Our history

65 years of War on Want

A letter from Victor Gollancz to The Guardian in February 1951 led to the founding of War on Want. His letter asked people to join an international struggle against poverty. Harold Wilson MP coined the name. The result was the birth of a movement that has been at the forefront of the fight against injustice ever since.

Gollancz's letter to The Guardian called for an end to the Korean War and the creation of an international fund "to turn swords into ploughshares". All those in support were to send a postcard to Gollancz with the simple word 'yes'. Within a month he had received 10,000 replies.

The Association for World Peace was formed in March 1951 to meet this response, and in May it invited Harold Wilson MP to chair a committee which would work out a plan "for the conquest of world hunger". This eventually became War on Want: A Plan for World Development, published on 9 June 1952.

War on Want has always been at the forefront of many of the debates on global poverty and injustice. As early as 1961, War on Want raised concerns about 'third world' debt and warned it would be a central issue in the future.

In the 1970s we helped to expose the scandal of baby foods companies marketing powdered milk as a healthier option than breast milk to mothers in the developing world. This was a more dangerous and expensive option for these mothers, who had no access to safe drinking water and sterilisation facilities. War on Want was also instrumental in campaigning for workers' rights on tea plantations, and supported the South African struggle against apartheid.

The 1980s saw War on Want embarking on ground-breaking campaigns on Third World debt and the role of women in the struggle for development, and we continued to support the liberation movements in Eritrea, South Africa and Western Sahara.

The 1990s focused on the need to respond to issues raised by globalisation. We have always put workers' rights at the centre of our work, as well as looking for innovative ideas to ensure the benefits of a global economy are shared equally. This was reflected in our early call for the introduction of a Tobin tax on currency speculation. 

In the 21st Century we have been part of major global movements led by the people of the south including Food Sovereignty aimed at reclaiming the food system; we have heard the voices of workers who are most marginalised, in the informal sector, and helped provide capacity building with training and advocacy support on the ground; our advocacy for the Palestinian cause, despite controversy, means we are the only mainstream charity willing to take the lead on the apartheid and ethnic cleansing Palestinians are subjected to; our tax campaigning has formed part of the battle against the post 2010 austerity age; we are also leading the battle for a Living Wage an idea whose time has come. 

Throughout its history War on Want has supported people who have struggled to find their own path to development. We work in partnership with progressive movements and other organisations in the global justice movement to build alternatives to a world economic system that has failed to deliver an equal distribution of wealth. Read more about the victories we have recently achieved together.

 

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Hope to see you at this free event on 8 May: "Combatting arbitrary detention from the UK to Palestine". Register:… https://t.co/a80UHgR5nA 18 hours 54 min ago
RT @FastfoodRights: Thanks to #mcdonalds workers allies at @WarOnWant for all their support in this campaign. https://t.co/jf3aJZrZmM 23 hours 16 min ago
Win for fast food workers: #McDonalds offers fixed hour contracts #EndPrecariousContracts #FastFoodRightshttps://t.co/4pbj25mCFZ 23 hours 47 min ago