EFC AGA 2016: European philanthropy urged to ‘shift the paradigm’ in support for refugees


Charles Keidan


European philanthropy has issued an urgent call for foundations, civil society and government to provide more strategic support for refugees and migrants. Katherine Watson, chief executive of the European Cultural Foundation, read out the call to action at the closing plenary of the European Foundation Centre conference in Amsterdam attended by 700 representatives from across Europe.

Call for action
Watson, chair of the EFC conference organising committee, said:

‘We call for a united response to addressing the human tragedy and challenges presented by the millions of people being forced to leave their homes and countries, due to violence, persecution, war, the effects of climate change and economic inequality. Philanthropic institutions are well-positioned to take a long-term and strategic approach…to shift the paradigm on how we deal with migration globally.’

Changing public opinion
Watson added that ‘philanthropic institutions have a critical role to play in shifting public opinion and attitudes on migration by addressing language of hate and fear, and unlocking the potential and power of displaced people.’

Stretching mandates
Former EFC board member Rien van Gendt, who now leads a Dutch coalition in support of refugees as part of the Major Alliance expressed his belief that foundations can respond effectively. Van Gendt said:

‘Foundations are no longer hiding behind the strict formulation of a statutory mission but are prepared to stretch that and say ‘how we can we come in collectively to address these issues?’ In the past, foundations may have said ‘this doesn’t fit into my mandate’. Now the answer for many family foundations is, ‘if our founder was still alive, he would have adapted the mandate.

Van Gendt also emphasised that foundations are willing to work together to support refugees. Partnerships are emerging not just to exchange information but also to pool resources. Van Gendt, a veteran of European philanthropy, added:

This reminds me of 1989 after the fall of Berlin wall. Then, foundations came together to promote civil society in central and eastern Europe. Now, we’re coming together to foster new relations and networks as well as connecting to existing initiatives such as the European Programme on Migration and Integration.’

For more information on European philanthropy’s response to refugees see:
EFC 2016 conference statement http://www.efc.be/news/world-philanthropy-urged-join-forces-support-refugees-migrants/

Major Alliance (Holland) http://www.maatschappelijkealliantie.org/organisatie/fellows

European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM) http://www.epim.info/

New Beginnings Fund(UK) http://www.acf.org.uk/downloads/new_beginnings_overview.pdf

Alliance magazine special feature (March 2016)

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