Foreign Policy Blogs

CGI goes East

This WSJ post regarding a December meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in Hong Kong caught my attention.   While I’m keen on the idea of promoting philanthropic actions around the world, I’m also sensitive to the fact that these actions may not be one-size fits all. 

A main goal of the Asia-based meeting is to raise awareness among Asian countries to the positive role of civil society and non-governmental organizations.  While the inclusion of high-ranking government and corporate leaders is encouraging, the deeper question will be how civil society from each of these countries will actually be represented? 

Mr. Clinton's notes one of the main challenges being whether the global financial crisis will affect the amount of money raised.  Making monetary commitments is fantastic, but what is the infrastructure within Asian nations to carry out these commitments?  How does it vary from one to the next?  What will the unique challenges of implementation be?  Instead of focusing on the financial challenge, sights might be better set to adapting expectations of how to fit a western model of philanthropy on a very diverse set of Asian nations — all having their own ingrained philanthropic traditions. 

I’m watching with interest on the outcome – knowing the amount of money donated does not mean that structure of civil society and non-governmental organizations in Asia will suddenly mirror (walk like, talk like) those of the United States.  Nor should they, necessarily.  Even in Canada the structure varies as government, legal, tax, and social traditions all have evolved in a different manners. 

As to Mr. Clinton's quote “There will be “holes in the fabric” of Asian society “that can only be filled by civilian action,” it may prudent to first to look at the individual weave of each society's fabric before assuming that the holes are not there by design – nor are in need of a CGI patch.