Login to RACcess

Ford Foundation records, Overseas Office, Asia, Hanoi Field Office Files (FA673)

Biographical/Historical Note

Segment One: International Activities of the Ford Foundation: An Overview

The Foundation's aspiration to become a national and international philanthropy for the advancement of human welfare was first formally expressed in the seminal 1949 report of the Gaither Study Committee, Report of the Study for the Ford Foundation on Policy and Program (RAC Library, call letters 361.7 GAI ), which was commissioned by the Board of Trustees to chart the Foundation's future. Foundation Trustees launched Ford's international grantmaking activities in 1950 when they approved the committee's report and its embrace of peace, democracy, and freedom. Since then, the Foundation has tackled these goals using a variety of strategies and responding to changing contexts, from the Cold War to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond.

Toward the Foundation's aspiration‎al goal, "the establishment of peace", its international activities have comprised a wide range of conceptual approaches and focus areas. These include international affairs, international studies, international understanding, arms control and disarmament, international law, international economic concerns, and overseas development in nearly every region of the world. Three distinct periods emerge for the international grantmaking defined by external contextual changes and internal changes in Foundation leadership and structures: the expansion era of 1950-1965; the transition and restructuring years of 1966-1988; and the post-1989 shift away from Cold War dichotomies. During each of the distinct historical periods the consistent objectives were: 1) to ensure freedom and democracy in developed countries; 2) to foster education and international understanding in all countries; and 3) to contribute to the social, economic, and political development of less developed countries.

Biographical/Historical Note

Segment 3. Period Sketch - Transition and Restructuring 1966-1988

In the 1960s, the Ford Foundation Trustees began to rethink the role of the Foundation in the context of the era's dramatic political and cultural changes. For instance, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act created a domestic policy context in which the Foundation could more deeply engage with issues of rights and social justice. Events overseas starting in the late 1960s would extend the rights agenda to international affairs and development operations at the Foundation -- all advanced by the leadership of McGeorge Bundy (president, 1966-1979).

McGeorge Bundy was appointed president in 1966, following a significant career in national security and academic administration. During World War II, he worked with the Army's intelligence division, and in the early post-war years was a political analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations. Even without a postgraduate degree, at the age of thirty -four he became dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at Harvard University. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Bundy to be Special Assistant to the President for National Security - a position he held for five years under both Kennedy and Johnson. Those significant years saw the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the beginnings of the Vietnam War.

When Bundy arrived at the Foundation, he initiated a restructuring that modeled government departments rather than the academic ones President Henry Heald had established in the 1950s. At the same time, he had to contend with serious financial constraints due to Ford's overspending in the prior periods and to economic downturns in the global economy. The Board of Trustees mandated an annual spending of over $100 million.

These economic constraints meant that Foundation programs had to be more selective across the range of its programs. Nonetheless, international activities remained prominent with the new president and trustees. President Bundy and key trustees such Eugene Black (1960-1968, former head of the World Bank) and Robert S. McNamara (1968-1986, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and then head of the World Bank, 1968-1981) reflected a commitment to the international activities. Bundy also added to the board in 1972 the first trustee from a developing country, the Indonesian activist and scholar, Dr. Soedjakmoto, the former Ambassador to the United States from his country and then Special Adviser on Social and Cultural Affairs to the Chairman of Indonesia's National Development Planning Agency.

To create economies of scale, Bundy unified US-based international and overseas activities under one division: the International Division (using the name for the first time). That division comprised Resources for Development (area studies, languages, and exchanges), Population, International Relations, Planning and Evaluation, and the country programs. David Bell, an economist and the first administrator of the US Agency for International Development (1962-1966), was named vice president and served in that capacity until the end of Bundy presidency.

In 1966, Bundy terminated the long-standing internationally oriented but domestically based International Training and Research Program. Several large domestic programs -- including support of centers of international studies - were phased out in the 1970s. Instead, Ford launched under its international affairs efforts a focused but robust program in security and arms control. Over Bundy's tenure, the overseas offices were reduced from twenty in 1966 to twelve in 1979, when he retired.

The Foundation increasingly turned its attention to different set of international issues including human rights and working in repressive societies, such as South Africa. The military coups in Latin America during the late 1960s and early 1970s led the Foundation to initiate in 1976 a human rights program housed in Vice President Bell's office.

