Funding organisations with Middle East programmes - Egypt

Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland

For over 60 years now, the Arts Council of Switzerland Pro Helvetia has been responsible for presenting Swiss culture abroad, promoting cultural dialogue between the various linguistic regions of the country and fostering supra-regional understanding. Through its activities it supports a contemporary, culturally diverse and open-minded Switzerland.

Pro Helvetia Liaison Office Cairo

Cultural exchange and workshop projects are the focus of Pro Helvetia's activities in Cairo, headquarters for planning and mounting events throughout the Arab world. Pro Helvetia has been represented in Cairo since 1987. The Arts Council's office and small library occupy two rooms generously ceded by the Swiss Embassy in Abdel Khaleq Sarwat Street, in the centre of the Egyptian capital.

Pro Helvetia does not operate a proper cultural centre with event venues here. The Cairo office organises cultural programmes involving Arab countries and Switzerland, placing the accent on activities that encourage dialogue and an exchange of knowledge and experience: for example, video-art workshops, documentary and specialised film courses using video, and courses for photojournalists, but also theatrical performances and concerts with Egyptian artists, readings and film-screenings. Though most of the events organised by the Cairo office are held in Egypt, efforts are also being made to carry on the cultural work begun in/with Palestine in 2001, particularly in Gaza and Ramallah.

All events are planned in conjunction with the individual divisions of Pro Helvetia in Switzerland. The regional office also works closely with local event-organisers throughout the Arab world.

Ford Foundation

The foundation has been making grants in the Middle East and North Africa for half a century. Over the years, it has adapted its programs to keep pace with the region's changing needs. In consultation with leading researchers, academics, activists and policymakers, our staff has worked to develop effective strategies and identify emerging opportunities focused on some of the most pressing issues in the region. The staff is composed largely of professionals and administrators from the region. After opening a regional office in Beirut in 1952 and a country office in Cairo in 1957, they focused on assisting societies in the region faced with the challenges of building nation-states and securing a just future. With the closure of the Beirut office in 1975, the Cairo office became their regional office.

Their work currently focuses on institution-building and on initiatives that benefit the region as a whole. Our regional grant making draws on common historical, cultural and linguistic influences as well as the intertwined politics of the region. Much of the grant making focuses on Egypt and the Palestinian territories because of the central role of each in regional development. The heart of their work is strengthening cooperation by addressing issues—such as conflict, poverty and unequal access to opportunities—that affect the development process. They also seek to help scholars and researchers engage in regional dialogue. For example, through a set of grants to institutes in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, we support joint research and publication projects, regional seminars, common Web sites and other efforts to attain greater visibility and sustainability by pooling resources.
Contact: Ford Foundation, P.O. Box 2344, Cairo, Egypt Tel. (+20) 2-2795-2121E:

The Open Society (Soros)

The Open Society Institute (OSI), a private operating and grant-making foundation, aims to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI works to build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rights abuses.

The OSI Middle East & North Africa Initiative (MENA) acts as the primary contact point and clearinghouse for OSI activity in the region. The project operates from both New York and Washington, DC, with program staff making regular, extended visits to the region. MENA’s overall approach is to assist in assembling a network dedicated to open society issues such as transparency, rule of law, accountability, minority rights, strengthening and empowering civil society, empowerment of women, addressing the knowledge deficit, and fostering and supporting independent media. In addition, MENA supports a number of scholarships in law and other disciplines such as culture and the arts, as a means of fostering freedom of expression and critical thinking.

In addition to cooperating with key OSI initiatives in the areas noted above, MENA operates a number of projects that focus on specific countries. The topics addressed by MENA programming are tailored to fit each country’s needs, as well as OSI’s long-term projects. In Iraq, the focus is on monitoring the extraction, sale, and transport of natural resources to ensure transparency and accountability. Activities related to Iran are dedicated to promoting open society and enhancing understanding and dialogue between Iran and the international community through seminars, exchanges, and policy initiatives. Work in Turkey is based on a highly successful partnership with indigenous philanthropy in support of open society issues, while MENA activities in Egypt, Israel, the occupied Palestinian Territories, and some countries of the Maghreb focus on efforts to promote civic inclusion and respect for the rights of the individual

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, an organization to which OSI has contributed significant financial and technical assistance, began providing support to artistic projects in the Arab region that cultivate creativity, independent thought, and regional exchange.
Contact: Open Society Institute, Middle East & North Africa Initiative, 400 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019 USA

The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture

The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture is a private independent Arab initiative dedicated to empowering the Arab contemporary narrative through strategic cultural philanthropy.
It seeks to deliver a sustainable funding mechanism for individuals and organizations in the fields of film-making, performing, visual arts, literature, research, training and capacities building, while simultaneously facilitating cultural exchanges across the Arab region.

