As of July 1st, Ton Heerts will chair Cordaid’s Supervisory Board. He succeeds Ernst Hirsch Ballin, who led the Supervisory Board for 4.5 years. “Cordaid is part of an international movement promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability,” says Heerts. “I’m proud that I can contribute to this as a supervisor.”
Ton Heerts, former military police officer, former politician of the Dutch socialist party PvdA and, until last year, president of the Trade Union Confederation FNV, is chairman of the Netherlands Association of VET colleges (MBO Raad).
Development cooperation increasingly important
“In an increasingly unstable world, Cordaid’s work, and development cooperation in general, is becoming increasingly important,” Heerts explains. “It feels great to be involved in this line of work”, he continues. “And to ensure, with colleagues in the Supervisory Board, that the best and the maximum is done with private donors’ and institutional donors’ money.”
Ton Heerts, who was raised in a Catholic family and was an altar boy in his younger years, has more incentives that motivated him to accept the chairmanship of Cordaid’s Supervisory Board wholeheartedly. “I very well remember the church collections for Memisa and Vastenaktie, charities that became part of Cordaid later on. And the fascinating stories of the missionaries about their work in African and South American countries.”
Heerts sees a line that connects his trade union period with the issues of development cooperation. “Cordaid stands for social sustainability and care for the most vulnerable people. The trade union movement stands for fair work and employees’ rights, which are social issues as well. But in terms of urgency Cordaid’s work for the most destitute often comes prior to the improvement of workers’ situations.”
“As long as there is aid”
Heerts becomes chairman at a time when Cordaid, like many other aid organizations, is financially in serious weather. “The storm will not calm down any time soon”, Heerts predicts. “Not in the Netherlands and not globally. Just look at the latest developments in the US. To survive that storm, cooperation will be key. If cooperation with other development organizations leads to added value, we should consider this positively. How you organize aid, matters less to victims of disasters and conflicts. As long as there is aid that reaches them.”
“In terms of urgency Cordaid’s work for the most destitute often comes prior to the improvement of workers’ situations.”
Cooperation, transparent communication and a good working conditions
There are certain matters to which Heerts will pay specific attention as chairman of the Supervisory Board. “I will closely follow the cooperation with other organizations, as well as transparency in communication to private and institutional donors. And – as you can expect from a former trade union man – good working atmosphere and working conditions, at headquarters and in the country offices, will have my attention as well.”
That last point is very much about the safety and security of aid workers. “The fact that, for example, Cordaid colleagues in Kabul had to take cover in a bomb shelter during the recent major attack,” Heerts explains, “says a lot about the circumstances aid workers have to cope with. Donors need to understand that. It explains why organizing effective aid actually costs money.”
Farewell to Ernst Hirsch Ballin
The same conviction to reach out to the most vulnerable, despite the risks, was expressed by Ernst Hirsch Ballin, when he said goodbye as chairman of Cordaid’s Supervisory Board. “Even if in recent years, Dutch politics, churches and society were often inward-looking, Cordaid needs to continue to be committed to work with partners in other parts of the world to reach out to the most vulnerable people,” he said.
These last years were hard for Cordaid, especially because reorganizations meant we had to say goodbye to many people.
Ernst Hirsch Ballin
He also looks back on the tough years Cordaid went through as an organisation: “These last years were hard for Cordaid, especially because reorganizations meant we had to say goodbye to many people. Nevertheless, we have stuck to our mission with full conviction.”
“The continuation and the quality of our work, rooted in Catholic social commitment”, Hirsch Ballin said, “is our priority. Ton Heerts, with his multifaceted experience and deeply felt social commitment, can help us excel in this as the new chairman of the Supervisory Board.”
Continuity in turbulent times
Ernst Hirsch Ballin took office as chairman of Cordaid’s Supervisory Board in January 2013. When his four-year term came to an end at the end of last year, Cordaid CEO Kees Zevenbergen asked him to stay on for another six months. “Cordaid had just gone through a major reorganization and a management shift,” explains Zevenbergen. “By consenting, Ernst contributed to the continuity of the organisation in a particularly turbulent period. I thank and praise him for that.”
We are going to miss Ernst badly. Ton Heerts will be a different chairman, but I am confident that he will be a worthy successor to Ernst.
“Ernst was a committed chairman of the Supervisory Board, a critical mind with a great sense of humour. He kept us, the board of directors, sharp”, says Zevenbergen. “Under his chairmanship, the Supervisory Board was rejuvenated and further professionalized. We are going to miss him badly, and with him his phenomenal network and his legal knowledge. Ton Heerts will be a different chairman, but I am confident that he will be a worthy successor to Ernst.”
More about Cordaid’s Supervisory Board.