In November 2008 ICCO opened its first regional office, in Kyrgyzstan. This event was an important and drastic step in the decentralization of the organization . Since the foundation in 1964 the international work was done from the Netherlands. Pepijn Trapman, regional manager for South and Central Asia was ICCO's first ‘decentralized’ manager.
From 2008 onwards, most of the programmatic work was being done from regional and country offices. Where for decades programs were first managed by the head office in the Netherlands, everything was transferred to the regional offices. Trapman: "I can remember that as part of the transition, employees from the Netherlands took the plane with files under their arms to literally transfer the work to the regional offices.That was being done in such a committed way, I still have deep respect for that because that must have been not so easy".
The great advantage of setting up regional offices is that programs are set up and executed where the local knowledge and staff is present and in a better position to facilitate coalition programs compared to staff in the Netherlands. Trapman: "From the Netherlands it is impossible to oversee the whole world. You must be present in a country to really understand the local political tensions. People at the regional offices know the country, the local context and the language much better than people at the global office".
A good example of the advantages of presence in the country was during the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Trapman: "Because ICCO has an office on site, our people were able to immediately start with an inventory of the highest needs and help quickly. From the Netherlands something this would have never been possible".
Ultimately working with regional offices is much more efficient and logical than carrying out programs from the Netherlands. Nowadays it is almost unimaginable to think of implementing programs from the Netherlands, but for years this was practice within development organizations. All in all a positive change. Trapman: "We can now rightly say that we are a truly international and locally embedded organization".
The head office - nowadays based in Utrecht and called ‘global office’ - has a governance, corporate and facilitator role towards the regions. Besides, the global office maintains relations with (international) donors. ICCO currently has five regional offices:
- South East Asia (Indonesia office)
- South and Central Asia (office Nepal)
- Central, Eastern and Southern Africa (Uganda office)
- West Africa (Mali office)
- Latin America (Bolivia office).
In addition to the regional offices, ICCO has 20 country offices spread over the various regions.