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Letter from our President

Oak Foundation / Foundation

Dear partners,

I’m writing this against a backdrop of dramatic world events in recent months. Following a three-month global lockdown, protests erupted across the United States and spread around the world, as citizens vented their anger and frustration against the police violence that had resulted in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In early June, around 5,000 people, including Oak staff, joined protests in Geneva, Switzerland, where our Foundation’s main office is located. In memory of Floyd and countless other people who have died unjustly at the hands of authorities, we wanted to stand in solidarity with Americans fighting police violence and systemic racism.

Indeed, issues of racial inequity and social exclusion affect each of Oak’s programme areas. Fighting for justice and inclusion, our partners around the globe are mobilising to raise their voices against such abuses, to challenge the status quo, and, where necessary, to insist on reforms that would break the systems that perpetrate prejudice in our societies. They are also working to tackle root inequality entrenched in our systems. Check out the stories page on our website to find out more about the organisations and their work that we support.

While economies have been slipping into deep recession and healthcare systems have fallen under great strain, many of our partners have continued their courageous efforts to support the most marginalised. While juggling care responsibilities and the challenges of remote work, our partners have worked tirelessly these past few months to: empower victims of abuse; support people in precarious housing to stay in their homes; provide parents with food to feed their families; and encourage children to stay engaged in schoolwork so that they don’t fall too far behind. Sometimes this has meant a change of tactics – strengthening the use of online and telephone technology for communication where necessary, and finding innovative ways to reach those most in need while adapting social distancing practices to our lives and work.

The pandemic came unexpectedly. Despite the shock, it provides a chance to take a pause. We know that the current system is rife with inequality and that it is destroying our natural world. We see how climate pollution plummeted as streets were emptied of cars and demand for power has fallen. This is a clear demonstration of how interconnected modern economic lifestyles and fossil fuels have become. In addition, Covid-19 has exposed the fragile relationship between environmental, animal and human health. It is clear that it is time for deep reform.

The big question now is: how can we “build back better”? I believe that we must come together as a community to re-imagine life after the pandemic. There are opportunities in every crisis. We must not go back to the way things were, but instead pledge to move forward into a better, more just and healthier world. Let’s be audacious!

Together we can work to ensure that recovery plans put human and environmental health at their centre. We can build fairer, more resilient and healthier societies, giving us a chance of a better tomorrow. Clean technologies will strengthen our global power systems and set us on a pathway to dramatically reduced pollution around the world. Reformed, more equitable systems will give those who have been traditionally disenfranchised a better chance at building productive, prosperous lives, for themselves and their families.

I would like to leave you with a quote by Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” This speaks to our collective work, as there is so much hope in our efforts.  Positive change will come. We will emerge from our current crisis stronger and more resilient.

This newsletter will give you some insight into our vision and the work of our partners under the recent exceptional circumstances. I hope you will take heart as I have, and enjoy reading about the efforts of our staff and partners around the world as we continue to collectively strive towards an equitable, just world that is inclusive of everyone, regardless of colour, creed, gender identification or sexual orientation. I speak on behalf of the Trustees and all of Oak staff when I write that we are looking forward to continue working with our partners as we build this positive future together.

Douglas Griffiths
President, Oak Foundation