KAIROS Update Six months after the Cut by CIDA

June 3, 2010

Just over six months ago, the Canadian International Development Agency informed KAIROS that we would no longer receive CIDA funding. On the afternoon of November 30, 2009 a senior CIDA official advised KAIROS that its proposed 2009-1013 funding agreement had not been approved. No detailed explanation was provided, only a reference made to new CIDA priorities. Neither was there an offer for wind down or transition funds. KAIROS was shocked. Thus ended a 35-year contribution agreement between KAIROS and its predecessor church coalitions, which provided support to KAIROS partners in the Global South who face human rights abuses in their struggles for peaceful solutions in situations of conflict.

When the news broke the overwhelming response from a wide cross section of Canadian society was swift and immediate. Canadians from coast to coast to coast wrote their Members of Parliament (MPs), Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda, and their local newspapers asking that the decision be reversed. A wide spectrum of civil society, church and ecumenical groups also wrote letters of support for KAIROS. Letters from KAIROS Global partners spoke poignantly about how KAIROS’ support enabled them to serve their communities and of the devastating impact CIDA’s decision would have on their abilities to carry out their programs.

From the beginning, the issue was raised on a regular basis during Question Period. All opposition parties issued media releases in support of KAIROS’ program. So did individual MPs.

Media interest in the story has been high and coverage extensive. Following a KAIROS news conference on Parliament Hill on December 8 at which partner Deborah Kitumaini, whose husband was assassinated in front of her and their children for his human rights work in the Congo, spoke about the importance of KAIROS’ work, Minister Oda had a brief impromptu discussion with KAIROS Executive Director Mary Corkery and former Board Chair Cheryl Curtis. Minister Oda emphasized that the decision to terminate the funding agreement was hers and acknowledged that the way KAIROS was informed could have been handled better.

KAIROS wrote Minister Oda the next day to request a more formal and substantive follow up meeting in order to discuss any issues or concerns that led to the Minister’s decision. KAIROS has yet to receive a response to this request.

In February, leaders from KAIROS member churches wrote Prime Minister Harper requesting a meeting. They are still awaiting a response to their letter.

Meanwhile, support for KAIROS has continued to pour in. Not only are people, churches and groups responding with letters of support and making visits to MPs to correct misinformation, but they are also making donations to KAIROS’ work. Most recently we received a legacy gift from the congregation of the former Deer Park United Church.

These generous donations enabled KAIROS to provide small one-year solidarity grants to its Global partners and to carry on its work with Indigenous communities at home, its network of volunteer local committees across Canada and with civil society partners working on ecological justice and human rights. However, in order to implement a Global Partnerships Program, the government must change its position.

Many of our supporters met with their MPs earlier this year and a number of them were told that KAIROS should submit a new application to CIDA. Based on this information, KAIROS made an application under the priorities of children and youth and food security—priorities that were not available when we made our previous submission. This reapplication was made at the end of March 2010 and we are hoping for a positive response.

KAIROS is continuing to thrive despite the many challenges we have faced in the last year. However, if we have not received a favourable response to our CIDA reapplication, we will need to make some difficult choices in the fall.

The work of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives continues to thrive thanks to donor support, but renewed funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is critical to the long term viability of programs supporting KAIROS Global partners.

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