Wu Peng: Bringing the Chinese Experience to the World

This interview was conducted by CDB's Gabriel Corsetti and Yin Qian

中文 English

Editor’s Note

Mr. Wu Peng is the director of the department of international development of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Founded in 1989, the CFPA is a charitable organization based in Beijing and professionally supervised by the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. It runs a wealth of projects both in China and overseas. In the interview that follows, Wu Peng discusses his organization’s work around the world, and the challenges for Chinese civil society organizations that want to work overseas. The interview was carried out by CDB’s Gabriel Corsetti and Yin Qian on the 26th of March 2019 in Beijing. It was conducted partly in English and partly in Chinese, and the Chinese parts have been translated into English.

 

CDB: The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) is one of the main Chinese civil society organizations that conducts projects overseas. Could you briefly describe the CFPA’s major overseas projects for our readers?

 

Wu: The CFPA started its international program in 2005. By 2018, we had raised a total of over 160 million Yuan for overseas aid and projects in over 20 countries and regions. Our fist program abroad was our response to the Indonesian tsunami. Actually disaster relief was always a major part of our international projects, but now the focus of our projects is gradually shifting from focusing only on disaster relief to having an equal emphasis on disaster relief and development aid. We focus mainly on the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, clean water and sanitation, and decent work and economic growth. Since our work focuses on impoverished people and those affected by natural disasters in remote areas, it can be said that all our programs are related to poverty alleviation, so this is our contribution to the first SDG.

When it comes to the second SDG, zero hunger, we have related programs in Sudan, Ethiopia and Cambodia. In Sudan and Ethiopia we implemented the “Smiling Children Project” in 51 schools and three refugee camps, and the number of students to have benefited was over 10,000. The main point was to provide free meals to primary school children in Africa. This was our contribution to the goal of “zero hunger”.

When it comes to good health and wellbeing, we built a hospital in Sudan in 2011. We also implemented a program to screen for hepatitis B in Nepal.

As for quality education, we have many programs in the educational sector within China, and we have also introduced them to other countries. For instance, in Myanmar we have scholarships catering to college, middle and primary school students. In Nepal we have built a school, and we have two under construction. Our biggest educational aid project is the Panda Pack Project (爱心包裹), supported by Alibaba. The project officially started this year in February, and we plan to expand it to 11 Belt and Road countries in 2019. Other than that, in Myanmar’s Dagon University we built a computer lab, and we donated some material to schools in Nepal, including tables and benches and psychological care following the earthquake.

When it come to clean water and sanitation, we built 81 wells for water in Ethiopia, and in Nepal we implemented the WASH program, restoring a lot of water facilities that were damaged during the earthquake, while at the same time training the local women and children to wash their hands before cooking and after using the toilet.

The last SDG we focus on is decent work and economic growth. In Ethiopia we held a program to train local women in skills like weaving, pottery and stone carving, promoting the local society’s development and gender equality, since in Ethiopia even jobs like weaving are mostly done by men. We recruited many women to do such jobs so they could learn the skills and earn some money, realizing their financial independence. This year we started cooperating with UN-women, and fundraised for the program through Tencent Charity and Meituan.

 

WechatIMG2770

Wu Peng at the celebration for the completion of a well-building project in Ethiopia

 

CDB: Thank you for your very comprehensive introduction. You mentioned that the CFPA was founded in 1989, but it started going out in 2005. How was the decision made to start operating abroad? Are your projects overseas focused on similar areas as your projects in China?

 

Wu: As to the questions of why head overseas, and why the CFPA headed overseas, we actually discussed it within our foundation in the past, and I think it can be summed up as a mixture of internal and external factors.

I will start by looking at the external ones: one factor is that China has grown to become the world’s second largest economy, leading to unprecedented investment and foreign travel. As such, China’s contact with the rest of the world has expanded exponentially. This has required not only governmental effort, but also companies, individuals and social organisations to look overseas. Without a doubt, this has become a trend across all types of industries.

