Solidaridad celebrates its 50 years as new director takes the lead

Together with 500 guests from around the world and across the years, Solidaridad proudly celebrated its 50th anniversary on 16 May. The day included panel discussions, a reflection on the origins of Solidaridad, and the official transition to the new Executive Director Jeroen Douglas. The global Solidaridad Network hereby showed its guests and colleagues a passion and energy for the innovative future to come.

The unique characteristics of Solidaridad’s background became clear during Nico Roozen’s introduction. He explained that Solidaridad was a child of the roaring 1960s and 1970s, born from solidarity with liberation movements in Latin America. Roozen mentioned Gustavo Gutierrez, Paulo Freire and Ignacio Ellacuría as founding fathers of Solidaridad. He also honoured the many who have died fighting for freedom and rights: from Jesus to Gandhi, Steve Biko, and Victor Jara.

In his opening address, Roozen marked the two big innovations in the history of Solidaridad: the first big transition was the change from the solidarity movement to economic alternatives for poor farmers. This innovation was marked by the birth of initiatives like Max Havelaar, Oké Bananas and Kuyichi Jeans.

The second big innovation was the move to a network structure. The choice for a truly southern ownership with each region having its own continental supervisory board is quite unique.

Innovative solutions for sustainable development

The power of the network was amplified in the event through presentations from the various regions. In a combination of videos, stories and interviews, the visitors were led through Solidaridad’s solutions, such as new financial models, climate solutions, gender and youth inclusivity, and digital data.

Young cocoa farmer Mawuse Hotor from Ghana – representing the many farmers from the South – made a big impression with her heartfelt plea for support to young farmers in developing countries. “The future of farming lies in the hands of the youth,” she said.

Cocoa farmer Mawuse Hotor from Ghana on stage

The celebration of Nico Roozen’s leadership

Nico Roozen’s hand-over as Executive Director was an emotional moment for many. He has been the director of Solidaridad for the past 30 years. And he is the one who has brought Solidaridad from 10 to 600 employees with a matching budget growth. He is the big force and inspiration behind Solidaridad’s current track record. The standing ovation from the audience for Nico Roozen was a clear sign of their appreciation for his achievements.

In his speech, Nico Roozen himself emphasized his trust in Jeroen Douglas as his successor:

The choice for Jeroen Douglas is in my view the choice for the continuation of the permanent process of innovation that characterizes Solidaridad. 

He also shared that it felt very natural for him to hand over at this moment. “We jointly turned a Dutch-based organization into an international network organization. For me, this exciting development was a continuous process of ‘letting go’, a process of sharing responsibilities and of helping people build upon their strengths. At all levels. Governance, management and programme design and execution. Now this process of ‘letting go’ reaches the final stage; and that was my ambition from the start.”

Nico Roozen with new Executive Director Jeroen Douglas

The brand new Executive Director Jeroen Douglas closed the event with his acceptance speech. Douglas joined Solidaridad already back in 1993 and has a long history with the organization.

Jeroen Douglas shares his vision as new Executive Director

In his speech, Jeroen Douglas made a strong case for the farmers as the main actors towards a sustainable society. He also emphasized the importance of data, and the intelligence derived from it.

We need to move into ‘FairData’, based on the principle that he who produces the data, should also be the owner of its value. With FairData, I wish to reach a FairTrade 2.0. We will help farmers to overcome dependence on coercive supply chains. Data intelligence and digital farming will help farmers to optimize their business case and better understand climate change and the circular economy.

The staff of Solidaridad brought the event to a climax when they all joined in to sing along with a special version of ‘Ain’t no stopping us now’. Solidaridad is ready for the next 50 years!

Solidaridads Executive Board of Directors at the 50 years event

The history of Solidaridad has been captured in a special magazine, which can be viewed here.

For more information about the history of Solidaridad, please click here.