Gillian Barth was named Executive Vice-President of CARE Canada in 2011 and became President and CEO in 2013. CARE Canada manages the rapid emergency response team for CARE International, a 70-year-old organization that offers humanitarian and development relief in more than 95 countries. They focus on emergency relief, disaster preparedness and empowering women and girls in developing countries.
According to Gillian: “Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. Our role is no longer that of chief implementer. The domestic civil society organizations are coming up powerfully, so we share knowledge, help them access international funding and then get out of the way”.
That approach to aid and development has changed considerably during Ms. Barth’s three decades in the sector. CARE Canada supports local organizations in taking the lead on the ground while the international team works at the governmental level.
In her words: “We used to be extremely apolitical: you couldn’t show any preference within the government, but now, the only way to affect substantial change is to ensure that politicians and other decision-makers have the information they need to establish policy. Advocacy used to be a negative word, but influencing policy now is the only way to achieve systemic change.”
Ms. Barth began her studies in political science in 1976, transferring to Carleton in 1978 with an eye toward working at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (now Global Affairs Canada). But an internship at the Auditor General’s office led to second thoughts.
“I realized that government work wasn’t for me and that I wanted to work in aid and development,” says Ms. Barth, who had lived abroad as a child. “I got a job at Cuso International and then World University Service of Canada, spending seven years in Lesotho, in southern Africa.”
From there, she accepted a position coordinating international development programs for St. Mary’s University in Halifax, followed by her first of many positions with CARE Canada as the manager of its Latin American programs.