The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation Internationalizes

China Development Brief, No. 45 (Spring 2010)

中文 English

In the 1980s and 1990s, China was a leading recipient of international aid but that is slowly beginning to change with China’s rapid development over the last 30 years.  In the past decade, the Chinese government, at the central and provincial levels, and companies have begun providing more assistance to developing countries, mostly in the form of loans, trade deals, and investment. Up to now, Chinese GONGOs and NGOs have not played much of a role in China’s foreign aid program, but the case of CFPA shows that this is slowly starting to change.

The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation is Ahead of Its Time

In 2004, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (hereafter, CFPA, 中国扶贫基金会) began to shift its efforts to the entire world, proposing an “internationalization” development strategy. After careful deliberation, this strategy became the CFPA’s new direction.

Needs and Expectations on the Global Stage

What exactly does “internationalization” mean?

In the words of He Daofeng, the CFPA’s Deputy Director, it means that aid recipients, aid providers, and aid ideals and methods, be viewed from an international perspective, and that the CFPA’s poverty relief work be expanded overseas.

Mr. He believes that this strategy is closely related to facilitating China’s economic development and growing role in the global community, as well as the international community’s changing expectations regarding the role China will play as a major power.

Mr. He explains, when a country’s per capita annual income reaches 3000 USD, it generally marks what economists call the “Lewis Point” (the transition from labor excess to labor shortage). At this point, a country’s labor cost rises, and its demographic advantage declines, thereby forcing local companies to internationalize. In this transition, aid organizations should also internationalize their resources and methods.

Moreover, as [a country’s] economy develops, there is a large rise in donations from companies, which in turn leads to a demand from companies for internationalizing philanthropy. China’s transition from an aid-receiving country to an aid-providing country has brought about new expectations of China from the global community. “You cannot ignore the world’s suffering. You cannot turn a blind eye to African refugees. You cannot ignore the problems of the world!” Mr. He says with passion.

“With these kinds of expectations, we had to respond, otherwise China could not take its place as a major power.” Changes in the outside world led to corresponding changes in the CFPA. Our 20 years of experience allowed us to respond effectively to these new demands, Mr. He noted.

CFPA, however, was very cautious about implementing its internationalization strategy in the early stages, when it had no experience to draw from.

Mr. He recalls that when CFPA first began working in international aid, it always worked with international organizations in the hope of accumulating international experience. It was extremely cautious, concerned that any problems might result in bad press that would destroy its international work before it had really begun.

After 2005, CFPA began working with Mercy Corps and other international aid organizations, providing emergency supplies and medicines to help tsunami-affected areas in India, the US in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and areas affected by the earthquake in Pakistan. In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, the CFPA raised RMB 2 million for the UN recovery effort in Haiti.

Criticism from the outside has also made it difficult for the CFPA to internationalize. People ask why is it that, even while China itself still has serious poverty, CFPA is so eager to cast its gaze to the world at large? In 2005, at the same time that CFPA was extending a helping hand to the Katrina disaster in the US, people called to complain, “What’s wrong with you? You’re ignoring problems at home. Even the government isn’t getting involved [with aid for Katrina]. What are you doing offering help?”

Mr. He explains, as a country develops, there are continual changes in the consciousness of the nation and its people. Different stages of development give rise to different opinions, which is to be expected. He even recommends that his employees record these complaints and criticisms and listen to them from time to time to observe the changes in China’s national identity and consciousness.

While CFPA itself has had repeated internal debates over the same issues, Mr. He recalls, “discussion, experimentation, and progress remain our core values, and we also maintain an atmosphere that is open, transparent, and conducive to learning.” Thus, in the end, everyone was able to reach an understanding.

At CFPA’s 2009 annual meeting, Mr. He even addressed the entire staff in a report on “how to meet the challenges posed by internationalization”.

“It’s a lot better now. We don’t get abusive phone calls anymore,” He Daofeng added.