In 1979, Franklin Thomas was named president of the Ford Foundation (1979-1996). In contrast to Bundy's international and defense policy background, Franklin Thomas brought to the Ford Foundation his experience in law, housing, and community development. Prior to joining the Foundation, Thomas, a lawyer, was a Foundation trustee. He chaired the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Study Commission on U.S. Policy towards South Africa and led the Ford-funded Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in New York from its beginning in 1966 until he left in 1979. Earlier, he had been deputy police commissioner of NYC.

In the first decade of Thomas' tenure, the international work was still framed using the post-war East-West dichotomy. Several trustees brought to the board active engagement in international issues: Donald F. McHenry (trustee over the period 1981-1993) had served as ambassador to the U.N. and was active in the anti-apartheid movement; and General Olusegun Obasanjo (trustee over the period 1987-1999) had been Nigerian head of state from 1976-1979, and was then president of the African leadership Forum. Along with McNamara and Soedjakmoto, Rodrigo Botero, an internationally renowned economist from Colombia and former Colombian Minister of Finance and Credit from 1974 to1976, remained on the board over the period 1978-1989.

During the early years of the Thomas presidency, the scope and strategies of the Foundation's activities were also influenced by economic and global pressures, leading to reduced assets and further financial stringencies. Thomas' board-mandated reductions resulted, for example, the firing of twenty senior staff at the same time. To achieve more effective and efficient programs, Thomas had a vision of Ford as one foundation, linking the domestic and overseas activities under new program themes: Urban Poverty, Rural Poverty and Resources, Human Rights and Social Justice, Governance and Public Policy, Education and Culture, and International Affairs.

The restructured Foundation comprised two programmatic divisions led by vice presidents: U.S. and International Affairs Programs (USIAP) headed by Susan Berresford; and Developing Countries Program (DCP), headed by William Carmichael. Berresford had been at the Foundation since 1970, coming from the U.S. Manpower Career Development Agency. She served in the National Affairs area, first as program assistant and then program officer (1972-1980), becoming head of women's programs in 1980. The main international efforts under USIAP were housed in Rural Poverty and Resources, Human Rights and Governance, and International Affairs. The other programs - Urban Poverty, Education and Culture, and Program-Related Investments - also addressed a scattering of international issues related to their main themes.

Carmichael had joined the Foundation in 1968 as Representative in Brazil. In July 1971, he was named Head of the Office of Latin America and the Caribbean, and in September of 1977, he became Head of the Middle East and Africa Office. The DCP program was responsible for all the Field Offices: Andean and the Southern Cone, Brazil, Mexico and Central America, Bangladesh, India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, and Middle East and North Africa.

When the Foundation initiated a Human Rights and Governance program (HR&G) in 1981, it was the first instance of a Ford program explicitly entitled "human rights," despite the fact that human rights grantmaking that had started officially in 1976. International Affairs remained separate from HR&G. In 1987, however, the Board conceptually linked three programs, creating a Trustee committee called Human Rights, Governance, and International Affairs, which existed until 1992. Operationally, however, the programs relating to these fields did not often work together.

International governance remained a commitment under Thomas. The Foundation, for example, had a long-established relationship with the United Nations: from 1951 until 1988, the United Nations received ninety grants from the Foundation (it received another 198 over the period 1989-2009).

In these early years of the Thomas presidency, dramatic changes were occurring in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Under President Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership since 1985, the USSR was opening up to the international community, the rule of law in society was taking prominence there, and press freedoms were spreading. The foundation developed new programs in the region, drawing on the $60 million already spent to promote human rights and free expression and increase Western understanding of developments there.

Given the continuing economic constraints facing the Foundation and rising debt in developing countries, the Foundation shifted support under DCP to smaller scale community-based initiatives in the field offices. Thomas was also charged by the Board to increase the diversity of grantees, especially to favor populations "most affected" by the problems of concern to the Ford Foundation. The Foundation built on earlier efforts and sharpened its focus on women's issues throughout the world, including shifting the focus of the population program to women' reproductive health and child survival.

