Research for global challenges: IDRC’s ninth annual public meeting

January 02, 2018

The global community needs research and evidence now more than ever to solve pressing crises and to meet long-term commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), IDRC Chairperson Margaret Biggs told audience members at the Centre’s 2017 Annual Public Meeting on November 21.

Held in Ottawa, the event profiled IDRC’s impact over the past year, while also highlighting plans for the year ahead.

“Now more than ever, the world needs IDRC,” Biggs said. “The mission is incredibly important to empower local actors, to build knowledge, identify innovations, and implement solutions that are going to improve the lives of people in the developing world.”

Achieving impact at scale

Margaret Biggs, Chairperson Biggs outlined three key questions the Board of Governors and management are focused on to strengthen the Centre’s ability to achieve impact at scale, which is a key element of IDRC’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020:

  • How is IDRC aligning its work within the global community and against the SDGs to achieve targets?
  • Is IDRC collaborating with the right partners at the right time to achieve impact at scale?
  • Is IDRC identifying the ideas and solutions that could and should be scaled?

“Those are some of the questions that preoccupy staff and management within the Centre every single day,” Biggs said. “And they’re the kind of questions the Board discusses with management to make sure the great investment of dollars, and in particular the brain power, can have the biggest impact.”

Innovating to achieve targets

Jean Lebel, President of IDRCIDRC President Jean Lebel told the audience that there are common threads connecting the SDGs, Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, and IDRC’s Strategic Plan objectives — namely that to achieve those targets successes must be scaled-up, people must gain the capacity to adapt in a fast-changing knowledge economy, and new, more efficient ways are needed to move from challenge to solution.

“All of these challenges can seem daunting,” Lebel said. “But it is our job to unlock potential, to facilitate opportunities, and to leverage our bird’s-eye view on what works and what doesn’t, all in support of achieving the SDGs and positioning Canada as a worldwide leader on gender equality and of supporting research to address global challenges.”

Lebel told the audience about a project he had visited recently in India that is introducing double-fortified salt, which contains both iodine and iron.

Salt fortified with iodine nearly eradicated iodine-deficiency. Now, researchers in Canada and India are achieving a breakthrough with double-fortified salt that has the potential to drastically reduce rates of anemia. The salt has already been distributed to more than 15 million people in rural India, with plans to expand to other regions of the country. 

The innovation is particularly targeted to improve the health of women of child-bearing age and children, 56% and 70% of whom, respectively, are anemic in India.

“This type of research clearly supports Canada’s new international assistance policy and helps to realize its vision of equality between men and women,” Lebel said.

Local experience informs global action

IDRC Speakers, from left to right: Robert Hofstede, Sandra Gagnon, Jean Lebel , and Margaret BiggsIDRC Associate Director for Climate Change Robert Hofstede and Sandra Gagnon, a program officer with the Climate Change program, spoke about IDRC’s work on climate change adaptation and gender.

This included an example from East Africa, where IDRC-supported researchers used meteorological and agricultural data to help small-scale farmers in the region better adapt their crops to a changing and increasingly unpredictable climate. The project reached approximately 200,000 families, many of them female-led households.

Hofstede highlighted how this project’s impact was not just local, but also reached regional and now global levels. The researchers involved with this project worked with international climate change negotiators on a proposal to have agriculture included in the Paris Agreement on climate change. This proposal was accepted only a week prior to IDRC’s Annual Meeting, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, marking a significant step in the effort to link the two priority areas.

“With the Paris Agreement in place, we moved from global debate to collective action; from despair to hope, and within that hope we have concrete support for the Southern voices at the global debate,” Hofstede said. “We planted a little seed with that research in Africa. The negotiators were informed by the researchers and they managed to have this agriculture proposal included in the Paris Accord.”

Learn more about IDRC’s results in the 2016-2017 Annual Report (PDF, 6.54MB)

Watch the video of IDRC's 2017 Annual Public Meeting