Tony Blair Launches Two Major Programmes In Kosovo

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19th June 2012

Blair: “It means a lot to me for my Foundation to have this partnership with the American University of Kosovo and the University of Pristina. But it means more to me on a personal level; I saw first-hand what happened here and I did what I could with others to make things better.”

Remember what Tony Blair did in Kosovo? Related links at foot of this post, if you don’t.

Tony Blair launches two major programmes in Kosovo

Rt Hon. Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister and Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation today launched two major new programmes as part of his Faith Foundation’s work.

He celebrated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Kosovo and his Foundation which will implement the Foundation’s global schools programme Face to Faith in Kosovan schools and be incorporated into the development of the national curriculum.  The programme will provide a transformative experience for Kosovan students to be affiliated globally, without overlooking their national aspirations, and help Kosovan students and teachers to develop deeper dialogue and negotiation skills.

Tony Blair also inaugurated the partnership between the his Foundation’s global network of leading universities, the Faith and Globalisation Initiative (FGI) and two of Kosovo’s prominent universities, the University of Pristina and the American University of Kosovo. The partnership will help current policy makers and future leaders understand the role religion plays in areas where there are, or have been, both political and religious tensions. In Kosovo, and the wider region, the impact of the globalisation is affecting the country and its faith communities at an ever faster pace – and it is crucial to understand it.

Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said:

Kosovo is a country with challenges but it is going places. You are open to the future and open to new ideas. It is an honour and privilege to be here today. It means a lot to me for my Foundation to have this partnership with the American University of Kosovo and the University of Pristina. But it means more to me on a personal level; I saw first-hand what happened here and I did what I could with others to make things better. What this country has to learn is significant but what others can learn from you is more significant. I believe there is a way to have intense pride in your nation whilst at the same time having an open mind to the rest of the world.

In this era of globalisation, societies are changing, Europe is changing.  Don’t be frightened of change instead see it as an opportunity. This coming together of different religions and cultures can enrich a country and be a source of strength. But the forces it can also lead to conflict and fear which we have witnessed in the past. If people have problems in dialogue then we need to learn how to resolve this. This is what my Faith Foundation’s universities network, the Faith and Globalisation Initiative aims to achieve in this region: examine the role of faith in more depth. In Kosovo, and the wider region, the impact of the globalisation is affecting the country and its faith communities in transformative ways– and it is vital to understand and hear those perspectives.  The University of Pristina and the American University of Kosovo will provide those valuable insights.

Most of the conflicts in the world today have a religious dimension. The purpose of interfaith is not to diminish specific faiths but to gain understanding. The more you understand someone the more likely you are to live in harmony with them. People of a faith need to take responsibility for religion; preventing it from being misused as a weapon of destruction. Harmony between faiths works better than conflict.

The Kosovan Government’s commitment to incorporate our schools’ programme Face to Faith in the development of the national curriculum, shows how seriously they take the advancement of the next generation – and I am excited about its future.”

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Blair: Balkans – work in progress…

Excerpt: Kosovo is going in good direction, said today in Pristina the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Pristina: “Kosovo over the last decade has seen significant progress. Yes it is clear. But there is also a lot to do”, stressed at today’s press conference held in Pristina former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

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Tony Blair partners with HKU on “Faith and Global Engagement initiative course”

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15th June 2012

[Cross-post] The real story on Tony Blair at Hong Kong University

Conflict and compassion | Tony Blair discusses the two faces of religion

HONG KONG : Tony Blair, Former UK Prime Minister, speaks at University of Hong Kong, Thursday, 14 June, 2012

Today Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, delivered a key note speech and answered questions on the impact of faith and globalisation on Hong Kong and the wider region, at a lecture held in the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

This lecture inaugurated the partnership between the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s global network of leading universities, the Faith and Globalisation Initiative (FGI) and HKU’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative.

Tony Blair spoke of the significance of the partnership between his Foundation and the Faith and Global Engagement Initiative at HKU.

