I am writing a series of articles on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. I am doing this because a good organization that has worked very well for change in the Global South is in deep crisis. Times are tough for social justice organizations, and they don’t all survive. They certainly do not survive if they cannot adapt to the changing climate in the 21st century.
Development and Peace was formed in 1967 by the Canadian Catholic Bishops. It was certainly a different time. The organization was based on Pope Paul’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio. In it, he said,
Development is the new word for Peace. Peace cannot be seen simply as the absence of war. It must be built daily, and it must strive towards a more perfect justice among human beings (Populorum Progressio, 76).
This is even truer today. The world is fractured by violence and an increasing amount of hate fueled in large part by the almost daily rantings on social media by leaders like Donald Trump. For true peace, we need intelligent development programs here in Canada.
At the same time, some Canadian dioceses are making the decision to withhold money raised for Development and Peace through the yearly Share Lent collections.
Interesting – they are using the same argument that is causing such a backlash in the Halton Catholic School Board. Apparently, there is pushback by some dioceses that the programs Development and Peace are supporting in the Global South are not ‘Catholic’ enough. This is not progressive, it is not helpful and we need to stay clear of such initiatives.
Since 1967, Canadian Catholic churches have raised money to fund development programs in the Global South and education programs here in Canada. Both are vital. Canadians need to learn more about what effective development looks like. It is simply not good enough to send over shoe boxes with school supplies in the hope that somehow this will lead to effective social change.
Effective change means empowering women, supporting organizations working for democratic reforms, developing local economies and strengthening youth networks. Development and Peace does all this and much more. It deserves the support of all Canadians. However, government support for Development and Peace continues to fall. It is one area that has not recovered from the challenging years of the Conservative Government in Ottawa.
As a result, the organization is cutting back on its support for programs in the Global South and probably education work here in Canada. The traditional funders are pulling back from their responsibility to help others in the wider world.
I worked closely with Development and Peace for six years as a National Council member. I have met many partners from the South who do really effective work to bring about social change. I really think if more people knew about the work of Development and Peace they would support their mission.
What is needed now is some sort of manifesto for change. The need is greater than ever before – but we continue to see a diminishment of organizations like development and Peace.
At the same time, more schools – public and Catholic are teaching about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This is truly encouraging, but there needs to be an associated outlet for actions coming out of school initiatives. For example, the third goal calls for the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Development and Peace is uniquely positioned to do this kind of work.
So what could change look like? Here are a few steps to consider:
- gather a group of Canadians with public policy and development experience to reform the organization allowing for more flexibility and growth in the 21st century. Keep its Catholic, democratic roots, but give it a more effective management structure that allows for a national governing body that relies more on development professionals and individuals that can attract funding from various sources.
- change the nature of fundraising – Development and Peace has always relied on funding from Canadian Catholic dioceses and the Canadian Government. Having only two sources of funding is unreliable and results in a boom and bust cycle (generally, every three years). One of the primary goals for reform must be to develop a broader base for attracting funds including inviting major funders to sit on the managing body of the organization.
- emphasize Canadian over Catholic. Canadians have a real interest in helping others, but there are few organizations that reach out to them with intelligent, effective ways to support people and organizations in the Global South. It is fine to keep the Catholic roots of the organization, but an overreliance on formal Catholic institutions.
Maybe there are more steps to be considered. But right now three would be a great start. Can we really afford not to do our very best to assist the aspirations of people in the Global South who want to bring about change?
Can we turn our attention away from ourselves long enough to make a difference?
I really hope so.