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Research for an inclusive and sustainable world

As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that national borders offer no protection against disease, the effects of climate change and inequality also have global implications. Issues once considered to be local or regional are in fact global ones. This interconnected world requires research for development forged in collaboration and inclusivity. IDRC’s role in these efforts is more critical than ever.

Diversity and inclusivity are fundamental to IDRC’s work and they strengthen the quality of the Centre’s research. Finding sustainable solutions is only possible when research and data are inclusive of all voices, reflect local realities, and account for the challenges of the most vulnerable.

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development draws a link between economic, social, and environmental inclusivity and sustainable solutions. IDRC believes that these intertwined issues are further bound by two urgent concerns: inequality and exclusion and climate change. These areas of focus are at the forefront of our efforts to develop inclusive and sustainable solutions.

IDRC’s commitment to inclusivity and sustainability is reflected in our multi-disciplinary research, and it extends to our collaborations with researchers and academics in the Global South and Canada, as well as with local communities, non-governmental organizations, foundations, governments, and the private sector.

Below we share some examples of how the research we invest in has helped to support inclusive and sustainable solutions by promoting equality and mitigating the effects of climate change.


Advancing gender equality

Addressing inequalities is at the very foundation of inclusive and sustainable solutions, and it is a priority in all IDRC-supported research. The Centre invests in research that considers social and economic inequalities, with a special focus on those related to gender, to address the underlying norms and values that hinder positive change.

Group of young girls

Being counted is the first step to being heard

Ensuring that vulnerable groups are counted is one of the first steps to achieving sustainable and inclusive gender-transformative change.

When girls and women are excluded from civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems, their voices are muted, and their needs remain invisible. Civil registration provides a legal identity, which is essential to access education and health services, claim property and inheritances, receive spousal and child support, and protect against child marriage.

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The Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems, established with funding from the Government of Canada and housed at IDRC, supports countries to develop and strengthen their national CRVS systems. This year the Centre of Excellence, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), succeeded in adding marriage registration questions to future demographic and health surveys, as well as future UNFPA country censuses, in 150 countries. Responses to these questions will provide data on the status of marriage registration and contribute to more comprehensive statistics that promote good governance, formulate responsive policies, and support development that benefits all.

Learn more about the Centre of Excellence for CRVS


Women’s access to justice

Access to justice remains a major challenge, especially for rural women who are victims of sexual abuse. IDRC supported researchers in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal have identified several barriers to justice for women, including feelings of shame; the difficulties, legal costs, and waiting times associated with filing complaints; and fear that their claims will be dismissed. Once these barriers were identified, researchers involved community members and authority figures to shift norms around sexual violence and open access to the institutional channels and mechanisms needed to secure justice.

In Senegal, IDRC has supported researchers and civil society advocates to end gender-based violence for the past eight years. This investment contributed to a major outcome this year: it helped shape a new law in Senegal that criminalizes rape and pedophilia, enacted in January 2020. Similar IDRC-supported access to justice research is also supporting the formulation of a more inclusive sexual harassment law to address the prevalent issue of harassment of young boys in Egypt.


Inclusive growth that works for everyone

IDRC’s investments in poverty reduction and financial empowerment in the Global South support women by providing them with skills and knowledge to lift their families and their communities out of poverty.

Programs that focus on building financial assets and developing financial management skills help extremely poor households become self-sufficient and weather adversity. Over the past five years, these programs supported approximately 150,000 people — 80% of them women — in Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Honduras.

Anti-poverty programs also have the potential to support women’s equality more broadly. New research supported by IDRC, through a grant to Fundación Capital and the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, is building on previous findings to inform how these programs can also address gender barriers.

A gender-inclusive approach to anti-poverty programs, which considers the social norms, unequal power relations, and institutional constraints that inhibit women’s economic empowerment, is being integrated into governmental social protection programs to reach hundreds of thousands of people in Paraguay and Peru. For example, a social protection program in Paraguay called Abrazo explicitly includes coaching to reduce gender-based violence, change stereotypes about male behaviour, and promote shared childrearing duties. The project is also strengthening relationships and mutual support among women through savings groups, a key tool to build financial resilience during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Stronger voices for inclusive and accountable government

To achieve sustainable change for women, economic empowerment must go hand-in-hand with political empowerment. The concept of open government aims to make government accessible to all, but it cannot deliver if the inequalities that hinder access for women and other vulnerable groups persist.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP), an initiative that counts 78 countries and local governments (representing more than two billion people) among its members, promotes accountable, responsive, and inclusive governance, yet women are underrepresented in its commitments. Global Affairs Canada and IDRC provided core funding and substantive guidance to launch the Feminist Open Government Initiative to make OGP’s commitments more inclusive of women and other groups.

In only one year, the number of countries with genderaware commitments doubled. This progress encouraged the OGP to set an ambitious goal to make 30% of commitments gender-sensitive by the end of 2020 — a target that was surpassed a year early. These genderfocused commitments are becoming increasingly diverse and powerful, with discussions emerging about access to information, combatting child marriage, women’s leadership and political empowerment, and more. New commitments in 2019 included drafting a gender-integrated open parliament plan in Sierra Leone and integrating gender into the commitments of the natural resource and extractive industries in Nigeria and the Philippines.