Addressing an audience of HKU students and professors Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said: “The initiative is very timely. This part of the world is one of the fastest areas of growing Christianity as well as many other faiths. HKU has a steadfast commitment to scholarship and freedom. The basis for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalisation Initiative is similar. I am delighted and honoured to be partnering with HKU, I could not think of a better partner or a better part of the world.”

“My vision for the Faith and Global Engagement at HKU is to change the nature of the debate – I want people to see that you have to take religion seriously and I want to help build interfaith understanding.”

Professor Daniel Chua, Director of Humanities at HKU said: “Leaders should be intelligently engaged with the questions of faith and the global impact. We formed the Faith and Global Engagement programme to initiate a conversation in the spirit of hospitality. Whoever you are and whatever you believe in we want to engage with you about religion.  Our initiative here at Hong Kong University has much in common with the principles of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. For this inaugural lecture on Faith and Global Engagement, “I am honoured to welcome Tony Blair”.

Tony Blair stressed the urgency of understanding the impact of religion in the modern world:

“Just look at the news and you see the impact of both everywhere; in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the debate over whether or not orthodox Jews should serve in the military in Israel. The face of religion in this environment is two-fold: conflict and compassion. Much of the news about religion is about conflict. However, religion is also capable of great compassion. For example, much of the improvement in health for continental Africa is as a result of religious centred endeavours.

“We can promote this face of compassion by firstly, treating religion as religion. There is a temptation to view religious problems as political problems, especially for politicians. If the heart of the matter is religious, than the religious element must be understood for what it is: religious. Secondly, by building platforms of inter-faith dialogue and action. Thirdly, through research and scholarship. Religion has much to say from many perspectives on many issues. What is required is proper, in depth and rigorous research into these issues. This is where these programmes and the work of HKU can help.”

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalisation Initiative (FGI) is a network of leading universities around the world, collectively exploring the relationship between religion and globalisation. Through the Faith and Globalisation network, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is supporting policy makers, and future leaders, equipping them to appreciate religion’s presence in the world and its relationship to decision-making and public policy.  Significantly HKU is the ninth university in the world and the second in China (following Peking University) to join FGI. In collaboration with other FGI partner institutions, HKU’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative will explore topics including religion and conflict, religion in public life, and human rights bringing critical analysis to the forefront of global debate.

The new Faith and Global Engagement initiative course at HKU will bring a unique perspective to the academic and policy analysis of the relationship between faith and globalisation. Hong Kong’s position at the nexus of East/West relations, adds an important voice to this global debate.

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What Does Tony Blair Think He’s Up To? Utterly Disgraceful!

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31st May 2012

I have more to write on Tony Blair’s evidence session at the Leveson Inquiry on Monday (see previous – Excuse Me. We’re Missing The Mood Music ) but honestly I just couldn’t ignore THIS for one moment longer. (Slaps on best Nick Cohen Disgusted Face!)

Faiths Act in Sierra Leone reaches 100,000 homes

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s groundbreaking interfaith programme to tackle malaria in Sierra Leone has reached 100,000 homes and over 600 thousand individuals. Sierra Leone has only 102 medics but a huge network of churches and mosques. The Foundation’s programme, Faiths Act in Sierra Leone, is utilising these networks to disseminate key preventative health messages on malaria and the results have abundantly surpassed expectations.

Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said: “Integrating faith communities into national malaria plans in Sierra Leone has been incredibly effective. The 100, 000 homes reached in just six months by faith leaders and their networks tells its own story. The great strength of churches and mosques are not so much their bricks and mortar – though their hospitals and dispensaries play a vital role in many areas – but their communities, networks and leaders. Faith leaders work through compassion and a theological responsibility to do good, and are able to pass on simple but vital health messages to their communities.”

The programme in Sierra Leone is creating a pyramid training structure – a small number of faith leaders are trained in malaria prevention; these vital health messages are then passed onto congregants who carry out household to household visits delivering simple, practical advice throughout the country.

