Panos may officially have been founded in 1986, but our origins go back to the early 1970s when the environmental movement was gathering pace.
In 1974, UK journalist Jon Tinker started Earthscan, a unit of the International Institute for Environment and Development which offered journalists (and later NGOs) objective information on key global issues and on policy options for addressing them.
By 1986 Jon had transformed Earthscan’s Southern media programme into a new independent institution: Panos.
From the outset, as part of its commitment to Southern-led development, Panos aimed to build a network of independent institutes around the world.
During the late 1990s offices opened in Zambia, Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia and India, among others. In 2000 West Africa became the first autonomous Southern institute, and six years later Eastern Africa completed the transition.
Twenty years after the creation of Panos, the vision of a global network of institutes striving towards a common goal – ensuring that information is effectively used to foster public debate, pluralism and democracy – has become a reality.
What’s in a name?
It was Gordon Goodman, then head of the Stockholm Environment Institute, who proposed that we take the name Panos – meaning ‘beacon’ in the Doric version of classical Greek. Today, in Nepali, a panas is an oil lamp around which people gather to discuss important issues, and in Amharic the word means a torch. Appropriately enough, the prefix pan means ‘all’ or ‘universal’ in modern Latin, resonating with our global approach.