In the 1980s, Carmichael and others, with strong support from Thomas and the board, continued the 1970s' support of South African grantees for training large numbers of black lawyers and litigating sensitive cases in the South African legal system. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of discrimination in South Africa, the Foundation not only advanced the rule of law, but also strengthened civic organizations, women's groups, and educational institutions. Further, it supported a number of activist organizations in the United States that were energetically advocating US governmental sanctions against South Africa and for private disinvestment. The Foundation also played a role in shaping US policy on apartheid through the role Thomas played from 1985 to 1987 chairing the US Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on South Africa.

The Foundation's overseas staff also sought to improve the economic situation in poor, marginalized communities through targeted loan programs particularly to women head of households, beginning with the innovative work in Bangladesh of Professor Mohammed Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank. The results led the way to establish the field of microfinance with the aim of empowering women living in poverty conditions, such as through a microfinance network in Latin America starting 1980 and a global lending program for women starting in 1987.

Thomas encouraged staff to share results at worldwide meetings. During those meetings, Ford staff in the country offices and in New York tried to follow the mandate to work as "one foundation." The persistent challenge toward meeting that goal, however, was that initiatives emerging from the New York-based programs, or indeed any program developed in one country, were not always adaptable, relevant or acceptable in other countries or regions. It remained a challenge to develop a unified program, despite the commitment at the highest level of foundation leadership.

Biographical/Historical Note

Segment 3. Period Summary - Transition and Restructuring 1966-1988

During this era, the Foundation's earlier interest in business and the economy evolved into a commitment to improving conditions for people living on the margins of society. The Ford Foundation promoted advancements in women's rights around the globe and introduced micro-lending into grantmaking. At the same time, the economic issues that were shaping program strategies also affected the Foundation's assets. Severe cuts resulted in a significant restructuring of country programs and reduced budgets across all programs.

Even with the cuts in country offices, in the 1970s Ford grantees in developing countries received approximately 80% of the International Division budget. The remaining fifth went to Population, Development Studies, and International Affairs. Although representing a much smaller piece, the International Security and Arms Control program from 1973 was the Foundation's most concerted effort to make meaningful inroads in disarmament and nuclear issues - those challenges most directly linked to the Foundation's historic concern for peace. By 1979, the Ford Foundation was the biggest funder of arms control as a field, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Biographical/Historical Note

Segment 4. Period Sketch - The Post-1989 Shift Away from Cold War Dichotomies

Between 1989 and 1991, dramatic changes in the external international conditions created a significantly different context for Ford Foundation's international activities both in the United States and overseas. In November, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. In February 1990, in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. As a consequence, the Cold War was over, Western Europe no longer had a special strategic role in the Foundation, and program-related activities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union multiplied. The Foundation not only continued the earlier efforts to fund leadership in the region; from 1990-1994, Ford also spent $1 million on the training of newly-elected parliamentarians in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. By 1993, half of the funds for grantmaking related to the former Soviet bloc were going to in-country individuals and institutions.

In 1989, Thomas also instituted a major restructuring of the Foundation to fulfill his vision of "One Foundation." All programs were put into one division led by Vice President Susan Berresford. Carmichael joined the Institute of International Education to run a program on Soviet and Eastern European Affairs and then higher education in South Africa. All the Foundation grant programs - domestic and international - reported to Berresford: Africa and the Middle East (AME, formerly MEA), Asia (ASIA), Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC/OLAC), Human Rights and Governance (HRG), Education and Culture (EC), Program-Related Investments (PRI), and International Affairs (IA).

The change in South Africa opened up many new opportunities to work in partnership with a range of South Africa partners to promote and sustain the transition to democracy. The Foundation supported women's groups working on law, development and reproductive rights. It contributed, for example, to the groups working on the Women's Chatter in South Africa, resulting in the adoption in 1994 of the first constitution anywhere that specifically included sections on women's rights.

During the 1990s, the promising political changes in African countries and elsewhere provided a positive perspective to counteract the continuing economic constraints facing the Foundation and the rising debt in developing countries. Both to reinforce local democratic initiatives and to address its economic challenges, the Foundation's field offices across Africa and the developing world shifted their support toward the promotion of smaller scale community-based initiatives.

