Aga Khan Development Network
 

AKF home

Facts at a glance

Health

Education

Rural development

Civil Society

Environment

Savings Groups

Current Projects

Scholarships

Cross-cutting issues

Prospective grantees

Reading for Children

Other AKDN agencies

Rss

The Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy

The Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy - held in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 16 and 17, 2000 - was a seminal point in the ongoing development of the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy, a more than two-year long effort to strengthen giving and volunteering in Pakistan for social development.

In Pakistan, one-third of the population falls below the poverty line.The Challenge: Moving from Poverty to Self-reliant Development
Like many countries in the South, Pakistan today faces difficult challenges. One-third of the population falls below the poverty line. As international experience makes us cognisant of the fact that poverty lies at the root of the world's most pressing social problems, this is a troubling figure. While there is renewed consensus within the international development community that poverty reduction must remain the focus of its efforts, official development assistance from major donor countries continues to decline.

Pakistan also has the unwelcome distinction of having the highest adult illiteracy rate among the big emerging economies. Moreover, this rate stands out for the appalling disparity between men and women: 42 percent of Pakistani men are illiterate; 71 percent of Pakistani women cannot read or write.

Infant and maternal mortality rates - two key indicators of a nation's health - remain unacceptably high. In 1999, the infant mortality rate was 92 in 1,000. This falls short of even the modest targets set by the Government of Pakistan in 1993. The maternal mortality ratio was 340 to 100,000 - an equally disappointing figure. Despite these rates, Pakistan's population continues to grow at an alarming rate of 2.18 percent, translating into a doubling time of 20 years. Clearly, this is something the country can ill afford.

Finally, public institutions, especially in the sectors of health and education, have failed to halt declining performance. Nor do they have the capacity even to reach large segments of the population in the remote rural areas or the urban slums - those with the greatest needs.

The Opportunity: Indigenous Philanthropy and Citizen-led Efforts
It is important, however, to balance these grim realities against the enormous potential for positive change that exists in Pakistan today. First and foremost, Pakistan is a country with tremendous human resources. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the vibrant citizen or "NGO" sector. Today in Pakistan, over 100 intermediary organisations provide vital social services through a network of grassroots groups, and tens of thousands of community-based organisations and informal associations of dedicated volunteers are successfully addressing the basic social needs at the local level.

In addition, the present Government's priorities of poverty alleviation, self-reliance, and promoting responsible citizenship have created a sense of cautious optimism among the private sector and civil society, after years of mutual mistrust.

Finally, as recent research commissioned through the Initiative has indicated, Pakistan is a tremendously giving nation. Out of strong traditions of giving and volunteering - rooted in faith but also integrally connected to ideas of civic duty and social responsibility - a deep, but still largely untapped, philanthropic impulse has developed. As individuals and as representatives of the corporate sector, Pakistanis are able and willing to do more to address the causes of poverty, ill health and ignorance in their country.

The Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy
It was in light of both these challenges and opportunities that the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy was conceived. Inspiration and impetus came from one of the Muslim world's most generous and innovative philanthropists, His Highness the Aga Khan, who has sought to promote indigenous giving and volunteering in the countries of Asia and Africa in which the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) works. It was thus as a result of his longstanding interest that, in June 1998, the AKDN convened a group of eminent Pakistanis representing leadership from government, business and civil society and challenged it to seek ways of enhancing giving and volunteering in Pakistan to promote sustainable, self-reliant national development. From this initial gathering the Steering Committee for the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy was born.

For over two years, the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy has focused on two related objectives. The primary goal was to increase not only the quantity of giving and volunteering in Pakistan, but the quality as well. In addition to traditional forms of charity to relieve immediate needs or assist victims of disaster or emergency, the Initiative sought to find ways to direct indigenous philanthropy toward long-term social development. By improving the quantity and quality of indigenous philanthropy, the Steering Committee had confidence that the second goal would be achieved: Pakistan moving towards greater self-reliance and away from dependency on external aid.

In addition to the guidance of the Steering Committee, the intellectual, technical and financial support of the Aga Khan Foundation have been integral to the success of the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy. The Initiative builds upon a core focus of the Aga Khan Foundation: strengthening civil society and developing human capacity in Pakistan and elsewhere. Professional staff from AKF units in Pakistan and Canada as well as the Foundation's Geneva headquarters worked with the Steering Committee in the design and implementation of the Initiative - gathering research, conducting consultations and preparing the findings of the two-year undertaking for publication and dissemination.

The Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy is one of numerous projects supported through the Pakistan-Canada Social Institutions Development Program (PAKSID), an eight-year program funded jointly by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). Its goal is to develop and strengthen the capacity of selected organisations and institutions in Pakistan's "independent sector" to undertake more effective and sustainable approaches to human development. The broader PAKSID program provided the Initiative with vital resources and a wealth of knowledge and experience upon which to build an innovative new framework for strengthening social development in Pakistan.

It should be noted that, at the outset of the Initiative, few indicators of the current state of philanthropy in Pakistan existed. The Steering Committee had no comprehensive picture of philanthropic activities in Pakistan, against which they could set targets and measure the progress towards the Initiative's primary objectives. Accordingly, the first and most crucial step was to commission original and, for Pakistan, pioneering research on key aspects of giving and volunteering. The Steering Committee also consulted widely across Pakistani society and canvassed international experience for relevant methodologies and models. This involved hundreds of individuals and organisations, and resulted in a wealth of information and materials.

Six major research studies addressed a wide spectrum of issues related to philanthropy in Pakistan. These studies included; a scholarly review of charitable giving in Islamic contexts; the first ever national sample survey of individual giving; a survey of corporate giving; an overview of citizen-led development efforts in Pakistan; fifteen case-studies profiling a diverse range of indigenous, philanthropy-receiving institutions; and a study of the current regulatory and fiscal framework for philanthropy in Pakistan.

The main features of the consultative process were: a series of focus group discussions with business leaders on philanthropy and corporate social responsibility; individual interviews and focus group discussions with a representative sample of government officials to map public sector perceptions of civil society organisations or "NGOs"; action research and focus group discussions among philanthropy-receiving organisations on the ways to promote indigenous giving and volunteering, effective self-regulation within the sector, and NGO performance accountability; and a meeting with representatives of the media to investigate the nature of public awareness of citizen-led development initiatives.

In addition, the Steering Committee commissioned a comparative analysis of the international experience in enhancing indigenous philanthropy. Philanthropy-support institutions, NGO self-regulation strategies, and other relevant issues from the Philippines, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, and the United States were examined as the Initiative explored ways of more effectively supporting both grantmakers and grantseekers.

Together the research studies, consultative process, and survey of international experience produced a wealth of new information on giving and volunteering in Pakistan. A brief overview of some of the initial findings of the Initiative underscores the timeliness of the undertaking:

These were among the numerous findings published in two volumes. The first, entitled Enhancing Indigenous Philanthropy for Social Investment: A Report of the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy, is a policy-oriented report that synthesises the six studies and the ongoing work of the Initiative, including a prospectus for a "Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy". This publication served as the primary report to the Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy, and has been reprinted with a revised introduction for the Conference proceedings. The six major studies were published in full in a companion volume entitled Philanthropy in Pakistan, which promises to become a seminal contribution to the literature in the field.

The Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy
To disseminate and build upon these and other findings, the Steering Committee convened the Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy in Islamabad on October 16-17, 2000. Leaders and key actors in Government, the corporate sector, the citizen sector and the media from across Pakistan were invited to participate in the two-day event. In addition, notable international experts agreed to lend their expertise to the deliberations.

To focus the Conference agenda around the key issues that emerged from the Initiative, the Steering Committee put forward three recommendations for the consideration of the delegates (see below). These recommendations were based upon the issues, concerns and questions that emerged from the preliminary research and consultative process.

Recommendations
Recommendation 1
"That Government, social investors, business, and citizens' organisations engage in a multi-stakeholder consultative process
to build consensus and confidence in a new, more enabling
regulatory and fiscal framework."

Recommendation 2
"That the media and other agents of public understanding
undertake a special initiative to raise public awareness
of the citizen self-help movement."

Recommendation 3
"That a centre for philanthropy be established as
a permanent institutional vehicle to enhance philanthropy
as social investment."

The first recommendation addressed the need - unanimously voiced in the consultative process and research - to develop trust and understanding between all stakeholders and to create and environment that encouraged both donors and citizens' organisations to become better at what they do.

Public awareness of citizens' organisations engaging in social development is extremely low in Pakistan. For example, not one organisation garnered significant recognition in the National Survey on Individual Giving. Thus, the second recommendation stemmed from the recognition that, for the Initiative to achieve its goals, raising public awareness about philanthropy and social development needs, must be conscientiously and systematically undertaken. If indigenous philanthropy is to be enhanced to support social development initiatives, the public needs to see the choices available to invest their giving most effectively.

