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Philanthropy in the 21st century: the role of philanthropists in redefining civil society 

October 12, 2023 by BSC0


The fifth panel of the Belgrade Security Conference, which took place on the 12th of October, discussed the role of philanthropy in aiding democratic institutions. The moderator of the panel was Christal Morehouse, Senior Program Officer, Open Society Europe and Central Asia Program. The debate was opened with the question about the challenges from the previous years: global pandemics, migrations, and wars.  

Julia von Dobeneck, Senior Project Manager, Peace for the Western Balkans, Robert Bosch Stiftung, stated that militarisation, climate change, and migrations lead to questioning of the global order within individual societies. She emphasized the polarisation as the obvious challenge, as the decision-makers are faking constant crises.  



Mia Vukojević, Program Director for the Western Balkans, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, agreed with Dobeneck, further adding that the questions of the future of global order are mounting, as well as the questions of whether they will be resolved without a huge, all-encompassing crisis. The common idea upon which the panelists agreed was that the world is still divided between the global majority and global minority, with the “global North” exclusively making most of the decisions. “We need to learn how to take more risk,” stated Vukojević whilst discussing the effect of philanthropy in society.  



Gordana Delić, Regional Director, Balkans and Deputy Managing Director of Translatlantic trusts, German Marshall Fund of the United States, stated that philanthropy was a voluntary decision to support someone or something for a common, higher goal. When asked whether there could be polarisation in philanthropy, Delić answered positively, bearing in mind that philanthropy was part of civil society. She encouraged society to engage in discussion with people who do not share our values. She further emphasized the importance of people being self-sustainable in terms of aiding democracy through philanthropy, for example, “investing in youth, leadership, and career development”.  



Vesna Bajšanski-Agić, Executive Director, Mozaik Foundation; Member of the Board, Philea, stated that the biggest challenge the world was facing was making daily decisions based on fear which further broke community bonds. Additionally, she emphasized the role of philanthropists in which they were re-imagining their work to defend democracy through general grants, participatory grant-making, and trying to build bridges among the undecided people.  




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