Having talked about economic development, the next point is that the Chinese people have a long tradition of being charitable to those less fortunate than themselves. However Chinese people’s charity is different from Western Christianity’s “universal love”, in that it tends to start from what is closest. There is an old Confucian saying: “cultivate oneself, manage one’s family, govern one’s nation and there will be peace throughout the world”. That is to say that as our own capabilities and strength increase, then we will gradually begin to look outward, rather than doing so right from the start. If I am very poor, I cannot turn my concern to disasters in other countries. You must first get your own affairs in order, and once they are moving along well, then you will be able to care for your family. Only after this should you look outside of your family.

The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005 was an important moment. If you look at the data from the time, you can see that China’s ordinary people donated a lot of money. Of course it wasn’t all given to the Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, we only received a small part. This shows that there was clearly a growing willingness among the people to donate to charity. In wake of the global disasters that followed, for example the Pakistan earthquake, Burma’s typhoon, and Chile’s tsunami, we received many donations.

What’s more we did not take the initiative to push for donations. All we did was to have a long-established Emergency Relief Department for disasters in China, so we had relatively mature mechanisms for disaster response and fundraising, and when there were disasters in other countries we used these mechanisms to fundraise and managed to raise some money. This is one of the reasons that we started working abroad earlier than other organizations.

The second factor is related to the constant increase in the scale of Chinese companies’ outward investment. When these companies invest, they find that the local social situation is very different from China’s. When they encounter issues such as the need to compensate people for losing their land, it is necessary for them to go themselves and enact some projects to give back to the local community. The bigger their investment is, the bigger the need is for the companies to give back to the local community. But since they lack specific competency in this field, they hope that Chinese civil society organization can help them perfect their local CSR projects. Due to this, we are currently co-operating with PetroChina to build hospitals in Sudan, and with the Xugong Group to build wells in Ethiopia.

At the same time, another important factor is that in recent years the Chinese government put forward the idea of building a “community of common destiny for humanity” through the Belt and Road, and so the CFPA going abroad is also a way of actively responding to the government’s policy call.

These are all external factors that have driven the China Poverty Alleviation Foundation to look overseas. What then are the internal factors? I think the internal governance structure of the foundation is one of them. The CFPA completed its marketization reform in 1999, and the organization’s operational method lies mainly in designing programs to respond to social needs and solve social issues, urging us to take the initiative and grasp at the hot issues in society.

Secondly, if we were able to go out of China so early, it was thanks to our leaders’ international perspective, which also fits in with our foundation’s mission that can be summed up as “alleviating humanity’s suffering”, so not just China’s suffering, but all of humanity’s. Since the leaders had this sort of perspective, they realized very early on that China’s social organizations should operate across borders, and that internationalization was an unstoppable trend. We also started preparing well in advance for this step, since internationalization isn’t something that can be achieved on a whim, it requires a long process of development. Only by being well prepared could we grasp this opportunity.

 

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Wu Peng at the launching ceremony of the Namibia Panda Pack Project

 

CDB: When working overseas, in your experience, what are the main problems and misunderstandings you’ve encountered when you cooperate with the local government and local civil society?

 

Wu: There are many challenges we have faced when internationalizing. The first problem was being unfamiliar with the customs and habits of the other party, and their laws and regulations. For example, when we built the first hospital in Sudan, a problem at customs clearance led to us having to pay a demurrage charge. Looking back, the main problem was that we hadn’t entirely understood the holiday arrangements of the local government departments and the issue of whether our partners enjoyed tax exempt status or not. Therefore after that we were careful not to send material over during public holidays, and before making a donation we would ascertain in advance with our partners whether it would have tax exempt status.

In view of the above, with the support of the Asia Foundation we produced our “operational manual for Chinese civil society organizations going out”, and we shared some of the most important parts with Chinese civil society organizations, hoping that they will be able to work abroad more smoothly.

The second challenge we encountered are security issues. We Chinese NGOs have to improve our security awareness, related knowledge and preventative measures. Chinese insurance companies still do not offer very good plans specifically for people going abroad to dangerous areas. Although some foreign insurance companies may offer such products, they are rather expensive and the vast majority of Chinese civil society organizations cannot afford them. Then there is the security education for the staff of social organizations who go abroad, for which it may be necessary that some professional third party organizations provide security training.

