Continued from Part 2 – COVID-19 international giving guide: Emergency status and charitable designation

International charitable giving was already complex in a pre-COVID-19 world. The global pandemic has only exacerbated these complexities and raised additional uncertainties. To help support organizations as they navigate funding international COVID-19 response efforts, Global Impact, supported by KPMG LLP, created the COVID-19 Regulatory & Response Matrix. The matrix provides a centralized source of information on 124 countries and territories across the globe, compiled through extensive in-country and remote research.

What is meant by COVID-19 relief financing? 
The matrix explored four components of a country’s response to COVID-19 in terms of financing:

  • Has the country adopted a stimulus plan or other economic financial recovery measures?
  • Has the country established an emergency response fund dedicated for COVID-19 relief? If so, can foreign organizations donate to the fund?
  • Is the country contributing to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund?
  • Is the country contributing to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) COVID-19 Response Fund?

These questions seek to address a very important component of the ongoing worldwide crisis: the economy and the financial capability to fund recovery efforts. These four questions examine a country’s economic response from the bottom up, from the most local of responses to cooperation in supranational relief schemes.

The first question is the most basic: Has the country undertaken any sort of domestic economic scheme to provide relief to its citizens? While every country has reacted differently to COVID-19, the most universal response has been to reduce the spread of the disease by enforcing social distancing rules, closing nonessential businesses and limiting travel. This has resulted in a severe economic slowdown that has expanded the scope of the pandemic from solely a health crisis to a major economic crisis, as well. This situation has forced world governments to create solutions to address the economic health of their citizens. These strategies take many different forms, but can include direct stimulus checks to citizens, tax relief for businesses or salary guarantees from the government. These strategies all aim to maintain liquidity in a largely stagnant economy, and to empower a quicker return to normalcy once restrictions are lifted.

The second question refers to the creation of a response fund that goes beyond fiscal policy to directly pool money explicitly for the purpose of providing relief. This is a more direct reaction to the issue – rather than wage protections or purchasing bonds to increase the money supply, the creation of these funds cuts out reliance on market mechanisms and provides direct support to citizens. Whether the fund accepts foreign donations is a very important factor for organizations looking to help support another nation’s citizens.

The third and fourth questions apply to specific, far-reaching international relief schemes. The WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Response Fund are two funds that address the truly borderless nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO fund focuses on pooling global resources to ensure that protective equipment, treatments and eventual vaccines can be available to all who need them across the world. The SAARC fund aims to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 in the South Asian region by raising funds. By allowing nations to gather resources for recovery, these funds help to share the burden of the fight against COVID-19 and will provide a more even recovery across regions. Participation in these funds is a sign of trust in the international system, a capacity to give and an appreciation of how serious the crisis truly is. 

How have different countries approached COVID-19 relief financing?
Of the 124 countries and territories studied in the matrix, 99 have adopted a stimulus plan or other economic financial recovery measures. This significant participation rate demonstrates the severity of the crisis across the world and the obligation that governments feel to provide economic relief in its wake. The economic slowdown associated with the pandemic can worsen existing issues in a society, such as poverty or inequality, and governments have adopted stimulus plans to stop these problems from worsening further.

The creation of specific national relief funds was less common: 47 countries participated in such strategies, of which 37 permitted foreign contributions into their fund. Of the original 47, 12 did not participate in a stimulus program, meaning the fund was their primary response to the crisis. The smaller number of participating countries does not necessarily demonstrate a less comprehensive approach to COVID-19, since a robust response in other capacities may negate the need for a dedicated fund, but the 27 nations that accept foreign contributions to their funds present a great opportunity for concerned foreign entities to assist the country of their interest.

Whether directly or indirectly – typically through an intermediary regional organization – 58 countries have contributed to the WHO’s COVID-19 response fund. Those that have contributed range from some of the wealthiest European countries, to very poor countries in the global south. The majority of these countries did not participate in a domestic relief fund, although the majority did undertake stimulus measures. Additionally, the SAARC fund has received contributions from all eight of the organization’s member states, showing a significant level of trust in the organization.

How can this information be used to empower your organization’s giving and impact?
This set of questions produces information that can help organizations move beyond cultivating existing charitable commitments to find new partners in need of assistance. For instance, imagine a Canadian business that has not provided charitable support to sub-Saharan Africa in the past, but is concerned with the growing need to address the COVID-19 crisis in that region. Using these questions, the corporation can identify the 37 countries that have established dedicated COVID-19 response funds that allow foreign contributions. Of those countries, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are all sub-Saharan nations that would make suitable partners for the Canadian corporation. This list can provide a baseline for further research and enable the corporation to quickly find a cause that suits their charitable guidelines.

This post is the last of our matrix blog series, but the work is not yet done. Now is the time to take this information, share it with your peers and use it as a springboard into a deeper commitment to international giving. Check out the report and matrix, and make sure to come back to our Give Global Blog for exciting new content every week. See you soon!