Cordaid was established in 2000, when several Dutch aid organizations joined forces. But our history goes back more than a century.
World War I
One of our predecessors, Mensen in Nood (‘People in Need’), was set up in 1914 to meet the needs of more than one million refugees who fled to the Netherlands during the First World War.
In 1925, Memisa, another member of the Cordaid family, was founded. It became a leading organization in the field of health care in developing countries.
In the 1930s, Cordaid’s predecessors alleviated the plight and suffering of victims of the Great Depression in the Netherlands. After World War II, our focus shifted further from home, to countries in the global South. This led to a new kind of solidarity between countries, called development aid. Cordaid was at the forefront of it, right from the start.
The Dutch government, quick to recognize the importance of development aid, introduced the so-called ‘co-financing system’: it funded non-governmental organizations to set up and implement development aid programs. In 1961 this resulted in the establishment of Cebemo, a Roman Catholic foundation that financed the work of missionaries as a special form of assistance to developing countries.
For decades Cordaid Memisa, Cordaid Mensen in Nood and other Cordaid brands, provided health care, famine relief, shelter and other forms of aid. We addressed the basic needs and strengthened the voice of millions of people in dozens of developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Focus on fragility
In 2015, after the Dutch government decided to phase out its co-financing system, Cordaid had to restructure its operations and narrowed down its countries of intervention to less than 20. By that time, forced migration and displacement, conflict and fragility had become key drivers of global dynamics. This is why we now focus on those areas of international development that are most urgent and difficult: fragile contexts and conflict areas.
Over the years, Cordaid has changed. We are no longer a mere donor. Reducing fragility has become our core priority. We work in all contexts of fragility, from relief, through rehabilitation to longer term development. To do this effectively we seek funds, start partnerships and compete on a global market.
But our early mission to protect and assist people in dire need, has remained the same. And we continue to be driven by a Catholic identity and the corresponding social teachings.