A legacy of solidarity

CECI's journey

Past, Present, Future

Over 65 years of equality, justice and empowerment

Since its foundation, CECI has been a pioneer in international development. Among other noteworthy achievements, it introduced the first training and international cooperation programs in Quebec and facilitated the integration of human rights into the Canadian Government's bilateral programs.

The beginnings

The emergence of Voluntary Cooperation non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Canada dates back to the post-Second World War era, which coincided with the creation of major international institutions. CECI was created during this time, being the first international cooperation organization in Quebec. Founded in 1958 by Jean Bouchard as the Centre d'études missionnaires (CEM), CECI has evolved from its earliest years as a dynamic cradle of expertise in development and international cooperation in Quebec, now covering every corner of the globe.

The training then provided by CEM had a socio-political dimension, raising awareness of inequalities between North and South, as well as of needs in terms of health, education, and economic development. It emphasized listening skills, respect and openness to other cultures.


Firmly rooted in Canada and in more than a dozen countries of the Global South, CECI is now asserting itself as an influential actor on the international stage. Nowadays, the internationalization of the organization is of crucial importance, in order to ensure a fair distribution of power within its governance, decision-making processes and teams. This transformation includes an overhaul of its governance, aimed at strengthening CECI's international leadership in the context of aid localization. By introducing an international board of directors and reorganizing its internal leadership structure with a strong component based in the Global South, CECI is undertaking an essential transformation to steer its development equally and in line with an evolving world order.

Jean Bouchard, S. J., May 1993

International cooperation, a vector for cross-fertilization of knowledge on an egalitarian basis

Since its creation, CECI has evolved into a genuine human incubator dedicated to international cooperation. Volunteers support a wide variety of partner organizations, contributing to their activities and development. Thanks to the commitment of more than 15,000 volunteers around the world, CECI has left a lasting imprint on many communities, always in a spirit of support and respectful exchange.

Learn more about the current Volunteer Cooperation Program

CECI through time

1 / 6

1958-1979: Early Days

In 1958, Father Jean Bouchard founded the Centre d'études missionnaires (CEM), which later became CECI, offering training in international cooperation to religious and laypeople supporting global Catholic missions.

In 1968, CECI was established as a secular nonprofit corporation. That same year, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded CECI's training programs and the dispatch of volunteers abroad. Thus was born CECI's Volunteer Cooperation Program, mobilizing Canadians for skill exchanges guided by values of social justice, equality and inclusion. In 1979, the first secular Executive Director, Jean-Claude Desmarais, was appointed.

1980-1989: Decentralization

In 1982, CECI created a new department dedicated to Studies and Projects in Rural Development. Within its framework, the organization launched its first major cooperation projects funded by Canadian bilateral aid in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire and Haiti.

In 1984, CECI began a decentralization process by opening its first international offices in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Haiti. Three years later, in 1987, CECI-Nepal was established, thus expanding its global reach.

1990-1999: Expansion

In 1992, CECI-Canada reached a milestone by adopting its first Women and Development policy, thereby strengthening its expertise in women's rights and gender equality.

That same year, the organization expanded its international impact by creating offices in Bolivia and Guatemala, reinforcing its international presence.

2000-2009: Evolution Towards Equality

In 2004, CECI formed a strategic partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) to implement the Uniterra volunteer cooperation program, a major joint initiative. That same year, CECI, SOCODEVI and the Union des producteurs agricoles - Développement International (UPA-DI) formed the International Agricultural Alliance, a consortium dedicated to implementing agricultural development projects in Africa and the Americas. 

In 2007, the organization’s Women and Development policy underwent a significant revision to become the CECI Gender Equality policy, demonstrating a stronger commitment to gender equality.

During this period, CECI strengthened its technical expertise to support its partners in implementing projects in the fields of economic and social development and human rights.

2010-2019: Humanitarian Actions and the Beginning of Climate Actions

In 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, CECI launched an emergency campaign, mobilizing over 40,000 donors and raising 21 million dollars in cash and goods to assist 750,000 people.

In 2011, CECI expanded its humanitarian commitment by working on the prevention and reduction of climate risks in several regions, including the Caribbean, Central America, South Asia and the Sahel. Simultaneously, the Armande Bégin Fund was created to support women's development projects in Mali in honor of the wife of former CECI Executive Director Yves Pétillon. 

In 2014, participatory strategic planning aimed to empower CECI's offices, diversify its funding sources and reorganize the governance structure to internationalize the organization and reflect an inclusive and decentralized vision.

2020-present: A New Strategic Framework and Vision for Internationalization

2020 was a year of transition for CECI with the end of the Uniterra volunteer cooperation program (in partnership with WUSC) after 16 years of joint efforts and support to millions of marginalized people in 14 countries. Simultaneously, CECI signed a new agreement with Global Affairs Canada and launched a new seven-year volunteer cooperation program in ten countries.

The 2020-2025 strategic framework and the Theory of Change adopted in 2022 emphasize four programmatic priorities: women's and girls' rights, economic empowerment of women, adaptation to climate change and inclusive governance and peacebuilding.

In 2022, CECI redefined its internationalization approach, favoring an integrated international organization with strong governance and internal leadership components in the Global South.