How Mercy Corps is building a more just world in 2018

The global order is changing, and 2018 represents a critical juncture. Mercy Corps’ CEO Neal Keny-Guyer addresses conflict, climate change and other issues that are affecting families around the world:

You’ve noted that we’re living in a time of unprecedented confluence of complex crises around the world – in places like Syria, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Are these distinct events, or are they linked by larger forces?

The big force that’s laying the foundation for many of the crises we see today is conflict. As the World Bank has said, conflict is the number one driver of extreme poverty in the world. Twenty million people are at risk of famine because of conflict.

There’s no algorithm we could write that would magically reduce conflict. At Mercy Corps, we take great pride in the fact that we focus on the root causes. We’ve seen time and time again that you can bring people together from different tribes, religious backgrounds and sects, and if you can engage the leaders – and particularly the women and young people – you can make progress.

What you can’t do is put your head in the sand and believe these problems are magically going to go away. We are living through one of the great inflection points of our times. For the last 250 to 300 years, the locus of economic and political power has been centered in the West. That’s shifting. The global order is changing.

How has the thinking evolved around the role of conflict and violence in hunger?

During my lifetime, one of the great success stories has been the reduction in the number of people who go to bed hungry. The Green Revolution, gender equality, and investments in seeds, science and markets have made a huge difference.

But here’s the stark reality: last night, 815 million people went to bed hungry. That’s a 40 million person increase in just 2 years. And that’s for one reason: conflict – namely the chronic conflicts we see in places like Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria. So today, the pathway to reducing hunger is by making a difference with respect to conflict. It’s by promoting peace.

Mercy Corps works to build resilience in all contexts – even in emergencies. Why is it important to build toward tomorrow even in a crisis?

In almost every global crisis today, you can simultaneously do short-term humanitarian assistance like emergency relief and feeding people while also beginning to replant crops, open local businesses, and lay foundations for longer-term recovery and development. You want to engage those most impacted by the crisis in their own recovery so they become agents of their own recovery.

We’re living in a world in which most places will see recurring bouts of crisis, shock and disaster. The key is giving people the tools and capacity to build back better and stronger as they come out of crisis. That’s what we mean by resilience. We can’t take away the fact that there will be future shocks and crises. What we can do is better equip and enable people to recover from those shocks and crises in a better, stronger place.

What opportunities are you excited about for Mercy Corps in 2018?

I think Mercy Corps has never been better positioned to have a positive impact in the world. We’re in virtually every crisis out there. We’re at a scale and a size that matters. That’s what the world is searching for: new ideas, stronger ideas, and people who can bring together government, the private sector, and communities to form powerful new partnerships, and I think we’re positioned to do that like we’ve never done before.

Neal Keny-Guyer is the CEO of Mercy Corps, one of the leading global humanitarian organizations. Mercy Corps is a long time ally of CREDO, and since 1999, CREDO members have voted to donate more than $321,000 to support their work. To learn more about who we fund and how we distribute our donations, visit