The Canadian International Development Agency unveiled a new strategy for humanitarian assistance yesterday that involves trying to do more for the world by doing a little less.

“Being too diffused and thinly spread out without the needed critical mass, our money had little impact,” International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said in a speech at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto yesterday.

CIDA will now focus its multilateral program funding — which accounts for about 47 per cent of its annual aid budget — on three core themes: food security, economic growth and the future of children and youth.

CIDA spent $2.8 billion on development aid in fiscal 2005-06, which accounted for 78 per cent of what the government spent on international aid that year.

The agency had been billing the speech yesterday as one that would further outline a major overhaul in the way the government doles out international aid.

CIDA already announced in February it would now send 80 per cent of its bilateral funding — which makes up the remaining 53 per cent of its budget — to a list of 20 countries and regions that reveal a shift in focus to the Americas.

The agency will still deliver humanitarian assistance to help developing countries deal with disasters like floods and famines, but Oda said the narrowing of focus for longer-term funding represents a way of providing foreign aid that avoids fads and strives for lasting results.

CIDA has been criticized for keeping in the dark those most at risk of being affected by the narrowed focus.