Need to invest in Good Governance - WCMP
microfinance focus


Microfinance Focus, October 12, 2011: The World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP) is a global network of affluent individuals, foundations, and socially responsible corporations, working together to advance strategic philanthropy.

Catalysing partnerships across public, private, and social sectors, WCMP offers information and resources to link donors with social investment opportunities.

The network has recently launched its first multi-donor giving circle—Hasanah Fund—to develop and implement sustainable programs in food security, entrepreneurial advancement and good governance. The fund aims to mobilize $100 million during a course of five years from philanthropies, foundations, corporations and governments.

A conversation with WCMP’s Founder and CEO, Dr. Tariq H. Cheema

Microfinance Focus: What was the idea behind the creation of World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists?

Tariq Cheema: There were two factors which led to the formation of World Congress. First, the Muslim giving by large has come under pressure because of certain threat elements. A very negative imagery was created in the media about Muslim giving due to these elements. The second factor, which was even more important and a much more sound reason to have a World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists was the need of more sophistication in our giving. There was a need of more long term strategy, development and innovation for Muslim giving which is often done without due diligence.

In order to do this, a lot of energy was required to educate the donors, to introduce best practices and to bring donors together so that they may learn from each other. These factors led to the formation of this network which now is the world’s premiere forum for Muslim giving.

Microfinance Focus: Tell us about some of the unique needs of the Muslim societies.

Tariq Cheema: It is very important for Muslim societies to have a rational debate about their own issues. Given the kind of resources they have, both human and financial capital, they should be able to find solutions which are more consistent to their beliefs and cultural norm. Taking an example of the gender issue, I think that Muslim society should be bold enough to admit that we do have issues. The way societies treat women is not in accordance to the teachings of Islam.

I believe that the Muslim societies should now actually try to find solutions to their own problems, whether they are social issues or economic issues.

In this process, philanthropy can play a tremendous role. Grant making can be directed to the efforts that are trying to find solutions and should not be supporting elements that are actually causing problems.

Microfinance Focus: Post Arab uprising, what are some of the tasks at hands for WCMP?

Tariq Cheema: Our core objectives are global and equally applicable at all levels. Besides strengthening philanthropic institutions and introducing due diligence in the process of giving, we definitely are here to promote the socio-economic development.

One of the things that fuelled the Arab spring is the fact that the regimes have neglected their people. There is a big gap between people who lead these countries and people who are lead.

The Muslim world today has probably the largest ratio of young people and we need to find ways to engage them meaningfully. Education, development of economic activities that leads to job creation and involvement of youth in the civic activities of their countries is important.

Youths need to be aware of what their rights are. They can be good monitors of how public resources are being used and can raise voice against corruption. We need to empower them to take part in their political structure.

Our role in general will be mobilizing donors’ resources and helping them make social investments in areas that are critical to the socio-economic development.

Microfinance Focus: One of the focus areas of Hasanah fund is entrepreneurship? We would like to know about its work.

Tariq Cheema: We are right now at the first phase of the fund which is about raising capital and getting pledges from donors to invest in the fund. The fund’s uniqueness is that it is based on an interest free model. We are now working with experts to structure things where it can be in compliance with the Islamic principles of finance. We are looking to invest in three areas including food security, entrepreneurship development and good governance.

We are very excited about investing in good governance. It can be in capacity building of community based organizations or leadership development or advocacy groups.

We believe that corruption and mismanagement are two very important issues. Millions of dollars are invested in countries yet we do not see the result. Yes there is an element of corruption but a huge portion of money gets wasted because we don’t know how to utilize our funds effectively.

Microfinance Focus: Would like to know your opinion about microfinance and its work in poverty reduction?

Tariq Cheema: We do not approve any practice that makes few people richer out of the poor. Therefore we believe that microfinance needs to be treated very differently than any other financial service. It has to have very strong ethical imperative.

We are looking for an alternative model for microfinance which is not interest based. We have seen the impact of high interest rate microfinancing which in the long run didn’t turn out to be as poor friendly as it should have been.

It is important to realize what it means to be investing in an area like microfinance which is addressing the needs of the poor. We are only accepting those donors who are totally aware of this fact so that they may not come to the fund with the hope of getting a better return.

From the operational perspective, we have now started the process of mapping and we are now seeing organizations which have a good model, a sound approach and who are like an alternative microfinance compared to the conventional microfinance models.

Our role is to identify good effective models and then support those models. We have established a monitoring team which is looking for organizations that can become partners of our fund.

Microfinance Focus: What are the future objectives of WCMP?

Tariq Cheema: We are only four years into this game but things are growing at a very good pace. Our most important objective right now is outreach. We would like to reach across the world. If you look at the participant of our forums and the entities we are working with, you will see that we are not just for Muslims. The WCMP is not a faith based entity. It is a faith inspired entity whose objective is to help humanity, the environment and the planet we live in.

Our mission is to bring Muslim donors together and tie them with the global donors’ community so that they can work in collaboration and focus on the whole world. I always say that disease has no faith, environmental pollution has no faith but every person has an obligation to contribute positively to this world.

World Congress role is to reach out to the right people, Muslim countries and beyond. In a span of four years, we have developed a network that is extremely diverse. It is diverse from issues to ethnicity. It is a very important success that we can build more upon.

I also believe that Muslim world has been on the receiving end. We have been taking lot of international aid. Now it is time for them to stand up and play their part. Muslim world has lot of resources. They have human and financial capital which if mobilized properly will make us capable of not just helping ourselves but others as well.

The Muslim philanthropists and leaders need to think that if we are not going to address our socio-economic issues we will not just create trouble for ourselves but for the rest of the world as well. We need to develop networks, create pool funds and works towards achieving social justice.



Interviewed Person Name: 
Dr. Tariq Cheema

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