New Internationalist

Goodbye to Guy

September 2009

Guy Stringer, director of Oxfam, chair of Devopress who initially published New Internationalist magazine in 1974.

Search our website for ‘Guy Stringer’ and you will find him sailing resolutely on a barge from Singapore to Cambodia. In 1979, Guy, then deputy director of Oxfam, was bringing 1,500 tons of rice seeds to stricken Cambodia, which had just been liberated by neighbouring Vietnam from the murderous Khmer Rouge. The British Foreign Office heartily disapproved of providing aid to communists. This was of little concern to Guy. For him, it was the right thing to do.

Even the most diligent search would not, however, until now, have revealed Guy’s critical connection with New Internationalist itself. In 1974 he became chair of Devopress, a company established jointly by Oxfam and Christian Aid to publish the New Internationalist magazine. At that point, media coverage of developing countries was scanty and the two organizations wanted a politically oriented magazine to fill the gap. Guy was an unlikely leader for such a radical enterprise. A businessman who had joined Oxfam in 1969, his main task then was fundraising – for which he would become one of Britain’s pioneering practitioners. However, Guy soon grasped the necessity not just of relieving poverty but attacking its root causes. The NI would be just one vehicle. Guy would also, through Oxfam Trading and other activities, help sow the seeds of what is now the Fair Trade movement.

Guy was not himself an analytical person. He worked more by instinct and a driven sense of right and wrong. He found the people who could do the work, and trusted them to get on with it, and was always a good friend when the going got tough. After a few years, he was able to give control of the NI to its founding editors and it became an independent publication. Guy, who later became director of Oxfam, died, aged 88, in July 2009.

This column was published in the September 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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