Sudan as a Turning Point

Exploring its capabilities by providing early-stage emergency assistance to disaster-affected areas around the world allowed the Fund to gain some international experience. But Mr. He believes that it was not until October 2009, when CFPA completed its onsite survey in Sudan, that its “internationalization” really began. “CFPA went through five or six years of trial programs, but only now is it at a stage where we are ready to establish a real presence overseas.”

CFPA has used its work in Sudan as the starting point for further aid work in Africa. It plans to establish 13 hospitals for women and children to lower the maternal and infant mortality rates. At present, the first batch of supplies has already been shipped from China and CFPA is preparing for construction of its first hospital.

The maternal death rate in Sudan, Mr. He explained, is 1,300 deaths for every 100,000 births, far higher than China’s 30 deaths for every 100,000 births. Even in the poorest areas of Tibet, the maternal death rate is only about 100 for every 100,000 births. For pregnant women in Sudan, giving birth is literally like knocking on death’s door.

“In the past three years, there have been no maternal deaths in any of the 12 counties where CFPA has projects in China.” CFPA would like to take the lessons from the “120 actions for mother-child safety” project carried out in China and apply them in Sudan and other countries that lack medical resources and hygienic facilities, in its effort to lower maternal and infant mortality rates.

Of course, given that there is a difference between the medical resources available in China and Sudan, the methods that CFPA uses in China will differ somewhat from those used in Sudan. CFPA’s work in Sudan will include donations of equipment and skills ranging from constructing hospitals and training medical and management staff to sending volunteers to work directly with local medical staff. “This will be a symbolic example of the Fund’s internationalization strategy.”

Within the organization, CFPA has set up an International Development Department to promote its internationalization strategy. With Sudan as the starting point, CFPA hopes in the future to expand its activities to nearby Ethiopia, Chad, and Kenya, as well as other African countries.

Is CFPA Too Far Ahead of Its Time?

It seems that after the misunderstandings and doubts that plagued the early stages of its work, CFPA is slowly beginning to be understood and supported by others. The attitudes of both the government and companies are changing rapidly.

“Chinese companies have done a lot of charity overseas, but they do not sell it well. A lot of their money was not spent well. The money given to local governments was not very effective. Now the [Chinese] government wants to encourage some of its departments to give it a try,” explains Mr. He.

In speaking about the lessons learned from implementing its internationalization strategy, Mr. He seems to have internalized the lessons perfectly. First, Mr. He explained, the thinking has to change. Next, internationalization has to become the overall focus of the organization. Third, you need specialized departments to implement the strategy. Fourth, you need suitable staff. Fifth, you need to choose a location. Sixth, decisions have to be made about the kind of projects needed at that location. Who are the potential donors for the project? Who are you aiming to help? Then you need to select partners. Also, there need to be ways to monitor project implementation.

As to whether CFPA’s progress was “too far ahead of its time,” Mr. He did not have a direct answer. Compared to the emergency aid offered by other Chinese GONGOs, he said, CFPA has gone down a different path. GONGOs are stuck at the stage of simply allocating funds to disaster areas. He believes that CFPA should understand what the problems are in disaster-struck countries, and then design projects to deal directly with those problems. Otherwise, “how would it be any different from money from the government?”

“When Chinese companies go abroad, they need to be responsive to the needs of local communities. China’s role on the international stage is changing. We’re trying to meet new expectations, thinking about how to minimize the internationalization gap.”

As to whether or not [Chinese grassroots] NGOs would be able to develop internationally, Mr. He remarked, effective charity cannot just depend on someone’s passion. It’s something that requires skill and specialization. Nowadays, more and more young people are joining aid organizations, bringing with them new ideas about the world. The emergence of all sorts of new charities will add to this energy. But, he cautions, “Everything changes gradually, without any bells or whistles. It doesn’t just suddenly happen on one day. Only people with a steady heart, willing to think deeply, will be able to discover the course of this change.”