Thomas supported work on arts and culture, not as a goal in itself, but, instead, as a means for promoting social justice, education, and human rights, both in the United States and in developing countries. At the same time, while reducing support for cultural institutions in the United States, such institutions received support overseas to preserve and celebrate national and local cultural heritages. While in South Africa, for example, the Foundation provided support for Johannesburg anti-apartheid theatre groups, in West Africa it funded for nearly two decades a program to preserve and make accessible cultural heritage by expand the training of museum leaders and strengthening museum exhibit and outreach capabilities.

In the early 1990s, the Foundation through its India office helped establish an independent foundation to enhance sustainability in the arts community. Ford envisioned new opportunities for cultural institution to rely on local resources focus on new forms of creativity and encourage young artists, in particular. Similar to the Indian effort, the Ford office in Egypt in 1993 provided support for an arts-focused foundation.

When Susan Berresford became president in 1996, with a strong commitment to globalization as well as concern for the uncertainty it created, she reorganized the Foundation in to three large program themes that would inform grantmaking in the United States and developing countries: Assets with a focus on poverty, Peace and Social Justice on rights issues, and Education, Media, Arts and Culture to pull together related endeavors. She also created a separate communications program. Each program was led by a vice president. Berresford strongly reinforced the institutional and grantmaking goal of affirmative action, an organizational goal that had been initiated in the Bundy era.

She maintained significant support, domestically and internationally for women's issues. She endorsed and encouraged the worldwide meetings staff members and grantees to continue to hold joint meetings in order to create a greater sense of partnership and shared purpose. The more promising international situation enabled the Ford Foundation in 1996 to open an office in Russia (Moscow) and in Vietnam (Hanoi). Berresford encouraged the development of local and regional peace and security programs in developing countries. A regional security, peace, and cooperation program in India, for instance, focused on the work of civil society groups as an increasingly prominent regional interest in South Asia.

In this period, the Foundation gave renewed the prominence of arts and culture in the US and maintained the commitment in developing countries. By 2000, funding levels for the Education, Media, Arts and Culture division were approaching parity with the other two, Assets and Peace and Justice.

Berresford also encouraged each of the programs to hold worldwide meeting to promote cross-program and cross-national collaboration in fields such as human rights, income generation, cultural preservation, and building capacity in the arts and arts management. One persistent question of such initiatives. Toward that end, and building on the earlier experiences in India and Egypt, Berresford worked closely with her senior vice president, Barry Gaberman and other staff to establish new foundations at the local and national levels, particularly in developing countries. Gaberman had been at the foundation since 1973, starting as assistant to the representative in Indonesia. After serving in a number of different positions, by 1984, under Thomas, he served as deputy vice president in the U.S. and International Affairs program. After the 1989, Thomas and Berresford appointed him deputy vice president. 1996, Berresford appointed him senior vice president.

As the twentieth century came to a close, the economic conditions of the 1970s and 1980s that had resulted in so much global debt, with special impact on the developing world, were slowly turning around. Many countries were experiencing economic growth and burgeoning democratic initiatives. Not only was the global economic situation improving but the Foundation's assets were also growing. Consequently, the Foundation was in a strong position to bring attention to long-standing issues holding back developing countries. The grants programs addressed the pressing need both for advanced training of young- to mid-career adults living in marginalized and disadvantaged conditions along the equally, and for strengthening and building sustainability of universities across sub-Saharan Africa, along with enhancing broadband access for improved internet communications, promoting women in higher education, and strengthening postgraduate education.

Reacting to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the Foundation provided immediate relief to affected local institutions in the United States. The Foundation also helped launch support a fund at the Institute of International Education to support scholars at risk in countries in conflict and under terrorist threats, especially in, but not limited to, the Middle East.

Biographical/Historical Note

Segment 4. Period Summary - The Post-1989 Shift Away from Cold War Dichotomies

Franklin Thomas's presidency, lasting until his retirement in 1995, was defined by a commitment to connect the Foundation's US and international activities around a few key themes. These themes were addressed through grants that created private sector partnerships, enhanced support for local community groups, and enlarged initiatives to promote human rights, with special attention to women's rights. Throughout Thomas's tenure, Ford staff reinforced his special commitment to bolstering marginalized communities and broadening access to the law and educational opportunity. The Ford Foundation led the way in building the fields of international security studies, arms control, human rights, and governance. Moreover, in this period, Ford was innovative in drawing together the fields of international cooperation and human rights into one program.

