The Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital: China’s First Overseas Charitable NGO Project

中文 English

In an article excerpted from the 2012 China Blue Book of Philanthropy, Lin Yuanzhuan recounts an important internationalizing step by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA).
The CFPA’s efforts to transform itself into an international NGO are perhaps the most prominent example of a recent interest among Chinese NGOs in “going abroad” as they follow the expansion of China’s global footprint, and respond to the Chinese government’s call to promote China’s soft power.

Abstract: The Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital (苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院), located in a rural area of Sudan, was built by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA, 中国扶贫基金会) with financial aid from China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC, 中国石油天然气集团公司) and officially completed on July 2011. The total investment amounted to U.S.$1.1 million (6.93 million RMB). At the ceremony marking the hospital’s completion, the Vice Chairman of the 11th NPC Standing Committee, Chen Changzhi (participating by videoconference from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing), and the First Vice President of the Sudan, Ali Osman Taha, met with the members of the delegation leaving for Abu Ushar township in Sudan’s Gezira State, to participate in the hospital’s opening ceremony. The event was extensively covered by Chinese media including the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency as well as by the Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation.

Feature: The rapid growth in quantity and scale of China’s nonprofit organizations is closely connected to globalization. Chinese NGOs have in the past received assistance from many countries. As China has grown stronger, several are developing public welfare projects and models to introduce overseas. This international assistance and strategy is a natural response to the globalization of philanthropy.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs listed the Abu Ushar project as one of its Model Public Diplomacy Programs of 2011.

Background

In 2011, China’s GDP reached nearly 47 trillion RMB and per capita GDP was valued at U.S.$5,540. Non-agricultural employment and urbanization have accelerated and the urban population now constitutes over half of China’s total population. Humanity has never dealt with such large-scale urbanization. The pace of China’s globalization has increased as it’s national strength and rate of development has also increased. This has created strong demand for global products, technologies and management techniques as well as increased dependence on non-domestic sources of energy and raw materials. According to 2010 statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, National Bureau of Statistics, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) increased by 21.7 percent from the previous year, reaching U.S.$68.81 billion. By the end of 2010, more than 13,000 Chinese investors financed the establishment of 16,000 enterprises in 167 countries/regions worldwide. In total, FDI amounted to U.S.$317.21 billion.

The internationalization of the Chinese economy and expansion of overseas investment face unprecedented challenges, many of which emerge from companies’ own capacities and China’s late entry in the international arena. As China has grown into a major economic power, the international community’s expectations regarding its global role have changed as well: its transition from a recipient of aid to a donor country; its provision of humanitarian aid; and its involvement in environmental protection, promotion of global and regional peace, and adoption of new perspectives and strategies in the use and protection of resources. This historical change in China’s role will pose a great challenge to the conventional approach and operations of the Chinese government and Chinese companies.

The CFPA became involved in overseas aid starting with the delivery of assistance to victims of the Indonesian tsunami on January 1, 2005. At present, the CFPA has invested 60.88 million RMB in international aid, including emergency relief in the wake of the Indonesian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Pakistan earthquake, Burmese typhoon, Chilean earthquake, Haitian earthquake, Japanese earthquake, East African drought, and other natural disasters. It has also started mother and child poverty alleviation programs in Guinea-Bissau and the Sudan.

CFPA’s assistance to the Sudan reflects the substantial steps it is taking as part of its internationalization strategy.

The Process

Preliminary Research

In April 2007, the Second Plenary Meeting of the CFPA’s Third Executive Council decided to “investigate the circumstances of surrounding countries and select the optimum moment for international expansion” and proposed a general development strategy based on internationalization and a change in the Foundation’s fundraising methods. In 2008, CFPA established a project research team on African aid and began focusing on the Sudan.

In October of 2009, CFPA Executive Vice Chairman He Daofeng led a research team to Sudan. During his research visit, the Foundation tried to develop a thorough understanding of Sudanese society, health care, and charity, visited the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, General Union of Sudanese Women led by First Lady Fatima Khalid Al-Bashir (an organization which supports poor mothers), Sudanese Red Crescent Society, and other relevant organizations. After completing field research, the CFPA decided to sign a memorandum of agreement with a local NGO the Birr and Tawasul Organization (BTO) and to address one of the serious social problems in Sudan – the high maternal and infant mortality rates. Combining the research results with the lessons learned from the Maternal and Infant Health Project carried out by CFPA in China, the organization completed the project proposal “Demonstration Project for Aiding Sudan Construct a Maternal and Child Health Care System.”

Implementation

In June 2010, with the help of the CFPA the “Demonstration Project” received support from CNPC, a division of which (CNPC Nile) donated U.S.$600,000 for its first project – the Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital.

