In the first panel of the briefing on “New drivers, new players in ACP rural development” Olga Sulla from the World Bank argued that, backed by considerable financial capacity, philanthropic foundations are playing an increasingly significant role in development assistance and have the potential to do much more.

Brussels Briefing - July 2008The vast majority of philanthropic foundations are US based, with most work carried out at national rather than international level. She pointed out that only 1% are active in international development, giving total grants estimated between $5-7 billion, mainly in emerging economies. These foundations have been most active in health: the Gates foundation for example provides $1.2 billion of the $1.4 billion in this sector. Most foundations work through global funds and only 12 have offices in developing countries. In particular, Ms Sulla noted that few foundations have been active in agriculture and rural development; though nevertheless their role is clearly growing.

Although the World Bank was the single largest donor to agriculture in Africa between 1990 and 2006, it was criticized in a 2007 Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) report for failing to adopt a coherent and integrated approach in its lending support. She stated that the Bank has taken the findings seriously and it is strengthening its focus on agriculture with increased funding, new initiatives and a new approach aimed at stimulating private sector led investments across the value chain.

Against this backdrop, cooperation between the World Bank and philanthropic foundations is developing in a number of areas. However, Ms Sulla argued that further work still needs to be done to understand and fully exploit the complementarities between foundations and official development assistance.

See more from the 2 July Briefing

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