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.