Global Goal 16 Can Be an Enabler in Creating Environment for Philanthropy

Global Goal 16

From the 9th to the 11th of March, many WINGS members gathered at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for the International Meeting on the Enabling Environment for Philanthropy. We were lucky to be joined by Karolina Mzyk Callias, UNDP’s Project Manager for the SDG Philanthropy Platform, who shared her thoughts on the conference in a guest post for the Philanthropy in Focus blog.

Protecting and ensuring free, safe and well-resourced spaces for civil society is a common objective shared by the UN and philanthropy who both work with national partners to achieve just that. UNDP has worked with governments and Parliamentarians in 111 countries worldwide on capacity development and ensuring the voice of civil society organizations in policy making. In Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia and Colombia for example, we have facilitated conversation with governments to include philanthropy as a distinct development partner in implementing national development plans, inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals.

The above example is an effort led by the SDG Philanthropy Platform, a partnership between UNDP, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers and Foundation Centre to facilitate closer collaboration on the SDGs between the UN, philanthropy and governments.

In early March, I headed to Portugal, Lisbon, where I participated in a WINGS workshop, ‘International Meeting on Enabling Environment for Philanthropy’. The workshop was packed with examples of growing restrictions from giving, taxing and even hampering registration processes. But there was also great news about rapidly expanding philanthropy, especially in developing countries. Philanthropic giving around the world is about $60 billion and this is a conservative estimate.[1]

My big take away was the commonalities of philanthropy issues and dynamics between the 40 countries who attended. And so in order to improve the giving environment, strategies must include varied short and long term perspectives as well as collective action at global level. The group discussed defining a global framework for the “enabling environment for philanthropy”, which builds on common elements:

  • There is a growing diversity in giving, ranging from grants to impact investing and as such, different policy solutions are needed for these different forms.
  • Philanthropic associations are an important voice for local philanthropy, contributing to a growing professionalism of the sector and creating space for collective actions.
  • Regulatory frameworks especially in developing countries are outdated. Discussions emphasized “getting the right balance” between incentives and responsibilities, reflecting local context and need for transparency and accountability.
  • Data gaps, little or no information about philanthropies activities, reside as a source of ineffectiveness within the sector.
  • Long term approaches must address the need to develop national capacities of philanthropic actors and their civil society partners and grantees.

The conversation in Lisbon resonated why philanthropy should care about the SDGs — the first ever global (applicable to all countries) development framework with a goal, targets and indicators on peace, justice, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law. Goal 16 of the SDGs can help philanthropy frame the conversation with governments about how – through enabling environment – philanthropy can be a stronger partner in implementing the SDGs.


[1] Source: OECD DAC, Heather Grady 2014.

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