Karolina Mzyk — Philanthropy as an emerging contributor to development cooperation

In June, various actors convened in Istanbul for the conference, International Development Cooperation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities—Perspectives of the New Actors, to discuss contributions to the UN Development Cooperation. WINGS and UNDP will jointly host a webinar in August to continue the discussion.

Key messages from the conference situated philanthropy as an integrator in society and a powerful force in development, and identified key challenges, including a lack of data on philanthropic contributions to development, and a need across sectors to identify successful solutions and bring them to scale.

We asked Karolina Mzyk, programme specialist and foundations coordinator for the UNDP, to give us a better idea of why philanthropy, and specifically a global network like WINGS, plays a valuable role in finding and advocating these successes.

mzyk_300WINGS: Atallah Kuttab of SAANED has characterized WINGS as “a platform for a truly global perspective on philanthropy”, and Jorge Villalobos of CEMEFI has brought attention to the unique role WINGS has in expanding philanthropy.

In relation to the recent convening in Istanbul, what does this mean for strengthening cross-sector partnerships? How do you envision WINGS as a vehicle for engaging government, international bodies and other key players?

Karolina Mzyk: UNDP’s long standing relationship with WINGS has helped us to learn that philanthropy can be a powerful force and a strong partner in international development. Although philanthropy works differently from the traditional development providers and governments, our collaboration which builds on respective strengths, can deliver a much bigger impact.

WINGS has been instrumental in convening a dialogue between the UN and philanthropy on identifying the comparative advantages that foundations and international organizations can bring to partnerships.

While most of our work at UNDP is geared towards working with governments on policy issues, most foundation activities and interests are rooted in local communities. There is a great need for experimentation and innovation in international development that can be scaled through policy decisions. So we appreciate and follow with great interest the various innovative approaches that foundations have championed, like impact investing and mobile giving. Philanthropy can play a valuable role here by opening up their networks, finding and advocating these successful innovations, which can be scaled by governments policies.

Global development challenges that we face today, ranging from poverty to climate change to conflicts, demand partnerships and involvement of all stakeholders working for social change. It is a pivotal time for all those interested in international development, when governments are negotiating the next set of international development goals, successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

unistanbulWhile philanthropists fund water, health, and education, they have not been using the official language of the MDGs. However, building a stronger partnership going forward requires a mutual understanding that includes how we communicate as well as the mechanisms we use for our work.

Therefore UNDP works in partnership with WINGS, the Hilton and Ford Foundations, and the Foundation Center to build bridges between foundations around the world and the UN and international development. Jointly we offer a platform for a global dialogue for those foundations and philanthropic organizations interested in the future of international development Post 2015.

For example, WINGS members contributed to a breakthrough UNDP report prepared by Heather Grady for the Istanbul conference. The report analyses and recommends how philanthropy can further contribute to development cooperation, looking specifically at emerging countries like India, Brazil, China, and Turkey. It concludes that philanthropy cannot be seen as a gap-filler for declining official government assistance to development (ODA).

Philanthropic contributions bring different values, and therefore philanthropy must be seen as complementary and a value-added benefit to, not substitution for, ODA. This statement best represents the value of collaboration between philanthropy and the United Nations.

Karolina Mzyk is Programme Specialist and Foundations Coordinator for the UN Development Programme. WINGS and UNDP will jointly host a webinar in August as a followup to the Istanbul meeting. More WINGS interviews here.

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