Furthermore, there is the issue of public awareness. When it comes to Chinese social organizations going abroad, even though public awareness has already improved and critical voices have lessened, creating an atmosphere of public support will still take time. Following the development of China’s economy and the improvement in the people’s living standards, I hope experts, academics and the media can encourage people to take a broad view of the world, and pay attention to the world’s impoverished places and the UN’s SDGs. After all, our China has an excellent tradition of helping the poor.

 

CDB: The CFPA has currently set up offices in Myanmar and Nepal. What considerations lay behind the decision to create these offices?

 

Wu: The first consideration is whether you are able to get a work visa. According to some countries’ regulations if you don’t set up an office in the country then you cannot receive work visas, meaning that after a set amount of time your staff have to leave the country and then re-enter, which is troublesome. For instance in Ethiopia we still haven’t completed our registration, so our country director has to fly out and then back in every month.

Secondly, if we don’t register locally, we have no way to accept donations from local donors. Ethiopia, for example, has foreign exchange controls, so local donors can’t donate US dollars to our Chinese headquarters, and their wish is to donate to us in local currency. Since we haven’t registered an office however, we cannot accept donations in local currency.

The third problem is that if we don’t have a legal registration status, then we can’t hire local employees. So these three problems mean we have to register locally. When the scale of the project is small, we can work with local partners to complete the project and registering is not as important. But when the scale is large, and there is an ever increasing number of partners, registering a local office will definitely benefit our work.

Regarding social organizations setting up offices abroad, in 2016 the state released a policy document ruling that social organizations could set up an office abroad after receiving the approval of their PSU. This policy was an answer to the urgent need of social organizations going out, and it made up for a previous gap in the regulations.

 

CDB: The funding for CFPA’s international projects each year is in the range of about 20 – 30 million. What are the main sources of funding?

 

Wu: I have not specifically calculated, but I would say that about 90% comes from domestic funding, and about 80% of that comes from funds raised from the public. The rest comes from businesses and foundations. That would be the approximate ratio. As for the money we raise outside the country, it comes from Chinese companies overseas and Chinese embassies. Some of them will directly send their donations to our local account so that it can be used for project operations.

 

CDB: Do you get local organizations or individuals donating to the CFPA in other countries?

 

Wu: In terms of raising funds from enterprises or the public in other countries, the CPFA does not really have any obvious strengths. This is mainly because we are still in an embryonic stage. Our strength definitely lies in raising funds within China and going abroad to do projects. Currently the main thing is to decide how best to use the resources we have. In future we can consider trying to fundraise overseas as well. In this sense, when we have a good project we can try applying for funding from the UN and from large foundations.

 

CDB: What kind of policy or legislative changes do you think could provide the most facilitation for Chinese civil society organizations that want to go out and work abroad?

 

Wu: The policies are constantly evolving. What was originally focused on the most was the transfer of funds overseas. For us to transfer a donation out of the country used to be quite difficult, but now the process has been simplified and it is no longer such a big problem. On the other hand, with more Chinese social organization going out there will be more and more need to transfer donations abroad, so I suggest that a special channel for donations should be set up amongst the options for transferring foreign currency.

My second suggestion is actually still to do with transferring funds abroad. We hope there can be a clear policy allowing Chinese social organizations to transfer funds directly to a legally established overseas branch organisations, including project expenses and administrative fees.

The third recommendation is that we hope the Chinese government will open up the South-South fund to civil society organizations, and allow them to apply for these funds. This will give a great impetus for Chinese social organizations to go out. The government’s support will act like a propeller, driving social resources in that direction. This way both the public and the enterprises will be able to support social organizations to go out.

 

WechatIMG899A woman in Ethiopia learning to make baskets as part of a CFPA-run training program

中国发展简报:感谢伍主任百忙之中接受我们的访问。作为我国在境外开展活动的主要中国社会组织之一,您能否简要为我们的读者介绍一下中国扶贫基金会的主要海外项目?

