Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China

May 30, 2016

Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh attends showcase of UNDPs work in Philanthropy 

Beijing, 30 May– The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China held an event to showcase its current work in the philanthropy sector, reflecting on a UNDP report entitled ‘Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China”, and announcing a new partnership between UNDP and Tencent to conduct a study to explore philanthropy in the digital age. The event was attended by UNDP Global Goodwill Ambassador, award-winning actress, Michelle Yeoh.

UNDP’s report, entitled ‘Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China’, carries out a review of the current status of philanthropy in China. The report paints a country in transition and full of potential. China today has the unprecedented opportunity to tap into its economic development to expand its non-profit sector and philanthropic sector. In fact, the levels of personal and corporate wealth in China are rising faster than ever before. Many of these wealthy individuals are starting to give back, by setting up private foundations. At the end of 2015 there were over 4,211 foundations in China, a 60% increase from just five years ago. All of this is a sign that a new culture of giving is taking root here in China. Data shows that the overall amount of citizens who decide to donate to charity is growing every year together with the overall amount of money donated by companies. 

Despite this the report finds that total charitable giving in China is just 4% of the level in the US or Europe. In many respects, China is still a place where philanthropists are finding it hard to operate due to a combination of public distrust in the sector because of some recent scandals, and an unclear legal and policy framework. While UNDP commends the latest charity law and its positive changes in terms of registration and fund raising procedures for foundations, the report shows that much more needs to be done to simplify bureaucratic procedures and allow smaller, independent foundations to play a role in the sector. Most importantly, financial incentives like income tax rebates or tax-free donations need to be created to incentivize individuals and corporations to donate to charity. Finally the report recommends a renewed focus on transparency and accountability in the sector, as well as allowing the market to play a bigger role in philanthropy to help raise standards and supporting innovators, like Internet and social media players.

 “At UNDP we believe that a strong and healthy philanthropic sector in China, confident in looking outside its borders, will benefit China as well as the rest of the world,” remarked Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director of UNDP China in his opening presentation. “UNDP has always incorporated the support for an enabling environment for civil society and philanthropy as a key component of effective development cooperation in our work here in China. We are committed to continue to do this and to use the recommendations and findings of this report to guide our future work in this area.’

At the event UNDP China also announced a new partnership with Tencent. New technology is creating a world where effective philanthropy is no longer only the work of big foundations or organizations, but anyone interested in giving back. UNDP and Tencent will collaborate to research the innovations that are transforming the philanthropic sector in China and the opportunities provided by the Internet and e-giving. A new report, analyzing innovative philanthropy in the digital age under the Sustainable Development Goals, is due to come out soon.

“The internet has been changing the landscape of philanthropy in China,” commented Meng Zhaoli, Chief Economist of Tencent Research Institute during her presentation. “Information about donors, recipients and every step of project implementation can be transparent and accessible to maximum number of views at lowest cost. Such transparency helps rebuild trust in the field. In addition, the internet democratizes and diversifies philanthropy by enabling everyone to take a part in the area/”

“With the recent adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and combat climate change by 2030, private and corporate philanthropy will play a critical role in making these goals a reality”, said Michelle Yeoh during her remarks at the event, highlighting the importance of the philanthropy in sustainable development. “By supporting the development of philanthropy in China, we can all contribute to a more equitable, prosperous, and stable world.”

Looking forward, the potential of philanthropy in China is simply staggering and undoubtedly will be pivotal to achieving international sustainable development and the reduction of poverty and inequality in the 2030 Agenda.


Contact information

Ms. ZHANG Wei, Chief Communications Officer, UNDP China

Tel: +8610 8532 0715, Email: wei.zhang@undp.org

Meng Zhaoli, Chief Economist of Tencent Research Institute with GWA Michelle Yeoh
Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director delivers a presentation on 'Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China'

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