There are many factors that must be addressed when building a hospital, including building materials, procurement of medical equipment, shipping, customs clearance, equipment installation, etc. Since the CFPA lacked experience in a foreign environment and to avoid possible risks, it signed an agreement in advance stipulating that customs clearance and transportation for materials in Sudanese territory would be handled by the Sudanese partners. However, since it was the first time the Sudanese partners were receiving material aid from abroad, they were late obtaining tax exemptions from the Ministry of Finance and import licenses for medical equipment. As a result, the goods could not leave the port and accrued detention charges for the time they remained at the port. Confronted with this problem, the CFPA sought help from different parties while actively looking for solutions with its partners. In the end, with help from the Chinese Embassy, the goods left port by March 2011. The high detention charges, however, produced costs that exceeded the planned budget. Since this was an unexpected incident, the CFPA covered all of the additional custom clearance fees.

Geographic, ethnic, and cultural differences produced differences in efficiency, working methods, and ways of thinking between the Sudanese partners and Chinese which often caused a certain amount of friction. In order to prevent future problems from occuring, the CFPA decided to send two employees to the construction site in spite of limited finances, time and staffing. In this capacity, these two staffers could assist the project team, oversee construction from beginning to end, and promptly solve any problems that should occur.

Since this was the organization’s first attempt at such an endeavor many problems were difficult to project in adance. During construction, small unexpected incidents would often occur. For example, the construction company, steel production company, and local hospital haggled and passed off responsibility, generating overall confusion. This complicated project implementation and produced unforeseen expenses. As a result, final costs for the Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital greatly exceeded the project’s budget and donations.

The CFPA, therefore, instructed its two local staff members to prioritize problem solving, pushing forward implementation, and preventative tactics to stop problems from arising and creating greater difficulties. Only after a problem was resolved were they to investigate who should be held responsible.

The Results

On May 2011, the hospital’s interior was completed and in June, 11 months after construction began, the Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital was completed. This project, the first chartiable project of its kind, marks a major breakthrough for Chinese NGOs seeking to internationalize their aid programs.

In order to encourage the charitable spirit of corporate donors and provide the Chinese public a better understanding of overseas aid projects, the CFPA held a “Review and Recognition of the 5th Anniversary of CFPA Overseas Aid Programs & Opening Ceremony of the Sudan Maternity and Child Care Hospital” conference at the Great Hall of People in June of 2011. That July, the opening ceremony for the Sudan-China Abu Ushar Friendship Hospital was held in Abu Ushar in Sudan’s Gezira state. The hospital began operating in October and, in December, the CFPA’s Sudanese NGO partner, Birr and Tawasul Organization (BTO) and the Gezira State Department of Health held a joint board meeting of project partners. In the same month, staff from the CFPA and BTO created an inspection team and invited CNPC Nile to evaluate the hospital.

Commentary

From a macro perspective, the internationalization of NGO aid programs is a response to China’s public diplomacy strategy of strengthening its soft power. At this early stage, NGOs still require government support, especially from China’s embassies and consulates. The CFPA made great efforts to lay a foundation for its work. Not only did it develop a partnership with a Sudanese NGO – the Birr and Tawasul Organization, it also received assistance from the Sudan Embassy in Beijing during the customs clearance crisis. At the same time, the CPFA established close contacts with the Communist Party of China’s International Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of Poverty Alleviation, the Sudanese Ministry of Health, the Sudanese Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, and other government organizations. It also received assistance from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Gansu Research Institute for Water, and other academic institutions, and received financial assistance and know-how from CNPC, Dalian Hankai interior design company, and other companies.

“Foreign affairs is no small matter.” The implementation of a public welfare project overseas represents a substantial test for a NGO; as culture and geography change, any small mistake made during project implementation may cause irreversible damage. Chinese NGOs are only beginning to expand their work overseas and have no experience on which to draw. There are many uncertainties when planning an international development assistance project. The intended design plan often encounters unexpected complications during the implementation phase. Take for example the hospital project in Sudan; the procedure for clearing goods through customs would normally take one month, but in the end, it stretched out over four months. It also took time to become familiar with local customs and ways of working in the recipient country. Lack of experience with international projects also led to budget overruns and a variety of minor problems during the construction phase.

Inconsistent funding also restricts the internationalization of NGO projects. The CFPA may be one of the most influential NGOs in China, but as soon as it went abroad, it too ran into difficulties and funding shortages.

At present, a majority of the Chinese public do not understand why an NGO should provide assistance to countries outside China. Public support, therefore, is important for an NGO when it is deciding its development strategy. It is, therefore, crucial to make the public understand the importance of overseas assistance programs and humanitarian aid.

苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院——中国民间组织首个海外公益项目

中国扶贫基金会林媛撰写,杨团修改并定稿 (2012)

摘要:苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院是一所地处苏丹的农村医院,总投资110万美元(折合693万人民币),2011年7月,由中国石油天然气集团公司资助,中国扶贫基金会援建的这所医院正式竣工。竣工仪式上,十一届全国人大常委会副委员长陈昌智在人民大会堂进行远程揭幕,苏丹第一副总统塔哈会见前往苏丹杰济拉州阿布欧舍镇参加医院竣工仪式的代表团成员。中国的主流媒体《人民日报》、新华社以及苏丹的国家电视台等均对项目活动进行深入报道。

特征:中国非营利组织的数量和规模快速增长和全球化的进程密不可分。中国的民间组织曾经接受过世界上很多国家的援助,当中国强大起来,有了一些成熟的公益项目和公益模式的时候,走出国门,进行人道援助,实施国际化战略,是顺应了慈善全球化的趋势。

我国外交部将阿布欧舍项目评价为2011年公共外交的典范工程。

关键词:人道援助中非友好民间外交国际化战略

【背景】

2011年,中国GDP总额近47万亿元,人均GDP达到5540美元,非农就业、城镇化且已进入加速阶段,城镇化水平达到超过50%,人类从未处理过如此庞大人口的城市化难题。随着中国国力的增强和发展的加快,中国全球化的速度在加快,不仅对世界市场、技术、管理具有强烈的需求,对世界的能源、原材料产生了强烈的依存度。根据商务部、国家统计局和外汇管理局2010年数据统计,中国对外直接投资净量688.1亿美元,较上年增长21.7%。截至2010年底,中国13000多家境内投资者在国外设立对外直接投资企业1.6万家,分布在全球167个国家(地区),对外直接投资累计净额3172.1亿美元。

中国经济的全球化和投资的对外扩张碰到前所未有的挑战,这种挑战主要来自于企业自身的能力和中国在国际舞台上角色和形象转变的滞后。当中国逐渐变为经济大国后,世界对中国在国际舞台上的角色和形象有了新的定义和要求:从受援国变成援助国,对人道主义救援、对环境、对人类和平与地区和平、从而对资源利用与保护等都有新的视角、角色意识和应对策略。对这种历史性的角色转变,我们政府和企业的传统思维和工作方法将受到严峻的挑战。

自2005年1月援助印尼海啸开始,中国扶贫基金会开始了国际化的探索步伐,尝试开展对外援助。截至目前,中国扶贫基金会已累计投入6088万元用于国际援助,先后对印尼海啸、新奥尔良飓风、巴基斯坦地震、缅甸台风、智利地震、海地地震、日本地震、非洲之角旱灾等世界范围内的自然灾害进行了紧急救援,对非洲几内亚比绍和苏丹的贫困母婴开展了援助项目。

对苏丹的援助,标志着中国扶贫基金会走出国门实施公益项目迈出了实质性的步伐。

【过程】

一项目前期调研 2007年4月,中国扶贫基金会五届三次理事会决定:“调查研究周边国家情况,择机进行国际化扩张,”同时提出了向筹资性基金会转变和国际化发展的总体发展战略。2008年,中国扶贫基金会成立援非项目调研小组,并开始强烈关注苏丹。

2009年10月,中国扶贫基金会执行副会长何道峰率队赴苏丹实地考察。在考察中,基金会尽可能的对苏丹的社会、卫生、慈善领域方面进行全面了解,同时也访问了苏丹卫生部、苏丹人道事务署以及由巴希尔总统第一夫人领导的贫困母亲救助会、妇盟、苏丹红星月会等相关机构。实地调研考察之后,中国扶贫基金会最终决定与苏丹本土NGO比尔特瓦苏慈善组织(BTO)签订项目合作备忘录,并从事实出发,针对苏丹妇幼死亡率居高不下的社会问题,结合中国扶贫基金会国内实施母婴平安项目的经验,设计完成了《援建苏丹妇幼保健系统示范项目》建议书。

二执行过程

2010年6月,在中国扶贫基金会的努力下,《援建苏丹妇幼保健系统示范项目》获得了中国石油天然气集团公司的支持,并由中国石油尼罗河公司捐资60万美元,兴建第一所援建的苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院。

