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Linking Muslim Charity to MDGs

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2012 (IPS) - Although there has been great progress in many areas towards achieving the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many in the Muslim world remain sheltered from their positive effects.

‘‘Our hopes after today’s meeting will be a greater understanding of the goals, its unlimited potential and the impact on the future development agenda’’, said Imtiaz A. Khan, Chairman, Board of Directors, World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists at a panel discussion on “Linking Muslim giving to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Office of the Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.

From the perspective of the MDG campaign, Director Corinne Wood  said  the role that faith plays in millennium development is something that is absolutely crucial.

‘‘We have seen over the last  ten or fifteen years an increasing recognition of the role that faith plays in the work of development,’’ said Wood, ‘‘the principle of giving expands all cultures and religious faiths and it is an important means of establishing a social safety net for the poor.’’

The path of faith-based giving and volunteering is clear, compelling and measurable the beliefs, values attitudes and commitments of those who contribute to religion, translating to high levels of generosity to other causes as well.

The most important source of financing in Islamic philanthropy is Zakat. ‘‘Zakat represents one of the five pillars of Islam and it is obligatory for Muslims to pay,’’ said Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, Permanent Observer of OIC to the U.N pointing out the significance of Zakat in Islam.

‘‘The main focus of the World Zakat Organization is to work towards the eradication of poverty among the poor, and lead the Muslims on permanent basis through developing sustainable projects in the area of food security and human resource development,’’ Gokcen added.

Dato’ Mohammad Mat Hassan Esa, chief executive officer at the  World Zakat Organization  Interim Secretariat showed the imbalance of income among Muslims in the world. ‘‘ He said  there are about 1.62 billion Muslims in the world and  350 million live on 1.25 dollars or less per day, and about 250 million are considered rich, living above 10 dollars per day.’’

‘‘Zakat fund could act as an incentive to the poor and needy to assist them to become economically productive recipients and free them from total poverty if channeled in a sustainable manner,’’ added Esa.

‘‘What we found is that foundations are very flexible and are willing to take risks and that is great in terms of development,’’ said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, Deputy Director of Communication in the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at UN Development Programme ( UNDP), which has a long history of working with Foundations and philanthropic organizations.  ‘‘Islamic foundations for us is a new and very exciting domain of partnership,’’ Ghandour added.

‘‘The U.N has made a mistake when it built the MDGs before the year 2000, the consultation process was probably not wide enough, it didn’t involved civil society enough, it didn’t involved foundations enough, and so for the 2015 agenda we need to be much more open with the non states of development around the world, so the partnerships with foundations and philanthropy is going to be critical,’’ said Ghandour.

‘‘The consultation and formulation of the post 2015 agenda will be a departure  from what we saw with the MDGs and every country, specially Muslim countries, need to make sure that the discussions are made both at global and national levels,’’ stated Sering Falu Njie, Deputy Director of the United Nations Policy Millennium Campaign.

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