Our history

Vikramshila Foundation was established in 2000 when several Dutch aid organizations joined forces. But our history goes back more than a century.

World War I

One of our predecessors, Mensen in Nood (‘People in Need’), was set up in 1914 to meet the needs of more than one million refugees who fled to the Netherlands during the First World War.

In 1925, Memisa, another member of the Cordaid family, was founded. It became a leading organization in the field of health care in developing countries.

In the 1930s, Cordaid’s predecessors alleviated the plight and suffering of victims of the Great Depression in the Netherlands. After World War II, our focus shifted further from home to countries in the global South. This led to a new kind of solidarity between countries, called development aid. Cordaid was at the forefront of it, right from the start.

Dutch Co-financing

The Dutch government, quick to recognize the importance of development aid, introduced the so-called ‘co-financing system’: it funded non-governmental organizations to set up and implement development aid programs. In 1961 this resulted in the establishment of Cebemo, a Roman Catholic foundation that financed the work of missionaries as a special form of assistance to developing countries.

For decades Cordaid Memisa, Cordaid Mensen in Nood, and other Cordaid brands, provided health care, famine relief, shelter, and other forms of assistance. We addressed the basic needs and strengthened the voice of millions of people in dozens of developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

Focus on fragility

In 2015, after the Dutch government decided to phase out its co-financing system, Cordaid had to restructure its operations and narrowed down its countries of intervention to less than 20. By that time, forced migration and displacement, conflict and fragility had become key drivers of global dynamics. This is why we now focus on those areas of international development that are most urgent and difficult: fragile contexts and conflict areas.

2021: ICCO and Cordaid join forces

As of 2021, ICCO and Cordaid have joined forces. By doing so we are increasing our impact in addressing today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges, defragmenting the Dutch development sector, and adapting to the needs of international development.

ICCO – with a track record in strengthening sustainable agricultural systems and food security – has a lot in common with Cordaid. We share the same vision of a world where everyone can live life in good health and dignity. We both emerged from the Christian social traditions and participate in like-minded networks.

We continue as one organisation, under the name of Cordaid, with one global office in The Hague. By combining our international in-country infrastructure, networks, and knowledge, and with the geographic and thematic complementarity of a joint organisation, we increase our scope and scale.

Adapting to ever-changing realities, but sticking to our mission

Over the years, Cordaid has changed. We are no longer a mere donor. Reducing fragility has become our core priority. Our commitment to address and counter fragility goes from humanitarian assistance and addressing immediate and critical needs, through rehabilitation to longer-term development. To do this effectively we seek funds, start partnerships, and compete on a global market.

But our early mission to protect and assist people in dire need has remained the same. And we continue to be driven by a faith-based identity and the corresponding social teachings.


Worldwide, we seek and promote alliances of civil society organisations, as well as the public and the private sectors. We have 361 funding and implementing partners. While we work across sectors and on different levels, everything we do is embedded in local communities. We work with local professionals and experts and use innovative digital and financial methods to increase our impact. The Sustainable Development Goals are our guideline to collaborate across the globe and achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

We are grateful for the financial support from our private and institutional donors. Major donors like the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID), the Global Fund, the World Bank, and the European Commission have trusted our capacities and expertise, both in the past and for the years to come. We also cherish our loyal donor base of more than 250,000 individuals in the Netherlands.

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