The future is calling us from Latin America

May 10, 2016

Right before dawn on April 26, Hivos General Director Edwin Huizing put on a pair of colorful glasses and gazed at dozens of people who waited silently in their seats. His intention was to lead them in symbolic time travel to the year 2020. “I have the privilege to take you to the year 2020,” he said with a smile and added, “Who can predict what the world will look like then? We will not get into speculation, but will focus on our strategy…” With these words, Huizing set out Hivos’ vision of the coming years at our event, The future is calling us from Latin America.

The event brought together key participants to discuss the organization’s work over the past five years and to project its future strategy. Hivos Latin America, based in Costa Rica, received San José government representatives such as the Vice Minister of the Presidency for Political Affairs Ana Gabriel Zúñiga, Netherlands Ambassador Mette Gonggrijp and representatives of Hivos’ partner organizations throughout the region. Myrtille Danse, Director of Hivos Latin America, opened the event.

It was touching and emotional to hear phrases like, “Hivos represents a platform of platforms” and “Hivos should be less humble, it is an organization that has been on the frontline of fighting human rights issues and leading social innovations.” These words, coming from organizations that have transformed the face of Latin America, are much more than compliments.

Ana Gabriel Zúñiga spoke about the importance of Hivos’ work in terms of Open Government and stressed  the importance of working with frontrunners and change-makers to exercise democracy. Mette Gonggrijp referred to Hivos as a true strategic ally and a friend.

In the morning, Dineke van den Oudenalder, former Hivos Central America Director, and Corina Straatma, former Hivos South America Director, presented results on the work of Hivos over the past five years.

Accese was one of the six concrete initiatives mentioned, with over 250 thousand persons benefitting from decentralized renewable energy initiatives and a network of more than 70 organizations supported in their lobby activities. Other recurrent references included the support to key organizations that were behind the Guatemalan Spring, which led the former President and Vice-President of the country to resign due to social pressure. Hivos also supported organizations who worked to seek justice for the Guatemalan genocide victims, an effort that eventually took Ríos-Montt to trial. Even if these changes were not structural and charges against him were dropped, they opened up the doors for other victims to speak up and to position the topic and the need for general justice in countries like Guatemala and Honduras.

Participants also highlighted the advocacy work behind Hivos partner organizations in terms of inclusive LGBTI legislation in the entire region, as well as the strengthening of independent media. They also pointed out the importance of projects focused on HIV-AIDS prevention financed by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and implemented by Hivos and its partners. Public Private Partnerships between businesses, organizations, governments and frontrunners were mentioned as one of the key success factors for Hivos: Current projects such as the SAFE Platform and former projects such as the Triodos Sustainable Trade Fund as well as the Hivos-Triodos Fund, were repeatedly mentioned during the day.

After lunch, we put together Hivos’ learned lessons, shared it with participants in round table groups and turned them into action points for the future. Some of our future challenges were also some of our best past results, with questions like, How do we connect pioneers with political advocacy? How do we articulate different levels of decision making?

Among our biggest future challenges, we found that we need to become better at communicating results and developing project follow-up and knowledge management mechanisms.

“Together, we have bricks of experience,” said Susana Rochna, one of Hivos former Program Managers, adding, “One of the keys to success for Hivos has been to support vulnerable populations and turn them into the change makers of Latin America.”  And I believe that she couldn’t be more right.

I would like to thank again the ones who built these bricks of experience and set out the structure of what we have today, especially Dineke van den Oudenalder and Corina Straatma. I also want to thank the faces of the present and future Hivos, such as Edwin Huizing, our General Director, who took us into a trip to the year 2020 to present the future strategy and projected a Latin America with a bright future.

Edwin Huizing closed the event by recognizing the region’s successes in reducing poverty and reducing inequality in the last sixteen years. He added that Hivos’ strategy shares this perspective and will continue its firm commitment to social change in Latin America. It was exciting to hear him say: “Our dream for 2020 is that all countries will have become more open and green, with vibrant, innovative societies”.

We can look back at a productive, inspiring and dynamic day. A good start work towards our goals for 2020!