Letter from the CEO
Set against a backdrop of ongoing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was a year punctuated by the emergence of significant conflicts that have shaped the world in which we live. The Global Peace Index reported a reduction in global peacefulness in 2021, marking the nineth reduction over the past thirteen years.
In January we saw riots on Capitol Hill in the US that challenged the health of democracies globally, in February there was a military coup in Myanmar that triggered a conflict which has cost the lives of many innocent people and undone much of the progress made over the past decade. In August we watched as the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan bringing an end to many of the freedoms that Afghans have become used to in recent years. These conflicts played out on our TV screens and on all forms of media; 24-7 news programmes covered much of the events and we were inundated with information.
It can be so easy for this to be the only lens through which we view the world, increasing conflict, feeling less safe, destruction and devastation wherever we look. Whilst for many who live in areas affected by conflict this will indeed be all they see, for many of us the reality is much more nuanced.
At Cord this past year we have been challenged to look at things through a lens of hope. In the midst of challenge and conflict we have chosen to seek out hope amidst the stories of change and transformation that we have seen through our work. There is much happening in the world around us that we should celebrate and promote. In doing this simple act our perspective is shaped and we gain a renewed sense of hope for what lies ahead.
Amidst the shock and devastation of the military coup in Myanmar, we were inspired by the incredible examples of the Myanmar people who used non-violence to resist the military: their creative actions included nightly potbanging to signify their discontent, hanging women’s laundry across the roads to stop the military advancing, doctors and teachers refusing to work and boycotting of military companies. These actions continue to challenge and thwart the aims of the Myanmar military and powerfully demonstrate the role that non-violence can play.
These individual stories of hope inspire, encourage & energise us all to keep pursuing Cord’s vision. They remind us that change is possible, that there is another way to make change happen and that it is not through the path of violence.
Maintaining hope throughout the pandemic has been essential in helping staff, partners and communities to remain positive and navigate the challenges they face. In 2021 we have continued to adapt our programmes to respond to the changing environment. One example is Cord’s regional programme in South-East Asia, which brings Human Rights Defenders together from different contexts to learn from each other, build solidarity, invest in hope and explore new ways forward together. As international travel and large gatherings have not been possible we have utilised digital technologies to meet together and created video documentaries that convey the day to day realities of the lives of Human Rights Defenders to share with people in different locations.
Despite the challenges, in 2021 Cord commenced new programmes in Bangladesh and Thailand and initial work was developed in Uganda. In Bangladesh and Uganda we have developed new partnerships and co-designed innovative pilot projects to apply our peacebuilding methodology in different contexts, and we are hopeful that we’ll see changes in communities and the programmes will develop and grow in the coming years.
As the gaze of the world begins to move beyond the pandemic, there has been much talk of ‘building back better’ and seizing the opportunity to reset some of the previous ways that kept people in poverty and prevented them accessing their rights. However, there are unfortunately already signs that this opportunity is not being taken. Many of the structural inequalities previously seen are now being re-established and the world is going back to the status quo.
At Cord we will continue to use the lens of hope to shape our perspective. We will continue to look for areas of positive change and promote them and we will work with communities to support them to access their rights and live in greater freedom.
Andy Pask Chief Executive Officer