Hivos International

Hivos & Humanism

What sets Hivos apart? What is development cooperation ‘guided by humanist values’, as set out in our statutes? When Hivos was founded in 1968, its founders were inspired by principles such as individual freedom, personal responsibility and self-determination. They held the conviction that development work should not be linked to missionary work, and true cooperation presumes respect for differing beliefs. In our first ever brochure, our founders wrote that ‘necessary changes should spring from communities themselves. From people at the base of society. That is development cooperation in the humanist spirit’.

These convictions are still reflected in our work. We believe that human life in its many forms is valuable, and that people are filled with potential. Living a life in freedom and dignity, with respect for each other and the planet, leads to greater individual wellbeing and fair, vibrant societies.

As such, Hivos distinguished itself – and still does – from the existing, mostly church-based organisations. It is reflected in our work by the emphasis that is given to self-determination, identity, empowerment and the strength of people themselves. 

What is Humanism?

Humanism is a body of philosophies and ethical perspectives that emphasise the value of human beings, individually and collectively, and put people and human values at the heart of everything. Its name is derived from the Latin ‘humanitas’. Humanism broadly means two things: ‘being human’ and ‘the pursuit of humanity’. Humanism is thus an ideology that espouses reason, ethics and justice based on people’s ‘reasonable and decent’ skills in interpreting the world and the place of mankind.

Dutch Humanism

The contemporary Dutch humanist movement originated in 1945 when the organisation Humanitas and the Dutch Humanist League (1946) were founded. These organisations, together with the Vereniging Weezenkas, were involved in the founding of the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries in the 1960s. On 5 January 1968 Hivos officially began with development projects in developing countries.

Humanist values

  • human dignity and self-determination
  • pluralism and democracy
  • focus on material and non-material aspects
  • mutual solidarity and responsible citizenship
  • respect for people’s cultural and social identity
  • responsible management of nature and natural resources