The Fund’s journey began in 2004 as an initiative by “Al Mawred Al Thaqafy” (Culture Resource; an independent cultural organization based in Cairo) in consultation with over forty corporations, cultural organizations, individuals and major donors such as the Open Society Institute, The Emirates Foundation and the Ford Foundation all working in the region.

The Arab region faces today what many would see as major challenges that will define the future of the region’s peoples and their position in the world. While they are commonly apprehended as political and economical ones, on a deeper level these challenges involve intrinsically cultural concerns such as formations of self-image, expressions of identity and freedom of cultural expression. Across the region, policy makers, thinkers, intellectuals and artists are struggling with the process of finding answers and solutions.

Cultural expressions in the forms of literature, film, performing and visual arts are at the centre of these efforts. They are essential tools for examining elements of identity, commenting on realities and communicating criticism and visionary thought with the wider public.

The Arab world is witnessing a slow decrease in full state control over cultural activities. Economic liberalization policies coupled with the emergence of a few semi-independent TV satellite channels, produced a relatively free atmosphere for cultural expression. This opening inspired a kind of Arab cultural “renaissance’ with the establishment of independent theatre and performing arts companies, music groups, publishing houses, galleries, cultural organizations and research centres; all of which share a common desire to venture into the realm of experimentation and innovation.

As progress was being made on the cultural front access to state funding decreased and the increasingly commercialized cultural environment has placed dedicated Arab artists and organizations in a precarious financial position. Although these independent artists continue to grow in number and public visibility, they are deprived of substantial access to public resources. And, with the exception of a few devoted foundations in the Gulf sub-region, philanthropic funding is mainly directed towards solving immediate social problems related to poverty and health.

Today, the independent cultural sector owes its survival to a small handful of international donors such as the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA), the Danish agency for development policy (DANIDA), The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the European Union delegations in the region, the Dutch Government, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute (OSI). These donors support the arts because they recognize the social and political importance of an independent cultural practice. However, Grant recipients must often defend themselves against claims that they are delivering “a foreign agenda” and “westernizing” the culture. In addition, due to a general decrease in arts funding and the turbulent political climate of the Middle East, the future of these financial resources might be in question.
Contact: Arab Fund for Culture, Jabal Al Weibdeh, Banouieh Street-George Noqql Bldg.
Third Floor, PO Box 1402 Amman, 11118 Jordan

Prince Claus Fund (NL)

The Prince Claus Fund is a platform for intercultural exchange. Activities and publications reflecting a contemporary approach to teh themes of culture and development are realised in cooperation with individuals and organisations mainly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The annual Prince Clause Awards are presented to offer individuals and organisations new opportunities and recognition. The activities of the Prince Claus Fund can be divided into five categories: The Prince Claus Awards; Exchange Events; Publications; Artistic Productions and actions of Cultural Emergency Response.
Prince Claus Fund, Els van der plas, Director, Hoge Nieuwstraat 30, 2514 EL Den Haag, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Roberto Cimetta Fonds

The Roberto Cimetta Fund promotes artistic exchange and the mobility of professionals in the field of contemporary performing arts and visual arts within the Mediterranean area.
Contact: 19 Square Sainctelette, B 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Heinrich Boll Foundation

The Heinrich Bِll Foundation supports people and projects around the world who are working for meaningful participation, solidarity, sustainable development and peaceful change towards equality and justice in social and international relations. In the Middle East, their work is centred around four major axis of inquiry and intervention: Statehood and Participation, Power and Identity, War and Peace and Sustainable Development. Under these headlines, and in cooperation with their local and regional partners, they support long-term projects that aim at achieving an impact through intervention over a sustained period of time, and specific activities and events designed to improve capacities among forces of change and to create awareness for and debate over pressing issues.
Contact: Heinrich Boll Foundation Middle East Office, Beirut, 266, rue Gouraud, Gemmayzeh, Beirut PO Box 175 510

SIDA – Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is a government agency under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sida's goal is to contribute to making it possible for poor people to improve their living conditions. By reducing injustices and poverty throughout the world, better opportunities are created for development, peace and security for all people and nations. In an increasingly globalised world we are all dependent on, and affected by, each other.

Compared with many of the countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the countries of the mena region are, with the exception of Yemen, relatively rich. They are therefore excluded from the main thrust of development cooperation - combating poverty. On the other hand, many of the countries in the MENA region are grappling with a series of other development problems such as the lack of democracy and human rights, particularly those of women. Equality is one of the flagships of Swedish development cooperation. In many of these countries, the status of women and girls is traditionally inferior to that of men, which manifests itself, for instance, in the high rate of female illiteracy and maternal mortality. Women are largely without paid work and do not have the same opportunities as men to engage themselves politically. The environment and a greater respect for human rights are other important issues in Swedish development cooperation, and much remains to be done here in this respect.
Contact: SIDA, Valhallavägen 199, 105 25 Stockholm, T: + 46 8 698 50 00