中国扶贫基金会迈向国际化
王辉
中国发展简报2010春季刊第45卷
中国扶贫基金会很“超前”。
2004年,扶贫基金会将公益的视野放至全球,最早提出“向国际化发展”的总体发展战略。经过小心的探索和尝试,目前这个战略已悄然为扶贫基金会的未来发展打开新的局面。
国际舞台的需要和期待
向国际化发展,对扶贫基金会意味着什么?
用扶贫基金会副会长何道峰的话简单来讲,就是资助对象、资助人以及资助理念与方法三方面,都需要放到国际这个舞台上去看,原有的扶贫基金会工作范围将随之改变,扩至海外。
何道峰认为国际化战略的提出,与中国的经济发展和中国在国际舞台上的需要,以及国际社会对中国的大国角色的期待等外部环境的变化有很大的关系。
何道峰解释,人均年收入3000美元通常会带来的经济学上所讲的“刘易斯拐点”(劳动力过剩向短缺的转折点),这时本国的劳动力价格被迫提高,从而也使得人口红利逐渐减少,迫使本土的企业升级并走上国际舞台。其中慈善机构所需的资源、方法,也需要国际化。
此外,随着经济的发展,来自企业的慈善资源或捐赠会大幅度的上升,因此企业也会产生公益国际化的需求。伴随中国日渐从原来的受援国变成援助国,整个国际社会对中国都产生了新的期待。“你不能对世界的苦难,熟视无睹!你不能对非洲的难民,熟视无睹!你不能对世界存在的问题,熟视无睹!”访谈中,何充满激情的言辞令人动容。
“有了这种需求和期待,那就要我们响应这个变化,否则中国就不配在世界舞台充当一个大国的角色。”外部环境的变化,促使扶贫基金会随之做出响应,20多年的运作经历,也使扶贫基金会在回应这些需求和期待上具备了相当成熟的经验和能力,何道峰说。
然而,即便是“胸怀伟大的理想”,在国际化战略的道路上,扶贫基金会还是走得非常谨慎,尤其是在提出这个战略的初期,完全没有经验,什么事情都要去摸索。
何道峰回忆,一开始涉足国际救援行动,扶贫基金会都是跟着国际组织一起合作,以期积累国际化发展经验。处处小心,担心出了问题就会被媒体扼杀在摇篮之中。
2005年以后,扶贫基金会曾先后与国际美慈等国际救援机构合作,向印尼海啸灾区、美国卡特琳娜飓风、巴基斯坦震灾以及非洲等国家提供紧急救援的物资、药品等。最近刚发生的海地地震,扶贫基金会也及时伸出援助之手,筹集到200多万人民币交给联合国在海地的救援机构运作。
外部环境也制约着扶贫基金会的“走出去”战略。在中国本土还有大量的贫困工作还需要做的情况下,为什么基金会要将眼光投向国际救援呢?2005年向美国遭受卡特琳娜飓风的灾民伸出援手的时候,就有人打进电话来骂: “你们有病啦?自己的事情不管。这件事情国家都不管,你伸手干什么呢”。
何道峰解释,每一个国家及其国民在发展过程中,所孕育的思想意识都在逐步发生着变化。每一个阶段都有不同的看法。这很正常。他还建议员工将这些外界的谩骂和批评录音,时常听听,以此对比来见证中国国民性的成长,以及国民角色意识的转变。
事实上,扶贫基金会内部对此也争议重重。何说,尽管内部有各种不同的看法,但“讨论尝试往前走,仍是基金会这个机构的核心文化,且机构始终保持了一个开放透明和学习的心态”,所以最终也得到全体员工的理解。在2009年的机构年会上,何还以“如何迎接国际化战略给我们的挑战”为题,向基金会全体员工做了报告。
“现在好多了,没有人骂了。”何道峰补充道。
苏丹是一个转折点
