ISTANBULâ€”More than 200 participants from over 31 countries representing 106 grant-making foundations and NGOs came together for the first World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP) conference held from March 22-24, 2008, in Istanbul, Turkey. The event theme was â€œFacing Challenges and Finding Solutions,â€ recognizing both the difficult dimensions of global human development and Muslim institution building and the great possibilities in helping millions escape grinding poverty and achieve lasting peace around the world.
The conference aimed at creating philanthropic networks that could better pool and leverage available capital and human resources to combat critical global issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDs, poor education, environmental degradation and religious extremism.
The event was attended by world leaders including the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu; Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Her Royal Highness Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani, Founder of Reach Out To Asia, Qatar; UK Minister of International Development Shahid Malik; Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani, Founder of the Doha Academy, Qatar; West Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool; Dr. Nafis Sadiq, Advisor to UN Secretary General; Assistant Administrator of USAID, Mark Ward; Special Assistant to the US Secretary of State, Farah Pandhit; Dr. William Vendley, Chairman of World Council of Religions for Peace; and Peter Oâ€™Driscoll, Executive Director, ActionAid International. Representatives from the Rand Corporation, Gallup, Habitat for Humanity, American University Cairo and Hartford Seminary were also in attendance.
Her Royal Highness, Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani stressed the need to focus on education because of its ability to empower current and future generations in developing effective solutions to poverty alleviation and peace. She called upon philanthropists to be strategic in their thinking and giving and develop partnerships to reduce overlap and inefficiencies.
Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the OIC, stated that the WCMP came at a critical time. Recognizing the obstacles that non-governmental organizations face in developing effective strategies for addressing humanitarian needs, he said the OIC has embarked on a number of initiatives to increase international credibility and accountability of Muslim non-governmental organizations.
Turkish PM Erdogan welcomed the WCMP to Istanbul and applauded its efforts to develop stronger networking and communication among Muslim philanthropists. He stated that such partnerships will result in reducing waste and overlap.
UK Minister for Development Shahid Malik called upon the need to support the WCMP to help address the critical benchmarks outlined by the UN Millennium Development Goals and said that only by strengthening initiatives like the WCMP can the cause of Muslim of philanthropy and humanitarian assistance become more effective.
Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani called upon Muslim philanthropists to work to alleviate suffering of all people regardless of their faith. She further said that Islamâ€™s tradition of alms-giving must be bolstered to be an effective bulwark against the misappropriation and misrepresentation of the faith by fringe extremists who seek to destroy rather than build.
Premier Ebrahim Rasool said that Muslim humanitarian organizations, philanthropists and non-governmental organizations must focus on poverty, education, environmental degradation and developing global partnerships that transcend boundaries of religion, race and ethnicity.
While Muslim philanthropists continue to do great work across the world and serve people regardless of what faith they may profess, it was recognized that this work could be furthered through enduring and sustained engagement amongst key philanthropic partners in critical areas of philanthropy, said the congress convener Dr. Tariq Cheema. While compassion was seen as a powerful driving force for giving and helping humanity, participants also spoke of a practical need for further cooperation, collaboration, capacity building and communication among Muslim philanthropists to develop benchmarks, such as a worldwide charity rating system, create an outline of best practices and help humanitarian organizations and philanthropists leverage the resources available, be it capital or human.
As conference participants discussed the aforementioned needs, conference organizers said they would begin development of an information resource center, to provide philanthropic consulting and management services to the entities that need further expertise in the development, implementation and evaluation of programs.
For information, see the WCMP 2008 web site at http://thewcmp.net. The World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, WCMP 2008, P.O. Box # 3654, Oakbrook, IL 60522. Phone: (630) 242-2792, Fax: +1 (630) 889-9511. Dr. Tariq Cheema, firstname.lastname@example.org OR Angela Massey, email@example.com.