伍鹏:中国扶贫基金会自2005年起开始开展国际项目。我们第一个海外项目是对印尼海啸的灾后援助。事实上,灾后援助一直是我们海外项目的一个重要组成部分,特别是自然灾害受灾地区的灾后援助。但对于今后的工作,我们的主要任务将逐渐从灾后援助变为发展援助。

我们非常关注联合国2030可持续发展目标(Sustainable Development Goals),主要包括 SDG 1 无贫穷,SDG 2 零饥饿,SDG 3 良好、健康与福祉,SDG 4 优质教育,SDG 6 清洁饮水和卫生设施,SDG 8 体面工作。因为我们关注的对象是贫困人口和边远地区受灾人群,因此我们所有的项目都与扶贫减贫有关,这是我们对于SDG 1的贡献。

第二个目标,零饥饿,我们在苏丹、埃塞俄比亚和柬埔寨开展了相关的项目。在苏丹和埃塞俄比亚,我们在非洲51所学校开展了微笑儿童项目,受益的学生大约有1万人。主要是为非洲小学的学生提供免费的餐食。这是我们对“零饥饿”目标的贡献。

为了实现 “良好、健康与福祉” 这一目标,我们于2011年在苏丹修建了医院。并在尼泊尔推广实施疾病特别是乙肝筛查的检查项目。

在教育这一块,扶贫基金会有大量的项目。例如我们在缅甸设置了面向大中小学生的奖学金项目;其次是在尼泊尔修建学校,目前我们已经完成了一所学校的修建,还有另两所学校在建;扶贫基金会参与为缅甸达贡大学修建了一个计算机实验室;同时为尼泊尔的学校提供了一些支持,包括捐赠桌椅、提供心理咨询服务等。此外我们还有一个由阿里巴巴集团资金支持的大型“爱心包裹”项目,我们计划在2019年将爱心包裹项目推广到11个 “一带一路”沿线国家;为缅甸达贡大学修建了一个计算机实验室;同时扶贫基金会也为尼泊尔的学校提供了一些支持,包括捐赠桌椅、提供心理咨询服务等。

在清洁用水和卫生这一块,我们在埃塞俄比亚修建了81个水窖,并在尼泊尔修建了很多因地震造成损坏的供水用水设备,同时派一些培训师去教当地的妇女和孩子们学会饭前便后洗手。

我们在埃塞俄比亚开展促进“体面工作”的项目。我们对当地妇女进行手工编织、陶艺、石刻等方面的培训,促进了当地社会发展和性别平等。因为在埃塞俄比亚,即使是像编织这样的工作,也主要是男性在承担。我们招募许多女性来做这项工作,这样她们就可以学到新的手艺,并且可以用此来挣钱,最后实现自己的经济独立。今年我们和联合国妇女权能署合作,并在网上对该项目进行了众筹。

中国发展简报:谢谢您给我们如此全面的项目介绍。正如您所言,中国扶贫基金会在2005开始“走出去”,这个决定在当时是如何形成的,您可以简单介绍一下吗?扶贫基金会在海外开展的项目与您们在中国国内开展的项目有类似的地方吗?

伍鹏:为什么要走向海外,为什么是中国扶贫基金会走向海外,其实我们基金会内部此前也讨论过,可以简单总结为内部因素和外部因素两方面。

首先说外部因素:一是,目前中国的经济已发展成为第二个世界经济体,不论中国的投资,还是出国旅游的人数,都是空前的,加大了中国与世界的接触面,从而要求除了政府、企业、老百姓走出去,中国的社会组织也是要出去的,这是一个必然趋势。

因为中国人是有扶贫济困的传统,但中国人的慈善是一种由近及远的方式,与西方基督教提倡的“博爱”不同,中国有句古话叫:“修身齐家治国平天下”,中国传统的慈善也是这样,随自身能力的增长而逐渐外延出去的,如果自己都穷,还饿着肚子的时候,是很难去管别人的,更顾不上世界其他国家发生的灾难。因此,当中国经济迅速发展的时候,中国人就有了“兼济天下”的胸怀,势必就会关注关心世界上其他国家经历的各种苦难。

