Friday, 14 October 2011

DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE On the impact of recent decisions on the organization’s nature, mission and governance

This document deals largely with recent CCCB decisions – the creation of a standing committee on Development and Peace, the prior approval of projects by bishops in the South, and the withdrawal of the two bishop members from Development and Peace's National Council – which in our opinion challenges the very nature, mission and governance of the Canadian Church's international solidarity organization.
We will discuss each of these three factors more explicitly in the context of the spirit, objectives, and mission of Development and Peace, as outlined in the organization's General Bylaws.
General Bylaws (2005)
3. Objectives and mission

The organization is a democratic movement for international solidarity incorporated under Part II of the Canada Corporation Act by letters patent dated October 20, 1967. Founded and mandated by the Bishops of Canada en 1967, as the Canadian Catholic development agency, the Organization is inspired by the values of the Gospel, particularly the preferential option for the poor. Its objectives are to promote international solidarity through an education program in Canada and through financial support of socio‐economic projects in developing countries. The Organization's orientations and objectives are further described in its letters patent and mission statement.

1. Its nature
1.1 A microcosm of the post‐Vatican II Church
As an organization inspired by the Second Vatican Council, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE was founded on the concept of the Church as the people of God. All National Council members, including the two bishops appointed by the CCCB, have the same right of voice and vote. In terms of governance, laypeople have almost always occupied the positions of President of the National Council and Executive Director.
The recent CCCB decisions discussed above suggest a total takeover of the organization by the bishops, both in Canada and in the countries where DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE works with its partners, and seriously undermines the importance given to the role of laypeople over the history of the organization. In addition, planning to withdraw the two bishops from the National Council and integrating these into the Standing Committee established by the CCCB1, is akin to amputating one of the fundamental characteristics central to the organization’s very nature.
1.2 A democratic international solidarity movement2
People are at the root of democracy and they have the right to information on the policies and actions underway within the organization if they are to participate effectively in the accomplishment of the organization’s mission. With this in mind, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE has always relied upon the participation of its staff3, members and partners4 in the design of its education and development programs. In this respect, its Regional Meetings and Orientation Assembly are good examples of international solidarity and democracy in action.
However, at this point the National Council, the staff and other members of the movement do not appear to be sufficiently informed, or even consulted, around events occurring at the senior levels of the CCCB and of Development and Peace. In this respect, one might ask why our letter to the President of the National Council, and by extension to all members of the National Council, was not brought to the Council's attention at its regular June meeting. Why was the Theological Reflection Committee5 not represented on the DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE committee created to dialogue with the CCCB's committee? We might also asked why the list the CCCB demands were given to Development and Peace's General Management without there being any possibility of prior discussion with the staff in the departments directly concerned with the activities upon which the requirements were being imposed.

1.3 An organization that is open to the world
DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE "supports partners in the Global South in the pursuit of alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures. […] In the struggle for human dignity, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE associates with social change groups in the North and South. It supports women in the search for social and economic justice6". Even if closely identified with the Catholic Church and in accord with an evangelical vision of its development work, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE works with groups "without distinction on the basis of race, belief or ideology7".
However, the CCCB’s recent requirements may result in restricting its activities to the Catholic community, or to efforts selected by Southern bishops, which could in effect undercut the whole intent of projects supporting greater social justice, or militate against projects addressed to women victims of violence, despite their dire need for support.

2.   Its mission
DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE is the product of the Second Vatican Council and the pleas of Southern bishops facing the glaring inequalities between their countries and those in the North. Its mission is:
    "inspired by Gospel values, and particularly the preferential option for the poor8";
    Couched in an understanding of development based on justice, the organization's "objective is to support international solidarity by a program of education in Canada and by funding socio‐economic development projects in developing countries9";
    inspired by the social teachings of the Church from Leo XIII 13th, through John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, to Benedict XVI.
However, by limiting oneself solely to Benedict XVI and to Caritas in Veritate10, which relates the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi to Populorum Progressio (no 15), do we not on the one hand risk limiting the area of application of this social message, and on the other that of over emphasizing the moral issues raised in Humanae Vitae and the pastoral concerns raised in Evangelii Nuntiandi11? As for example, the questioning of projects to assist abused women and rape victims, as well as advocacy work with governments to promote greater social and economic justice.

3.   Its governance system
·         DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE is governed by a National Council composed largely of lay people. To date, the presidency has been occupied only once by a priest and once by a nun. As for the general management, this role has always been exercised by a layperson.
·         The National Council is the supreme body where all major policy decisions are made, i.e. program  directions for development, education/animation, administration, financial affairs, etc.

However, recent CCCB requirements with respect to the acceptability of projects and partners bypass the democratic principles and practices enshrined in the organization's bylaws.
Of necessity, Development and Peace's activities12 are coordinated with Southern partners and planned to guarantee both good governance and effectiveness. To question this mode of action for reasons of association (to find ourselves at the same table with organizations, some of whose values we condemn) relegates its work to isolation and decreased effectiveness, if not ineffectiveness, particularly in this era of globalization. The requirement for the prior approval of projects by Southern bishops is counterproductive from two perspectives: 1) it renders program work practically impossible, i.e. action based on collaboration with partners in an articulated strategic approach by reverting to a more ad hoc or piecemeal approach, and 2) it leaves the selection of projects to the discretion of the individual bishop’s opinion, rather than basing it on known, tried, professional, and consistent criteria13.
·         The close links between the CCCB and DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE have developed through the presence of two fully vested bishop members of the National Council and the regular meetings between General Management with the General Secretaries and various other bodies that makeup the CCCB. These links have always been frank, cordial and have respected the respective mandates involved.

·         However, the creation of a permanent standing committee within the CCCB, the possibility of the abolition of the two bishop positions on the National Council, and the creation of a National Council committee to dialogue with the CCCB sets up a very different dynamic and changes the nature of Development and Peace's traditional governance links. This new structure is all the more deplorable in that it is akin to creating a trusteeship.

·         As part of its understanding of development and solidarity, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE is committed to working with Southern partners. Committees involving Canadian members and at least one Southern partner study and decide on the projects/programs to be supported.

However, the CCCB's recently imposed requirement to examine projects/programs and to make decisions with respect to their funding, or refusal, on this new basis is a major departure from the tradition of democratic functioning.
These are fundamental questions, which need to be brought to the attention of DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE staff and members.
Gabrielle Lachance Executive Director (1988‐1996)
September 9, 2011


  1. Very important points. While I see the staff taking a leadership role in this debate, I have to say that the National Council is absent from these discussions.

    Thank-you very much for publishing this post.

  2. An excellent account of the inconsistencies between our founding principles and current practices. I hope to see each of these points rigorously debated, and to see members at the base come to the defense of our democratic principles and core values.