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Chinese NGOs balancing out govt support
Publication Date : 17-12-2013
China's NGOs are extending a helping hand to poor countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, a move observers see as an effective complement to government-dominated development assistance overseas.
He Daofeng, executive president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, said his organisation drew its internationalisation road map in 2007 after realising that China is shifting from recipient to donor country in the wake of its rapid economic growth in the past three decades.
"In the next 10 years, you will not find that much poverty in China, and we predict more and more Chinese will be happy to donate to those who are needy overseas," he told reporters on Monday after delivering the keynote speech at a forum on international social responsibility at Peking University.
Since 2005, the foundation has spent about 72 million yuan (US$11.9 million) on aid programs in more than 10 countries, including Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, according to the organisation.
The foundation offered donations and relief supplies to countries hit by major natural disasters, He said.
"We chose destination countries for long-term projects where many Chinese companies and Chinese people are working, which helps our fundraising," he said.
The foundation puts a priority on projects that can solve the most pressing issues for aid recipients. For example, his organisation launched a healthcare program in 2012 in Sudan that sent volunteer doctors from China to train local midwives and nurses because of the high mortality rate for mothers in labour and infants.
He also revealed that the Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission have discussed future cooperation in foreign aid to Africa and Southeast Asia with his organisation.
Liu Hongwu, a professor from the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, said China's official aid for developing countries has advantages over its Western counterparts although the size of China's overseas aid is comparatively small.
China's foreign aid over the last 60 years has been about a tenth of the aid from the US over the same period, he said.
"Western donor countries are keen on selling democracy, human rights and the parliamentary system, while China showcases a more-equal and mutually beneficial model in terms of overseas aid," he said.
However, China's government-dominated foreign aid has disadvantages, including low efficiency in using funds and poor involvement of local communities, he said.
Liu Guijin, former Chinese special representative on African affairs and then China's special representative to Darfur, Sudan, agreed.
Liu Guijin recalled that he visited a refugee camp in Darfur in 2008 where a refugee told him that Chinese faces were "rare" among the international humanitarian aid groups there.
"I was astonished when he told me that he had no idea about assistance that China provided even though we had already offered more than 200 million yuan," he said.
Deng Guosheng, director of Tsinghua University's NGO Research Centre, said China's NGOs are capable of playing a bigger role in foreign aid. Public donations reached 81.7 billion yuan and each of the 47 charitable foundations raised more than 100 million yuan since 2012.
However, fewer than 10 NGOs from the Chinese mainland have expanded abroad, while more than 20,000 NGOs from the US are working on projects overseas, he said.
Deng, who released his book on the internationalisation of Chinese NGOs at the forum on Monday, said his studies show that the voice and influence of Chinese NGOs that "go abroad" is limited.
"None of these have set up offices or have full-time staff members in recipient countries," he said. "They lack sustainable projects and stable investments."
He urged the government to give some of its annual overseas-aid funds to purchase the services from domestic NGOs to participate in assistance abroad.