What image do you have of the Middle East? Watch the television or read the news and you are likely to see bombs and bullets, injured children and the shifting sands of multiple war zones.
But there is another place in the sophisticated cities of the Middle East where a well-educated, courteous, skilled, entrepreneurial population live. A population that is taking up the philanthropy that is a pillar of culture and religious belief in the region and that is modernizing it.
We are familiar with some of the challenges that people in the region face; there are humanitarian crises in the region, some of which (the Palestinian crisis for example) have been going on all of our lifetimes.
But there is also a deeper generational shift going on across the region, and philanthropy is at its heart. This is the ‘legacy philanthropy’ referred to by Naila Farouky in an excellent paper for the Arab Foundations Forum. Ms Farouky talks about passing on ‘the values of giving, of wealth and resource distribution over time’ and emphasises the importance of young people.
There is a ‘demographic bulge’ – a booming population of young people in the region – and at conferences on philanthropy in the region one can hear speakers from foundations and philanthropies focusing on youth. Work with young people is seen as a way of passing on values and also of providing for a generation that is often critical of the political masters in the region. Leading foundations in the region are focusing on youth; take a look for example at the Emirates Foundation, or at Dubai Cares, whose vision is ‘To break the cycle of poverty by ensuring all children have access to quality primary education’.
Philanthropy is big in this region, with the Bahrain ranked 13 and the UAE 14 in the World Giving Index 2015. The figures for individual gifts or grants by foundations can be really surprising. In 2014, for example, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation gave AED 830m (€200m) in overseas aid, up from AED 780m in the previous year. The Emirates Red Crescent gave AED 860m (€210m) in the same year.
There is a growing number of foundations in the region, and they are networking. From just four members in 2007, the Arab Foundations Forum has now grown to 31 members. People of wealth and companies in the region appear to want to formalise and professionalize their giving.
How are people giving?
Philanthropy Age covers news and interviews from the region, and last year published a YouGov survey, the Arab Giving Survey. YouGov carried out research with a representative sample of 1,008 respondents in the GCC states (KSA, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.)
Key findings from the survey include:
Key challenges include:
A wealth of giving in the Middle East
The Middle East and the wider Arabic-speaking world is an exciting, changing, challenging area for fundraising. It is a place that requires patience and local knowledge to understand the various combinations of culture, religion, government and civil society that pattern the region. But it is also a place where non-profits can build strong, lasting local partnerships that build on the region’s millennial traditions of giving.
Written by Chris Carnie
Publication date: September 6, 2016