D&P rethinks its ways

By  Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
  • January 29, 2007
The financial challenge in front of Canada's Catholic development agency runs deeper than money. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is asking whether Catholics really believe in what the 40-year-old agency does.

"If you take the census numbers, that there are 12-and-a-half million Catholics in the country and we certainly don't have full support or awareness among all of them," said Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey.

"Even within our own Catholic family we've got a lot of work to do to get the message out and create a higher level of awareness of the stuff that we do."

Development and Peace finished its 2005-2006 fiscal year with a $1.9-million deficit, the last of a series of planned deficits paid out of reserves. Just over $1 million of the deficit went to buy out 17 employees as part of a general downsizing. The restructured organization will be spending about $20 million a year, compared with an average of $24 million over the past five years.

But the more controversial numbers in Development and Peace's financial reports are above the bottom line.

The money raised from Catholics through Share Lent and other fund-raising has remained stuck at just over $10 million a year. It was $10.4 million in 2001-2002 and $10.4 million in 2005-2006. In between it dipped to $9.8 million in 2004-2005, and in the remaining years it has been just north of $10 million. About a quarter of the funds come from the Toronto archdiocese and Hamilton.

Development and Peace board member Bishop Martin Currie of Grand Falls, Nfld., describes the revenues as "flatlined." There has been long hours of discussion on the Development and Peace board about why and what to do about it, Currie said.

"There's a generation growing up that really is not familiar with Development and Peace like the older generation," said the bishop. "In many places, many of the priests themselves don't have the same spirit that we had 40 years ago. Development and Peace has become another envelope in the box."

The church-going population in Canada's largest cities is increasingly immigrant, often from the very countries where Development and Peace is financing local, community-based economic development. But new Canadians don't identify with Development and Peace.

As Currie and others looked around at the faces sitting at the board room table representing a mostly white and middle-aged membership, the board concluded it needed a diversity strategy.

Development and Peace has also added a youth wing, Just Youth, to the movement. This year it capped the youth outreach by reserving two board seats for youth representatives.

The downsized and restructured Development and Peace has a new focus on building awareness and raising money. Its old communications department has become a department of "advancement" with responsibility for finding donor dollars beyond Share Lent.

The $10 million a year Development and Peace raises from 12.5 million Catholics does not compare well to the $50 million CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) mines from fewer than five million Catholics in England and Wales — $10 from every baptized British Catholic, compared to 80 cents per baptized Canadian Catholic.

The Government of Canada still believes in Development and Peace's slow-but-steady, solidarity-based development work. It has committed itself to providing $8.2 million per year over the next five years through Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). That's an increase over approximately $7.7 million per year Development and Peace has been receiving from CIDA since 2002.

The question which hangs over Development and Peace's CIDA funding is whether the organization can make it grow. There's no provision for yearly increases in the new five-year agreement with CIDA. And it's not as if there isn't new money coming CIDA's way as Canadian governments have committed themselves to rebuilding Canada's overseas development aid.

If Development and Peace is going to grow its share of CIDA money along with the growth in CIDA budgets, it faces a harsher, more competitive environment. Where it was once possible to simply pitch a new project to CIDA and see it funded if it met certain criteria, now CIDA is deciding what projects it wants done. Agencies such as Development and Peace are invited to bid on the CIDA proposal.

In 2006, Development and Peace gave this new competitive bid process a test run and came up sucking air.

"I guess our inexperience showed, because we didn't win," said Casey.

It was a learning experience, and Casey believes Development and Peace can win competitive bids in the future.

There's one line that is anything but flat in the Development and Peace financial reports for the last five years. Even excluding the extraordinary $20.7 million Canadians gave to Development and Peace following the Indian Ocean tsunami, the emergency relief budget has been rocketing. Emergency relief funds grew 144 per cent between 2001-2002 and 2004-2006 just before the tsunami. In 2005-2006 the emergency total dwarfed the rest of Development and Peace's budget at $40.4 million.

Development and Peace is not a frontline organization with teams of emergency response experts. It relies on Caritas Internationalis to deliver on emergency response, while it sticks to the business of long-term development. In 1967, when Development and Peace began and Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Populorum Progressio, most people were convinced that long term solidarity was where the serious development work would take place. Media imagery of disasters has simply overwhelmed that consensus, said Casey.

"There are expectations from our membership," he said. "When disasters occur, we get reactions from our members that we should be doing something. We're not equipped under our existing structure right now, by any means, to be a frontline agency for any direct emergency."

With the support of millions of digital images filling up televisions, newspapers and computer screens, emergencies are an easy sell. Solidarity isn't so easy, said Currie.

"When you try to present it that you're trying to bring about structural change, for some people it's a bit too philosophical," he said.

The structural change Development and Peace was aiming at in 1967 was mainly in Latin America. Throughout the 1970s and '80s Canadians looked south and saw not just poverty but military dictatorships, incredible gaps between rich and poor and injustice built into the fabric of society. It had also been the primary missionary field for the Canadian church since China closed its doors and Pope Pius XII called on the churches of the United States and Canada to take responsibility for the poor in the Western hemisphere. Development and Peace had deep and wide contacts throughout Latin America.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, the director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network, points out that the world has changed, and newly democratized Latin America may no longer represent the most pressing need among the regions of the world. The richest sub-Saharan African country, South Africa, ranks number 120 on the United Nations' Human Development Index. The only Latin American country with a lower ranking than South Africa is Haiti at 153. There are 40 African countries between South Africa at 120 and Niger at 177.

While Africa has been crushed by the day-by-day tsunami of AIDS, Latin America's share of Development and Peace's $12 million program budget has actually increased, and Africa's share has fallen. In 2005-2006 Africa received 35.4 per cent of Development and Peace's program funds, compared with 44.2 per cent in 2001-2002. Latin America's share is now 44.9 per cent compared with 40.2 per cent in 2001-2002.

There's no simple math to how an agency decides to spend its money, said Dale Hildebrand, who runs KAIROS' global partnerships program.

"You know the world is a big place. In the end you've got to make decisions about where you can be most effective," Hildebrand said.

Nor is it the case that poverty has disappeared in Latin America, University of Toronto economist Albert Berry told The Catholic Register. Berry's research has shown that despite the opening of markets and democracy, poverty rates in Latin America are almost precisely where they were 25 years ago, and the gap between rich and poor has grown wider.

"It's true that Africa has done worse and that Latin America has advanced somewhat since 2002," Berry said in an e-mail.

But need isn't the only determinant of aid spending.

"Africa is a hard place to work since lack of administrative capacity, political instability and corruption are all bigger problems than in Latin America," said Berry.

Czerny understands the practical barriers to sending more aid to Africa, but believes Canadian Catholics are called to overcome those barriers.

"Canadian Catholics want their overseas charitable giving to change the situation for the better, but how do we understand the better?" Czerny asked in an e-mail. "Is  it measured by the logic of good investment, or does it take evangelical risks?"

Casey says he wants to see Development and Peace more involved in Africa. To do that without abandoning its traditional commitment to Latin America will mean finding new money.

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