Remembering Ernst Ligteringen, founding Executive Director of Oxfam International

Ernst Ligteringen was the founding Executive Director of Oxfam International from 1995 to 2001. Ernst holds a unique place in Oxfam’s history having led the process of joining ten different civil society organizations together from ten different countries – including the original Oxfam, based in the UK – to form a single, global “Oxfam” confederation. This has since grown to 20 affiliates, now with operations in nearly 90 countries around the world.

Ernst enjoyed a career over more than 35 years with various non-governmental and international organizations in many different countries and continents. He was the Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative from 2002-14 and previously worked for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and CUSO, among others.

Ernst began working for Oxfam as a Field Director in the Dominican Republic 1983-7 and then, in Oxford, as Regional Manager (Central America and the Caribbean) from 1991-3 and Area Director (Asia and the Middle East) from 1993-5, before joining the fledgling Oxfam International in 1995.

Oxfam chief executive Winnie Byanyima said: “Ernst’s colleagues speak very fondly and with great sincerity about what a deeply dedicated and impressive leader he was – one of those rare people who was equally a “doer” as he was a “thinker”. All of us at Oxfam owe a huge debt of gratitude to amazing people like Ernst who helped to build our global movement from scratch and to turn an idea into a reality that has since helped many millions of people to have a better life. We pause to remember Ernst and his achievements, but I’m sure he’d be wanting us to forge ahead and finish what he began.”

Former CEO Jeremy Hobbs described Ernst as being highly persuasive and having “that rare combination of being both visionary and practical, of seeing the long-game but paying attention to detail. In that way, he was uniquely suited to shape the creation of Oxfam International”. Another former CEO, John Sayer, said Ernst “nurtured us with great sense, principle and balance”. Former Chair of Oxfam International, Dr. Judy Henderson, said that his legacy to Oxfam was “enormous”, describing him as an “outstanding leader” who played a crucial role in establishing Oxfam as a global entity. Former Oxfam GB Executive Director, David Bryer, said: “Ernst's huge integrity, complete reliability but also the great generosity of spirit made him so absolutely the right person to steer OI in its first six years.”