2005年是重要的一个时间点,印度洋海啸,如果去翻一下当时的资料,会发现中国的老百姓捐了很多钱,当然不只是捐给扶贫基金会,我们是收到一些,但大部分钱是捐给中国慈善会和红十字会,说明这个时候,老百姓开始有意愿去捐钱了。之后的一些世界性灾害,比如巴基斯坦地震,缅甸风灾,及海地智利地震,我们都收到了很多捐款。而当时,扶贫基金会其实并没有主动去推广。只是我们很早之前就成立了应对国内灾害的紧急救援部,有了一套较为成熟的灾害应对模式及募捐方法,因此在遇到境外的灾害时候,我们就用这套熟悉的募捐方法,就募集到了一些钱,这也就是为什么扶贫基金会早于其他机构走出去的一个原因。

第二个原因与中国企业对外投资规模的不断增大有关。企业走出去投资,遇到的当地社会情况跟国内不一样。中国企业走向海外,遇到问题,比如说移民赔偿、土地征收等,这就需要企业自己去做一些回馈当地社会的民生项目。因此企业对外投资的规模越来越大,他们回馈当地社区的需求也就越来越大。而企业自身没有这方面的专业知识,就会希望中国的民间组织去帮他们完善当地的CSR(企业社会责任)项目。于是,就有了扶贫基金会在苏丹与中石油合作去建医院,在埃塞俄比亚跟徐工集团合作去建水窖,都是这个原因。

同时,还有另一个重要原因是近年来中国政府提出了一带一路构建人类命运共同体,扶贫基金会走出去也是积极响应政府的政策倡议。

接下来说内因:一是与扶贫基金会的管理结构有关。扶贫基金会早在1999年就完成了市场化改革,机构运作主要是以应对社会需求、解决社会问题来设计项目,促使我们主动去捕捉一些社会热点,发挥主动性。

二是,我们能够这么早走出去,是离不开机构领导人的国际化视野,这也符合扶贫基金会“播善减贫,成就他人”的使命,简单说就是“去人类的疾苦”,不只是中国人的,也有国外的。因为领导具有这样的国际化视野,很早之前就认为未来中国的社会组织就是应该跨国去运作,国际化是必然趋势。我们也提前就做了转变的准备,因为国际化不是说变就变,它会有一个成长发展的过程。只有提前做好准备,才能抓住这个机会。

中国发展简报:谢谢。根据您多年海外工作的经验,您认为在与当地政府和当地的社会组织合作时,遇到的主要问题有哪些?

伍鹏: 在做国际化确实遇到各种各样的挑战和问题,第一个问题是不熟悉对方的风俗习惯,法律法规。比如说我们在苏丹做第一个医院的时候,就是因为物资清关时出现了问题,最终产生了滞箱费。我们回顾滞箱费产生的原因,主要是由于我们对当地政府部门节假日期间的工作安排流程以及对合作方是否具有免税资质等信息掌握不全面。因此我们在后续的项目执行中会注意避免在项目地公共假日期间去运送物资,同时我们在捐赠时会事先向对方了解其是否具有免税资格等。

据此,扶贫基金会很积极地做了一份《中国民间组织走出去操作手册》,我们把其中的一些关键点分享出来给中国的民间组织,希望他们更顺畅地走出去。

第二个遇到的挑战就是一些安全问题。我们中国民间组织在安保意识,安保专业知识储备,防范措施上还有待加强。特别是国内目前还没有一种相对完善的专门针对“走出去”人员的保险产品,特别是针对危险地区国家的险种。虽然境外的一些保险机构有相关产品,但普遍价格昂贵,绝大部分中国的民间社会组织难以负担。其次就是社会组织对“走出去”人员的安全教育,这个方面可能是需要一些专业第三方机构来为中国的社会组织做安全的培训或能力建设。

再者就是公众意识。对于中国社会组织走出去,虽然现在公众意识已经有好转,批评反对的声音逐渐少了,但形成整体的公众支持氛围还需要时间。随着中国经济发展,老百姓生活水平的提高,我还是希望专家学者,包括媒体可以呼吁大家放眼世界,关注世界上的贫困地区,联合国可持续发展目标等。我们中国毕竟有扶贫济困的优秀传统。

中国发展简报:对于中国民间社会组织走出去,在政策制度方面您有什么建议吗?

