The Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) celebrates 20 years this year. The organization was established in February 1991 as a regional structure aimed at defining development alternatives for Caribbean society. CPDC was formed out by a coalition of 19 Caribbean NGOs in response to the initiation of structural adjustment policies by several Caribbean Governments and the negative impacts on the poorest sectors of the Caribbean society.
The concept of an NGO policy think –tank and advocacy centre was an idea which matured over a period of more than five years out of distinct initiatives undertaken by different groupings of NGOs. The three main currents propelling the idea were:
- D- GAP- incorporating Caribbean issues in its congressional lobbying work in Washington , and following its successes in opening dialogue between Caribbean policy makers, US Congressional leaders, the regional private sector and NGOs, there was a recognition of the need for an indigenous NGO capacity to continually monitor and seek to influence policy;
- CUSO – out of its work with local development agencies in the Eastern Caribbean , Jamaica and Belize it recognised the need to become increasingly proactive and strategic in its intervention and to translate local innovation into policy recommendations;
- The Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) – having the longest track record among Caribbean NGOs with an increasing awareness of the fact that the impact of micro- initiatives are circumscribed by the macro –policies which define the limits of possibility
In April 1989 the Caribbean Conference of Churches and The Development GAP submitted a joint proposal to the Ford Foundation for a grant to enable the two organizations to carry out activities related to the establishment of a Caribbean policy program. Following a series of consultations with NGOs throughout the region, it was eventually agreed that this imitative would be “owned” by a consortium of the regional NGOs since its work was essential to the entire NGO movement.
Between February 1991 and April 1992, CPDC operated out of the Head Office of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (one of the founding member organizations) and during that period the organizational mandate of the Centre was refined . The Centre was incorporated as a non-profit under the Barbados Companies Act and formally commenced operation under this legal identity in September 1993.
CPDC was established at a time when CARICOM Member States were just beginning a process of debate on the options open to the region in light of the changes that were occurring on the global scene. Member states were beginning to question what were the main implications of the impending Lome and GATT negotiations , the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and what options were left available to pursue their development agenda.
Notwithstanding the fact that the CPDC was only established in February 1991, it was able to mobilize Caribbean NGOs to participate in and make significant input into the first Regional Economic Conference hosted by CARICOM in Trinidad later that same month. This provided an entrée for CPDC to see Joint Consultative Status with CARICOM as a representative of the NGO community in the Caribbean.