The Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC) held their annual general meeting on June 13, 2013.  The OCIC is a network of Ontario-based international development organizations and individual members working for social justice across the globe.  As a Council, OCIC strives to increase the effectiveness and collective impact of their members’ efforts to promote sustainable, people-centered development in a peaceful and healthy environment.

The AGM

The first part of the day was dedicated to the annual general meeting itself, and the most interesting part was the presentation of the new strategic plan that OCIC is adopting.  This strategic plan is the result of broad consultation with all of its members as well as other key stakeholders in the sector.  Overall, OCIC’s twenty-year goal is to be a catalyst for sustainable solutions to global poverty challenges.

The consultation process has resulted in three high level directions:

  1. to strengthen capacity – of its members, the network as a whole and the development sector in Canada. OCIC wants to leverage the knowledge it has in its membership and wants the membership to expand to leverage more knowledge. OCIC aims to be a leader and agenda setter in the sector and there is a desire for ambitious change in the sector by the members.
  2. to increase multi-sectoral dialogue – of particular interest to those of us who see a role for the private sector in development.
  3. to influence by informing – this sums up the advocacy and influence role that OCIC is being asked to take on by its members.

These three strategic directions will reinforce each other and in the next five years organizational capacity will be built to adapt and sustain solutions to global poverty.  A more detailed table exists on the website with practical info of focus areas and approaches.

 

The Keynote Speeches

Right before lunch, the membership was treated to Keynote speeches by invited speakers.  Due to my admiration for Julia Sanchez from CCIC and a limit in space for this post, I am going to limit myself to reviewing her remarks.  The first two points of her talk are the most relevant for this post:

She began by reflecting on the shifting winds and changing trends in the international development landscape globally and in Canada.

  • Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding is diminishing in size and relative importance.
  • There are new donors from emerging economies and they are entering the scene in full force. It is guaranteed that they will change the name of the game. They are not sure the Paris principles are for them and will not necessarily abide by them. This is all a bit destabilizing for the sector, but it is the reality and we must learn to live with it.
  • The predominance of the private sector in development discourse and dialogue is at its peak. Nonetheless it is important to note that the concept of “private sector” is so wide, almost as wide as civil society. The definition of this actor is still very unclear.  It is important to note that promoting growth as a silver bullet for developing economies is too simplistic a solution, more nuance needs to be reflected in the arguments for the private sector playing a role in development.
  • The dichotomy of developed and developing nations, or “us” and “them”, is not realistic anymore because of the nature of global issues being faced today such as climate change, tax havens, or inequity.
  • There is a conservative tide in developed countries, which are rethinking and changing the relationships between civil society and they state. It is a fundamental redefinition of how governments relate to civil society. It is a significant shift in the enabling environment in which international development professionals work.
  • Traditional groups that have supported international development work such as churches or labour groups are changing their relationship with international development work. Some are seeing a significant shift in their constituencies.

 

Julia continued with some reflections on the implications for the CSO sector in Canada, specifically:

  • We have to adapt and survive. In the future, we will not look the same in terms of number and diversity as a sector.
  • We have to enhance our resiliency.  We have had a high dependency on CIDA and that support is now gone. The sector must change its funding structure.
  • We must be innovative and evolve, because we need to respond to the changing environment.  In order to do this we must find new relevance and adjust our vision. We have been relevant at different times for different reasons. We must figure out what our relevance will be in the future.
  • More than ever before we must work together and strengthen our collective voice and agency.

 

Once again, Julia delivered a thoughtful and thought-provoking speech.  Thanks to Julia for attending and sharing her reflections with us.

Overall the OCIC AGM was a great experience and highly recommended for anyone wanting to figure out the state of affairs in Ontario and the international development sector in Canada.

Did you attend the event?  Did you have any other ideas you wanted to share?