Susan Berresford in her tenure as president from 1996-1997 continued and expanded the activities she helped initiate under Thomas. She and her colleagues increased support for the arts and established a variety of major international collaborative efforts implementing the concept of one foundation. Ford staff in this period drew on the Foundation's time-tested grantmaking strategies (supporting individuals and new institutions as needed), while concentrating on under-addressed issues and underserved populations. With Berresford's encouragement, Foundation staff explicitly took into account the new global context, increasing opportunities for inclusion of disadvantaged populations in all of their activities.

Your List is empty! Click on the icon that looks like this bookbag icon next to one or more items in your Search Results to add it to your list.
I agree to pay the duplication costs for this request. See our fee schedule.

Please select a format.

Please enter a description of the materials you want reproduced.

If you intend to publish this material, check this box
Please enter any special requests or questions for RAC staff (255 characters maximum).
Enter any notes about this request for your personal reference here (255 characters maximum).
Good to know: If you want a cost estimate for your order, email an archivist at archive@rockarch.org. Folders in the same box may be grouped together in a single request.

Your request has been sent to RACcess!

You must be logged into RACcess in order for your request to be submitted. Click here to see your requests.

Your List is empty! Click on the icon that looks like this bookbag icon next to one or more items in your Search Results to add it to your list.

There's nothing to email!

Please enter a valid email.

We're sorry, but there was a problem sending your e-mail.

Please try again, or contact us at archive@rockarch.org.

Your List is empty! Click on the icon that looks like this bookbag icon next to one or more items in your Search Results to add it to your list.

There's nothing to print!

Your List is empty! Click on the icon that looks like this bookbag icon next to one or more items in your Search Results to add it to your list.
Please enter the date of your research visit.
Please enter any special requests or questions for RAC staff (255 characters maximum).
Enter any notes about this request for your personal reference here (255 characters maximum).
Good to know: Folders in the same box may be grouped together in a single request.

Your request has been sent to RACcess!

You must be logged into RACcess in order for your request to be submitted. Click here to view your requests.

Your List is empty! Click on the icon that looks like this bookbag icon next to one or more items in your Search Results to add it to your list.
Please enter any special requests or questions for RAC staff (255 characters maximum).
Enter any notes about this request for your personal reference here (255 characters maximum).
Good to know: Folders in the same box may be grouped together in a single request.

Your request has been sent to RACcess!

You must be logged into RACcess in order for your request to be submitted. Click here to view your requests.

These digital collections are presented for purposes of education and research. We have described the current copyright status to the best of our knowledge. Upon request from potential rights owners, we will remove material from public view while we address any outstanding rights issues.

Our finding aids and library records are licensed under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) dedication. This means that you can copy, modify and distribute our descriptive metadata in any way you want without asking us for permission. The CC0 license is explained in full on the Creative Commons website. If you have questions about this data please contact us.

This license includes

  • Finding aids, which describe aggregations of unique archival material.
  • Library records, which describe individual books, DVDs, microfilm reels and other mass-produced items.
  • In either case, both the HTML representation of this data as well as the underlying EAD XML are released under a CC0 license.

This license does not include

  • Any images, documents or other digital content linked to this description.

What can you do with our description

Anything! Please use this data for your own research or projects. We would love to be surprised by what you create with this data. If you build or discover something interesting, let us know.

However, we ask that you adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Give attribution to Rockefeller Archive Center: although you are not legally required to do so, attribution will help other people find the original data as well as unique archival materials.
  • Contribute back any modifications or improvements: help us make our description better!
  • Do not mislead others or misrepresent the finding aids or their sources: please don’t use this data in a way that suggests you have any official status or that we endorse you or your use of the metadata.
  • Be responsible: conform to laws and other regulations in your jurisdiction, especially concerning defamation and copyright.
  • Be aware that you use the data at your own risk: Our description is provided 'as-is': not all of it has been reviewed for completeness or accuracy. That process is ongoing, and we welcome your assistance in drawing our attention to any particularly egregious omissions or inaccuracies.