医院建设涉及很多环节,包括建筑材料和医疗设备采购、海运、清关、安装等。为了规避对国外环境不熟悉的风险,基金会事先就与合作伙伴签署了协议,将其中材料和设备清关及在苏丹的国内运输环节全部交由苏丹合作伙伴执行。然而,由于是第一次接受外援物资,苏丹合作伙伴迟迟不能获得苏丹财政部的免税证明,以及医疗器械进口许可,货物全都滞留在苏丹港。滞留在港的每一分钟,都会产生相应的滞箱费。面对这一严峻的问题,基金会一方面焦急地寻求各方的帮助,一方面与合作伙伴一起积极寻找解决办法。最终,在中国驻苏丹大使馆的大力协助下,2011年3月,所有货物才被完整的运输出苏丹港。但不可避免的产生了一笔超出预算的高额滞箱费,由于这是事先没有预料到的突发事件,基金会主动承担了清关问题产生的所有额外费用。 因为地域、民族、文化各方面的差异,苏丹的合作伙伴在办事效率、思考问题的方式方法上与中国存在不同,造成了许多小摩擦的发生。为了避免不再发生类似清关滞留的问题以及能够及时解决其他相关问题,尽管经费紧张,时间紧迫,人员不足,中国扶贫基金会还是决定派遣两名员工长驻苏丹工地,和工程队一起驻扎在工地上,以便全程监督项目实施并及时解决施工中的问题直至工程完工。

由于是首次尝试,很多问题,难以事先预估和判断,所以,在施工过程中,常会有些临时的、小的突发事件发生,比如施工单位,彩钢房生产单位和当地医院相互推脱责任,扯皮,纠缠不清,从而影响项目顺利开展,也因此产生了许多不可预见的费用,这使得苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院竣工的最终费用大大超出了项目的预算和捐赠费用。

于是基金会授权两名派遣工作人员,遇到问题先找到解决方案,全力推进项目,过后再追究责任的处理方式,从而把很多问题扼杀在摇篮之中,不至于纠缠不清,酿成大问题。

三收获成果

2011年5月,医院内部施工完毕。6月,建设周期11个月,作为示范项目的第一所援建医院——苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院建设完毕。苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院的竣工标志着首个中国民间公益组织跨出国门实施公益项目获得重大突破。

为了弘扬捐赠企业的慈善精神,使中国公众更好地了解中资企业在海外从事的公益事业,2011年6月中国扶贫基金会在人民大会堂新闻发布厅举行了“国际援助项目5周年回顾表彰及首家苏丹母婴医院竣工仪式”。7月,苏中阿布欧舍友谊医院竣工典礼在苏丹杰济拉州阿布欧舍镇隆重举行。10月医院顺利运行。12月中国扶贫基金会协同苏丹合作伙伴BTO、杰济拉州卫生厅联合举办了阿布欧舍友谊医院合作伙伴董事会。同月,基金会与BTO的相关人员组成考察团,并邀请了中国石油尼罗河公司一起对医院的运行情况进行评估验收。

【点评】

在宏观方面,民间组织走出国门实施公益项目,是响应国家提升软实力的整理外交策略。但是在目前民间组织走出国门的初期,离不开来自政府部门,尤其是驻外使领馆的强力支持。 中国扶贫基金会在工作平台搭建上就下了工夫。不仅与苏丹比尔特瓦苏慈善组织建立了合作伙伴关系;在面临清关危机的时候,得到了苏丹驻华大使馆的有效帮助;同时基金会与中联部、外交部、扶贫办和苏丹的卫生部、人道主义事务署等政府机构建立了紧密联系;另一方面也得到了中国社会科学院西亚非洲所和甘肃水利研究院等学术机构的帮助;并且与中石油、瀚凯设计等企业展开了合作,获得了它们资金和智力的捐助。

“外事无小事”,民间组织走出国门实施公益项目对机构的执行能力是一个非常严峻的考验,因为随着人文和地理环境的改变,项目实施过程中一个小过失,都有可能造成不可挽回的损失。中国NGO走出国门从事公益事业还是一个新鲜事务,没有现成的经验可以借鉴。因此在规划设计国际扶贫项目时,不了解、不确定的因素很多,预先设计的计划步骤在实际操作中往往会遇到预想不到的困难。比如在援建苏丹医院项目上,苏丹医院材料清关上就出现一波三折的问题,本来一个月之内能完成的工作,最后花费了4个月的时间完成。另外,对受援国风俗习惯、工作方式的熟悉,也需要时间摸索。国际项目经验的缺乏也导致了项目支出超出了预算、施工过程小问题频发等问题。

资金来源不稳定是制约民间组织实施国际化战略的因素。中国扶贫基金会虽然是国内实力雄厚的民间组织之一,但是走出国门发展公益事业仍然面临项目经费不足等问题。

现阶段,大部分公众对公益机构走出国门,援助中国以外其他国家的这一行为很不理解,而获得公众的支持,是公益机构能否让项目可持续发展的一个重要因素。所以,培育公众的援外意识和国际人道主义精神,是至关重要的。

Lin Yuanzhuan is a China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation staff member. Yang Tuan is deputy director of the Social Policy Research Centre in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and editor of the China Blue Book of Philanthropy which is published by the Social Science Academic Press (China).

Translated by Anastasia Gubar

Reviewed by Chris Mirasola

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