Gulf Philanthropy Rising: Global Leaders Discuss Transformational Impact of Philanthropy for Development

Gulf Philanthropy Rising: Global Leaders Discuss Transformational Impact of Philanthropy for Development

Gulf Philanthropy Rising: Global Leaders Discuss Transformational Impact of Philanthropy for Development

  • Bill Gates shares inspiring journey, discusses achievements of COP28 UAE, and the transformative power of technology.
  • Badr Jafar: “Philanthropy is a $2 trillion per year sector, and in the Gulf Region we are on the cusp of an exciting transformation of philanthropic impact”

The Islamic Development Bank hosted a special Philanthropy Forum at their Annual Meetings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre, titled ‘Harnessing Philanthropy for Development: The Road Less Travelled’. The high-profile event brought together global philanthropic and business leaders to explore the untapped potential of philanthropic capital in accelerating development and humanitarian efforts.

The Forum featured prominent renowned figures in the philanthropy, development and humanitarian aid fields, including H.E. Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, President of the Islamic Development Bank, H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre, H.H. Princess Nouf bint Muhammad bin Abdullah, CEO of the King Khalid Foundation, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and Special Envoy for Business and Philanthropy, Suliman Abdulaziz Azzabin, CEO of King Abdullah Humanitarian Foundation, Stanlake Samkange, Executive Director of the World Food Program, Danah Dajani, Senior Vice President at Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, and Naila Farouky, CEO of the Arab Foundations Forum.

The Forum began with a plenary conversation between Bill Gates and Badr Jafar and shed light on Gate’s philanthropic journey and unwavering commitment to global health. The discussion also highlighted the evolving landscape of giving in the MENA region, the potential for greater collaboration between philanthropy and development banks, as well as new challenges and opportunities such as climate change and the advent of artificial intelligence.

Highlighting a transformative visit to Africa in 1993, Bill Gates described how it exposed him to the devastating realities of extreme poverty and the high rates of preventable diseases, a major contributor to child mortality. Gates shared that in 2000, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was launched, a staggering 10 million children worldwide died before the age of five. Through their focused efforts on malaria, polio, and nutrition, the Foundation has demonstrably halved that number and aims to reduce childhood mortality by a further 50% in the coming decades.

Sharing his positive outlook, Gates said: “I’m optimistic and see possibilities. We are making progress, the human condition today is better than ever before, life expectancy is longer, more children survive past the age of five and the opportunities to take innovation, which is accelerating, and apply it to reduce inequality has never been so great. I believe it’s not just an emotional state, but it’s factual. We can drive progress and we have made progress.”

Climate change took centre stage as the conversation continued. Badr Jafar, having chaired the inaugural COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum, emphasised the importance of increased cross-sectoral collaboration for climate and nature action, commenting: “We’re four months since COP 28 UAE and the historic UAE Consensus. The ‘whole of society’ approach that was the vision of His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, saw the most inclusive climate gathering ever, bringing together geographically diverse and sectorally diverse stakeholders. The ground-breaking results reinforced the fact that we absolutely need the authentic engagement of business and philanthropy in the climate action agenda if we are to move from pledges and announcements to action and implementation.”

Bill Gates responded, “I think that COP meeting significantly exceeded my expectations. Not only was it hosted very well, but also the spirit that the businesses coming into it showed, as well as the philanthropists, was very impressive to me. What we saw was a mixing of small innovative companies who have new climate ideas…able to meet with the big companies.”

Building on the borderless impact of philanthropy, the conversation shifted to the evolving landscape and trends of giving in the Middle East and Africa. Badr Jafar highlighted: “Philanthropy is a $2 trillion per year sector, and I believe that in the Gulf Region we’re on the cusp of a transformation of philanthropic practice to more strategic giving that is impact driven and is evidence based. This is due to a number of factors, not least the confluence of technology with the more hands-on expectations by the next generation and more focus on transparency and accountability.”

Addressing future philanthropy trends, Bill Gates, who pioneered various technological advancements, highlighted that by strategically allocating resources towards the development of technologies like AI and blockchain for social good, philanthropists can unlock a new wave of impactful giving.

“I cannot overstate the impact that AI is going to have on every field of human endeavour. Whether it’s discovering new drugs for healthcare intervention, delivering medical advice or giving every kid a personal tutor that talks to them in their language, and not only understands the subject area, but also understands their motivation and how to keep them engaged”, Gates said.

The Philanthropy Forum served as a platform for fostering collaboration and innovation in development philanthropy, generating valuable insights and recommendations for strengthening the role of philanthropy in achieving sustainable development goals.

In an annual report, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stated that it intends to increase its own giving to $9 billion per year by 2026. Late last year, the Foundation joined the UAE to accelerate the development of innovations that will help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia build resilience and adapt to climate change. In 2017, the UAE and Gates Foundation launched the Reaching the Last Mile Fund to support efforts to eradicate treatable diseases like polio and malaria worldwide.

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