Annual Letter from the Trustees

2015 was, in the words of Charles Dickens, “the best of times and the worst of times”. Our partners were affected by both the highs and the lows of this historic and tumultuous year. On the one hand, conflict, mass migration and terrorist attacks resulted in widespread fear, large scale suffering and gross violations of human rights.  In contrast, a new set of sustainable development goals was adopted by the United Nations in September and the global climate change agreement reached in Paris is stronger than most of us dreamed possible. These events – both good and bad – have touched the heart of our work, stretched the stamina and resources of our partners to breaking point and reinforced our core priorities.

In 2015 Oak Foundation made 326 grants to 308 organisations in 39 countries. In addition, we responded to these  world events through the following extraordinary grants.

  • Two one-year grants of USD 2.5 million each were made to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and Save the Children (STC), to relieve the suffering of women and children who are living in camps and temporary settlements in the countries surrounding Syria. MSF focuses on gaining access for families to basic health care and nutrition while STC is establishing schools and community centres that give children safe places to learn and play.
  • To complement our substantial investment in climate mitigation, we made five grants (totalling USD 5 million) to organisations to mobilise community and political support in the run-up to the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, in December 2015. Details on these grants are provided in the Special Initiative section of this report on page 79. In 2016 Oak Foundation plans to build on this initial investment by establishing a new fund focused on strengthening the adaptive capacity and resilience of communities most impacted by climate change – in particular youth, indigenous peoples and women. Initially, community groups in three geographies – the Arctic, the Bay of Bengal and East Africa – will be helped to respond to the impacts of climate change on their land, homes and livelihoods. In taking this step, we hope to leverage the support of other funders to address the human dimensions of climate change.

The 2015 Annual Report highlights the work of our partners across a number of fields. Areas given special attention include:

  • Responding to children on the move, who leave their homes and families for many reasons. Some are fleeing conflict, poverty, political oppression or lack of opportunity. Others are seeking jobs and education to support their families or secure a better future. Whatever their motivation, all these children run huge risks of iolence, abuse and exploitation. They are also entitled to protection and other rights, which our partners are determined to provide.
  • Creating sustainable cities, which are challenged by the sheer numbers of people seeking housing, transport, employment and services.  Oak partners are taking on these challenges – improving mobility in Brazil, re-organising bus systems in China and strengthening transport infrastructure in India, among other innovations.
  • Linking health and homeless services by increasing awareness, addressing barriers and using the healthcare system as a way to reach the most vulnerable. Oak is helping groups demonstrate how staff within the health system can identify people who are struggling to keep their homes or whose health is strained by poverty and isolation.
  • Supporting technological advances that promote human rights by enhancing digital security, developing tools to end impunity and extending the reach of human rights defenders. Oak is investing in a range of interventions to build grantees’ technological capacities. This is particularly important in the face of increasing constraints on the activities and funding sources of civil society groups around the world.
  • Building movements to end violence against women by addressing root causes, revealing links to trafficking and other forms of exploitation and improving both laws and services.  Moldova provides a good example of how a comprehensive, rights-based, women-centred approach can begin to transform social norms around violence.
  • Engaging young people with learning differences to appreciate their strengths, provide feedback on programmes designed to help them and advocate for the help they need to succeed. Oak supports organisations that help young people to build their skills and confidence as learners, mentors and citizens.

In these areas, as well as those covered by the Special Interest Programme and our grants in Denmark and Zimbabwe, much remains to be done.  But we are encouraged by achievements this year, impressed by our partners’ determination and proud to have the possibility to support their work.

The Trustees of Oak Foundation:
Caroline Turner, Kristian Parker, Natalie Shipton, Jette Parker, Alan Parker, Christopher Parker