Tony Blair: philanthropy can provide new frontiers of workThursday, Apr 23, 2015 in Office of Tony Blair
Philanthropy at its best is innovative and creative, but it still needs the force of government to make it work in the best way possible, Tony Blair said today.
Speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington DC, US, Mr. Blair said “philanthropy can provide new frontiers of work as the world changes and move into them faster and more effectively than government,” but that government is still needed “to help those applications succeed.”
As founder and patron of the Africa Governance Initiative and Faith Foundation, Mr. Blair has spent his post-office life working on two issues he believes are among the defining issues of our age: effective governance and tackling inter-faith conflict.
Through the AGI, his philanthropy in Africa has focused on making government work for the world’s poorest people. This has included work on President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, as well as helping to develop infrastructure on the continent. Mr. Blair said this was one of key issues for African countries to relieve the poverty and that “if people don’t have access to that basic infrastructure, everything else is harder. Yet if they’ve got access to it – if there’s electricity – there’s access to technology, and that can liberate a whole range of solutions to problems.”
Mr. Blair also spoke about the work the foundation has been undertaking alongside the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help fight Ebola. He said that while this outbreak has been a tragedy, when he visited West Africa last year he was “impressed by the patriotism and service of the young men and women in those countries, who were stepping up, being trained and being prepared to go out on the front line, and actually risking their lives, day in, day out, in order to put their country back up on its feet.”
He added that some of the best ideas, innovations and creative thinking come from the philanthropic sector and that these have been invaluable during the Ebola outbreak. But he said that “in a world where everything is global, ideas often don’t get pushed across boundaries of nations or cultures in the way that they should.”
Citing the work AGI does with Howard Buffett in Rwanda on agriculture, he said it was of huge importance “to have a philanthropic sector that will then tell you the best practice going on around the world.” He called on government and philanthropy to spend more time working in partnership in this way, warning that they “don’t spend nearly enough time learning from each other.”
Following his remarks, Mr. Blair spoke to the CEO of the GPF, Jane Wales about his philanthropy and his foundations. He said that in working with countries on the path to reform “the single hardest thing is making change.” He said that during his time in office he learned “the rhythm of change,” and encouraged governments to be bolder in their approach, stating that “when you’re first proposing a change everyone tells you it’s terrible. When you’re doing it, it is hell. And after you’ve done it, you wish you’d done more of it.”
Notes to editors
The full speech and Q&A can be watched here.
For more information on AGI's work, visit: www.africagovernance.org
For more information on TBFF's work, visit: http://tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/