Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 16, 2005
WCR Letters to the Editor
Grassroots NGOs cut from Canada's bountyPrime Minister Paul Martin's International Policy Statement (IPS) does not promise enough. It does not meet the international goal of spending 0.7 per cent of the GDP on foreign aid and does not restore CIDA funding to over 200 grassroots NGOs. Two Alberta NGOs affected by the cuts are Rainbow of Hope for Children (ROHFC) and Change for Children (CFC).
On April 23 ROHFC, founded by St. Joseph High School teachers Hank Zyp, Jim Salyzyn and John Macdonald, celebrated its 30th anniversary in the presence of hundreds of volunteers who made possible remarkable projects with the poorest of the Third World as well as extensive global education programs here in Alberta. CFC founded a year later by Hank and Tillie Zyp has been engaged in the same kind of work.
Many of the projects funded by ROHFC and CFC benefitted from CIDA funding which was arbitrarily cut for 215 NGOs (at least 46 based in Alberta) on Feb. 22.
The IPS talks of "involving ordinary Canadians in the foreign aid effort." We are involved. We have been involved for over 30 years and we have second and even third generation involvement such as the Grade 7 students in Wainwright who are raising thousands of dollars for AIDS treatment in South Africa.
El Salvador and Guatemala are not on the new list of Canada's 25 development partners. I suspect it's because only countries below US $1,000 in average per capita annual income are considered as development partners. In these two countries, as in most Third World countries, there are more people living in poverty and in extreme poverty than ever before.
A better criteria for choosing project partners would be the percentage of people living in poverty and in extreme poverty. With over 50 per cent, Guatemala and El Salvador would most certainly qualify.
In El Salvador earlier this month, someone asked what was the average wage in the region we were visiting. The answer was that you cannot talk of average wage.
One day you might make $4 working from dawn to dusk cutting sugar cane, another day find nothing to do, a third day you earn $2 selling tomatoes by the side of the road. It's not enough to feed a family, let alone send the children to school or take care of a health problem.
I suspect that Martin has never lived in a dusty Central American village with no electricity or water.
I'm sure he doesn't know that many people whose adobe houses crumbled during the earthquakes of January and February 2001 didn't qualify for aid money to rebuild because they did not own the land on which their house had stood.
It took local NGOs from these dusty villages to garner funds from grassroots Canadian NGOs such as ROHFC to buy land to build houses for the poorest who had no hope of ever rebuilding.
Nor does he know that funds made available for banks to finance agriculture don't benefit the large majority of small farmers because they don't have the type of land title that the bank will accept. It is grassroots NGOs that provide loans to small farmers not the World Bank or the governments of First World countries.
In the seven years, I lived in these dusty villages, I had plenty of opportunity to see bilateral projects - direct donations from government to government. It was easy to spot them. There was always enough money for a big sign painted in blue and white (government colours) indicating that this school or this clinic had been built with the aid of this or that country.
Many of these projects deteriorated as quickly as the signs since the government didn't provide teachers, health personnel or equipment to go with the building. Community organization is essential for the success of development projects, whether it is housing, health, education, wells, dry latrines.
In the nine countries I have lived in or visited with more than 20 delegations in which I've participated, the governments failed to support the poorest. Like our own government, they promote a "Western-oriented market economy."
Multi-lane highways for commerce and the comfort of the rich and the tourists heading for luxury beach resorts are more important than subsistence agriculture, education and health for backward areas of the country.
"Roads are good," complained one campesino, "but we can't eat cement."
CIDA is ready to spend billions of the taxpayers' dollars in a sweeping new aid scheme designed to make Canada look good. Is it too much to ask that Martin restore the $15 million (double or triple it would be better) for the NGO Project Facility and the Environment and Sustainable Development Program? ROHFC and CFC promise it will be spent very "effectively."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.