STRATEGIC PRIORITIES FOR 2023
The growing climate emergency presents a serious threat to the pursuit of philanthropic aims globally. Organizations with philanthropic resources, whatever their mission and field of expertise, can and should play a role in addressing this emergency. Foundations and other types of philanthropic organizations have great potential to create positive impact when integrating climate considerations into their operations and programs, as well as in the investment of their endowments.
So far, philanthropy has been mostly focused on making announcement-worthy pledges at COP and other events. We know philanthropy can do much more through its community-rooted knowledge and deep experience with development programmatic interventions on climate change and socio-economic development in general.
In the pursuit of enhanced and meaningful philanthropic engagement, we aim to develop engagement strategies that enlighten the sector about what it is best poised to contribute towards the goals of COP 28 and beyond, and to serve as a global collective action platform that provides visibility for the sector and enables networked and synergistic agenda setting and action on climate change.
Philanthropic foundations across the Arab region are doing extraordinary work funding innovative programming in many areas such as education, healthcare, and youth empowerment, as well as providing lifeline humanitarian support to those most in need. But beyond the news headlines and anecdotal reports, it remains extremely hard to know exactly who and what people are funding, the concrete impact of their investments, and where financing and needs gaps remain.
This is due to the glaring absence of meaningful data about Arab philanthropy and a longstanding culture of opacity among donors and organizations operating in the non-profit sector. AFF is committed to working with partners around the region to build a critical mass of Arab-owned data and research that is for the region, about the region, and by the region.
To date, AFF has produced several thought pieces, as well as a milestone research report – in Arabic and English – on various key issues affecting the sector, and it is our intention to continue to produce more and more quality research to enhance the impact of our sector.
In 2002, the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) reflected on the complex challenges facing Arab civil society. Externally, state constraints and bureaucracy were highlighted, while internally the lack of good governance, limited volunteering, the absence of a social base, and overdependence on overseas partners were core obstacles. Two decades later, some of these challenges are still pervasive and continue to limit the impact and social change potential of civil society, most notably the lack of an enabling environment for the sustained and effective operation of civil society organizations (CSOs).
At the same time, the momentum for change among civil society has transformed profoundly since the 2002 report. Arab civil society is showing astounding resilience and is a real success story in the face of a complex geo-political context — the region hosts a large proportion of the world’s refugee population, has experienced repeated economic crises, and suffers from rising inequities and poverty levels that spiked due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Registered CSOs and foundations are expanding not only in terms of absolute numbers, but also in terms of their growing weight in development policy issues and their alignment with national level development strategies and global development frameworks — notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — as well as their engagement in global level coordinating mechanisms. Civil society is also playing diverse roles by serving as watch dogs, basic service providers, awareness raising and advocacy, training, and capacity development. Infrastructure organizations, networks, and platforms of engagement, knowledge exchange, and coordination of Arab civic actors have also grown.
Building on our milestone report published in 2022, AFF will continue to explore the issues facing the sector as it strives to be more enabling. We hope to expand the scope of this research by including more countries in the region and leverage our findings to encourage policy dialog at government levels to contribute to the creation of a more enabling environment for philanthropy to thrive in the region.
AFF is committed to improving the ecosystem and infrastructure for philanthropy region wide. Among the critical gaps in the sector that we and our network have identified is the issue of governance. Having experienced a crisis of governance ourselves in the evolution of AFF, our journey has highlighted the need for a clearer, more professional understanding of good governance practices for the sector. Understanding that the non-profit sector functions differently, and serves a different purpose than other sectors, we believe that incorporating good governance principles will only elevate the sector’s impact and effectiveness.
As such, AFF is looking to create partnerships with like-minded organizations that will help enhance the governance of the sector through peer-to-peer exchanges, capacity development of third-sector management, and board development for non-profit organizations.
The AFF Youth Coalition is the first of its kind in the Arab region. One of our key initiatives, the coalition aims to bring together Arab organizations working on youth development and employment to collaborate on the identification, expansion, and potential funding of successful and impactful youth employment programs.
From the publication of the first UN Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) in 2002, there has been consistent confirmation that “even in cases where official figures are considered to be underestimates…unemployment is a huge challenge” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Indeed, over the years, the AHDR has repeatedly highlighted the need to create tens of millions of jobs (from 5 million per year in the 2002 edition to 6 million per year in 2016) for the region’s disproportionally youthful population as a pre-requisite for long-term socioeconomic stability and prosperity.
The AFF Youth Coalition aims to accelerate impact by optimizing philanthropic capital and potential to fast-track SDG 8 – promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. The objectives of the coalition are to:
- Build a holistic regional philanthropic ecosystem that can provide effective and efficient scalable youth employment programs and approaches
- Capture measurable evidence-based impact and produce knowledge and data
- Become an advocacy and endorsement platform for more effective philanthropy, more efficient partnerships, and policy change
- Create a culture of collaboration and building impactful partnerships