Why Saudi, Arab Gulf charities are taking a strategic approach to philanthropy

Special Conjoined twins Yousef and Yaseen were successfully separated in a 15-hour operation supported by KSrelief. (Supplied)
Conjoined twins Yousef and Yaseen were successfully separated in a 15-hour operation supported by KSrelief. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 June 2022

Why Saudi, Arab Gulf charities are taking a strategic approach to philanthropy

Why Saudi, Arab Gulf charities are taking a strategic approach to philanthropy
  • A University of Cambridge study has identified Saudi Arabia as an effective practitioner of strategic philanthropy
  • Philanthropists, nonprofits are supplementing government efforts to create long-term sustainable change

DUBAI: The culture of charitable giving in Saudi Arabia has been highlighted as a noteworthy example of “strategic philanthropy” by a new report from the Center for Strategic Philanthropy at the UK’s University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

The report, titled System Change in Philanthropy for Development: A Research Framework for Global Growth Markets, recommends philanthropists pursue greater localization alongside the utilization of new financial instruments to optimize charitable giving.

The Kingdom is well known for national philanthropic institutions such as the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), which provides international aid, the King Khalid Foundation, which works to improve social and economic development, and the Mawaddah Women’s Charity Association, which aims to ensure women are aware of their civil rights.

Now, as a nation that frequently combines state and philanthropic resources to meet regional development goals, Saudi Arabia has been identified by the study’s author, Shonali Banerjee, as an effective practitioner of what is known as “strategic philanthropy.”

“Some of our research in Saudi Arabia has revealed some really interesting insights about philanthropic transitions that are happening in the Kingdom but also in the Gulf, more broadly,” Banerjee told Arab News.




A team from Alwaleed Philanthropies at an event in 2021. (Supplied)

“One of the key insights for the region in particular is that we all know that philanthropy, giving and being charitable has been a huge part of Gulf and Saudi society for a very long time, for many generations, but recently it has become quite a lot about the transition to what we at the center call strategic philanthropy.”

In recent years there has been a proliferation of foundations, charities and nonprofit organizations, part of a so-called third sector that belongs to neither the public nor private sectors, that are structurally involved with development issues aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In the process, the function of these entities has become more strategic in nature, with philanthropists and nonprofits working hand in hand with the government sector to create long-term sustainable change. According to Banerjee, this model of cross-sectoral cooperation breaks with the traditional division of the public, private and third sectors, to their mutual benefit.

“What was very clear in the report was the need to create local networks, local collaborations, local partnerships between different sectors that have historically been siloed in the region and in the country,” she said.

Banerjee believes that, harnessed properly, philanthropy can be a catalyst for bringing these sectors together to work toward common goals.

“In many cases, something that our research has shown is that if you have the private sector, you have corporate social responsibility,” she said.




KSrelief's volunteer program in a refugee camp in Jordan. (Supplied)

“A lot of times, companies are acting in their own silos and they’re not really necessarily always looking to form a collaboration with the local government. There is a huge opportunity here, as institutional philanthropy is getting bigger. It’s becoming more popular, particularly for Saudi Arabia.”

Indeed, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda for economic diversification and social reform has created an environment that is ideal for greater cross-sectoral collaboration.

“That’s where, potentially, philanthropists who have been successful in the corporate sector can really bring the nonprofits and the government together and fulfill a bridging role,” Banerjee said.

Arab philanthropies have a potentially crucial role to play in helping to fill the gaps in service delivery in weak or failed states in the region. However, there is a danger that third-sector entities can take on too many state functions in situations where a cross-sectoral approach might be a better fit.

Cambodia in the 1990s is one example of a developing country in which the third sector has taken on a prominent role in service delivery, functioning “almost too much” like a quasi government.

“They’re not making major policy decisions but they’re perhaps providing the majority of early-childhood education, building lots of hospitals, trying to work toward alleviating poverty or they’re providing a huge amount of solar energy,” Banerjee said.

“We’ve noticed that, unfortunately, even though those things are very necessary they’re not sustainable models because you can’t build a model where you have essentially two parallel forms of government functioning alongside each other.”