The depth and value of the contribution of faith communities to health in Africa has been so far difficult to measure due to a lack of data. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is working to help change this. Each aspect of the work in Sierra Leone is evaluated. Every week the number of households who have been taught about malaria prevention is recorded. More importantly, the number who are now are using bed-nets properly, or making timely visits to clinics where children show symptoms of malaria, is also recorded.

Banke Adetayo, Faiths Act Fellow, helping lead the programme on the ground recently said, “As we celebrate reaching this key milestone I have been reflecting on two things: the deep commitment of faith communities in Sierra Leone to work together to rid their society of this devastating disease and the realisation that despite the success of the programme so far we need to continue our work and strive even higher if we are to achieve the UN’s target of zero deaths from malaria by 2015.”

In tandem, the Foundation is also working to highlight the effectiveness of faith communities in health messaging. In collaboration with the Berkeley Center at Georgetown University, Washington DC, the Foundation has recently published “Global Health and Africa” – a report on faith communities’ work in the healthcare world.  It details what we know about how much faith communities contribute to health care, what we don’t know and what we ought to know. Research is also underway to find out just how effective religious leaders are at giving health messages in their communities.

Latest statistics from Faiths Act in Sierra Leone

  • Number of MFAs trained to date: 234
  • Number of MFCs trained to date: 6,320
  • Number of first household visits: 118,142 (with an average of 5-6 people per household). This means the project has reached over 600,000 people all over Sierra Leone, just through household visits alone.
  • Number of second household visits: 99,427
  • Estimated number of people who have been reached through community activities 203,043 (does not include additional people reached through radio and TV.)

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Tony Blair on Philanthropy

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20th April 2012

Catch-up time on a busy week for Tony Blair on the other side of the pond, including this –

If the Mail, Guardian, Independent, BBC & the rest haven't told you of this award for our great former PM, well... what do you expect? The truth?

Keynote speech: Tony Blair outlines his philanthropic vision

Monday, Apr 16, 2012 in Office of Tony Blair, Africa Governance Initiative

Tony Blair speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, DC made the case for the value of innovative philanthropy. You can read the full transcript of his speech below.

Video of speech & questions, & transcript of speech

A consequential risk of the continuing travails of the global economy, is that in concentrating on our own challenges, we lose the appetite to help others. What we may call the global social contract – a sense of responsibility on the part of the better off to help the worst off – comes under strain. For my 10 years as UK Prime Minister, this social contract was growing. But that was in different economic times. Now the pre-occupation is bound to be internal. So a debate about how we re-shape and re-invigorate this global social contract now – and the role of philanthropy in doing so – is timely. This is absolutely the right moment for government to do all it can to promote philanthropy; and certainly nothing to harm it.

The laziest sentiment in politics – by which I mean not politics in its partisan sense but the broader polity of society – is cynicism. The party political debate may, at times, give us much to be cynical about, though it is an essential part of vibrant democracy. But in larger terms, the history of the past half century should give us cause for celebration as well as concern. Many more people live in freedom, many fewer live in poverty.

Change for the better does happen. Progress is alive. Change happens through committed people. It happens best when motivated by a desire to improve the lives of others; when that desire is accompanied by a strategy for change not just a vision of it; when it is creative; and when it challenges rather than accommodates the status quo.

Change can happen through committed people in Government and some change can only happen through Government. When I think, in my own 10 years in office, of reforms in health, education, law and order; advances in civil rights; peace in Northern Ireland – these changes required the power of Government.

However, 10 years taught me something else; the limitations of Government. This is where desire and strategy get blocked by the politics of vested interests; by bureaucracy; by the innate tendency to inertia of a system designed to manage the world not change it.

Government in this guise, loves process. It rewards caution. It disdains risk and distrusts creativity. It thinks in a linear way and challenges that don’t fit neat Government definitions or which stretch across boundaries, disappear into the machinery never to re-emerge and certainly not as solutions.

When acute crisis threatens, Government can act with speed. But otherwise it ponders endlessly and then proceeds at a glacial pace.

