Canadian NGOs are back!

Canadian NGOs are back!

WSIC teamed up with the Toronto Branch of the Canadian International Council for our February event on the State of International Development.  With a new government in Ottawa and a more NGO friendly climate, WSIC and CIC looked at what’s next for Canadian NGOs.

Luke Stocking, the Central Ontario Animator for Development and Peace, Melissa Matlow, Legislative and Public Affairs Manager at World Animal Protection, and Nikki Whaites, Deputy Director of International Programs for War Child Canada joined the panel.

Luke Stocking started the evening by highlighting the role that NGOs doRecognize that NGOs have a role to help people lift themselves out of poverty, and to do long term developmental work.  The work had been hampered the last decade and they are looking forward to a government more open to international aid.  The speakers conceded that NGOs have an image problem and much of that stems from the lack of accountability. 

WAP has a goal to reduce animal suffering.  Matlow points out the importance of animals in community development as a source of nutrition (food), nutrients (growing food), and labour.  Perhaps the most surprising comment of the evening was the importance of healthy animals to women’s welfare in developing countries.  Without animals to do the work, labour most often falls on women.  WAP, involved with the United Nations (UN) and the Red Cross, has not applied for Canadian government funding.  The Liberal government is starting to address climate change and to include animals in disaster response policies and sustainable development goals. Livestock are important to the livelihood of the world’s poor. Whaites adds that NGO funding needs to be tied to policy and research and shifted away from political agendas.

WCC’s goal is to ‘help children reclaim their childhood’.  ‘Canada is back on the global stage’. Canada’s aid budget needs to increase after falling from 2012 to 2014.  ‘We are not where we could be and we’re not where we should be’.  Money does not equal effectiveness.  Canada should reposition itself as a global leader in global aid:  aid delivery, aid effectiveness, aid commitment.  The aftermath of the Haiti earthquake was a prime example.  Four years and 6 billion dollars after the earthquake first struck, only 650 out of 4000 schools had been repaired.

Part of the work of NGOs involves advocacy which can put them against governments and potential donors.  After the tsunami in the Philippines, Development and Peace had to advocate on behalf of communities to prevent resorts from being built on beach front property.

NGOs have a lot of challenges operating in a highly political environment where they need to also respect the demands of donors.  Whaites gave an example of how a donor stipulated that none of their money was to be used for transporting vaccines.  They went through the process of calculating out the fuel cost of some vaccines that went with one of their convoys.


Canadian NGOs haven’t been given enough credit for the work they have done over the last 9 years.  With government support drying up, they were able to find new sources of funding (often through the US government).  Now that Canada is taking a different approach to on the international stage, all of our speakers expect Canadian values to shine through in the coming years.


Some quick facts from the Q and A.

1.  Amidst so much negativity, tell us some Positives:  NW: South Sudan late-2014 – Canada’s food security project planted crops   LS: Amidst Syrian crisis’ war zone – growing food and simple processing.

2.  How to measure intangible effectiveness?:  NW: Involves talking to people so takes time and money.  Needs institutional funding to measure intangible effectiveness.  LS:  The message is ‘we are re-building communities ’, empowering communities, doing advocacy work.  We need quality local-partnerships.

3.  Improve convergence between NGOs and the Canadian government:  NW: We can’t hold other countries to account for their poverty reduction if we at home in Canada are not reducing poverty.  LS:  Get an ombudsman for Canadian mining company ‘issues / problems’.

4.  What can each of us do to support your NGO’s great work? NW:  Donate, get educated, learn and share, ‘figure out what you are passionate about’.  Put pressure on the Canadian government.

5.  Climate change: what do you see on the ground?  LS:  People of the global-south suffer the most but create the least climate change issues.  Serious issues in:  Honduras, Philippines, Ethiopia is in worse drought in 50 years.

6.  Priorities for Canadian government’s development goals?  MM:  Animals, women and children, health, need more aid making projects more effective, more collaborative partnerships, and refocus on the most vulnerable.

7.  How do NGOs cooperate among themselves?  NW:  Micro level: where to apply to get more money.  Larger level:  Collaboration, e.g. Fora such as WSIC, CCIC.

8.  Greatest challenges ‘on the ground’?  LS:  Developing good partnerships in the country where the aid work takes place, need to work in networks to find common ground yet keep your organization’s principles.  Shifting realities on a macro scale when situations change so quickly, e.g. Ethiopia’s drought, Syria’s conflict.  MM:  Animals left to die.  NW:  Finding flexible funding models,

9.  How do we make International aid relevant when people here in Canada are dealing with their own issues?  MM:  Communication, get the message out there, get attention, write ‘letters to the editor’, petition Members of Parliament, build support for international aid !

To close: Fraser Mann (CIC current President) emphasized ‘I hope Ottawa is listening’.  We can all contribute to get Ottawa to pay attention and to listen.

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