When is a political statement simply ‘love of humanity’?
by Barbara Ibrahim
In the days leading up to WINGS Forum 2017, the organizers asked themselves a question. Should a gathering of global philanthropy professionals step outside normal conference activities into the fraught terrain of public politics? We were at that point distracted by last-minute changes to the speakers’ roster and dealing with missed flight connections. Then at a brief meeting of the WINGS board of directors, someone broached the subject and we found surprising unity. The consensus view was that as a global gathering in Mexico City, we needed to reaffirm the basic values behind our work and personal commitments. We also wanted to express solidarity with Mexicans, Muslims and others who are facing increased discrimination in the neighboring United States and elsewhere.
Several of the conference sessions already addressed closing public space for NGO and philanthropic activity. Others questioned whether an overemphasis on business models was moving the field away from its roots in social justice. And as the Trump administration was issuing blanket bans on immigration, we heard about 26 Canadian communities that opened their homes and hearts to Syrian refugee families. Thus, it made sense to the board that we consult with our Mexican hosts and those in attendance about issuing a statement of values, a Mexico City Declaration.
After that, things moved rapidly. Over lunch and late at night – following much good food and music – I was part of a small group that came up with the draft statement. It was honed by each person who added in good ideas, then endorsed and presented on February 24th at the final session of the Forum. (see below)
Declarations are words on paper. But they also express something deeper and more enduring. For the three hundred plus people in attendance at WINGS Forum, it is a public way of recommitting ourselves to work toward a more inclusive, equal and generous world.
Mexico City Declaration
February 24, 2017
We are a global forum of philanthropy support organizations, foundations, civil society representatives and responsible business leaders gathered in Mexico to advance human welfare through more effective philanthropy. We come from 44 countries and over 170 organizations worldwide. We can no longer assume that the shared values of our community – respect for cultural diversity and global collaboration, reducing human inequality, protecting the natural environment and promoting development – are gaining ground. Instead, we note with alarm that each of these aspirations are under threat from political events around the world. At its heart, philanthropy means the love of humanity. As leaders, professionals and allies in the field of philanthropy, we condemn the rise of hate speech and the closing of civic space. We oppose these trends, whether in the form of attempts to vilify ‘the other’, spread misinformation, silence rights advocates, or use fear as a tool for manipulating public opinion. We commit ourselves to oppose these trends wherever we have influence. We will use the growing power of philanthropy to mobilize the social, intellectual and material resources of our global community and leverage those of our partners. And we call on all people of good will to do the same. Finally, we signal our support and solidarity with those who feel threatened by the rise of prejudice or national supremacy movements wherever they appear around the globe.
WINGS Global Forum 2017
Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, Office of the President at The American University in Cairo