Choice

All political leaders face choices about how to raise income, allocate resource, and deal with the past.

In the least developed countries, tiny wages and an informal labour market mean tax revenues are small. Leaders must extract wealth more aggressively, such as by controlling access to natural resources. But this stimulates minimal employment or investment, heightens conflict over land, and benefits only a few. The prioritisation of the few over the many creates a vicious cycle which reinforces bad economic and political choices.

For 50 years, Cord has worked with people who have been profoundly affected by this negative and often violent cycle. Over this time, Cord has identified three fundamental freedoms that are crucial to ensuring a peaceful society: the freedom to engage, the freedom to overcome trauma and the freedom to access basic services.

The freedom to engage

When a small elite holds power through privilege, monopoly or coercion, they have little incentive to recognise the individual rights of their people. Leaders fear any erosion of wealth or influence and the violent repercussions of change. They cling on to power for dear life. They do not treat people fairly, which is the same basis of human rights now as it was in Old Testament times.

We believe in equality. Cord gives a voice to the excluded, enabling them to understand their rights, articulate them, and challenge peacefully those in authority. At the same time, we work with authorities so that they understand how recognising these rights will bring benefits, for the good of all.

The freedom to overcome trauma

A government which chooses to oppress its citizens in order to consolidate power and wealth in the hands of the few is unlikely to address past wrongs. It may bring to light actions which leaders would prefer to ignore. And traumatised people are easier to control. Victim mentality forces them to internalise rather than voice their pain and loss. Until, that is, decades of silent anger and hurt burst into violence. How a country deals with its past says a lot about how it will deal with its future.

We believe in restoration. Healing trauma takes sustained long-term engagement, and resourcing it is not easy, but it is essential. Cord works to restore justice and fairness to those who are unrepresented by the laws that should have been designed to protect them.

The freedom to access basic services

A government with limited income and a narrow power base is unlikely to provide services or infrastructure for those beyond its support base. This is especially true if it sees individuals merely as a means to serve the state’s ends.

By denying its citizens access to services, a government indicates how little importance it places on their economic and social well-being. Healthcare, sanitation and clean water not only reduce mortality and disease but lead to increased incomes. So does education. So does improved access to markets and technologies. But these improvements also raise expectations. Deliberate denial of access to services is one way in which governments keep people oppressed and impoverished. Given the conflict cycle, it is also an indicator of future violence.

We believe in inclusion. Cord works to extend the freedom to access services so that the benefits of sustainable peace and development can be enjoyed by all, and governments appreciate how more inclusive service provision improves the dignity, well-being, productivity and profitability of society as a whole.