Hivos celebrates 50 years of change

December 4, 2018

2018 marks 50 years since the founding of Hivos. We have spent the last five decades working to build a world that guarantees freedom, diversity and equal opportunities for all. A world where people have access to sustainably produced food and that uses renewable and socially inclusive energy systems.

Since 1968, we have joined hands with local partners. In fact, in the first Hivos publication our founders wrote, “Change needs to come from within a community. It needs to come from people at the bottom of society. That is development cooperation based on humanist values.” These words remain at the core of our convictions today.


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Working with pioneers

That is why we believe our partners are the true pioneers. They are the activists, social entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and artists who courageously lead the way. We are proud to provide knowledge, our extensive network and funding to help them realize their inspiring projects.

Innovating for social change

What started as a small Dutch development institute 50 years ago, has turned into an international organization striving for structural social change. What has not changed is that we continue to look for innovative approaches.

Hivos 50

In 1971, for example, we introduced microfinance in Mexico. Before anyone else and doing something that NGOs were not “supposed” to do. Hivos’ first director Robert Sorgedrager once recalled the reaction of other aid organizations and the Dutch government. He said, “They looked at me as if I had spoken blasphemy. You were supposed to give to the poor! Certainly not make money off them!”



Hivos 50

In 1991, Hivos was among the first development organizations to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We chose an unconventional approach, arguing that AIDS it not purely a medical problem, but a human rights issue. To this day, preventing discrimination and exclusion still guides our sexual rights and diversity programs.




Hivos 50

100% renewable energy worldwide! That was Hivos’ revolutionary message in 2010. Not only as a solution to climate change, but also as an engine for development. On the Indonesian island of Sumba, Hivos works with villagers, local leaders, the government and the private sector to help provide the 650,000 inhabitants with renewable energy. Sumba Iconic Island now serves as a replicable model on an international scale.



A journey through time

Celebrating 50 years of Hivos allows us to look back at our past. The milestones in our history help us understand where we are today. We are proud to present this journey through time.

Looking ahead

While looking back at our past, we have to keep an eye on the future. That is why, when speaking at the Hivos 50 – A Journey Through Time gathering in The Hague, Executive Director Edwin Huizing addressed the dangers that threaten the open and green society we are working towards.

“We see a new leadership style that is exemplary for a wider trend. Decisiveness coupled with authoritarian rule and lack of liberalism, narrowing civic space in society. Narrowing the space for citizens, our partners and sometimes directly for Hivos.”

“Healthy societies need criticism and brave people to oppose the mainstream. Those who call attention to an unhealthy state of things. Hivos has been supporting this for 50 years and there is still a role to play in this global coalition for freedom, democratization and citizen agency.”

“We cannot stay indifferent. Indifference is a sin.”

Hivos 50 years
Edwin Huizing speaking at Hivos 50, photo: Elisabeth Lanz