North-South Institute Ends with a Whimper

McLeod Group Blog

The pain and suffering of the North-South Institute is over. After almost 40 years of high-quality, award-winning work, the NSI has capitulated to its Canadian government tormenters and is shutting down. The official communiqué announcing the decision said that the Institute “has not been successful in diversifying and growing its funding sources to the extent required to ensure financially sustainable operations.”

This is polite shorthand for what really happened. The NSI depended for most of its history on core funding from the erstwhile CIDA. The Harper government has made it clear that it doesn’t like “talk shops” and “think tanks”—at least not this one—and it seems that where international development is concerned, it doesn’t much like thinking at all. So the NSI, along with many other very worthy non-profits and charitable organizations, was jollied along on hope and half-promises until the respirator simply gave up the ghost.

The Harper government has said, and will no doubt say again in this connection, that it is under no obligation to fund anyone it doesn’t want to fund. That’s true: no obligation. But it does have a responsibility to recognize and support achievement and merit in this field, as it does with Canadian scientists, educators, historians, artists, athletes and the institutions that house them. The NSI filled a unique position in Canadian international development. It provided good scholarship, wise advice and a useful service to government and the wider Canadian development community. It was also highly respected internationally and among its counterparts in Britain the United States and Europe, most of which receive considered, but generous support from their governments.