Philanthropists expect too much too quickly, report says

This is a problem.

Wealthy philanthropists are ambitious and want to see changes in government policies soon after they have made a donation, but their efforts are still too fragmented and often fail to have a great impact, a new study has found.

Entitled Alleviating Global Poverty: Catalysts of Change, the research by Forbes Insights was based on a survey of more than 300 wealthy individuals, with investible assets of at least $1 million.

It found that 73 per cent of respondents said they want to affect international and national government policies in a short time.

Interestingly, while 48 per cent admitted there were too many overlapping charities working in the same sector, only 20 per cent said they partner with experts in the field to realise their philanthropic goals.

‘There are two crushing weaknesses with the philanthropic model today,’ said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter in the report. ‘There is not enough money to give away. And there is too much fragmentation and not enough large-scale impact. That is why we haven’t gotten a lot of great results yet.’

The study also found that philanthropists from different regions of the world disagreed on the main causes of poverty. North and South Americans, in fact, pointed to the lack of access to education, while Europeans focused on the lack of access to healthcare and respondents from Asia-Pacific emphasised on the scarcity of food and shelter.

According to the report, local causes were a priority among philanthropists, with a third of respondents saying only 10 per cent of their donations go on global causes. This was because they felt a need to give back to their own community and because they understood the local context better, but also because they thought local giving often makes an immediate difference.

This is similar to what Simon Thurley, the CEO of English Heritage, has been recently campaigning for in the UK, as he told Spear's. He called for the country’s wealthy to financially support many of the national historic buildings that will not receive any government funding for repairs and enhancement works, as part of the austerity measures.

However, the wealthiest respondents had a strong focus on global giving, which normally requires more resources. Forty per cent of those with a net worth of at least $50 million said they focused on such issues. Think of Bill Gates, who set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate malaria and polio worldwide.

Children’s education was the respondents’ preferred cause, chosen by 38 per cent, followed by children’s health (37 per cent), nutrition and food supply (33 per cent) and pre-school education (31 per cent). However, a third of philanthropists said family planning and contraception should be the top priority in the next five years, while 31 per cent chose the sustainable management of resources such as water and land.

When they have to choose what programmes to fund on, 45 per cent said they looked at the idea or at the premise of the initiative, while 23 per cent said they paid particular attention to the organisation behind the project. Interestingly, only 32 per cent cited the leader in charge of the programme as the most important factor – the report suggested that this was because wealthy individuals often have the ability to influence the choice of leader.

As for the future, nearly one in five philanthropists plans to give away more than half of their wealth. Thirty-one per cent of those with more than $10m in assets and 46 per cent of those with more than $50m plan to do so. They will join the likes of billionaires such as Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg and Azim Premji, who signed up for the Giving Pledge initiative, committing at least half of their wealth to charity organisation after their death.

Read more from Giulia Cambieri

This piece first appeared on Spear's Magazine

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The Taliban's succession crisis will not diminish its resilience

Haibatullah Akhunzada's appointment as leader of the Taliban may put stress on the movement, but is unlikely to dampen its insurgency. 

After 19 years under the guidance of the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar, the group has now faced two succession crises in under a year. But although Haibatullah Akhunzada’s appointment as leader of the Taliban will likely put stress on the movement, it shows few signals of diminishing its renewed insurgency.

The news pretty much ends speculation about former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s death in a US airstrike in Pakistan’s south-western Baluchistan province, which was criticised by Islamabad as a violation of its sovereignty.

The Taliban would have prepared extensively for this eventuality. The fast appointment, following days of intense council, appears to be a conspicuous act of decisiveness. It stands in contrast to the two-year delay the movement faced in announcing the death of the Mullah Omar. It will be not be lost on the Taliban that it was subterfuge around the death of Mullah Omar that caused the fracture within the movement which in turn led to the establishment of an ISIS presence in the country.

The appointment is a victory for the Taliban old guard. As former head of the Taliban's judiciary and Mullah Mansour’s deputy, in many ways, Haibatullah is a natural successor. Haibatullah, described by Afghanistan expert Sami Yousafzai as a “stone age Mullah,” demonstrates the Taliban’s inherent tendency to resort to tradition rather than innovation during times of internal crisis.

The decision taken by the Taliban to have an elder statesman of the group at the helm highlights the increasing marginalisation of the Haqqani network, a powerful subset within the Taliban that has been waging an offensive against the government and coalition forces in northwest Pakistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network who already has a bounty of 5 million dollars on his head, was touted in some Taliban circles as a potential successor, however the decision to overlook him is a conservative move from the Taliban. 

The Taliban’s leadership of the jihad against the Afghan government is hinged on their claims to religious legitimacy, something the group will hope to affirm through the Haibatullah’s jurisprudential credentials. This assertion of authority has particular significance given the rise of ISIS elements in the country. The last two Taliban chiefs have both declared themselves to be amir ul-momineen or ‘leader of the faithful,’ providing a challenge to the parallel claims of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Any suggestions that Mansour’s death will lead to the unravelling of the Taliban are premature. The military targeting of prominent jihadi leaders within group structures has been seen in operations against the leadership of ISIS, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and other groups.

In recent research for the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, we found that it is often less prominent jihadis that play an integral role in keeping the movement alive. Targeted killings do create a void, but this often comes at the expense of addressing the wider support base and ideological draw of militant outfits. This is particularly relevant with a relatively decentralised movement like the Taliban.

Such operations can spur activity. If the example of the Taliban’s previous leadership succession is to be heeded, we might expect renewed attacks across Afghanistan, beyond the group’s strongholds near the eastern border with Pakistan. The brief capture of Kunduz, Afghanistan's fifth-largest city, at the end of September 2015, was a show of strength to answer the numerous internal critics of Mullah Mansour’s new leadership of the movement.

In a news cycle dominated by reports of ISIS, and to a diminishing extent al-Qaeda, atrocities, it is important to comprehend the renewed brutality of the Afghan insurgency.  Data from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics Global Extremism Monitor found a seventeen per cent rise in fatalities from March to April, marking the start of the Taliban’s spring fighting season. A suicide attack in central Kabul on the headquarters of an elite military unit that killed 64 people was the single most deadly act of terror around the world in the month of April, and the group’s bloodiest attack in the Afghan capital for years. Reports this morning of a suicide attack on a bus killing 10 staff from an appeal court west of Kabul, suggests that the violence shows no sign of diminishing under the new leadership.

All these developments come during a period of renewed impetus behind international peace talks. Last week representatives from Pakistan were joined by delegates from Afghanistan, the United States, and China in an attempt to restart the stalled negotiation process with the Taliban.

Haibatullah Akhunzada’s early leadership moves will be watched closely by these countries, as well as dissonant voices within the movement, to ascertain what the Taliban does next, in a period of unprecedented challenge for the infamously resilient movement. 

Milo Comerford is a South and Central Asia Analyst for the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics