March 14, 2011
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA - The ongoing controversy over KAIROS funding is creating confusion and concern in the development community says Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).

"It would be good if some clear guidelines emerged out of this," said Casey.

As Parliament returned from a winter break Feb. 28, Opposition parties continued to hammer the government and CIDA Minister Bev Oda over conflicting testimony to a House of Commons committee.

The front page headlines generated by the controversy are hurting the development community by fueling rumours and speculation "because you're wondering, what is going to be the political outcome of this," Casey said.

A recent backgrounder sent to Conservative MPs throws a new wrinkle into the controversy. The backgrounder lists "advocacy" as a reason KAIROS did not receive the money requested earlier.

"KAIROS made a request for funding from CIDA in the amount of $7 million," the backgrounder, distributed internally to Tory MPs Feb. 19 said. "Minister Oda determined that this request was inconsistent with our government's foreign aid priorities."

INFORMED COMMENTARY

Casey said, "We have a tradition going back since the creation of the agency (CIDA) in 1967 of support to the civil society sector for having informed commentary on Canada's aid policies."

Because of their involvement with "partners" in developing nations, NGOs can bring a valuable perspective to the discussion, he said.

"This has always been encouraged in an open spirit of dialogue between government and civil society over the last 40 odd years," he said.

Casey said it is hard for anyone to know what is at the bottom of the government decision not to fund KAIROS. Different reasons have been given, the principal one being that their proposal did not align with the agency's new priorities.

CCODP is coming to the end of its most recent five-year funding arrangement with CIDA and applying for another, putting it in a similar position. About 40 per cent of CCODP's funding comes from CIDA, with the rest raised through donations from Catholics.

If advocacy is no longer going to be funded, many groups may find their missions affected, not only KAIROS and CCODP.

Some of CCODP`s work involves cooperation with partners who advocate for human rights, the environment and better economic conditions.