06 Apr 2012

Even philanthropy should be ruled under governance principles

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Can you imagine a multi-billionnaire business-man giving out his fortune
without any compensation ?

I took a little bit time over last week to read a very interesting article tilted “Dark side of giving : the rise of philanthro-capitalism”, from Naren Karunakaran, ET Bureau, Mar 25,2011.

Most of the blow is about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that is sometimes suspected to pave the way for business as a final objective, rather than to address the true (and well-known) leverages for spreading health and food supply among developing countries.
The Gates foundation is not an isolated case. Every State have set up their cooperation policy for decades with some indirect hopes of opening new markets for their industry. Pure selflessness (or altruism) does not exist when dealing with millions or billions of dollar, euro, etc … even if it is aimed at helping people survive.

It is generally recognised that getting a too big player is dangerous, because of the power of influence gained, that may jeopardise the democratic process (stakeholders participation).
The author mentions the AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) initiative, having been widely supported by the Gates foundation and focussing on the overwhelming utilisation of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) ; or the AMC (Advanced Market Commitments) aimed at providing vaccines at a very large scale (and a low price) in developing countries.
Both programmes might be particularly favourable for companies like Monsanto, and the pharmaceutical leaders.

It reminds me a chat I had in 2011 with a former manager (being retired) of the Belgian Cooperation Department.

Having taken the decision to donate a large part of his monies every year, he has been quite worried on ensuring a good use of them. No doubt that his former duties gave him a very good insight of what is definitely the most important to cope with the obstacles to development : advocacy.
After having read this article, I now agree with him : supporting projects in the field is fine, but their impact needs to be mesured accurately (including side-effects generated). In this context, coordination with peers is a must in order to optimise positive impact and mitigate the negative one.

Philanthropy and business behaviour have never been far away. It’s not a blame. Maybe, it is an opportunity !
The purpose of a donation as well as the mean of giving need just to be appropriately governed

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