Spotlight On…. Social Watch Canada

After September’s G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, USA (detailed in the “News” section of this e-bulletin), the next meeting of this elite global club is scheduled to take place in Huntsville, Canada in June 2010. “Spotlight On…” will also turn its gaze to that North American country, with this month’s profile focused on Social Watch Canada.

Although it is frequently overshadowed by its neighbour to the south, Canada has long been a positive example of a country with successful and efficient public policies that promote social development and gender rights.  Likewise, Canadian civil society also has many success stories to share, including the work of the three organizations that form the backbone of Social Watch Canada – North-South Institute, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).  Both individually and together as Social Watch Canada, these organizations play a crucial role in analyzing public policies related to social issues and advocating for social justice, human rights, and gender equality both within national borders and as part of Canadian foreign policy.  The work of these groups and of SW Canada is now more crucial then ever, as the current Conservative Party-led government has moved away from the country’s traditionally social-democratic policies, and has been viciously cutting back on social spending and infringing on the rights of women, immigrants, and indigenous people.  

Since its formation in1998, SW Canada has used their national contributions to the annual Report as a key tool to promote public policy debates in the country. Last December, the Canadian Watchers hosted a forum in the capital city of Ottawa to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to launch the 2008 SW Report.  At the event, attended by dozens of journalists, academics and civil society practitioners, co-author of the Canadian country report Armine Yalnizyan highlighted how the economic crisis is exacerbating the income gap and causing a swelling in the ranks of the working poor in the country, yet the government’s anti-crisis policies (and in particular, the income tax credit put into place) have done nothing to tackle this problem.  In addition, gender rights expert Diane Elson spoke on how the national budgeting process must take into account the differentiated impacts of the economic crisis for women, as they have disproportionately suffered from the increase in unemployment and the reduction in social assistance.  A similar event is planned to launch this year’s Social Watch Report, People First, whose chapter on Canada, co-authored by John Foster of the North-South Institute, Armine Yalnizyan of CCPA and Nancy Baroni and Nancy Peckford of FAFIA, provides an in-depth analysis on how the government’s policy response to the crisis has impacted economic, social and gender rights in the country.

In addition to drafting yearly contributions to the SW Annual Report, members of SW Canada have been active in the network on many other levels.  The Canadian coalition has participated in the SW Coordinating Committee since 2001, with John Foster serving as the first co-Chair of that body and Nancy Baroni currently holding a position in the Committee.  Additionally, SW Canada has played an important part in the global advocacy work carried out by the network on issues related to financing for development, due to the coalition’s involvement in SW activities dating from the initial UN summit in Monterrey in 2002 to the follow-up Conference that took place in 2008 in Doha, through this year’s Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis and its Impacts on Development in New York in June.  SW Canada is also active on gender issues in the network, serving as part of the “Social Watch Coordinating Committee Gender Task Force” created in February of this year, and contributing to the drafting of the thematic report “Gender Equality and the Financial Crisis” included in People First

For more information on Social Watch Canada, see: