A Manifesto for Changing how Canadians can Help People in the Global South

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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How Can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Sisters and Brothers in the Global South? Part II

So, I think it is important to write a follow-up to this week’s post on how to create a more effective organization to connect Canadians to authentic development projects that really aid the Global South.

To me, there is a moral imperative here. That is why I am writing this series. The world is rapidly becoming a colder, more dangerous place. People who want to push aside the ‘other’, whomever that might be seem to have the dominant voice. We really need effective ways of connecting to those in the world who need our support.

So, how do you develop a more effective organization? How do you involve more Canadians in peace and development?

Development and Peace has been around since 1967. It is an arm of the Canadian Catholic Church and most of the people involved have been part of the traditional church structure.

The management structure, virtually unchanged in more than half a century is hierarchical. In this, it models the Catholic Church.

Local priests and parishioners are responsible for raising money for the organization through one big fundraiser – Share Lent – every year.

However, in some jurisdictions, this money is held back by people who feel the money is not being spent on projects that are Catholic enough. In this sense, this is similar to what went on with the Halton Catholic School Board who voted not to allow fundraising for projects and organizations that did not fit their narrow view of what was acceptable according to Catholic values.

This is an organization that has lost its way. Its management structure weighs it down while its reliance on traditional Catholic institutions cuts it off from the majority of Canadians who are open and willing to support intelligent development policies.

The managing structure of Development and Peace is dominated by an elected National Council. While it is noble to have a totally elected board of directors, there is no requirement for these directors to have any management or development experience. Like many boards constituted in this way, they are captive to the managers of the organization. In a very true sense, they are incapable of being independent managers of the organization.

Is there a way out of this well?

There has to be. Development and Peace does excellent development work and they have a great team of talented and experienced program officers who work with partners throughout the year. The organization has always been well-respected by the Canadian Government and receives millions of dollars every year to support their partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For any organization to survive for 50 years is a challenge. For an organization to thrive, however, it needs to question itself and look for ways to remain vital and relevant.

Development and Peace is in need of renewal. Canadians need a more effective organization to channel their resources to those in dire need. At a time of such darkness, a little more light is needed.

The question is, will they have the courage to make the necessary changes.

 

How can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Brothers and Sisters in the Global South?

Usually, I write about education issues, but development assistance is something that I have cared deeply about for many years going back to trips I used to organize for students to the Dominican Republic.

Recent events in the United States and their unethical attacks on immigrants has propelled me to dive back into the complex issue of how best to lend assistance to people in the Global South.

We are a very wealthy nation with clear connections to poor countries around the world. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is a unique organization that works actively to improve the lives of people in many poor countries. They are unique because they have always made a good effort to involve Canadians in their work. It is an organization that is faith-based, but more importantly, it reserves a role for Canadians to get involved in raising money and setting policy on how best to assist with development assistance. It has also always had a strong educational mission which is essential if we want to be involved in social change in the world.

Over the years, the organization has lost its way due to the influence of right-wing elements in the Catholic Church and its inability to sustain an organizational approach that allows for meaningful participation from ordinary Canadians.

Development and Peace needs to be refashioned to reach the grassroots in Canada. It needs to develop a structure that opens itself up for renewal and it needs to broaden its appeal beyond the narrow confines of the traditional Catholic Church.

What it needs is a manifesto for change.

So what are some of the pillars of a manifesto? I would suggest the following as a start.

Stewardship – the preservation of a forward-thinking, faith-based development community.

Participation – an inclusive organization that respects and encourages the diverse voice of Canadians. For all people in Canada that care about the plight of people in the Global South.

Respect for excellence in development policy that puts the empowerment of people in the Global South as its primary motivation. When organizational ineptitude gets in the way of good work a reboot is called for.

Human Dignity – everything that is done must place the dignity of all people first – people in the Global South for sure, but also fair-minded people in Canada who want to help others and who are willing to participate in a dialogue that includes more voices, opinions and mindsets.

What else is needed? How can a large institution be renewed? How can an organization that has been too exclusive become one that welcomes new voices?

I hope a dialogue can be started. There is too much to do in this troubled world to remain behind old barriers and prejudices.

Let’s move on and try to do something new and effective. Let’s work on development and involve as many Canadians as possible. Let’s think way outside the traditional box.