Garment workers in Yangon, Myanmar, perform quality control checks.

When a new government replaced Myanmar’s military rule in 2010, Canada’s $300 million response bridged humanitarian needs with longer-term development goals. This included the $10 million Knowledge for Democracy – Myanmar (K4DM) initiative, a partnership between Global Affairs Canada and IDRC that was launched to help advance the transition to democracy.

K4DM aims to strengthen governance and civil society institutions so they are equipped to generate and use research and data that champion inclusion and gender equality. This involves prioritizing gender equality by ensuring equal training opportunities for women, and by integrating a gender perspective into policy analysis — for example, with the implementation of minimum wage. With an impoverished labour force of more than 30 million, labour relations in Myanmar are an urgent issue. The government was pressured to revise the minimum wage law, which was last updated in 1947. With IDRC support, a local think tank called the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD) supported research and consultations that contributed to a new law to raise wages, but the new daily minimum wage was set at US$3.60, still one of the lowest in Asia.

CESD was instrumental in establishing the National Wage Commission, a new organization tasked with regularly reviewing and adjusting Myanmar’s minimum wage system. In 2019, the Commission took CESD’s advice to drop a rule that adjustments could only be made every two years, in favour of a new rule that revisions can occur more frequently on expert advice. Having a space for ongoing debate for fairer wages is critical for democracy and inclusive economic growth.

Learn more about the Feminist Open Government Initiative

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A field agent in Ghana coaches a rice farmer to use a mobile app to help increase productivity and access profitable markets

Putting people at the centre of climate action

IDRC-funded research adopts an inclusive approach to climate action that considers the complex dynamic between the global climate crisis and how socio-economic status, gender, religion, and other social factors influence how individuals experience, and adapt to, the effects of climate change.

Droughts, desertification, storms, and floods are hitting some communities around the world with greater intensity and frequency, and the burden is heaviest on populations already disadvantaged by poverty and inequality.

Since IDRC’s first investments in 2006, the Centre has overseen more than $285 million of climate change programming. The funding has supported some 200 institutions and 2,000 researchers in more than 80 countries worldwide to research and test adaptation strategies and solutions. This research has shaped policies and plans, informing the development of at least 35 national, sectoral, and municipal climate change adaptation or mitigation plans.

Over the years, the Centre’s support for community-based adaptation has been scaled up to regional and global levels that increasingly focus on influencing policy and practice, having large-scale impact, and integrating social equity considerations into climate action.


Floods, droughts, heat waves and other impacts of climate change impose extra hardships on disadvantaged urban residents, businesses, and municipal governments in South Africa's burgeoning cities. In addition, there is little practical guidance to adapt urban settlements to the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

This gap was addressed by the Green Book, an online tool developed by researchers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with IDRC support. It provides city specific data on current and projected climate risks and relevant adaptation solutions, with the potential to improve resilience within 1,637 urban settlements in South Africa that are home to more than 65% of the country’s population. With input from more than 50 South African researchers, the Green Book offers some of the most innovative and information-dense research on disaster risk and climate adaptation planning on the African continent.

This work has made important contributions to policy, most notably by highlighting climate change impacts across South Africa for the National Development Plan, which identifies and prioritizes where public interventions and investments should be made. In 2020, research from the Green Book is assisting with mapping risks and vulnerabilities in South Africa during COVID-19.

Learn more about the Green Book


Supporting inclusive leadership in climate action

In 2019–2020, the Centre bolstered its commitment to climate change adaptation.

Scientific capacity is critical to support the African continent’s adaptation to a changing climate and to transform agriculture into a vehicle for economic prosperity and social development. The One Planet Fellowship is building a highly connected and intergenerational network of more than 600 African and European scientists. It delivers gender-inclusive climate solutions to help Africa’s smallholder farmers adapt to the effects of climate change.

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The $20 million initiative, a collaboration between African Women in Agricultural Research, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, France’s BNP Paribas Foundation, the Agropolis Foundation, the European Union, and IDRC, announced the inaugural cohort of fellows this year. Their research focuses on a variety of subjects, including climate-smart agricultural innovations, greenhouse gas emissions from smallholder farming systems, and trends in climate variability, and will link local solutions with the global nature of the climate change crisis.


The robust research efforts outlined above illustrate the vital role IDRC plays for Canada in addressing climate change and advancing gender equality among the world’s most vulnerable populations at a time when social, economic, and climate crises transcend national borders. While these examples highlight only a small fraction of IDRC’s work in 2019–2020, they nonetheless demonstrate how inclusion and sustainability drive the Centre’s research for development.

Learn more about the The One Planet Fellowship

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IDRC is accountable to Parliament and all Canadians for its use of public resources. Here are some of the measures in place that help us meet or exceed the standards set by the Government of Canada for accountability and transparency.

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Management’s Discussion and Analysis and Financial statements

This Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) provides a narrative discussion of the financial results and operational changes for the financial year ended 31 March 2020. This discussion should be read alongside the Financial statements starting on page 31, which were prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards. All monetary amounts are presented in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified.

Read: Management's Discussion and Analysis and Financial Statements 2019–2020 (PDF, 1.77MB) 

Read the full Annual Report 2019–2020


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