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Posts Tagged ‘Queen Rania’

In opening the Annual Conference three days ago, Her Majesty Queen Rania eloquently noted, “when the sky is darkest, that’s when we see the stars.” We ended our three-day engagement in conversation with one of the brightest stars in economic development: Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microfinance,” the founder of the Grameen Bank.

Yunus urged GPF members to think of the current financial crisis as an opportunity for sweeping change. Rather than simply extricating ourselves from the crisis, we also should be asking about the new systems that would best serve humanity going forward. Do we really want to return to the pre-crises status quo?

Any new system should be based on the fact that “human beings are multi-dimensional, not simply profit-making machines…The current financial system does a remarkable job of tapping into the selfishness that human beings share. Let us re-orient our thinking to also tap into the selflessness of human beings; why not tap that commonality to pave the way for social businesses that create opportunities for others?” In recognition that millions of Americans have also been excluded from traditional banking systems, the Grameen Group launched Grameen America, which extends an entire suite of credit, savings and insurance services in the US as well as the developing world. Yunus spoke of the exogenous forces of poverty, asserting that it is imposed on them by the system they’re born into.

System change was the theme of an earlier panel on the innovations of those working within – and outside – broken education systems. The dynamic Geoffrey Canada of the groundbreaking Harlem Children’s Zone and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, now have decades of experience re-inventing education systems in the most disadvantaged areas of the United States. These panelists with domestic experience were joined by former USAID Administrator, Henrietta Fore, who shared her global perspective on providing quality education. Wendy spoke of a sea change in attitudes. “No one, even in academia, used to think that it was really possible to overcome the effects of severe poverty in schools,” she said. “Even committed teachers face a tremendous struggle with low expectations that pervade disadvantaged schools – and it’s taken decades to build a counter-culture among TFA teachers that is strong enough to overcome those attitudes. Teachers have now made the transition from ‘survival mode’ to an expectation that their efforts bear significant fruit in the form of high-achieving students.”

(To read the full post, click here)

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The 8th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum Conference kicked off today in Washington, DC with an opening keynote by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, who reminded GPF members that this conference is about borderless giving. She urged them to transcend national and societal boundaries as they seek long-term solutions to the problems they confront. In her remarks, she used the example of education and emphasized that “quality education is everyone’s responsibility” and requires the involvement of all societal sectors. She argued that education is one of the most powerful mechanisms to alleviate poverty and promote health, tolerance and peace. She ended by challenging participants to create more innovative partnerships for investing in education abroad as it “gives us the chance to lift all generations and bridge the gaps that divide us around the world.”

The Global Philanthropy Forum is a community of innovative and strategic givers focused on creating systemic change throughout the world. They are also teachers and students that convene at the GPF Annual Conference to share their knowledge, learn from each other’s experiences, reflect together and create lasting partnerships for tackling some of the world’s most complex problems. GPF members are focused on how social change is driven and the role they can most effectively play.

This year, we have gathered to explore the ways in which the philanthropic sector can leverage its flexibility through strategic partnerships to address interconnected crises that every country – its government and its people – now face. They include poverty at home and abroad, climate change, uneven access to affordable healthcare and quality education, and the risk of state failure in the wake of conflict.

That we have convened the Annual Conference in Washington, DC this year – a center of great power, policy and promise, but also a center of great poverty in the US – is in itself significant.  It speaks directly to what one GPF member, Brizio Biondi-Mora, CEO of the AVINA Foundation, noted this morning in the “How to Make the Most of the Global Philanthropy Forum” session when he said that we are living in a world where local occurrences and crises are shaped by global systems and synergies. (…click here to read the post in its entirety)

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Yesterday marked the opening of our Global Philanthropy Forum conference here in Washington DC.  We heard from Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as others in a series of smaller breakouts.  Each session dove deeply into the daunting challenges we face as a nation, and as a global community, and speakers offered insights into how and where philanthropy can play a role.

To follow events from the conference, check out our web simulcast here, and read the text of Hillary’s remarks here.  A sampling of press that has come out so far includes an article from The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Conference Notes section, an interview with Jane Wales in The Harvard Business Review, and a post on PhilanTopic.

More updates to come with day 2!

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“This country that we sit in is a great country. And it’s a great country because it’s not just a country, it’s an idea. And that idea was supposed to be contagious – it’s bound up in the idea of the inalienable rights of men and women and children, equal in the eyes of God.” This morning, at the opening of the 4th Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Bono called each of us to action. He asked us to place the current financial meltdown in a larger context – to remember the privilege from which we come, and of our responsibility to help those who have been living with this kind of insecurity for their entire lives. Joining him on stage, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Vice President Al Gore, and fellow panelists introduced the four focus areas of CGI – Poverty Alleviation, Climate Change, Education, and Global Health. Queen Rania of Jordan highlighted in particular the need for a paradigm shift in how we view education – that we must see it not just as the responsibility of government, but of everyone. This shift is needed across all issues – for we each must have a stake in improving these pillars of society.

As Working Group Chair for the poverty track, I structured each of our panels to address a core dimension of poverty. We began today with a panel discussion on strengthening financial services for the poor. While we in the rich world consider ways to rescue and repair our financial services industry, 2.3 billion people in the world have been living without access to any financial services. Even in the face of frightening developments in our own markets, we must work to reach these people. Confidence makes or breaks financial systems – and right now, we lack it. Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury in both Clinton Administrations, and now Director and Chairman of Citi’s Executive Committee, spoke on the panel about the current financial melt-down and its implications for the poor. He identified our situation as a “crisis of confidence,” and emphasized that we must address it as such. We need responsive action to restore confidence, and must prepare for the hugely consequential challenges this crisis poses, especially in helping the poor move in to the mainstream.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Senior Fellow for the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mexico’s former Minister of Health, spoke powerfully on the links between health and poverty. He believes health insurance is crucial in mitigating the risks that drive people in to poverty, and that micro finance institutions should work in partnership with government to provide health services. He noted that the high cost of health and medical care has driven more than half a billion people in to poverty around the world. As President Clinton said almost fifteen years ago, millions of people in the world are only one serious illness away from losing their savings. We must provide services to help the poor protect their assets in the face of these risks. Fazle Abed, Founder and Chairman of BRAC, highlighted the regulatory constraints that currently limit NGOs from accepting savings deposits, thereby forcing microfinance institutions to borrow money to provide loans, which is not a sustainable model. CEO and Managing Director of Equity Bank in Kenya, James Mwangi argued that we should adopt a philosophy of “taking banking services to the people,” which Equity Bank does through mobile vans powered by solar panels and equipped with simple computer technology that travel to poor villages. The poor need savings products that are structured with no restrictions regarding frequency or amount – Mwangi believes this simplicity is key to usability.

Our audience participants concluded that we must decrease fraud, improve transparency, encourage cross-sector collaboration, and impose new regulations to ensure stability and flexibility in financial services – advice we can all appreciate, and should bear in mind as we react to the crisis in our own financial system.

Jane Wales
President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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