Philanthropic commitments around political scenarios


Carolina Suarez


I am back in Colombia after participating during four energetic days at the Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations -Leading Together 2017 – where we had the opportunity of introducing the work that from Association of Corporate and Family Foundations, Colombia (AFE) we promote to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the ideal framework to achieve sustainable peace.

There is no doubt that these conferences are an opportunity to gain, ratify and share knowledge, do networking and meet with wonderful people working with a tremendous passion for building better societies, which is what identifies those who dedicate their lives to and for serving philanthropy.

I must highlight about the sessions I assisted to, including the opening, with the wonderful words from Vikki Spruill, CoF President, that all of them showed how philanthropy does not escape to political issues.

From philanthropy, we promote our long-term commitment, our neutrality, the vocation of permanence, willingness to risk, our role as co-responsible actors, and the need to make partnerships with the public sector to achieve significant social transformations.

Certainly, these are the concepts that we always promote in our philanthropic management, but, how much can these commitments be materialised when installed governments try to dominate the actions of the individuals with the intention to change the dynamics of a participative society?

This left me serious doubts, amongst them: how much change can we achieve from philanthropy when the governments fail to understand that collective action, integrating actors, is capable of generating enduring changes in time?;  how can we protect the social programs we have fostered and sponsored to remain in time?; How do you make understand that a favourable legal environment to promote philanthropy is essential to lever and scale social changes?

I think all of this and look at it from what is currently happening in the United States, where, among other changes that do not surprise from the Trump Administration, an aggressive fiscal reform against endowments and donation incentives is being pushed; but I also look at it from what happened in Turkey in light of the recent constitutional referendum; or in Venezuela where a socialist and authoritarian regime has severely weakened civil society is.

This, coupled with the uncertainty of the future of my country, Colombia, that in one year will face presidential elections, without clarity of who will succeed the current president, as today there are more than thirty pre-candidates.

Today, my country experiences a crucial situation to progress. After five decades of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the oldest and largest guerrilla network in the continent, we concluded an agreement that is beginning its implementation phase, thanks to a large extent to the interest from a President that overcame the attention given to his low popularity levels the polls show. Most of the former guerrilla members have pledged to peace and do not wish to go back to holding a weapon.

I would say that the same urge to break with war is shared by other sectors in society, but there are still groups opposing to this change, as it implies an immense commitment that as individuals and society we must give to forgive, reconcile and accept that the changes and the inclusion of guerrilla members to society would not lead to chaos, which is an idea the oppositions tries to sell taking advantage of the delicate situation our brothers and neighbors from Venezuela are facing.

Because of this, now more than ever, philanthropy must unite as a collective with the decision that the changes required by the country must take place now and we must work to avoid a reverse in what has been advanced around peace building. It is our opportunity to show that a sustainable peace is possible and that this demands a collective effort, with the capacity to innovate and having clear that the societal interrogatives and challenges cannot be addressed by one sole actor, not even the government.

With this view, I ratify our commitment to fostering and promoting the SDGs as the framework and common language to achieve a more prosperous, equitable and inclusive country. The implementation of the SDGs in our philanthropic initiatives will allow us to be a helping hand in achieving the sustainable peace all Colombians wish for.

Congratulations to Vikki, Nathalie Ross and all the staff from the COF for the excellent conference event.

Carolina Suárez is CEO for the Association of Corporate and Family Foundations, Colombia.

You can find more coverage from the Council on Foundations annual conference 2017 here.

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