Sahel, Syria, Afghanistan, an explosive arc of crisis.

©Baba Ahmed

At a time when it is customary to offer New Year’s greetings, the Muslim world seems to be in a never-ending crisis with acute peaks of tension. While the causes are not unique and the situations are diverse, the theory of dominoes or oil stain must be present in our minds.

The brutal death of Iranian General Ghassem Soleimani at the hands of an American drone fire has brought the whole region to a boiling point and, as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Revenge always calls for revenge without us knowing how far an uncontrolled slippage can go. We talk about avoiding war, but are we not already engaged in an undeclared war?

We cannot pretend that the Middle East and North Africa are on the other side of the world. They are our next-door neighbours and the European Union countries are on the front line. Today, the ability of these countries and of Europe to carry weight on the international stage is being tested by the challenges.

Humanitarians, who are already present and active in the region, are likely to be directly affected by the humanitarian effects of these conflicts. They will have to adapt and strengthen their relief capacities for the populations affected by these rebounding crises.

Comme cet hôpital, 56 autres centres de santé ont été bombardés. Janvier 2020, ©ONU.

Syria « In Idlib, people are trying to save their skin ».

In the region of Idlib, in north-western Syria, the ground offensive and bombing launched by Bashar El Asad’s army with the support of Russia has enabled them to retake many localities. These include Maarat Al-Nouman and Saraquet, under the control of the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Cham (HTC), with the aim of retaking the M5 motorway linking Damascus to Aleppo in order to open up this city.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), from December 1, 2019 to January 1, 2020, nearly 300,000 people fled their homes to move northwest of Idlib, particularly in the regions of Afrin and A’zaz. It should be recalled that the previous offensive, between the end of April and the end of August 2019, had already caused the forced displacement of about 400,000 Syrians in this region of Idlib.

The humanitarian situation is disastrous and the rigours of winter are there. « We are wild animals to be treated like this, » said one displaced person. Under pressure from Russia and China, the Security Council has just voted on Friday, January 10, 2020 a resolution extending until July 10 the cross-border humanitarian aid operation to Syria by limiting it to the crossing points with Turkey and excluding those previously used with Jordan and Iraq.

 In north-east Syria, in the Kurdish region of the Rojava, there is widespread confusion and uncertainty. Russians and Turks conduct mixed patrols which provoke hostile demonstrations as in Kobané. At the World Refugee Forum on 17 December in Geneva, in the presence of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the Turkish President outlined his plan for this territory in north-eastern Syria which he seized by force.  He declared that the creation of this « safe zone » should, according to him, allow the repatriation of one million Syrian refugees from Turkey! His plan seems to be to drive out the Kurds and Syriacs and replace them with Syrian Arab and Sunni refugees who are being supervised by armed jihadist groups and paid by Turkey. What is the opinion of the United Nations which organised this Forum to which President Erdogan was invited? Does the absence of reaction mean acceptance, if not resignation to Turkey’s policy of fait accompli!

In London, on 4 December, on the 70th anniversary of NATO, the member countries refused to declare the Kurdish fighters of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) as a terrorist group as Mr Erdogan wanted. French President Emmanuel Macron went further and deplored Turkey’s attitude « fighting those who fought with us » against Daesch. And in 2020 France will continue its commitment to humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict in northern Syria.

Emmanuel Macron et le président nigérien Mahamadou Issoufou, décembre 2019.

The Sahel at the moment of truth.

The death of 13 French soldiers on 25 November in Mali caused a real shock as to the reality of the situation in the Sahel. France is questioning its strategy and the support of the G5 Sahel member states. It is Jean-Yves Le Drian who declared « it is necessary to clear up misunderstandings and remobilize » while the new president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, noted that « a battle has been lost in the Sahel » at a time when anti-French sentiment is being expressed in the area.

Faced with the risk of getting bogged down, everyone is looking for their own solution. Some people mention the lack of resources of the armies of the G5 Sahel countries. Others believe they have found the solution in the reinforcement of the military system with special forces from various European Union member countries. One can even hear a little music evoking the hypothesis of discussions with the rebel groups.

We are not going to anticipate the conclusions and consequences of the meeting that will take place on Monday 13 January 2020 in Pau between the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the heads of state of the 5 countries concerned, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania. Paris is waiting for these leaders to « explicitly » confirm their support for French military involvement. If this seems logical in the face of adversity, it is also a symbolic gesture expected in the face of the sacrifice of 41 French soldiers since 2013.

