CIDA cuts to KAIROS will devastate human rights work overseas

TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - The Canadian government's decision to cut funding to KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives will have a devastating impact on KAIROS' overseas partners and the thousands of marginalized people in local communities they support, KAIROS announced today.

KAIROS, a church based non-governmental organization that represents seven of Canada's largest denominations, works on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

An official from CIDA called KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery on Monday afternoon, November 30th, to inform her that CIDA would no longer fund KAIROS. Corkery was told that KAIROS no longer fits CIDA priorities. No other explanation or information was provided.

KAIROS' current contract with CIDA expired in September, but it had received an extension until November 30th, the day it was informed of the cuts.

"We are disheartened that this longstanding relationship and decades of support by the Canadian government has been ended," says Corkery. "KAIROS and the millions of Canadians we represent through our member churches and organizations do not understand why these cuts have been made."

In a message to Bev Oda, Minister for International Cooperation, requesting an explanation, Corkery writes, "I know of no precedent for the Canadian International Development Agency ending a decades-long funding relationship with a major Canadian organization without notice in writing, with no reason and no transition plan."

The CIDA-funded overseas program received matching financial support from KAIROS' member churches, church-related organizations and other donors. Since 1973, KAIROS, and the church coalitions from which it was formed eight years ago, had received funding from CIDA to support partners working in regions experiencing some of the world's most egregious human rights violations.

KAIROS work is highly regarded in Canada and overseas. As the November 30th deadline approached, KAIROS member churches, its partners and other organizations had been writing Minister Oda to request that she approve the KAIROS contract which has been sitting on her desk since July awaiting her signature.

One of those letters came from a Colombian group, the Organización Femenina Popular (the Popular Women's Group), which has been awaiting CIDA funding through KAIROS.

"As you know, we work in regions in Colombia where armed conflict has resulted in the denial of women's basic rights. The economic support from KAIROS and CIDA permits us to implement programs which include legal and health services, community kitchens, and other humanitarian assistance that have saved many lives and given possibilities and opportunities to hundreds of women, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and entire families," Yolanda Becerra Vega, OFP Director General wrote to Bev Oda on Monday.

"In addition to the impact overseas, these cuts are a loss for Canadians," says Corkery. "KAIROS educates Canadians across the country about Canada's work for international development. Our work in Canada and overseas expresses Canadian values in upholding human rights, and is informed by excellent analysis of our partners in the Global South."

The KAIROS contract that just expired received a positive audit and excellent CIDA evaluation this year. KAIROS submitted its new program proposal for 2009-2013 to CIDA in March 2009. It went through a lengthy approval process within CIDA up until the Minister's level and has been waiting for approval from the Minister since July 2009.

The government's decision comes a week after 57 people were massacred in politically motivated killings in the Philippines, including two lawyers from a human rights organization supported by KAIROS, and just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to China.

SOURCE KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Adiat Junaid, Communications Program Coordinator, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, (416) 463-5312, ext. 223, 1-877-403-8933, ext. 223, ajunaid@kairoscanada.org, www.kairoscanada.org

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