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4.2.1: Human Rights Agendas: SDGs, Reproductive Health and Sexual Violence
Thursday, 03/June/2021:
12:30pm - 2:00pm

Session Chair: Nasya Razavi
Location: Room 1


The SDGs and Canada’s development assistance discourse post-2015: convenient alignment for a new aid era

Finbar Hefferon, Dr. Liam Swiss

Memorial University, Canada

This paper explores how the arrival of the globally agreed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in late 2015 impacted Canada’s discourse on its international development assistance agenda. Through analysis of official government communications (ministerial speeches and official statements) across the tenure of three Global Affairs Canada International Development Ministers from late 2015-present, the study examines: 1) to what extent alignment with the SDGs has formed the basis for Canada’s renewed international development approach; 2) what factors and events, for example, the introduction of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy in 2017 or the reduction of the Liberal party to a minority government in 2019, may help explain the alignment with or divergence from of Canada’s foreign aid discourse from the SDGs?; and 3) which SDGs have been more heavily referenced, indirectly or directly, to help define Canada’s approach and frame development interventions? The paper expands on related analysis of the influence of the SDGs on Canada’s ODA allocation in the post-2015 era, helping to understand the influence of the global goals on shaping donor countries aid allocation priorities. The paper reveals there was initially close alignment in official messaging referencing the SDGs from 2015-2017, followed by a drop-off and recalibration towards the promotion of the Feminist International Assistance Policy. Our analysis suggests that the coinciding of the launch of the SDGs appears to have provided, at least for a brief period, a convenient vehicle for Canada to justify and launch a new era for its development assistance.

“The Memories Haunt Me”: Can Transitional Justice Address Sexual Violence Induced Trauma?

Deeplina Banerjee

University of Western Ontario, Canada

Transitional Justice includes a set of principles and mechanisms including, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRCs), the right to reparation, and the right to truth under international law. “The international community provides fragile new governments with important financial, institutional and normative support for reckoning with the past, attending to the needs of victims, and setting the foundations for democracy, human rights and the rule of law” (Nagy, 2008). Although Transitional Justice is proven useful in post-conflict contexts, feminist critiques argue, it has not adequately addressed the post-conflict demands of survivors of sexual violence. The ICTR and ICTY provided landmark judgments in defining rape and sexual violence as a crime against humanity. However, there remains a significant gap in extending reparative justice towards victims and survivors. Under a western liberal framework, there is a tendency among international stakeholders to impose “one size fits all” and providing decontextualised solutions (Nagy, 2008). Building on; the Bangladesh Liberation War, The Rwandan Genocide, and the Bosnian genocide, the paper will seek to address three questions: a) How has the transitional justice mechanism in post-conflict societies addressed the crime and trauma of sexual violence? b) Where and how were survivors of sexual violence positioned in/during the process of reconciliation and state-building? c) Can transitional justice be (re)imagined within a feminist collaborative framework? The paper focuses on bringing survivors at the heart of transitional justice negotiations and mechanisms to meet the sustainable goals of achieving gender equality and strengthening peace and justice institutions.

Works Cited

Nagy, Rosemary. “Transitional Justice as Global Project: Critical Reflections.” Third world quarterly 29, no. 2 (February 1, 2008): 275–289.

Can Agenda 2030 deliver on “localization”? Policy limitations of Agenda 2030 in the broader global governance system.

Gloria Novovic

University of Guelph, Canada

Localisation is a contentious yet an elusive target of humanitarian and development assistance, used to refer to anything from equitable partnerships with local actors, to shifting of resources and decision-making roles for development programming implementation but also design and broader agenda and priority-setting. Agenda 2030, as a global development framework, espouses the value of “country-led development” to ensure policy relevance and resilience. This paper examines Agenda 2030’s policy domestication in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda and its impact on the localization of international assistance. Based on 190 interviews with international and national civil servants, civil society actors, and academics, this paper argues that the consultative nature of the process leading up to Agenda 2030’s approval has, indeed, bolstered at the very least opportunities for policy dialogue that can foster greater localization. However, the resource and decision-making redistribution part of the localization agenda, cannot be achieved through Agenda 2030 alone. These meaningful shifts require institutional shifts in donor funding and the governance and operational structures of international non-government organizations.

Reproductive Health and Rights in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: Bridging the Gap Between Women’s Empowerment and Reproductive Justice

Jacqueline Potvin

University of Guelph, Canada

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) explicitly advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to safe abortion, as a path to women and girls’ economic and political empowerment. Under FIAP, the Canadian Government has committed $650 million to advancing SRHR.

Given that SRHR has long been recognized by feminists as a crucial component of gender equality, these commitments have been welcome, and can be understood as critical for an international assistance policy that seeks to align itself with feminist ideals. Yet it is important to situate these commitments within emerging critiques that FIAP’s potential has been limited by its adoption of a neoliberal iteration of feminism that prioritizes empowering individuals over enacting systemic change (Mason, 2019). In this paper, I examine how this neoliberal feminist framework is reflected in FIAP’s framing of SRHR as a pathway to economic participation for girls and women in the Global South, which is itself predicated on a discursive conflation of ‘reproductive rights’ with delayed and limited fertility.

My analysis is based on preliminary findings from a critical discourse analysis of FIAP, and of FIAP funded programs explicitly identified as advancing SRHR. Drawing on the theory of reproductive justice, I examine the limitations of FIAP’s approach to SRHR, particularly in addressing the reproductive experiences of marginalized and colonized communities. Furthermore, I examine how FIAP acts as a site through which understandings of ‘responsible’ reproductive citizenship are circulated, with particular attention to how these norms align with the growing identification of adolescent girls as ‘ideal’ targets of development interventions. I conclude by reflecting on how feminist development scholars can move beyond problematization to bridge the gap between the empowerment, ‘choice’ based feminism deployed by FIAP, and an intersectional feminism that works towards reproductive and gender justice for communities in the Global South.