The future of our work in the Global South

April 17, 2012
by 
Gilio Brunelli, Director of International Programs

In light of all of the articles and discussions on the impact of the reduction in Development and Peace’s funding, we asked Gilio Brunelli, the Director of International Programs Department, to share his thoughts on CIDA's response to Development and Peace's proposal and to comment on how he sees the future of our work in the Global South. Here is what he had to say:

Development and Peace's website already provides ample details on CIDA’s response to our 2011-2016 funding proposal and some of the facts on the impacts, so there is little need to repeat these here. However, I do want to share with you some thoughts that have been weighing heavily on my mind.

Where did the 2011-2016 programming come from?

Over a number of years, we worked diligently to define and then to refine a program proposal that would allow Development and Peace to continue to assist the poor in 20 countries in an intelligent and constructive manner over the next five years thanks to the competence and commitment of the excellent partners that we have in each of these countries. I truly believed in the 2011-2016 program that we had developed and I still believe that it was well-suited to the needs of the poor in these countries and that this is both a crucial observation and an essential truth.

I recently met with a journalist working on a book on Canada's international development program. She asked about Development and Peace's approach and how we developed our projects and programs. How we drafted our CIDA proposals and who "designed" our programs. I told her that we don't do this. That Development and Peace has no programs other than those that our partners craft to help the poor in their countries and to enable them to take charge of their situation, and to organize themselves in such a way as to improve their living conditions from every angle. Yes, we inject the right jargon, we help structure the ideas, we reorganize the material in terms of results, we "translate" their words into technical development language, and we even add our own little "two cents". However, our programs are basically "their" programs, the programs of our partners.

How does one react to such news?

The needs of the poor and their solutions are at the very core of our programming, and this is its value and uniqueness. This is why such a huge reduction in CIDA's funding hurts so much. These are not cuts to the ambitious projects of a group of Montreal-based development experts. They are a rejection of the concrete daily needs of millions of people that our partners can help address by supporting communities in taking charge of their own destiny.

I have worked long and hard enough in the Global South to know the devastating consequences of our inability to continue to fund a large number of partners. In my mind’s eye, I see the men and women, young and old, townspeople and country folk that I have met in my work around the globe. People for whom our support, as modest as it might be, made all the difference, and I feel great sorrow and tremendous bitterness. It is hard to stomach a decision that I fundamentally do not understand, a decision that even if a thousand and one excuses are put forward, has such devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of so many people.

What is the future of our international programs?

Clearly, we will continue to labour on. We will not allow discouragement to paralyze us, nor will disillusionment have the final word. With or without CIDA funding, and despite the significant drop in funding, our moral indignation at a world where too few people have far too much, and too many people have far too little drives us on. We cannot accept that in the year 2012, 1.2 billion people still do not have enough to eat. Things MUST change!

We are now assessing the impact of this dramatic funding reduction. Our program teams have begun to analyze the consequences continent by continent, country by country and even partner by partner. What is the situation of each one and what can we do? We need to reinvent our international programming on a more modest basis and with fewer partners. We need to make specific choices in terms of countries and themes. This is what we are intensively working on at this very moment. While the eventual shape of our international programming remains unclear, what is clear is that the poor will remain at the very heart of it.

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