Mohammed is Bill Gates of region: philanthropy experts

DUBAI — His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, could be rightly called the Bill Gates of the region, said international experts on the concluding day of the Arab philanthropy conference yesterday.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Tue 22 Jan 2008, 8:53 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:54 PM

Susan E. Stroud, executive director of Innovations in Civic Participation, a US-based social change organisation, said, “Shaikh Mohammed could be called the Bill Gates of the region because of his philanthropic initiatives. In countries like South Africa, the US and Europe, wealthy, individual philanthropists are opting for a more professional and strategic approach in the activities. Shaikh Mohammed is a major player in this global trend.”

Hailing the conference initiative, Dr Kamil Muhanna, chairman of the Amel Foundation in Lebanon and the general coordinator of the non-government Arab bodies, said the conference, on the theme ‘From Charity to Change: Trends in Arab Philanthropy, had opened his eyes to some important facts.

“It has opened my eyes to the fact that there are 100 million illiterates in the Arab world and that only two per cent of the national income goes towards health, compared to more than 11 per cent in European countries.”

He also stressed that the Arab world lacked the mechanism to broker public-private partnership. He suggested that the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation organise another meeting with private establishments and charity foundations.

Prince Turki bin Talal, chairman of the Mentor Foundation, lauded the foundation for convening such a conference to “diagnose” the defects in the philanthropy sector and shed light on successful models.

He said, “Philanthropic organisations cannot work from within the walls as fences conceal secrets. A responsible media is that which carries its message to the targeted sources and encourages private sectors to involve and engage. Both the media and private sector have a social responsibility.”

Dr Salvatore LaSpada, chief executive of UK-based Institute for Philanthropy, said the dynamics in the Arab region had changed because of the massive increase in wealth and the second generation entrepreneurs from the wealthy families were looking for social returns in a more organised way.

“The second generation entrepreneurs recognise the charitable work of their parents and in addition they are bringing business discipline and practices into the act of charity,” he said.

Experts also highlighted the difficulties, such as lack of information, faced by organisations. Princess Dina Muried, director of Al Husain Cancer Centre, said, “Non-government bodies are not equipped with cadres to communicate information to the civil society. For example, when a donor gives charity to establish a school, there is a lack of information such as who are the beneficiaries and if the project is targeting the deserving segment.”

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