By Michael Swan
Catholic News Service
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is facing deep program reductions and staff cuts after the government enacted a 65 per cent cut in funding to the 45-year-old Catholic lay movement.
"It's going to be a very difficult period for the organization," said Michael Casey, Development and Peace executive director. "It's not just staff here or the institution here in Canada. You look at the impact it's going to have on the partners."
With the cut, the Canadian International Development Agency will provide $2.9 million to Development and Peace in 2012, down from $8.2 million in 2011. In addition, Development and Peace received $12.6 million in private donations in 2011.
Development and Peace's original proposal sought $49.2 million over five years from CIDA to support 186 projects in 30 countries. The agency responded by funding projects in seven countries. The new agreement withdraws funding for every Development and Peace project in Africa outside of Congo.
Layoffs are coming in September, but it is too early to say how many employees will lose their jobs, Casey said.
Cuts will be hardest on Development and Peace's partners around the world, Casey explained. The organization already has been forced to cut funding to 32 partners by an average of 57 percent while it waited for CIDA's decision, he said.
"CIDA focused its contribution to Development and Peace in the countries where programming will most likely produce tangible results," an official from the government agency wrote in an email. "For example, CIDA is supporting Development and Peace's work to increase food security and incomes in Colombia through the training of 40,000 farmers and in Cambodia through the training of 240,000 farmers in cooperatives."
CIDA funding of Development and Peace projects now is limited to Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The funding cut prompted the union representing Development and Peace employees to circulate a 12-page document criticizing Casey and his team for failing to fight the government.
"It was decided not to mobilize its forces, not to make waves, not to risk offending the government and ... we were cut," reads the internal memo of the Union of Employees of Development and Peace.
Defunding long-term development partnerships and an increased emphasis on emergency relief is distorting the social justice mandate of Development and Peace, the union said.
"Without a genuine debate, the mission of the organization is being insidiously changed," the document said. It called for the mobilization of Development and Peace member agencies by asking "What future do we want for our organization?"
The union accused the organization's management, the Canadian bishops and CIDA of pushing Development and Peace into becoming a charity responding only to natural disasters rather than a social justice movement working with poor and marginalized people.
Casey rejected the accusation.
"We don't look at this as an either-or between charity and social justice," he said. "There has been absolutely no deviation from our mission or commitment to our mission."
The executive director also expressed doubt about confronting the government.
"I don't know whether it's appropriate for the institution to engage in that kind of thing," he said. "We have signed a funding agreement with the government. Even though the results may be disappointing to us based on what we had originally requested, we still have received the support of the government."