为国际灾难紧急救援进行的先期探索和尝试,让扶贫基金会取得了试水国际舞台的经验。但直到2009年10月完成的苏丹实地调查之行,才是何道峰认为的机构国际化战略的真正开始。“扶贫基金会尝试了五六年,现在才是一个真正在外,要设立机构、要驻人的阶段。”
扶贫基金会将苏丹作为援助非洲的起点,打算在苏丹建起13个妇幼保健医院,帮助降低孕产妇死亡率和婴儿死亡率。目前基金会的第一批物资已由国内运去,正在为筹建第一所医院募款。
何道峰介绍,苏丹的孕产妇死亡率为10万分之1300,远高于中国10万分之30的死亡率。即使在最贫穷的西藏地区,孕产妇死亡率也只有10万分之100多。苏丹的孕产妇生孩子简直就像过鬼门关。
“最近3年,扶贫基金会在国内涵盖的12个项目县中,没有一例孕产妇死亡。”何道峰表示,扶贫基金会愿意把国内取得的“母婴平安120行动”的成熟经验带到苏丹这些医疗资源缺乏和卫生状况不好的国家,减少那里的孕产妇和婴儿死亡率。
当然,由于中国和苏丹在拥有的医疗资源上存在差异,扶贫基金会回应本土需求的方式,与苏丹当地情况稍有不同。扶贫基金会在苏丹的援助,将是一个包括捐赠设备在内,从建医院、培训医务人员和管理人员,以及派遣国内志愿者前去与当地医务人员一起工作的一体化项目运作过程。“这将成为扶贫基金会国际化战略中的一个标志性的点”。
在机构设置方面,扶贫基金会还专门为国际化战略成立了国际发展部。从苏丹开始,扶贫基金会将持续稳定地步步扩展,在未来走向周边的埃塞俄比亚、乍得、肯尼亚等其他非洲国家。
是否太“超前”?
看上去,经过了初期的误解和质疑,扶贫基金会的国际化战略已日渐迎来外界的理解和认同。政府和企业的态度也在发生着积极的变化。
“中国企业在海外做了很多慈善,但是不卖好,很多钱都白花了。给当地政府的钱也没有达到效果。现在政府有关部门要推动一些组织到国际上尝试做这些事情。”何道峰透露。
谈 起实施国际化战略对扶贫基金会带来的变化和影响,何道峰看来已了然于胸。他说,首先是思维要发生变化,其次让它变成机构大的整体意识并考虑怎么做,第三要有专门的部门来做,第四要有适合的人员,第五是选点,从哪些地方开始,第六是在选点里从什么样的项目开始。项目人员要设计潜在捐赠人是谁?你帮助的人群是 谁?然后就是选择合作伙伴。此外实施的项目还需要有监控方法。
对基金会迈出的步子“是否太超前”的疑问,何并没有正面回应。他说,相比国内某类官办NGO开展的国际紧急救援活动来说,扶贫基金会已经有了一个不一样的过程,而官办NGO尚停留在发现灾难、然后拨款的阶段。何认为,基金会需要去研究发生灾难国家的问题在哪里,针对问题去设计救援项目。否则,“那跟国家拨款过去支援,又有什么两样呢?”
“中国企业到国际上要回馈社会、社区的需求。中国要在国际舞台上转变角色,我们要符合这个期待。思考如何缩小国际化的差别。”
对于本土NGO将来能否在国际化方面有所发展,何道峰指出,慈善不能简单地依靠激情,更是一个需要技术和专业的事业。现在,越来越多的年轻人加入公益机构,带来了新的思维和视界,各种公益力量的出现也会增加这种动能。但他提醒说,“所有的东西都是渐进的,都是在悄然地发生变化。它不是哪一天突然出现的。只有有心的人、做深入思考的人,才能发现它运行的轨迹。”

Translated by Bryan Davis

Reviewed by Lizzie Fulton

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