The Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) was established in 1991 and is a legally registered non-profit organisation headquartered in Barbados. The CPDC was first established as a policy unit within the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) on the recognition of the significant adverse impacts that national, regional and international development policies were having on the region’s most vulnerable communities. Many of these communities were being served by the CCC and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The NGO community recognised that its quality of life interventions were threatened by an inability to articulate people-centred policy advocacy and lobbying.
There was a consensus about the need for greater policy advocacy which was driven by the experiences of the CCC and the wider NGO sector which, at that time, saw the devastating impacts of the introduction of structural adjustment policies within the Caribbean by International Financial Institutions in the early 1980s. The view within the sector was that many national governments were “encouraged” to implement primarily market-oriented policies that negatively affected socially and economically marginalised communities. The detrimental impact occurred at a time when priority was given to international policies that favoured the entry of larger western companies into the region’s small markets while at the same time rolling back many social programmes needed to support sustainable, equitable development.
The CPDC was commissioned, by the CCC and a network of active development NGOs, with the task to focus on ensuring that the social dislocation caused by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) policies received a fitting collective, inclusive, and representative, people-centred development policy advocacy and lobbying response. All of the 20 leading NGOs in the Caribbean that were the catalyst for the CPDC’s formation also became its core membership, drawn from across all of the language groupings of the region. Currently, thirty-one NGOs and four individuals comprise the CPDC’s membership.
Since its establishment, the CPDC has been a voice for the NGO community and their beneficiaries on key socio-economic and other development issues. Through the engagement of regional and national policymakers, the CPDC has brought the plight of the most vulnerable groups in Caribbean society to the forefront in key policy fora and dialogue at the national, regional and international levels. The CPDC is cemented in its belief that development should be centred around the needs of the people and not purely by market forces and an influential minority of decision-makers within developed economies. From its inception, the CPDC has promoted the agenda and the plight of those at the grassroots level and has successfully represented the message of the average Caribbean citizen to regional and international policy spaces.
The organisation has evolved over its thirty years of existence to incorporate other critical roles that reflect the needs of the NGO sector today. For example, a significant component of the CPDC’s work aims to build the requisite institutional capacity within the NGO community across the Caribbean. Capacity development support was prioritised in the early 2000s, which saw significant reductions in development assistance to the Caribbean NGO sector from western donors. The decline seen during that decade continues in contemporary times and has threatened the survival of a once vibrant development NGO community, resulting in a smaller and resource-scarce regional NGO sector. The CPDC’s response to that serious challenge is the important work of maintaining the viability of NGOs.
The CPDC, with funding from diverse regional and international donor partners, has implemented numerous projects across selected thematic areas throughout its existence. In the past 30 years, the CPDC has worked with over 500 NGOs, labour unions and a few private sector agencies across the Caribbean region in 18 countries, spanning from Suriname and Guyana in the south, up the island chain, inclusive of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, to The Bahamas in the north. The CPDC also had founding NGO members in Belize and Nicaragua. The CPDC now stands as a recognised and well-respected organisation, with 30 years of experience of advancing social and economic development policies and programmes to improve the lives of Caribbean people. Amidst the myriad challenges confronting the region, the CPDC is well poised to continue to advance regional development from a people-centered perspective in the 15 CARIFORUM member states it serves.
Making an Impact on Public Policy
Putting People at the Centre of Caribbean Sustainable Development
To build civil society organizations partnerships through engagement with people, governments, and other relevant partners to influence the design and implementation of policies that empower and improve the lives of Caribbean people.