It is into this space – not as a substitute but as a complement to conventional Government and politics – that the philanthropic sector has marched. Today its contribution is vast. In the USA it dwarfs, say, Government spending on overseas aid. It is why imaginative leaders like Raj Shah, new head of USAID, want to work with it not apart from it.

It is why when I left office, shorn of power, I decided to exercise influence instead, by joining it.

As well as my responsibility as Quartet Representative for the MEPP, centred in Jerusalem, I created three new philanthropic organisations. I have a Sports Foundation in the North East of England which encourages grass roots sport and reflects my belief that sport is an essential not optional element of modern education. The two global Foundations are the Africa Governance Initiative; and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Both reflect lessons I learned in Government but in respect of which I found traditional ways of Government inadequate. Both relate directly to the new social contract that is the theme of this year’s Forum. Both have taught me a lot about global philanthropy and its opportunities.

The Africa Governance Initiative is based on this idea: that the problems of Africa cannot be solved by aid alone. The fundamental challenge today is not simply external flows of money; but internal systems of Governance. What’s more, this is not just about honesty in Government, vital thought that is, it is also about efficacy. The biggest challenge for many Governments – by the way, elsewhere as well as in Africa – is getting things done; delivery; deciding priorities, creating mechanisms for achieving them and tracking the performance until the objective is actually achieved. This is true even for sophisticated systems of Government like our own. It is true in abundance for those of emerging countries. I see too often leaders take power. They have the will and vision. They may be completely honest and abhor corruption. But once in power, they find the levers of effective implementation are missing; they get overwhelmed by the pressures of the job, events for which they are unprepared; and a bureaucracy that can often be a major part of the problem not the solution. They usually have a stack of well-written reports from international institutions telling them what they should do; but no-one helping them with how they do it. And it is the ‘how’ not the ‘what’ that is the issue.

So my Africa Governance Initiative –now in 6 African nations – puts teams of people; all of whom have hands-on experience of ‘doing it’, whether in Government of the private sector; into the country to work alongside the country’s leaders to build the necessary capacity and transfer skills: to decide priorities; develop plans of action; build the infrastructure of implementation; and track performance. The results in areas as diverse as healthcare, encouragement of private sector investment and even in seemingly small but in truth crucial areas like the organisation of the President’s time and private office, are transformative.

But the concept at the heart of it, is very different from the traditional donor-recipient relationship of Government aid. It is live-in technical help, not fly-in fly out consultancy. It helps deliver the country’s priorities not ours. It includes, through my interaction with the leaders, the politics as well as the technical theory. It works to bring in quality private sector investment, not regard it as an enemy. If focuses as much on the rule of law as on small scale community projects. Above all, it is based on partnership not dependence. In this sense, it absolutely fits the notion of a new social contract. It implies a maturing of the relationship between wealthy and emerging nations; and the role of philanthropy and the private sector in helping those nations to help themselves. So the value lies not just in the work AGI does, but in the approach it symbolises.

Likewise with my Faith Foundation. Again this idea was formed during my time in Government. Even before 9/11 and certainly since then, I could see that the use of hard power and even the use of traditional systems of soft power were inadequate to deal with a strain of fundamentalist ideology that was religious in nature. I started to understand that however much we flinched from acknowledging it, the extremism was not based simply on a set of political aims; it was based on a profound distortion of Faith. I began to analyse conflict in the world and found the majority had a religious or cultural element. I became convinced that we could not confront the extremism unless we were prepared to engage with religion as religion, not as a derivative of politics.

I could also see that driven by the unstoppable force of globalisation – in person through migration, online through the internet – it is in the nature of today’s world that people of different cultures and faiths will mix together, live together and work together as never before. Therefore understanding the faith of the other, learning about it and learning to live with it in peace becomes a central objective of a policy to secure peace. In this way, a new part of a new social contract, is respect for difference, for diversity, for the minority’s rights as well as the majority’s power.

