‘Fighting Poverty – Creating Opportunities’ was the main theme of the EFC’s 20th annual conference, which took place in Rome from 14 to 16 May. The event attracted around 700 delegates from more than 60 countries.
The conference was opened by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, who spoke about the need to combine action against poverty with measures to tackle various forms of exclusion. He warned that ‘the risk of translating diversity into a factor of exclusion is always present, aggravated by the rise of a public rhetoric which does not hesitate – also here, in Italy – to include intolerant or xenophobic overtones.’ His remarks were widely reported in the Italian press, which placed them in the context of ongoing political debates around the Italian authorities’ treatment of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants.
Many conference participants expressed an interest in making some kind of response to show their strong agreement with the sentiments expressed by President Napolitano. The conference statement, drafted by EFC members and approved enthusiastically at the closing plenary, strongly encourages the governments of all Member States ‘to work individually, together and with the institutions of the European Union, to build a framework for addressing migration in ways that truly respect the dignity of all human beings as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights’.
Another guest speaker was Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, who openly criticized foundations and development agencies for too often sticking with methods that are ineffective or counterproductive. She called for a new reality based on social justice and solidarity, and emphasized the importance of allowing local communities to set their own agendas.
The global financial crisis and its consequences – both for foundations and for society as a whole – was a common thread running through many sessions. Some delegates were ready to share horror stories about how their foundations’ assets had fallen in value by as much as 30 per cent in just a few weeks, leading to difficult decisions about grantmaking and investment policies, as well as serious cuts in operating budgets.
At the closing session, the EFC Chair, Emilio Rui Vilar, announced that next year’s conference will be held in Brussels as part of a ‘Foundations Week’ highlighting the role of foundations in the EU. He also referred to the special event that will take place in Berlin to celebrate the EFC’s 20th anniversary on 9 November 2009.
Delegates were informed about the plans being developed to establish a ‘Foundation House’ in Brussels. This would provide a home for the European Venture Philanthropy Association, the Network of European Foundations and other non-profit organizations as well as the EFC.
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http://www.efc.be (including videos of conference highlights)
Effect focuses on foundations’ role in fight against poverty
The Spring 2009 issue of Effect, published by the EFC, includes a special feature on ‘Fighting Poverty’. This has reports on what foundations are doing to create opportunities for disadvantaged people, with examples from Poland and Portugal, while also looking ahead to 2010, which will be the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
Effect also examines the role of foundations in the Nordic countries, talking with a number of key players and finding important differences as well as some similarities. Other articles address a range of issues including the financial impact of VAT on foundations in Europe; the importance of reputation management; and philanthropy in the Arab world.
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