I am disturbed by the Canadian government’s ongoing shabby treatment of Canadian NGOs and their overseas partners, whose submissions for development projects – in response to the government’s own call for proposals – have been sitting on International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s desk awaiting her signature for up to three months beyond the date on which the government pledged to announce its decisions.
Successful proposals for less than $2 million were to have been announced by September 30th. Successful proposals for more than $2 million were to have been announced by August 15th.
CIDA officers submitted their recommendations to the Minister on time. But the Minister is apparently waiting for strategists in the Prime Minister’s Office to decide the politically opportune moment to announce the winners (and the losers) in this game – which shouldn’t be a game! In the meantime, more than 200 Canadian NGOs and their overseas partners are being kept in the dark. This delay is embarrassing for the Canadian NGOs, as they begin to lose the confidence of their overseas partner(s) and the relevant government departments in the overseas country
Despite how the Prime Minister touted his Maternal and Child Health initiative on the world stage (e.g. at the G-20 Summit), Canadian NGOs and their overseas partners have been forced to postpone implementing critical overseas programs in poor countries relating to this and other approved priorities while their proposals gather dust on Minister Oda‘s desk. Some programs may have to be cancelled as Canadian NGOs and their overseas partners, left in Limbo without a definite yea or nay in the previous as well as the current funding round, have had to terminate the jobs of experienced staff critical to the effective implementation of their program for lack of cash flow.
Everyone is left hanging – including the Minister herself, who is hanging like a puppet on a string. She should have the integrity to cut the string and resign, but as we have already seen she doesn’t and she won’t.
And I now hear on the “Ottawa NGO grapevine” that there may be no
announcement of “winners” at all – that all 200 NGOs will be asked to revise and
re-submit their proposals!
Because the government wanted to push aid money toward certain favoured organizations (some of them not very experienced in overseas development work), but that these organizations were not competent or experienced enough to develop proposals that could be approved by CIDA staff. Hence everything has been put on hold and CIDA is being required to set up additional training sessions in “results-based management” proposal writing for the staffs of all organizations that submitted proposals in the last round, including those whose well-written proposals were actually approved by CIDA staff.
In brief, it has been “leaked” that everything on the Minister’s desk is going to be referred back to CIDA – whose experienced and generally hard-working staff is being demoralized by the whole shameful process. Whatever the case and regardless of whether the grapevine is correct in its conspiracy theory, the opposition parties need to be looking into the inordinate – and for NGOs and their partners the embarrassing and costly – delay in the Minister’s announcement of approved projects.
The final "chapter" of African Chronicles is an Epilogue that tries to respond to the compelling question that runs through the whole narrative: What happened to the bright prospects, the great expectations, of Africa in the 1960s?
Virtually all those who have looked into this question have discovered a strange and unexpected congruence: the heart-rending demise of Africa’s bright prospects and the extra-ordinary growth of the global aid business. You would think that these would be incompatible phenomena. Yet the coming together – the development – across the entire continent of Africa of increased poverty, on one hand, and a multi-billion dollar aid industry, on the other hand, can hardly be a coincidence.The question is more than compelling. For the research is brutal. It is like the forensic probing of a wounded powerful body too resilient and too beautiful to die.
For that reason, I put the question this way: Who murdered Africa’s bright prospects? Where, when, why and how was it done? That question drives and animates the entire memoir, making it – to the best of my ability to thing, to write and to love – a narrative of understanding.
In every country Louanne and I witnessed kindness up close, at a personal level, and cruelty from a distance – often delivered from above – delivered by those in power. Cruelty was a tool of the most powerful and, because of that, every society was conflicted, complicated and far from innocent.
Yet – as you will see in what I have written – in our experience, kindness and courtesy far outweighed cruelty in almost every personal transaction we had with Africans. Thus whatever your previous experience of Africa, I believe you will enjoy the book and find it a positive – and, I believe, an uplifting – experience.
I am interested in initiating a conversation around the question posed by the memoir: What happened to Africa’s bright prospects? It's a question that I wish to pursue more deeply and more thoroughly in my next book, a sequel to African Chronicles. Many of you who read this blog will have your own experience of Africa or of international development, either at first hand, up close and personal, or vicariously, from a distance, from books, from various media or from the experience of others – or both. Whatever the case, I invite you to respond to this question, drawing upon your own experience and insights.
Burris Devanney is a Canadian educator, development worker