Category: Grantmaking

Google offers tech aid to take on humanitarian crises

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Frontier technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have revolutionized Google’s business, and now the tech company is looking to share the wealth with those that need it most: people on the front lines of humanitarian crises.

From among 2,600 applicants, 20 winning nonprofits and social enterprises walked away from Google’s AI Impact Challenge with access to a pool of $25 million in funding, expertise from “Googlers,” and a shot to mitigate humanitarian challenges in their local communities.

“We want to see if we can help make the world a better place by bringing the best of Google,” said Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google, and president of the company’s humanitarian arm, Google.org. “We look at issues and see where do we think we could have a differential impact. And so some of those areas include economic opportunity, the future of work, thinking about how to bring digital skilling to millions across the globe.”

This year’s winners include the American University of Beirut, which is developing a tool to help Middle Eastern and African farmers save water; Eastern Health of Australia, which uses machine learning to identify patterns in suicide attempts for more effective prevention; and Hand Talk, a startup that is using AI to translate Portuguese into sign language for disadvantaged, deaf Brazilians.

Fuller said the project helps unite tech companies, civil society, and governments to ensure “everyone has access to the benefits of this technology, and that we are applying it to the problems that really matter most to humanity.”

[Cheddar]

Polio vaccine now introduced worldwide

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By the end of 2017 Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, backed by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Norway and the United Kingdom, had helped more than 75 million children to be immunized against polio with IPV. (Nepal was the first Gavi-supported country to introduce the vaccine in September 2014.) Today, every country worldwide has now introduced the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)  which protects children against polio.

“Introducing IPV into routine immunization programs is a critical milestone on our journey towards a polio-free world,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board. “It’s also vital that we use the infrastructure that has built up around polio immunization programs to ensure that all children receive other nationally-recommended vaccines. Achieving universal health coverage means making sure that all children, rich and poor, receive the same protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Polio is a highly contagious viral infection, mainly affecting children under the age of five, which can lead to paralysis or even death. Only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain endemic to wild poliovirus. Thanks to global efforts and vaccination, since the beginning of 2019 only fifteen cases of wild poliovirus have been recorded in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, Nigeria, the third endemic country could be declared polio-free by the end of the year. Polio cases have fallen by 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 33 reported cases in 2018.

[GAVI Alliance]

Poorest countries bear the brunt as aid levels fall for second successive year

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Experts have warned that the fight against global poverty has taken a backward step after new figures show foreign aid has fallen for a second successive year. Aid levels dropped last year by 2.7% from 2017, with the poorest countries worst hit, according to figures published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Bilateral aid – direct, country-to-country assistance – to the least developed countries fell by 3% in 2018, with support to the African continent down 4% and humanitarian assistance dropping by 8%.

Toni Pearce, Oxfam’s head of advocacy, said: “The overall fall in aid globally is a worrying trend that risks exacerbating poverty and inequality worldwide. Cutting aid to the poorest and most vulnerable countries is a step backwards in the fight to end extreme poverty.

“With refugee numbers at their highest since the second world war, disasters like Cyclone Idai devastating lives, and food crises looming in Yemen and elsewhere, the fall in humanitarian aid is particularly alarming. Vulnerable people across the world rely on this essential lifeline when disaster hits.”

Angel Gurría, the OECD secretary general, also expressed concern: “This picture of stagnating public aid is particularly worrying as it follows data showing that private development flows are also declining. Donor countries are not living up to their 2015 pledge to ramp up development finance, and this bodes badly for us being able to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.”

Only five of the 30 development assistance committee (DAC) members met or exceeded the longstanding aid target of 0.7% of gross national income target: Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Turkey and the UAE donated 1.10% and 0.95% of their gross national income.

[The Guardian]

Humanitarian groups say sanctions placed on North Korea have created complications to secure funds and deliver assistance to the country

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Humanitarian groups are continuing to face complications, including funding shortfalls, when delivering aid to North Korea as the U.S. maintains its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign on the country.

In order to deliver assistance in North Korea, U.S. charities need to secure approvals from the U.S. Commerce Department, the Treasury Department, and the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, and American relief workers are required to obtain special travel passports from the State Department to travel to North Korea, according Foreign Policy.

With an estimated 11 million men, women and children lacking sufficient nutritious food, clean drinking water, or access to basic health and sanitation services, in 2018 North Korea received less than half of the $111 million that international humanitarian agencies deemed necessary.

Roy Wadia, spokesperson for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at the Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, said 1.4 million people in North Korea, including 190,000 kindergarten children and 85,000 acutely malnourished children, did not receive food assistance last year due to the shortage of funds.

“If humanitarian programs were to be forced to further scale back or draw down completely, the impact would be devastating on the lives of millions of vulnerable people, jeopardizing the access and results gained overtime,” said Wadia.

[VoA]

Humanitarian investing gathers speed at Davos

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Finding ways to channel more private investment into humanitarian settings was a hot topic this year at Davos — the World Economic Forum’s 48th annual meeting in Switzerland — which included the tentative launch of a development impact bond to create jobs for Syrian refugees.

The IKEA Foundation said it will provide €6.8 million ($7.7 million) to fund the outcomes of the bond, which has been put together by impact finance firm KOIS, and aims to help up to 12,000 Syrian refugees and host populations in Jordan and Lebanon earn a living. 