In the years since 9/11 and again following the Arab Revolutions around the Middle East and North Africa, my conviction as to the importance of this has grown. What’s more, though those peddling a poisonous and exclusivist view of religion, which sees those who have a different faith as the enemy, are immensely well organised and funded, with a multiplicity of websites dedicated to their cause; by contrast virtually nothing organised or funded comes the other way. So a wholly malign view of the West is often fostered in Muslim nations; and in the West there is widespread misunderstanding of what Islam really stands for. This is not confined to Muslim/Christian relations; there are strains of extremism also in Christianity itself, in Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism. The intolerance to minorities also encompasses persecution of Bahais and sects within a Faith i.e. intra-religious as well as inter-religious extremism.

So the Tony Blair Faith Foundation has designed programmes of education and action, now in 20 different countries, all with the aim of fostering knowledge, understanding and therefore respect between those of different faiths. We know we cannot by ourselves change the balance of argument and debate; but we believe we can show that through inter-faith collaboration, we can encourage the acceptance of “the other” and that this should become part of mainstream Government and international policy, every bit as important as conventional soft power diplomacy. So in both cases, I have entered a new sector for me – philanthropy – to try to point the way on issues which I dealt with deeply in Government but in respect of which I always felt traditional Government fell short.

It has been my luck to have entered this field at a time when it is more exciting and dynamic than ever. The work being done by those represented here today is extraordinary and inspiring in its breadth, reach and impact. My reflections on the sector having now experience of it both as a partner to me in Government and now as a player in the sector itself, are these:

First, the best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists bring the gifts that made them successful – the drive, the determination, the refusal to accept something can’t be done if it needs to be – into their philanthropy. It is creative not passive; it seeks to disrupt not follow conventional thinking. It steps into areas Government is too fearful or too risk adverse[sic] to go. It uses technology and its power to change the world in innovative ways. It is visionary, seeing the connections, the trends, the patterns that others don’t.

It is change-making, no matter at which level –community, nation or globe – it is operating.

In this way, it can also help Government institutions, again global or national, to change. Here is where partnership between public and private and philanthropic sectors is today of the essence. The real challenge for Government especially following the financial crisis of the past 3 or 4 years is to change itself. Government has to become more strategic, more about empowering than controlling. In this endeavour, creative partnership with those in the business or philanthropic sector can be a huge part of that reform. This can happen within countries; but also globally for example through the World Bank or UN. The ability to leverage Government or IFI power through working with the philanthropic sector is enormous and only just being fully comprehended.

Philanthropic foundations could also do more to work with each other – one reason why this Forum is so important. There are synergies, shared experiences, and contributions that can happen if we talk to each other as friends not rivals. One small example: in Sierra Leone, AGI and TBFF now co-operate in delivering the Government’s anti-malaria programme through using the unparalleled reach of the faith infrastructure – churches and mosques – to disseminate important public health messages about malaria prevention.

My conclusion is about the new social contract itself. There is a political debate about globalisation – good or bad? In my view, this is an entirely pointless discussion. Globalisation is a fact and it is propelled forward by people through technology and travel. The real debate is therefore how do we make globalisation work and for the many not the few? The answer lies, in part, in understanding that the key dividing line in politics today is less traditional ideas of left vs right, than the struggle between the open-minded and the closed, between those who see in globalisation an opportunity to open up the world so that it is not riven with conflicts of race, nation and faith; and those who find such an open world too frightening and close down in the face of it. Central to this goal is the fight against poverty and injustice, whether social, economic, or political. The open-mind seeks to imbue globalisation with common bonds and a shared sense of justice. The closed-mind seeks to retreat behind the walls of identity of race, nation and faith.

At the core of this new social contract is the open-mind: optimistic, not cynical; celebrating difference not scared of it; and believing that to be committed to the service of others, is a life purpose worth striving for. It is what you represent here: and I am honoured to be part of it, a refugee from conventional politics, who has found a new lease of life in philanthropy!

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In case you are of the opinion that Tony Blair’s speech on philanthropy was timed by design to chime into the current debate in Britain on charity taxing,  it wasn’t.

Davos, 2009 on – guess what – philanthropy.

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