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Mo Ibrahim Hailed for Cutting-Edge Philanthropy

Dr. Mo Ibrahim was awarded the Raymond Georis Prize for Innovative Philanthropy yesterday in Brussels, the latest recognition of his groundbreaking initiative to encourage and reward excellence in government in African nations. The Sudanese-born mobile communications entrepreneur established a prize to be awarded to a democratically elected former African head of government, consisting of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter, from his London-based foundation. This year’s winner is to be announced on June 14; no prize was awarded last year.  “In his work to encourage good governance in Africa, Dr. Mo Ibrahim matches the best of Europe with the best of Africa” said Mr Raymond Georis. “In doing so he is at the cutting edge of a new paradigm for global philanthropy.”

 The prize was presented during the Closing Plenary of the first ever Foundation Week, organized by the European Foundation Centre (EFC). A recent study by the EU estimated that there are some 110,000 foundations in Europe, collectively spending between 83 and 150 billion euros annually on projects and programmes, and providing employment for to up to 1 million Europeans.

We’ve watched with interest as the conference unfolded, with more than 1,000 participants from foundations throughout Europe, and followed the action courtesy of bloggers for Alliance magazine.

A challenge unique to the philanthropic sector in Europe is the current status of regulations which impede cross-border work among foundations. During the conference, European Foundation Centre leaders released results of a new Gallup poll of Members of the European Parliament:  86% of respondents think the EU should play a role in facilitating the work of foundations via a European Foundation Statute. According to Gerry Salole, chief executive of the European Foundation Centre:

“A statute enabling foundations in Europe to work in neighbouring countries is long overdue – not having this mechanism in place is stopping foundations realising their potential – and in these difficult financial times foundations have an increasingly important role to play.”

Some of the key sessions of the week-long conference mirrored concerns seen on this side of the Atlantic, particularly those focused on disaster response, and complicated issues surrounding immigration. Transparency, measurement and evaluation were dominant themes, just as we frequently hear in the American philanthropic sphere.

Also, one blogger noted that there were interesting distinctions to observe between this conference and recent foundation gatherings in the US and Brazil: for one thing, “only in Europe is wine served at all times.”

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