I would like to raise two issues here. The rebellion is founded and fuelled by social, political, economic and ethnic divisions in a context of galloping demography. Of course, jihadist ideology has its part to play, but to stop there and confine ourselves to constantly talking about the fight against terrorism will not resolve the causes of the divisions.  The key lies in a political solution to those rifts.

The other issue is humanitarian. In his 11 November 2019 report to the Security Council, Antonio Guterres stated that « more than 1 million people have been displaced within the five countries, more than double the number in 2018 ». And Filipo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stressed that « displacement is the barometer of these crises ». Humanitarian aid must be effective, efficient and not conditioned by a political agenda. It is a matter of humanity and urgency.


Afghanistan, a war without end?

This country has just successively lived through 3 decisive events that will weigh heavily in 2020: the presidential elections, President Trump’s visit to Kabul and the publication of the « Afghanistan Papers » in the Washington Post.

The stakes of the presidential election in Afghanistan were twofold. On the one hand, it was to encourage a significant voter turnout and on the other hand, it was to give the President-elect renewed legitimacy. The Taliban had called for a boycott of the elections. According to provisional results announced on 22 November, Head of State Ashraf Ghani won 50.64% of the vote (1,824,401 ballots), compared with 39.52% (720,099 ballots) for Chief Executive Abdulllah Abdullah. It should be noted that one million ballots were rejected for irregularities and 16,200 complaints were lodged with the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC). It will be necessary to wait for the results of the complaints before finally announcing the final results.

This was the lowest turnout of all the polls with 2.8 million ballots cast for 9.6 million registered voters out of a population of about 32 million. It should be remembered that in 2004, during the first presidential election, this percentage was 85%. The objective of participation and legitimacy was not achieved and undermined the coalition in power in Kabul, which was, moreover, very divided.

President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Kabul on the night of 28-29 November caused a sensation. He came to announce the resumption of negotiations with the Taliban while confirming in the presence of the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, his desire to continue the military disengagement of the United States. Talks resumed between the US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad and Abdul Ghani Baradar for the Taliban and have been continuing in Qatar ever since.

Donald Trump’s objective is to reach an agreement by the time of the American presidential election in November 2020. This is short when one knows Afghanistan, the difficulty of a ceasefire and an inter-Afghan dialogue. However, after 18 years of a war that the United States and its NATO allies have not won against the Taliban, is there any other solution than a peace agreement between brother enemies? The other option, after an American departure, is the continuation of the war between Afghans, which will inevitably lead to support from neighbouring countries for the two opposing camps. We would return to the situation that prevailed at the beginning of 2001, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, when the Taliban seemed likely to win.

In this context, the publication on Monday 9 November 2019 of the article « A secret history of the war » by the Washington Post was a thunderbolt. The newspaper obtained and published many of the notes and recordings of more than 600 interviews and 2,000 pages of interviews with American and Afghan officials conducted by the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR).

The content of the interviews is so surreal that it goes beyond what we could have imagined despite our doubts. Thus, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State for Defence from 2001 to 2006 admits « I have no visibility on who the bad guys are »! An American general, Douglas Hutte, says « we lacked the most basic understanding of Afghanistan and had no idea what we were doing ». Finally, Jeffrey Eggers, an officer who worked under the Bush and Obama administrations, adds « in the end, what did we get after spending $1 trillion?

 The answer to American disengagement, beyond Donald Trump’s campaign promises, can be found after 18 years of war in these « Afghanistan Papers ». One is tempted to think, what incomprehension, what blindness, what a waste. American disengagement also sounds like that of Western countries.

As for the humanitarians, the developers, the friends of Afghanistan, their mission is to remain faithful to the most vulnerable after 40 years of war, so obvious is the need for aid, beyond the political and military hazards.

Alain Boinet.

Why create a cluster serving the general interest?

Antoine Vaccaro, President of Force For Good, by Faircom and of Cerphi, the Centre for the Study and Research on Philanthropy.

