This paper is an introduction to the current status of philanthropic giving in the Arab Countries. The paper is based upon previous research of the authors, mainly the PhD thesis of Marwa El-Daly, which explores in greater detail philanthropy in Egypt. The paper starts by looking at obligatory and voluntary philanthropy as the two main categories of philanthropic giving in the Arab World. It identifies both types of giving as well as endowments detailing the main concepts that stand behind them and discovering their routes in prevailing culture and religious beliefs. The paper then outlines the main factors that influence philanthropic giving with particular focus on religion which is a central concept in the understanding of Arabs’ practice of philanthropy. The paper uses quantitative data to explore patterns of giving practiced by Arab populations. The following section of the paper illustrates the current institutional structures of philanthropy in Arab countries with a detailed analysis of the situation of Arab civil society organisations and the challenges they face. The paper also looks at several examples of philanthropic foundations that operate in and from the region with a closer focus on the Agha Khan Foundation. In conclusion, the paper analyses some of the obstacles that face the expansion of philanthropy into a more significant contributor to development in the region with suggestions for future research.
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