Parliamentary Question, 4 March 2020
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (a) what lessons are learnt from the recent exit of UN Women from Singapore after 20 years of operations; (b) whether it is timely to review the 80:20 fundraising rule for charities given the global and interconnected nature of issues confronting societies; and © what efforts are being made to promote regional and international philanthropy
The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien): Mr Speaker, the closure of the local chapter of UN Women is an internal decision by the board and members of the society.
The 80:20 fund-raising rule under the Charities Act, requires at least 80% of funds raised for foreign charitable purposes be applied towards charitable purposes in Singapore. This is to ensure that donations from our Singapore public are used primarily to benefit locals and to address local needs. The Commissioner of Charities can and does waive this 80:20 rule on a case-by-case basis, such as for fund-raising for immediate disaster relief in other countries.
Ms Ong is right that globalisation and connectivity ties the fortunes of countries together, and many solutions to global issues require collective action from all countries. The Government, through the Economic Development Board, engages and develops a robust eco-system of Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), including international organisations dedicated to philanthropy. This includes organisations such as the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) and the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC) — which use Singapore as a venue to convene, share best practices and form partnerships to address global issues.
To support cross-border giving, the International Involvement Hub (I2Hub) was launched in 2013. Comprising the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), the Singapore International Foundation (SIF), the Singapore Red Cross Society (SRCS) and family of Temasek Foundations (TF), it provides opportunities for the Singapore community to contribute towards and participate in social, relief and community development initiatives in communities outside Singapore.
Mr Speaker: Ms Ong.
Ms Anthea Ong (Nominated Member): Thank you, Speaker. I thank the Minister for her comprehensive response. I should also declare that I was formerly a board member of UN Women when it was known as UNIFEM. May I know from the Minister if she thinks we should also look into supporting some of the local charities and non-profits that could be ready to go overseas so that we can develop deeper skills and also expand SG Cares’ vision beyond our shores?
Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: I would like to thank the Member for the supplementary question. I would like to commend her for always being passionate about championing social causes. Indeed, SG Cares wants to develop that as a movement so that Singaporeans feel that they are engaged and involved in issues confronting Singapore.
As to whether we will like to see our local charities moving offshore, we do it in many ways. As I had mentioned in my answer earlier on, if there are charities who are going to be involved in very meaningful causes, such as in disaster relief or in some other purpose that is important of that time, we are prepared to grant exemptions.
Similarly, we have also the structure to support visions such as Ms Ong’s. I mentioned in my speech earlier on about how this is a collaboration between various organisations in Singapore, including some of the important and critical NPOs.
Besides just supporting charities, I would also like to give a special mention to the very good work that many of our youths are doing. Even where, without a presence of charities outside Singapore, they have been able to do very good work, helping with local communities in the region.
This is where, I think, we are planting the seeds and we hope that more will think like Ms Ong — interested and prepared to invest their time and resources in social causes that confront us and the region.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)
The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.
She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).
Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng