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Aga Khan hopes Philanthropy Centre will take Pakistan to self-reliance

..........ISLAMABAD (October 18) : Highlighting a major change in development thinking that social services should move away from government's responsibility to the private and community organisations, the Aga Khan on Tuesday expressed the hope that the proposed Centre for Philanthropy would take Pakistan towards the much-cherished goal of self-reliance.
..........Addressing the concluding session of the two-day conference on Indigenous Philanthropy, Prince Karim Aga Khan said that philanthropic funding of social development is a new phenomenon extending increasingly to institutions engaged in human resources development.
..........The conference was attended by about 300 participants representing reputed NGOs, experts from home and abroad, besides a number of donor agencies and foreign diplomats of whom the Canadian High Commissioner in Pakistan was seen as a guardian spirit.
..........The Aga Khan said that self-reliance at the national and local levels is a theme now receiving greater emphasis than any time in the last 50 years. This is a significant departure from development thinking in the 20th century with its emphasis on state and international organisations as nannies to which citizens could look for everything.
..........It also represented a move away from special relations between individual countries in the developing and developed world with their overtones of dependency and patron-client relationships, he added.
..........He noted that in Pakistan the urgency of reducing dependency on external resources is widely appreciated. It would be equally important for the general public to understand appreciate the requirements and consequences of the shift of responsibility for social services from the government to private and community organisations.
..........The Aga Khan observed that the movement towards self- reliance could be effectively supported and encouraged at the national, community and individual levels. The proposed Centre for Philanthropy would take concrete steps towards that direction.
..........Another step, he added, would be to look for ways to strengthen an enabling environment of beneficial tax and regualatory conditions to stimulate philanthropic giving. Creating fuller understanding of the role of philanthropy in support and development of activities formerly offered exclusively through government funding are also very important.
..........His 40 years experience in international development work and through the Aga Khan Development Network taught him a few lessons.
..........The first is that funding is generally forthcoming when the conditions are right: solid institutions with committed leadership that inspire trust and confidence, an enabling legal and regulatory environment that welcomes and encourages philanthropic action, and programmes and activities that are grounded in local needs and initiatives, and are informed by the latest thinking and experience wherever it can be found.
..........The second lesson is that giving can take many forms - funds, time, ideas, and professional skills. Everyone can and should be a donor, not just the wealthy, and all forms of giving should be encouraged and recognised. Volunteerism is critical, and is obtaining greater and greater recognition and encouragement. One indication is that the United Nations has designated the year 2001 as the International Year of the Volunteer.
..........The third lesson is that new forms or objects of giving do not take place at the expense of more traditional forms, and should not be seen as competing with them. More funding for institutions engaged in social and human development does not, if experience elsewhere is a guide, mean less giving for traditional forms of charity, or for religious institutions. An invigorated culture of giving, supported by appreciate institutions and an enabling environment, benefits all institutions supported by philanthropic giving.
..........A continuing theme of the address was the emphasis that Islamic teachings form an "ethical basis for important policy decisions relevant for the future of philanthropy in Pakistan. He noted: "Human dignity - restoring it and sustaining it - is a central theme."
.........."Given what this conference has been able to accomplish, I am very encouraged about the future of indigenous philanthropy in Pakistan ... I trust that in the years ahead we will be able to look back at this gathering as something of great significance in the development of self-reliance and sustainability for this nation and all of its peoples."
..........Earlier while presenting the reports of the four working groups, Syed Babar Ali, member of the Steering Committee, said that these were three-fold. The first recommendation was that there should be a multi-stakeholders dialogue including the government, social investors and the corporate sector, and citizens' organisations to build consensus and confidence in a new more enabling regulatory and fiscal framework.
..........The second recommendation was that the media and other agents of public understanding undertake a special initiative to raise public awareness of the citizens self-help movement.
..........The third and a most important recommendation was to set up a centre for philanthropy which should be a permanent institutional vehicle to enhance philanthropy as social investment.
..........Speaking about the broad objectives of the conference, Syed Babar Ali said that the conference was organised to build an understanding of philanthropy as social investment as well as charitable relief and religious expression. Moreover, the conference was to work towards a broad consensus on the ways and means of enhancing indigenous philanthropy.
..........While discussing these objectives, all the groups recognised that to use the philanthropic impulse of the citizens most effectively the government, the corporate sector and the citizens sector must develop a better understanding and trust of one another; build up a new working relationship and reshape the environment in which philanthropy is currently practised. There was a feeling that civil society organisations did not receive the protection from the government, which are being persistently harassed.
..........Copyright 2000 Business Recorder (