This article was originally published on 25 September 2012.
On 18 September 2012 in Cairo, WINGS brought together 29 delegates from WINGS philanthropy networks in Africa and the Arab region to kick off a global consultation process to review and update the Principles of Accountability for International Philanthropy, developed by the Council on Foundations (COF) and the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and published in 2007.
The WINGS workshop, ‘Improving the Accountability of International Philanthropy’, was co-hosted by the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF) in conjunction with AFF’s 2012 Annual Meeting (16 to 18 September). The workshop forms part of the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative (GPLI) and is the start of a global process to review and update of the Principles, with the aim of deepening the understanding and practice of accountability in international philanthropy as well as including voices and perspectives from the global South. This consultation process is being led by WINGS in collaboration with COF and EFC.
The purpose of the Cairo workshop was not only to review and strengthen the existing Principles document but also to craft strategies to make the document come alive in the philanthropic practice of the Arab and African regions. Participants reflected on key questions including:
- Who are the main audience and stakeholders for the Principles?
- What is most valuable in the current Principles and what is missing and needs to be included?
- How can the Principles be made more operational (through key benchmarks, tool kits and resources, etc.)?
A lively dialogue ensued that touched on a range of concerns and ideas, such as the importance of more Southern leadership in global development collaboration; the possibility of building on the Principles through useful indicators for accountability practice; the role of the Principles in forging better ‘transparency, trust and relationships;’ the priority of strengthening accountability to citizens and community-level stakeholders; surfacing and mediating power dynamics and imbalances; growing the enabling environment for cross-border philanthropy, citizen engagement and partnerships; engagement with governments and policy change; and moving from principles to more effective accountability tools, mechanisms and practices.
Participants reviewed the Principles in the light of a various regional codes of good philanthropic practice, such as the voluntary codes developed by the Arab Foundations Forum, the East African Association of Grantmakers, and CAF Southern Africa. In general, the Principles are complementary to these codes. The workshop considered possibilities for the Principles to advance opportunities for dialogue (including dialogue with governments) to expand civic space in Africa and the Arab regions and ease restrictions on cross-border collaboration.
The world of international philanthropy has changed significantly over the past five years since the Principles were published. Philanthropy is growing fast in the ‘emerging economies.’ New actors and approaches, such as venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, haven taken on steam and are reshaping the landscape. The Principles need to embrace these new realities and be mobilized to build new constituencies for accountability in global philanthropy.
The WINGS Cairo set the scene and identified issues for further dialogue at a follow-up day-long Africa and Arab regional workshop in Johannesburg in 2 November 2012, in conjunction with the second biennial African Grantmakers Network (AGN) Assembly (30 October to 1 November 2012). The theme of the Johannesburg workshop will be ‘Accountability in International Philanthropy: Moving from Principles to Better Practice.’
In Cairo, a cross-section of WINGS network members from Sub-Saharan Africa also took part actively in the AFF Annual Meeting at a fascinating watershed moment for philanthropy in the Arab World. WINGS African delegates played a role in various panel discussions and dialogue at the AFF meeting, around issues such as the regulatory environment for civil society and philanthropy, asset-based approaches and community philanthropy, and tackling the root causes of social issues through social justice philanthropy. The rich peer learning between colleagues in the Arab and Africa regions added great value and dynamism to both the AFF meeting and the WINGS workshop.
The upcoming AGN Assembly and the follow-up WINGS regional workshop in Johannesburg offer a unique opportunity to take this bridging dialogue to the next level – and to build on the firm foundations established by the pioneering COF/EFC Principles to enhance accountability in international philanthropy.
For more on our accountability work in international philanthropy, visit our transparency and accountability page.