伍鹏:政策是不断地演进的。原来提的最多的就是外汇,捐赠的资金往外汇拨比较困难,现在程序上就简化了。但随着中国民间社会组织走出去,越来越多的捐赠资金要出去,建议在外汇的拨付渠道选项中设置一个专门的通道给捐赠资金。

第二,其实还是资金往外汇拨相关。我们希望有一个明确的政策允许中国的社会组织能够把资金直接拨付到在海外合法成立的分支机构,包括项目资金和办公运营经费。

第三个建议是希望政府向中国的民间机构开放南南基金,开放这些资金给中国社会组织来申请,来做项目,这样的话会极大地推动中国的社会组织走出去。政府的支持就会像一个风向标,它会带动社会资源往这个方向聚焦,这样一来公众也好,企业也好,都会来支持民间组织走出去。

中国发展简报:扶贫基金会的足迹已经遍布非洲及东南亚,而设立海外办公室的国家目前就是尼泊尔跟缅甸,设立海外办公室的考虑有哪些?

伍鹏:第一个是能拿到工作签证。有的国家政策规定,如果不在当地设立办公室,那么就无法给予工作签证,这就意味着机构在当地的工作人月每隔一段时间就要离境后再入境,十分折腾。比如说我们在埃塞俄比亚还没有注册完成,我们的国别主任,他就要每一个月飞出去一次,然后再入境。

第二个考虑是如果没在当地注册,我们就无法接受当地捐赠人给予的捐款。比如说像埃塞俄比亚有外汇管制,当地捐赠人不可能向你的中国总部捐赠美金,他希望直接在当地捐赠埃塞币,因为我们还没有在当地注册办公室,我们就接受不了埃塞币的捐款。

第三点,如果不在当地注册拥有合法的身份,我就没法去聘用当地的员工。 当项目规模小的时候,我们可以通过与当地合作伙伴协调完成项目活动,注册并不显得那么重要。但随着项目的数量,规模逐渐增大,我们的合作伙伴日益增多的时候,在当地注册办公室势必有利于工作的开展。

关于社会组织在海外设立办公室,国家在2016年出台了相关政策文件规定了社会组织在得到其业务主管单位的批准后方可在海外设立办公室。这个政策是回应了社会组织走出去发展的迫切需求,填补了以往相关规定上的空白。

中国发展简报:我们了解到中国扶贫基金会的国际项目运作资金每年大概在2000万到3000万,这部分资金的主要来源可以介绍下吗?

伍鹏:这个没有具体计算过。整体运作资金的90%主要是来源于国内筹款,这其中的80%则来源于公众筹款,其它的就是企业和基金会的拨款。大概是这么一个比例。参与我们境外的筹款的有一些出海的中国公司还有当地中国使馆,他们会直接将善款拨付到我们当地的账户用于项目运作。

中国发展简报:那么在国外的话,会不会有当地的民间机构或者民众捐款给中国扶贫基金会?

伍鹏:扶贫基金会在接受当地的企业或者当地民众捐赠方面优势还不明显。主要原因是我们目前还处于萌芽状态,我们的优势肯定是募集国内资源去海外做项目。现阶段我们主要思考怎么充分利用现有的资源。随着机构的发展,未来我们可以往这方面去尝试。在国际化资金利用方面,当机构有好的项目时,是可以去申请联合国以及一些大型基金会的资金协助。

中国发展简报:谢谢,非常感谢伍主任接受本次采访,为大家详细介绍了中国扶贫基金会的国际化之路。

Translated by Gabriel Corsetti, Peta Heinrich, Alice Mingay and Austin Smith

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