Cordaid (Catholic Organisation for Relief & Development Aid) is one of the largest development organizations in the Netherlands and has a network of 890 partner organizations in 28 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Cordaid’s history started as World War I broke out in 1914. Many Belgians fled their country in fear of a German invasion and those who had the opportunity crossed the Dutch border, which was fenced off with barbed wire, where they were received by priests and concerned parishioners. This is where Cordaid’s history began.
Cordaid has been protecting vulnerable human beings for almost 100 years, wherever poverty, injustice and violence have struck the hardest, both close to home and further afield.
Tending to war refugees during World War I resulted in the formation of Caritas Neerlandica. This later became a foundation known as ‘Mensen in Nood’ (‘People in Need’), which renders assistance in disaster areas abroad. In 1925, Memisa, another member of the Cordaid group, was founded and has become a leader in the field of healthcare in developing countries.
In the 1930s, Cordaid was concerned about the plight of the Great Depression victims. After World War II, however, its focus shifted further south resulting in a new kind of solidarity between countries in an area in which Cordaid was at the forefront: development aid.
The Dutch government also recognized the importance of developmental aid and introduced so-called ‘co-financing’, which is financing provided for by the government to civil-society organizations intended for developmental aid. This resulted in the establishment of Cebemo 1961, which is a Roman Catholic foundation that executed the Dutch parliament’s decision to finance the work of missionaries as a special sort of assistance to developing countries. Cebemo is best described using concepts such as inspiration based on the Gospel, equivalence and trust.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Cordaid took up the cause of the victims of dictatorial regimes in Latin America and of the apartheid regime in South Africa. This period can be described not only as tense, sorrowful and dangerous but also as hopeful and liberating. Moreover, Cordaid also participated actively when large-scale and severe famines and natural disasters occurred over the past decades, and it provided emergency aid not only in Biafra, Ethiopia, and India but also, more recently, after the tsunami hit Southeast Asia at the end of 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
Cordaid was formed when Mensen in Nood, Memisa and Cebemo joined forces in 2000. Although Cordaid is a relatively young foundation, its mission remains unchanged from its predecessors’ pioneering work in 1914; supporting those who suffer the consequences of poverty, exclusion and injustice.
Nowadays Cordaid’s mission is more relevant than ever because there are 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty and social inequality is steadily increasing in emerging economies.