The third recommendation went to the Conference with the strong backing of Pakistani philanthropists already in hand. The idea of a Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy was initially raised in several meetings across Pakistan with prominent individual and corporate donors. The response was immediate and enthusiastic: an estimated three years of operating costs for the proposed centre was pledged prior to the Conference.

As noted in the original prospectus, the proposed centre would not "do philanthropy" in the sense of grantmaking. Rather, it would provide advice to both grantmakers and grant seekers, offer a sympathetic forum for dialogue, professional training and linkages - available to government, the corporate sector and the citizen sector.

Conference Content and Outcomes
The Conference made real progress in terms of bringing all stakeholders together in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Approximately 250 delegates from all sectors of Pakistani society were represented.

The presence of President Rafiq Tarar and Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf underscored the important support the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy had won from Government at the highest levels. In their addresses to the Conference, both endorsed the three recommendations and pledged to work to help achieve them. In his address to the delegates on day two of the Conference, His Highness the Aga Khan similarly provided both inspiration and practical guidance. All three speeches are reproduced in this volume.

The high calibre of the Conference's resource people, both from Pakistan and abroad, was especially notable. In individual speeches, a panel discussion, and as special contributors to the working group sessions, these resource people enable delegates to access a wealth of experience and innovative ideas on moving the initiative forward. In addition to disseminating the findings and issues raised through the Initiative, the purpose of the Conference was to bring together the expertise of the delegates themselves. Four working group sessions - each addressing a crucial area of indigenous philanthropy - provided a means to draw out that expertise around core concerns and issues.

The agenda for each working group was ambitious. Guided by a chairperson and facilitated by notable national and international resource persons, each group was charged with developing a report to the plenary on their appointed area: the enabling environment, public awareness, the citizen sector, and social investing. All four chairpersons noted that discussions were lively and that delegates worked hard to develop a considered response to the three recommendations presented to the Conference by the Steering Committee. Not only did the delegates endorse the three recommendations in their working groups, but they significantly elaborated upon them. The terms of reference for each group, their individual reports to the plenary on October 16, and Syed Babar Ali's comprehensive report of all four sessions on October 17 are presented in this volume.

The Conference and Initiative received considerable attention by both the print and the electronic media. The publication of four op-ed pieces in the English, Urdu and Sindhi language newspapers was a particularly important starting point for substantive national media coverage and heightened public awareness. Annex I of this volume contains an index to the press coverage in both English and Urdu newspapers and a selection of articles on the Conference and relative issues.

To provide the reader with a better sense of the development of issues and ideas at the Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy, the proceedings contained in this volume are presented in chronological order. As noted above, a companion volume to the proceedings reproduces the original pre-conference report, Enhancing Indigenous Philanthropy for Social Investment.

This seminal Conference has enriched the thinking of the Initiative on these issues of tremendous national and, ultimately, international significance. The intent in publishing the proceedings of the Conference and reissuing the preliminary report of the Initiative is not only to share the discussions and outcomes of the Conference with a broader audience, but to present as well the remaining tasks - to stimulate further debate, co-operation and trust-building as the Initiative moves to implement the three major recommendations.

It is also strongly hoped that these proceedings will continue to build awareness of the scope and potential of indigenous philanthropy not only among Pakistanis but also among others in the South who face similar challenges to equitable and sustainable social development. Just as the sharing of international experiences in South Africa, Iran, India, the Philippines and Canada provided Conference delegates with relevant examples and food for thought, this Pakistani initiative, as it continues to progress, may inspire others to take up the challenge of enhancing indigenous philanthropy for social investment.

In that context, it is fitting to end with a note on a theme that resonated throughout the Conference: the tremendous importance of giving to Muslim societies across time and geography and, more specifically, the special relevance of Islamic injunctions on philanthropy to the development needs of today. Nowhere was this more clearly or eloquently stated than in the address made by His Highness the Aga Khan to the Conference on October 17. Speaking to a central point raised by the Conference - the responsible stewardship of philanthropic gifts - His Highness observed:

The obligation to maintain the highest level of integrity in the management of donated resources, and of the institutions benefiting from them, is grounded in our faith. It is critical to the realisation of the purposes of all gifts, to the continuation and growth of philanthropic giving, and for credibility in the eyes of the public. Muslim societies have the moral right to expect and demand that philanthropic donations be managed according to the highest ethical standards.

To the best of the Steering Committee's knowledge, the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy will be the first philanthropy-support organisation to come into being in the Islamic world. It is especially hoped that others in the Islamic world will gain from the experiences of the new centre as well as from the insights presented in these proceedings.

Return to top