When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, NGOs with offices in Singapore found the city-state an ideal location from which to render help.
“Singapore has excellent flight connections to the countries across Asia and excellent communication links. So, we can deploy regional staff to countries affected by natural disasters quickly and easily,” says Greg Duly, Regional Director, South-East & East Asia, Save the Children, whose Asia Regional Office is in Singapore.
When a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated Nepal on April 25 2015, the world rushed to help. Humanitarian and relief non-government organizations (NGOs) were among the first to render aid. Several like Singapore Red Cross, Save the Children, and World Vision worked out of their bases in Singapore.
Clearly, other International Non-profit Organizations (INPOs) feel the same way. Since 2005, according to the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the number of INPOs that have set up offices in Singapore have quadrupled to about 170 today.
Right Where the Need Is
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore started its office in the country in 2006 for another reason.
“Asia is the heart of many global environmental issues. Being in Singapore gives WWF a central position from which to address these issues and enables us to carry out major projects such as the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle,” says Louise Wood, Communications Manager at WWF Singapore.
This desire to be in Asia for Asia is something the Lien Foundation is profoundly committed to as well. Though a Singapore philanthropic organization, it has offices in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam and considers Asia its backyard.
WWF-Singapore supporting the global Eco-Schools programme at Nan Hua High School who is a silver award holder.
“We believe that Singapore’s success carries with it a responsibility to improve the conditions of the poor. Being in Singapore puts us in a unique position, allowing us to tap on myriad array of networks and talents, forge cooperation across borders, and innovate solutions to tackle challenges in Asia,” says Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation.
Connected for Action
Singapore is also connected in other ways. With Internet connectivity at over 99%1 of the island, Singapore is the most wired nation in Southeast Asia. Thanks to the government’s digital strategy, it is also this year’s leader of the global ICT revolution2.
Wood brings up yet another type of connection Singapore offers, “Singapore’s sophisticated media has helped to generate further awareness and WWF Singapore is delighted to have generated 90% brand awareness in Singapore.”
Strong Support from the Top
Government support has been a draw, too. Charities with an annual income or expenses under S$500,000, for example, are exempted from financial audit.
As part of its work fighting for children’s rights, Save the Children makes sure children, like these in Myanmar, have the opportunity to be educated.
“Save the Children has been made to feel hugely welcome. There is a high caliber of Singaporean staff, clear government regulations and simple bureaucratic procedures that facilitate business operationsin Singapore,” says Duly.
Singapore has a dedicated agency to facilitate their efforts to set up facilities in the country. The International Organizations Program Office (IOPO), established in 2007 as a multi-agency initiative, is a one-stop center within EDB.
“We work closely with relevant government agencies to refine policies and regulations, and manage dedicated infrastructure for INPOs. In addition, we work with INPOs to connect them with the base of knowledge partners and corporates here to co-create solutions,” explains Kelvin Wong, Assistant Managing Director, Economic Development Board (EDB).
Ideal for Partnerships
Singapore is also a magnet for multinational companies (MNCs). At last count, there are over 14,000 here3. This comes as no surprise since Singapore has been crowned the World’s Easiest Place to Do Business by the World Bank for the past nine years.
So, there are plenty of opportunities for cross-sector partnerships. Already, Fauna and Flora International, the world’s oldest established international conservation body, is working with Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to restore degraded peat forests in Sumatra’s Riau Province in Indonesia.
The presence of MNCs expands INPOs’ donor base as well. Companies are constantly looking to adopt causes as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. With social finance intermediaries setting up base in Singapore, like the Bamboo Finance, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), Endeavor Global, Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIXA), and Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC), INPOs can further tap on alternate sources of funding.
A sophisticated calendar of international philanthropic events has developed over the years to cater to this network. In 2014 alone, there was the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), the 3rd Impact Forum by IIX Asia and IIX Shujog, Asia’s largest gathering on impact investing. These meetings are ideal platforms where various parties who have a stake in the social sector across the Asia Pacific region can come together to discuss issues and test bed solutions to complex challenges. Event organizers interested in tapping into the vibrant social sector landscape in Singapore to plan events can kick-start that process at www.yoursingapore.com/mice.
Perfect Source of Talent
Singapore’s high concentration of talents and thought leaders makes it an attractive place to set up shop here.
“Being based in Singapore we have also been able to attract high quality, experienced technical advisors across a number of sectors including education, health and nutrition and child protection. These advisors provide vital support and advice to the country offices on delivery of our programs on the ground,” affirms Duly.
Singapore also has logistics expertise for disaster relief work. In 2012, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Logistic Institute-Asia Pacific (TLI – Asia Pacific) partnered the Kühne Foundation, a public-benefit organization based in Switzerland to set up a joint education center on Humanitarian Logistics. The center, the first of its kind, provides a unique platform to raise awareness and foster collaboration in logistics management.
Just as Singapore has proven an ideal home for people of all races and creeds, it is making a place for INPOs of every cause as well. Indeed, this nation-state at the heart of Asia is where those with a heart for others can truly call home.
See also: Social Sector - Overview