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CIIR/Progressio – Seeds of Solidarity

A history of one of the most influential UK development, human rights and social justice campaigns



Progressio, formerly CIIR, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, closed in June 2017 after 76 years of campaigning for social justice across the world, including Latin America. Jon Barnes has written the definitive history of the organisation which was, in 1977, one of the founders of LAB, and many of whose workers went on to become LAB authors and members of LAB’s Council.

A center for reflective thinking long before the term ‘think-tank’ became current, an influential campaigning and lobbying organisation, a publisher of numerous books and reports and of the influential Comment series, and one of the small group of UK organisations coordinating the work of UK volunteers overseas. In the 1980s, in particular, CIIR was one of the most important constituents of the coalition of aid agencies, human rights and campaigning organisations who publicised the wholesale abuse of human rights in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

As former Chair, Martin McEnery, writes:

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‘Progressio, along with CIIR and the Sword of the Spirit before it, accumulated an extraordinary body of wisdom in pursuing the still ongoing challenge of achieving greater fairness in the world. Over the course of more than 76 years of committed labour from its UK base and in several regions of the developing world, it pioneered a development approach that valued partner organisations’ and communities’ own strengths and responded to their needs and interests. In both the organisation’s international policy work and its on-the-ground country programmes, it sought to enhance partners’ own capacity and strategies for change. The empowerment of partners and people struggling against poverty, marginalisation, discrimination and injustice was not a process driven from outside but one that they shaped themselves. It was their strengths, wisdom, voices, influence and profile that the organisation promoted and amplified in performing its support role.’

Jon Barnes’ history is a wonderful resource for all interested in the relations between progressive movements in Latin America and those who supported them in the UK. It can be downloaded in pdf-format for free from the website of Progressio.

 Author Jon Barnes explains: ‘A Record of Change in a Changing World is available for download on a dedicated legacy resources page on Progressio’s archived website. The legacy resources page outlines the rationale, contents and purpose of the publication and also carries a link to a shorter year-by-year timeline commentary on key landmarks in the life of the Sword of the Spirit, CIIR and Progressio. This summarises the full publication. To provide access to wider seams of information, the publication also contains links to particular pages and resources on the Progressio website as well as other sites specifically relevant to its work with partner organisations. The publication is a PDF file and how best to view it will depend on the device and the programmes/applications you use.’

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