Why Philanthropists Should be in it for the Long Haul
Three weeks ago our founder and president, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, travelled to South Sudan and Sudan to meet with coalitions of women peacebuilders, most of whom we’ve known more than six years. Many, in fact, met Ambassador Hunt in 1999 when she gathered 110 women leaders from conflict zones around the world for our first annual colloquium.
Her simple act of traveling to meet them several weeks ago, when others were fleeing as the drumbeat of war grew louder, gave new energy to their peace initiatives.
Since Hunt Alternatives began supporting the Women Waging Peace Network 13 years ago, the pace of global change has increased. With smartphones and computers, individuals can cause and affect events as never before.
A self-immolation in Tunisia sparks revolutions across the Arab world. Protesters live-streaming video of arrests, abuse, and killings bring the reality of Syria to computers screens around the world.
And here in the US, members of Facebook and Twitter fuel protests against mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds in Virginia and connect “occupiers” as they spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Sustaining these movements is another matter. Sustaining requires the leadership and commitment of funders for the long haul. The impact that continued commitment can have on nascent movements is immeasurable.
I use the term commitment deliberately, because supporting movements requires financial and emotional support.
In a time of flash-in-the-pan attempts to create change, is it the role of philanthropy to sustain? We at the Institute for Inclusive Security believe one of the most important things we can do is help turn these catalytic actions into enduring campaigns for peace and security.
Our approach is threefold, we:
- Equip women leaders affected by conflict with the skills they need to participate in peace processes.
- Connect these women directly to policymakers so the decision-makers hear firsthand from those who know what they need to achieve peace.
- Provide technical assistance to policymakers as they design more inclusive and gender-sensitive policies and practices.
None of this can be started and finished in a matter of weeks. It takes years.
The point isn’t to involve women because they have a right to be involved, which they do, but because their inclusion is a critical ingredient to both preventing and ending war.
Just this week, we hosted 12 Pakistani women leaders in Washington, DC, for meetings with policymakers. In meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, these dynamic women delivered concrete recommendations for how the US can help moderate extremism in their country.
This visit was part of a multi-year coalition building initiative supported by the Institute, US Institute of Peace, and Paiman Alumni Trust. From across the country —Balochistan to Karachi —women have overcome their differences to counter the rising tide of radicalism in the country. This is not a short-term endeavor. It requires long-term partnerships among philanthropists, governments, and international and local organizations.
As I prepare for the Council on Foundations’ Annual Meeting, I look forward to learning more about how others support paradigmatic change. I also think of the courageous women of South Sudan and Sudan who, in the face of renewed war, are organizing to stop the bloodshed and to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
While they put their lives on the line, the least we can do is commit to them, and to other agents of change around the globe, that we’re ready to support them for the long-term.
- Want to learn more about how to empower women? Check out “Empowerment: A journey not a destination” [PDF] by Pathways of Women’s Empowerment.
- Interested in strategic philanthropy? Be sure to read Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change The World.
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Evelyn Thornton is the chief executive officer of The Institute for Inclusive Security, a program of Hunt Alternatives. The Institute uses research, training, and advocacy to promote the inclusion of all stakeholders, particularly women, in peace processes. Learn more at inclusivesecurity.org.
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