for 270 women climate entrepreneurs,” said Thorne.

Speaking about the importance of integrating climate and gender, he noted that “women entrepreneurs who work in the climate sector not only provide innovative solutions [for adapting and mitigating climate change], but they themselves are also frequently impacted by climate change.”

Mbogo added some reflections about her experience as a young mother and entrepreneur in the male-dominated entrepreneurial space.

“I joined [AWCE] to help me identify a new CEO as I felt no longer equipped to lead my own visions. Instead, I was equipped with the necessary corporate managerial skills, human resource, operations, networking, investment, and fundraising skills.”


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