New research by British think tank the Overseas Development Institute shows that job creation activities have the potential to offer a financial and social return on investment. But some delegates expressed reservations about the role the private sector should play in financing humanitarian efforts.

Mark Lowcock, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that while he sees a big opportunity for the private sector to come in where there are “investable activities,” it is important not to assume too much from investors and businesses that are ultimately profit-driven.

The development impact bond is part of a broader effort to attract new financing for humanitarian efforts in the face of an increasing number of protracted crises. Between 2005-2017, the number of active crises nearly doubled from 16 to 30 and the average length of active United Nations interagency appeals also increased, according to UNOCHA. Despite these growing needs, donor financing has not kept pace. Experts also say funding needs to be longer-term and to embrace the humanitarian-development continuum in order to reflect the extended nature of the crises.

Per Heggenes, CEO at the IKEA Foundation, said that financial tools such as development impact bonds could help bridge the funding gap. “The needs are increasing, and we can’t expect it all to be covered by donors; we have to look to involve the private sector partly on the funding side but also [for] their knowledge and networks which can be more valuable than just money.”

Speaking during a session Tuesday, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said aid actors tend to see fragile states as “places where it is impossible to do something.” While many organizations are working on income-generating activities, they tend to be “left alone by the international aid system,” he said.

[Devex]

Warren Buffett following through on his Giving Pledge

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Warren Buffett just donated $3.4 billion to five charitable foundations. The massive philanthropic effort is a part of Buffett’s lifetime pledge to divest part of his stock in Berkshire Hathaway each year.

Buffett, 87, announced the pledge in 2006. His donations — which total about $31 billion to date — go to five organizations including the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for his wife and run by his children, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2010, Buffett partnered with Gates to create the Giving Pledge, a public commitment through which billionaires commit to donating half of their wealth to philanthropic causes of their choice. As of May 2018, there are 183 pledgers from 22 countries. The list includes the cofounders of Airbnb, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.

Buffett is the world’s third-wealthiest person with a net worth of about $83 billion, trailing only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Gates. On Monday, it was announced that Bezos is the richest person in “modern history.” His worth recently hit $150 billion. Bezos has yet to sign onto Gates’s and Buffett’s pledge.

“I’m not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when 6 billion others have much poorer hands than we do in life,” Buffett famously said in 2006.

He updated his pledge in 2010, writing: “More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.”

[Yahoo News]

New study projects $17 Billion drop in US charitable giving for 2018

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The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released a study that estimates charitable giving will decline by more than $17 billion in 2018 due to last year’s overhaul of the tax code by the Trump administration.

According to The Hill, “AEI researchers estimated that of the projected $17.2 billion decline in giving, $14.2 billion of the reduction will be due to the bigger standard deduction and $3 billion will be due to other provisions in the tax law.

[Council on Foundations]

US foundations have invested $50 Billion in Sustainable Development Goals

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it’s clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework’s 2030 targets.

It’s not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made.

Though it has received considerably less funding than the other two, it’s interesting to note that Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality) ranks third  —  preliminary analysis hints at a promising scenario for gender equality-related funding — while Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all) is close behind in the fourth spot. Indeed, a deep dive into Goal 16-related funding reveals that a lot of the grants made in support of efforts in this area overlap with Goal 5, gender equality, which suggests to us that peace and justice are strongly correlated with gender equality and that funders are well aware of the linkage.

Foundation Center data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched. In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it’s too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable.

[Philanthropy News Digest]

Gains against malaria at risk from US cuts and donor complacency

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Zambia’s multipronged effort against malaria is making headway, at least in some parts of the country. In Eastern Province,  parasite prevalence among small children is down almost by half, to 12 percent. Efforts in Southern Province have been even more successful –prevalence is now below one percent. The national death rate declined by around 80 percent from 2010 to 2017. However, the results have been uneven. Many parts of the country have seen increases in prevalence, with some areas as high as 32 percent.

A big chunk of the funding for Zambia’s anti-malaria programming comes from the United States. Begun under former president George W. Bush, the fight against malaria is often cited as one of the US government’s most successful global health campaigns. But that could all change with President Donald Trump’s threat to cut foreign assistance around the globe.

The United States is such a massive player in global health, accounting for more than one third of total anti-malaria funding expenditures worldwide, that even relatively minor cuts would have a significant impact. The current global budget for malaria is less than half of what is needed to meet global malaria targets of reducing malaria by 40 percent by 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

Malaria experts warn that a reduction in that effort would be more than a minor setback: if malaria has been suppressed in a region and then resurges, the results can be devastating since natural immunities will be lowered and death and disability can rise sharply.

Globally, the trend is worrying. A recent WHO assessment found that progress around the world had stalled for the first time in a decade.

[IRIN]

Europe remains the world’s leading donor of development aid

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The European Union and its Member States continue to be the world’s leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with an overall amount of €75.7 billion ($93.7 billion) in 2017, confirm the newly released figures by OECD.

The EU collective constituted 57% of Official Development Assistance globally  in 2017.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “The EU and its Member States continue to provide over half of the total Official Development Assistance globally, investing in people, stronger institutions and societies.”

“However, I am strongly concerned about the decrease of EU collective ODA and of development assistance worldwide. Achieving sustainable development requires a persistent collective effort. We know we need to do more. As the world’s leading ODA provider the EU must show leadership and responsibility.”

The EU and its Members States have been consistently in the lead of global efforts on development financing.

[Source: Europa.eu]