19 August 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce that ORG will cease operations at the end of this year. Due to funding issues, our Board of Trustees has made the difficult decision to close some of ORG’s programmes and move others to new homes.

Since 1982, ORG has been working to address the causes, rather than the symptoms, of conflict. We have extensive experience in producing objective, rigorous research; using it to promote better informed dialogue between decision-makers, representatives of civil society and others of divergent views; and creating the conditions for positive policy change and improved co-operation across sectors.

2020 proved to be a year of transformation and challenge for ORG.  As it dawned, the Trustees had already anticipated a period of significant change, driven by the need to replace all of ORG’s funding within the year. They had prepared for this major challenge in 2019 by recruiting a highly experienced interim CEO and a senior fundraiser. By the time the Covid-19 crisis had turned our office into a virtual one, we had agreed a new strategic plan designed to deliver greater financial sustainability and a stronger team by 2023. The Plan was challenging, but the Board felt it was achievable, given the quality of our programmes, the high standing in which they are held, and the distinctive niches ORG occupies within defence, security and peacebuilding.

As we locked down, ORG had also made excellent progress in focussing our Remote Warfare Programme on its three key objectives: building evidence and advocating for change in order to protect civilians; focussing UK security policy on long-term peace; and making that policy more transparent and accountable. We had taken the result to a range of donors and were also seeking to strengthen our wider fundraising relationships, including reaching out to trusts new to us.

Our teams adapted quickly to a locked-down world. For example, our roundtables moved onto Zoom in a revised, but not lesser, form.  We are particularly proud that our Yemen programme, which had been modelled around bringing participants together within and across governorates and internationally, was successfully redesigned to be virtual. 

However, despite the tremendous hard work and commitment of our wonderful team, it increasingly became apparent that the issue we could not fix was around fundraising.  Many of our traditionally supportive trusts had wound up or focused their efforts on different objectives in recent years. We were forced to look to new donors and they, naturally, were focused on supporting their existing grantees through the crisis, or on projects directly related to Covid-19. 

It is with great reluctance, but also a conviction that it is the right thing to do, that the Board has decided it is necessary to wind up the organisation by the end of 2020, closing certain programmes or transitioning others to new homes. This decision was driven in large part by the knowledge that, in making this decision now, we can fulfil every one of our existing commitments to our partners, donors and staff. This might not have been possible if we had delayed. This decision was made following full consultation with our staff.

In September, we will be rehoming the Remote Warfare Programme at Saferworld under a new name: the Security Policy Change Project. With very kind support from Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the project will join Saferworld’s Global Policy and Advocacy team. With Saferworld’s expertise, experience and unique skills, the project will be even better placed to bring about positive security policy change.

By the end of the year, we also anticipate that our longest-standing project, on Palestine, will also take a new path under the auspices of the Palestine Strategy Group. The ORG Collective Strategic Thinking methodology will continue to flourish with the Palestine project, as it will in Yemen, where the legacy of the Yemen programme, which will be ending in September, has been much strengthened by the latest phase of digital delivery. These changes, which have been forced on us by Covid-19, will maintain the knowledge, resources, equipment and techniques that participants on the ground need to continue their valuable work.

We are extremely grateful for the support that has been provided to ORG by a wide range of individuals and organisations over the last 40 years. We hope similar backing will be offered to like-minded organisations who are also working to achieve meaningful change by challenging people and policymakers to think differently about their security.