Lunch & Learn n°20
Philanthropy in the Arab region: tradition and renewal
In our globalized, connected and ever-changing world, it is becoming clear that philanthropy is a universal, yet locally-rooted phenomenon. A major hurdle in understanding the diversity of giving traditions is the lack of documentary evidence in many parts of the world. This lack of data leads many to infer that philanthropy was born with Andrew Carnegie in the late 19th century and consider Western-style charitable giving as the yardstick for the developing world. Meanwhile, contemporary developments in philanthropy mostly come from the United States and are sometimes transferred to other countries without an adequate knowledge of local contexts. In the West, little is known about the long-standing practices of philanthropy in the Arab region, some of them dating from the 9th century. In the Islamic tradition, the equivalent of the endowed foundation, waqf, has been used to develop private hospitals, schools, and shelters for the poor in many countries. Similarly, current fundraising and giving trends in the Arab region have been largely neglected. As the “Arab Spring” brought civil society and citizen rights to the fore, it is interesting to speculate what role contemporary philanthropy has played in the recent uprisings of North African and Middle-Eastern countries, and will play in the future.
Atallah Kuttab, Chairman and Founder of SAANED for Philanthropy Advisory in the Arab Region, Jordan.
Frédéric Fournier, Chief Executive Officer of Optimus