Students at MIT, where J-PAL is headquartered. (Supplied)

Instead, Banerjee said, the aims and responsibilities of both sectors ought to work in harmony because even the wealthiest of philanthropists cannot solve systemic issues on their own.

“From our perspective, the most strategic and sustainable way for any government to achieve some of their targets and make a lot of these systems work for them is to work with the philanthropic sector but not see them as challengers or any sort of real tension there,” she said.

Ensuring a more strategic approach to philanthropy also means being smarter about how money is allocated and used and, for good measure, showing a commitment to evidence-based assessments to ensure funding is targeted efficiently.

“This means supporting organizations like the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (also known as J-PAL), which conducts rigorous evaluations of poverty-alleviation interventions and works with philanthropists, among others, to ensure the evidence generated by those evaluations is translated into policy and into decision-making,” Uzma Sulaiman, associate director of partnerships for Community Jameel, an international organization that uses an approach grounded in science, data and technology to tackle global issues and challenges, told Arab News.

“This is especially relevant for philanthropists to understand where their financing will be most effective. In the Arab world, J-PAL works across the region through its Middle East and North Africa office, which Community Jameel helped launch in 2020 at the American University in Cairo.”

Another notable philanthropic organization in Saudi Arabia is Alwaleed Philanthropies, which supports firms and academic institutions that are working to empower women, alleviate poverty and enhance public infrastructure and service provision.

FASTFACTS

* Saudi Vision 2030 has created an environment that is ideal for greater cross-sectoral collaboration.

* Experts say event the wealthiest philanthropists cannot solve systemic issues on their own.

The growth of the philanthropic sector in the Kingdom has come hand in hand with changes in the way people donate. The digital transformation in the country has expanded to the charitable sector through the creation of new regulated services, including Ehsan, Shefaa, KSrelief, and the National Donations Platform developed and overseen by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority.

Ehsan, a platform launched in 2021, enables philanthropists and donors to choose from a selection of charitable causes close to their hearts, including social and economic issues, health, education and the environment.

By focusing on individual values and specific societal issues, Ehsan aims to encourage a greater sense of social responsibility among the general public and private-sector organizations, while also promoting a culture of transparency related to charitable giving.

Last year, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made multiple donations through Ehsan that pushed the total amount collected through the platform since its launch to more than SR1.4 billion ($373 million). The money has been distributed to more than 4.3 million beneficiaries.

Saudi Arabia is not the only Arab Gulf state encouraging such cross-sectoral collaborations. Last September, NYU Abu Dhabi launched the Strategic Philanthropy Initiative, the first academic and community-based platform of its kind in the region. It was established through a multi-year framework agreement between NYUAD and Badr Jafar, an Emirati businessman and social entrepreneur.




A KSrelief volunteer distributing cooking oil. (Supplied)

Such initiatives reflect the growing role of philanthropy as part of the region’s development agenda, the adoption of new financial mechanisms, and perhaps even the decolonization of aid as local actors take over from foreign benefactors.

According to a 2021 global survey by Alliance, a UK-based publisher that analyzes trends in the charitable sector, 89 percent of respondents said they believe countries in Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, will witness the largest growth in their philanthropy sectors over the next 25 years.

Against this backdrop, the evolution of philanthropy in Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region appears to reflect a generational shift that will become more apparent in the coming decades.

“There has been some research about this sort of next-generation and millennial philanthropy but most of it has been focused on the West,” Banerjee said.

“We are really interested, at the center, in these huge shifts that are happening in the Middle East and the Gulf.”