The French generosity market is now mature. According to the declarations of donations within the framework of the RI and the IFI, the amounts of donations declared in 2018 show a decrease in the amount of donations estimated at 6% compared to 2017 (58% of the amount of donations collected by the ISF, which in 2018 will become the IFI. 1.8% of the donation amounts reported to Income Tax – IR), in absolute terms with a 3.9% decline in the number of donors. This deterioration was mitigated by an average annual donation that increased by 2%, from €497 in 2017 to €507 in 2018[1]. 1] In addition, 93% of donations are made by loyal donors. Only 7% are new donors. This decrease does not take into account the financial effort that beneficiary organisations have to make to maintain their level of private resources, which leads to a downward trend in net income.

This generosity is divided among 200 organizations that monopolize the market, thanks to their solvent causes, their track record, the size of their databases and the flow of legacies that devote years of « investment ». The competition for the philanthropic euro between these leaders is fierce and leaves little room for emerging structures with equally remarkable struggles and causes.

Economic models are evolving, particularly that of international solidarity NGOs. These organizations most often finance their structural costs through short-term revenue from public generosity, which essentially covers collection and operating costs and, to a lesser extent, the organization’s social purpose (-30% on average, but this varies greatly depending on the weight of public revenue and its nature)[2].

Expressed differently, as Daniel Bruneau points out in his analysis, private funds make it possible to implement the social object largely financed by public subsidies: the French State and its agencies, European and international public institutions, which do not assume their responsibility by granting, on average, only 7% to cover operating costs, while their requirements in terms of qualitative and quantitative reporting become exorbitant. Also, any tax instability, and this continues from year to year (transformation of the wealth tax into an IFI, reduction in the deduction rate for corporate sponsorship), weakens this economic model.

Antoine Vacarro, Portrait par l’artiste Patrice Zana.

The integration of more and more human resources in head offices has considerably changed the needs of associations and foundations vis-à-vis consultancy agencies. The nature of the services required is different. The level of advice is also different. Faced with this movement to increase staff numbers at the expense of « outsourcing », consulting agencies and fundraising consultants, who have accompanied and amplified the growth of the philanthropic movement for more than 30 years, are looking forward to the future.  In addition:

  •  The rise of new technologies that « disrupt » traditional fundraising models,
  •  New generations of donors with new forms of commitment,
  •  The arrival of new competitors, usually confined to public funding,

change the course of a deal.

To meet this demand, we at Faircom have decided to reinvent ourselves.

New brand: Force for Good by Faircom, new identity, new positioning and new initiative by co-founding the first cluster of services dedicated to the general interest: The Goodraising Network.

In economics, a cluster is a geographical and interconnected concentration of companies, suppliers and institutions in a particular field, combining competition and cooperation. More simply, the cluster is a network that allows the economic, academic and public spheres to meet around a common interest, to exchange and to move forward together.

The Goodraising Network is an alliance of experts from large companies, foundations, the public sector, family offices, collection specialists, data, philanthropy, communication, finance in France, Europe and the United States. A veritable ecosystem of skills, the Goodraising Network makes it possible to select the best experts in order to support each project with the right team and ad hoc resources (hybridisation of resources, major donations, relational marketing, digital, strategic seminars, legacies, events, innovations, etc.).

For Force For Good, it is a question of aggregating skills, initiatives, profit and non-profit players, committed citizens, non-profit organisations and responsible companies, all over the world, in the service of the good, For Good. Already more than twenty partners have joined the Goodraising Network: agencies, consultants, freelancers in France and Europe. At the beginning of this year, I invite all the Forces For Good to join us!

Antoine de Saint Exupéry used to say that « the greatness of a profession is perhaps, above all, to unite people. « We are working on it!

Rendez-vous sur 

[1] Regards sur l’emploi des ressources des membres de France générosités. Daniel Bruneau FG

[2] Regards sur l’emploi des ressources des membres de France générosités. Daniel Bruneau FG


Antoine Vaccaro holds a PhD in Organizational Science – Management of Non-Market Economies, Paris-Dauphine, 1985. After a professional career in large non-governmental organizations and communication groups: Fondation de France, Médecins du Monde, TBWA; he is president of CerPhi (Centre for Study and Research on Philanthropy) Faircom International and the Fund-raising Lab. He holds various volunteer positions within associations and foundations.  He is also co-founder of several professional organizations promoting private funding of causes of general interest: Association Française des fundraisers, Comité de la charte de déontologie des organismes faisant appel à la générosité publique, Euconsult, La chaire de Philanthropie de l’Essec, 2011. He has published various books and articles on philanthropy and fund-raising.