By Andrew Conradi
Special to The B.C. Catholic
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) submitted a proposal in July 2010 to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) of the Canadian Government for a new five-year program (2011-2016).
The total requested was $49.2 million, a small increase over previous applications and contributions received. However CIDA has agreed to make a contribution of only $14.9 million to CCODP programs over the next five-year period, or $2.9 million per year, a cut of about 65 per cent.
CIDA also indicated that this amount will be designated for only seven countries. Of these only one is in Africa, a continent where CCODP has always had a significant presence.
These cuts in funding to CCODP continue the Conservative government's reduction in foreign aid that supports grass roots civil society organizations in the global south. KAIROS, the Mennonite Central Committee, and others have been victims of similar cuts.
In 2010-2011, CCODP supported 186 partners in 30 countries with a total contribution of $12 million. The objective of the 2012 Share Lent campaign, as announced on Ash Wednesday, was $10 million, which did not take into account the cuts.
The immediate effect of these cuts will mean that, if CCODP is to maintain its support to the global south at the same level it is presently providing, it has to find an extra $5.5 million this year.
The timing of the cuts could not be worse, because it leaves little time before this year's Share Lent collection taken on 25 March.
At its March 2012 meeting the CCODP National Council directed management to plan the 2012-2013 fiscal year with a budget of $15.5 million, or 26 per cent less than last year. With a smaller annual budget, CCODP will have to decrease the number of projects supported in the South and reduce its programs in Canada.
Will CCODP and its local partners be able to help refugees resettle in Burundi after years of violent ethnic tensions and violence? Will CCODP and its partners continue to promote the rights of women in Bolivia and defend the rights of indigenous groups to land ownership?
Last year CIDA's financial contribution to the CCODP regular program was $8.2 million. In the same period, public contributions (i.e. Share Lent and other contributions) totalled $12.6 million.
How will the Church respond to the cuts? Will the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops protest this reduction in funding and demand reconsideration with a view to restoring funding on a level similar to the previous five-year period (or at least a less drastic reduction) and under similar conditions?
Since the news of the cuts is so recent it remains to be seen how strong a groundswell of opinion will arise asking the bishops to intervene, but it has started. In response to a request to intervene, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, of Vancouver immediately responded by iPhone, "Very saddened by this news and what it says about Canada."
Grassroots members of CCODP have suggested a five-point plan of action:
-- Participate in a solidarity fast on Good Friday and donate the money your household might have spent on food that day to CCODP in addition to what you would normally give.
-- Write to Prime Minister Harper, firstname.lastname@example.org, protesting the cuts to CCODP, which will hurt excellent development efforts in the global south, and asking that this CIDA decision be reversed.
-- Let everyone in your parish know about the solidarity fast and this five-point plan.
-- Ask the leaders of the religious organizations to which you belong (Knights, CWL, etc.) to participate in the Good Friday solidarity fast, and to publicly release a letter to the prime minister asking for the cuts to be reversed.
-- Request that your bishop participate in the Good Friday solidarity fast and release a public letter on the diocesan website protesting this government action (by writing to the PM) and by encouraging his brother bishops and the faithful to do the same and support CCODP's work.
Andrew Conradi is a member of CCODP.