 


UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter
Updated 8 min 11 sec ago

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter
  • No travel guidance issued against visiting rest of the country
  • Flights by British carriers continue as normal to Turkish airports outside affected area

LONDON: The UK Foreign Office has advised British travelers against visiting southeastern parts of Turkiye in the aftermath of the three earthquakes that hit the country on Monday.
It did not issue specific guidance not to travel to the country, but told people to check with their airlines if they already had flights booked to avoid being disrupted by cancelations.
The three airports closest to the epicenter — at Gazientep, Hatay and Ceyhan — are currently closed to commercial flights.
There are also no flights currently from the UK to Adana, which is 220 km west of Gazientep.
However, flights to popular tourist destinations such as Istanbul, Bodrum and Dalaman have not been canceled, and Adana can be reached via internal flights from western Turkish airports.
Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported: “Currently, only planes carrying aid and rescue teams are allowed to land and take off from (Gazientep and Ceyhan).
“Hatay Airport, whose runway was damaged because of the earthquake, was closed for all flights.”
As of this time, no British operators have canceled flights to Turkiye outside of the region affected.
Hugh Fraser, founder of Corinthian Travel, told the Daily Mail: “Southeastern Turkiye and the area in the vicinity of Gaziantep has many spectacular attractions and is noted for its delicious regional cuisine, but has traditionally been the preserve of the second or third-time cultural visitors to Turkiye.
“The earthquake is a human tragedy but it is unlikely to have much impact on Turkiye’s major centers of tourism — Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean Coast — all of which are located hundreds of miles away to the west.”
So far, over 5,000 people are confirmed to have died in the disaster in Turkiye and neighboring Syria, with tens of thousands injured and homeless.
The World Health Organization has said the death toll could rise to as high as 20,000, with people left exposed to sub-zero temperatures.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK is sending immediate support to Turkiye, including a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.
“In Syria, the UK-funded White Helmets have mobilized their resources to respond. We stand ready to provide further support as needed.”


‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors
Updated 8 sec ago

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors
  • Devastation “beyond words,” says Action For Humanity CEO

LONDON: Rescuers and aid organizations face a “race against time” to find survivors of Monday's deadly earthquake in Turkiye and Syria and bring assistance to those in most need, a British charity said on Tuesday.

Following the two 7.8 and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that wrought devastation in both countries, Action For Humanity, the parent charity of the UK’s largest Syria-focused NGO Syria Relief, released a statement describing the devastation impacting the lives of everyone in the areas worst hit. 

Two members of their own staff, a medical professional and a monitoring evaluation and learning (MEAL) manager in Idlib, Syria, were killed with members of their family.

Dozens of other staff have lost family members and “everyone has been impacted,” the statement said.

“The devastation is beyond words, virtually every village in Northwest Syria, and every life has been impacted,” Othman Moqbel, CEO for Action For Humanity said. “Two of our own team, the Action For Humanity family, were killed — a medical professional and a member of our MEAL team in Syria — people motivated to do all they can to save the lives of Syrians, lost theirs to this tragedy,” he added.

He continued: “They were killed alongside family members. Also dozens of our team have lost parents, cousins, uncles, aunties, nephews and nieces. Their lives have been ripped apart.

“Across Syria, traumatised families have been spending spent 30 hours out in freezing cold as they are afraid to stay in buildings that are at risk of collapsing. They fear more earthquakes. The death toll rises by the minute.

“We are in a race against time to find survivors and provide warmth, food, shelter and medical aid.”

Moqbel also said it was vital that governments, but also members of the global public, help to support the emergency response.

“Syria is suffering from being underfunded and forgotten throughout nearly 12 years of war,” he said. 

“There was no hospital capacity already before this week, just suffering, there was not enough food before this week, just poverty, after neglecting Syrians for so long, we owe it to do all we can to help them. 

“We have mobilized staff to provide emergency aid and are working with our peers to provide a coordinated emergency response — which is so vital in times of large scale humanitarian need like this,” he added.

Action For Humanity has launched an emergency appeal, raising funds for items such as emergency holistic kits, support for the medical facilities, fuel and temporary collective shelter for those made homeless by the disaster.

It also deploying its mobile health clinics to support those impacted on site and health systems already under strain.


3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes
Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes
  • UK FM: ‘We assess that the likelihood of large-scale British casualties remains low’
  • PM Rishi Sunak: ‘The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can’

LONDON: Three British nationals are missing in Turkiye following Monday’s series of earthquakes, and the UK Foreign Office is providing support to at least 35 Britons affected by the disaster, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday.

