"I joined Cord at the end of 2005, a time of major internal transition; Martin Lee had left after 25 years of leading Cord, and passed the reins to Michael Godfrey who saw his role as managing the transition through to the next stage.

Michael convinced me to come and help re-align the international programmes work. Cord was going through a difficult phase. Having been involved in some innovative humanitarian work, we now faced many other organisations using similar methods – we had lost our distinctiveness. Finances were tight as has been a repeated theme throughout Cord’s history, but the question that framed my first year at Cord was what is God wanting of us now?

Cord had always worked in complex situations; people fleeing the effects and injustices of war and conflict. The challenge we were grappling with was how to expand our work with those directly affected by violence to include addressing the drivers and causes of war and conflict. Why did (and still do) conflicts seem to cycle and repeat? We could no longer ignore or minimise the unjust structures and systems which perpetuate and escalate the impact of violence.

Thinking about the causes of conflict is complicated. The questions were not simple to answer. No, I’ll reframe that. It took us a long time just to understand the right questions we should be asking. We drew heavily on Cord’s history and the experience of many people like BunChheouth in Cambodia who first met Cord as a refugee in the Thai/Cambodia camps. He was very excited about the potential of a peacebuilding focus to Cord’s work. He later returned to work with Cord as our Country Director in Cambodia. 

A lot changed. It was risky. We needed to become less reliant on the knowledge of expats and attach far greater importance to the opinions, views and understanding of local people. We changed our structures to reflect this. As we learned from those who experienced the realities of war first-hand and listened to their wisdom, we knew we had to find more local people and organisations of peace who were courageous, imaginative and who were taking steps to improve the lives of others. These individuals and their organisations became our focus and we began partnering for peace. 

God brought some amazingly talented people to work for Cord and our collaboration pushed us to understand rights’ frameworks, the gift of non-violence to unlock intransigence, and the need to work with local partners to realise their visions of peace and support their organisational development. The pursuit of peace challenges our desire for instant results; for quick impact stories; except the fruit of peace takes seasons to mature.  It is a very tough fundraising story to sell.

We had to learn to think differently, challenge our preconceptions, and forgive. Forgiving the enemies of our friends was a deeply affecting personal experience, when I met a former child soldier in Uganda who became a senior leader in the LRA and ransacked a community I had previously lived with for 3 years. He is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, and there were many in my time at Cord.

Peace; shalom; seeking the full goodness of God requires intense personal and organisational change – I struggled to articulate these demands during the process. It’s only now looking back that I can see where we’ve been and for me that’s God’s grace shaping our endeavours. 

My hope for Cord as it turns 50?  That it becomes more courageous as it reaches the stage where it understands the strength of its history and experience, and is that grey-haired, wise old lady, who never gives up on the dream of peace and inspires not only her family and friends but cajoles communities and nations to pursue peace with an imagination and intensity that allows truth to be spoken, justice to flow, mercy to heal, and love to endure, and seeks only the glory of God and continued blessings for the people she partners with."

Brian Wakley, September 2017

As described, this period in Cord’s history is one of further transition in which the organisation was challenged to reduce poverty through addressing the often complex causes of conflicts. This shift was risky and challenging. Cord continues to work in this way by supporting the vulnerable and the marginalised and seeks to reduce poverty by reducing all forms of violence.