CESO was founded by a group of prominent Canadian businessmen, including Maurice Strong, Claude Hébert, Cyril A. Peachey, and Mitchell Sharp. The group wanted to find a way to bring Canadian expertise to the rest of the world, and became increasingly convinced that matching retired Canadians who had solid technical and business skills with businesses in developing countries, would make an indispensable contribution not only to developing economies, but also to the growth of Canada. CESO officially established itself as an organization in December, 1967.
Maurice Strong was the Director General of Canada’s External Aid Office, (which became CIDA in 1968). Based on an expanding portfolio of foreign aid at the federal level, Strong convinced Claude Hébert, among others, to get involved in forming CESO. Strong served on CESO’s Board of Directors from 1967-86 and on the Advisory Council from 1986-2001. Strong passed away in 2015.
Claude Hébert travelled to Africa and South America to conduct surveys determining the interest and need for CESO’s services. Hébert became CESO’s founding president in 1968, a position he held until 1972 when he was replaced by C.A. Peachey.
Cyril A. Peachey was instrumental in CESO’s preliminary surveys. In early 1968, Peachey met with 130 officials in Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya to determine Central Africa’s interest in CESO activities. Peachey served as Executive Vice President of CESO until 1972 when he took over from Claude Hébert as President. He held this position until his resignation in 1978.
Paul Martin, Sr. was the Minister of External Affairs when CESO was founded. Martin served as Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1968-74, when he was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Martin’s son, Paul Martin, Jr., was Prime Minister of Canada from 2003-06.
Mitchell Sharp was the Minister of Finance when CESO was formed, and in 1968 he became the Secretary of State for External Affairs.