The earthquakes struck southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing at least 5,000 people. More than 6,000 buildings collapsed due to the shockwaves, with vital electricity and gas infrastructure damaged amid freezing winter temperatures.

“We assess that the likelihood of large-scale British casualties remains low,” Cleverly told the UK Parliament. “The Turkish government has declared a state of emergency and they are requesting international assistance on a scale that matches the enormity of the situation that they are facing.”

The UK has already authorized the deployment of a medical assessment team, Cleverly said, adding: “The further stages of requirement will evolve over time. We will, of course, work closely with our international partners to make sure we address that.

“Many of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkiye reside in the affected provinces. Turkiye’s outstanding disaster relief response capability has been severely tested by the sheer scale of this catastrophe.”

He said: “Turkiye will lead the disaster relief response in the areas of Syria where it has the presence.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared 10 provinces in the country as disaster zones.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”


Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital
Updated 45 min 18 sec ago

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital
  • There was little amongst the debris to suggest the building was a busy medical facility less than two days before
  • One of the hospital's surviving physicians, who identified himself only as Dr. Deveci, said he found the scene at his workplace hard to witness

ISKENDERUN, Turkiye: Rescue teams and survivors peered through the twisted remains of an Iskenderun hospital on Tuesday, searching for signs of life a day after a major earthquake struck Turkiye and neighboring Syria.
There was little among the debris to suggest the building was a busy medical facility less than two days before.
One of the hospital’s surviving physicians, who identified himself only as Dr. Deveci, said he found the scene at his workplace hard to witness.
“I’m devastated. I see bodies inside, everywhere. Although I’m used to seeing bodies because of my expertise, it’s very difficult for me,” he said.
Much of Iskenderun, a port city located in Turkiye’s southern Hatay province, lay in ruins after the magnitude 7.8 quake hit just after 4 a.m. on Monday. More than 1,200 buildings were destroyed in Hatay alone.
“A doctor said there are about 15 people here, including the patients,” taxi driver Kerim Sahin said as he looked for a colleague in one part of the hospital.
“At the moment, they’re all trapped inside. Nobody can go near the building, only one cabinet is supporting the third floor.”
Sahin said the scale of the damage meant further rescue efforts were reliant on excavation equipment arriving from nearby cities.
The death toll in Turkiye had risen to 3,549 people, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday as he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. In Syria, the toll stood at just over 1,700, with tens of thousands injured or left homeless in several Turkish and Syrian cities.
Turkish authorities say more than 12,000 search and rescue personnel are working in the affected areas, plus another 9,000 troops.


UAE pledges $100 million in quake relief to Syria, Turkiye

The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
Updated 44 min 24 sec ago

UAE pledges $100 million in quake relief to Syria, Turkiye

The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
  • The sum would be equally split between Syria and Turkiye, with each getting $50 million
  • It was not immediately clear if the funds for Syria included the $13.6 million previously announced

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates Tuesday pledged $100 million to Syria and Turkiye, one of the largest sums yet following a massive earthquake that killed more than 5,400 people across both countries.
The oil-rich Gulf nation — which had already pledged some $13.6 million to Syria — is spearheading regional relief efforts, having dispatched planes to both countries with relief items and rescue teams following the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck early Monday.
On Tuesday, Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan “ordered the provision of $100 million for the relief of those affected,” Emirates News Agency said.
The sum would be equally split between Syria and Turkiye, with each getting $50 million, according to the news agency.
It was not immediately clear if the funds for Syria included the $13.6 million previously announced.
Major General Saleh Al-Ameri, commander of joint operations at the UAE’s defense ministry, said Tuesday that three military planes had been dispatched to Turkiye, carrying search and rescue teams who have since commenced operations.
A total of seven flights are planned to the quake-hit countries, including two to the Syrian capital Damascus, he told local media.
Syria’s official SANA news agency said Tuesday that an Emirati plane carrying 10 tons of food supplies had arrived at the Damascus international airport.
The UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital in December 2018.
In March last year, Assad made a visit to the UAE — his first to an Arab state in more than a decade of brutal civil war.