A freedom of information request submitted by the Bretton Woods Project has confirmed UK support for the mysterious foundation in the middle of the Paul Wolfowitz resignation scandal. The Foundation for the Future became involved in the scandal after it was revealed that Shaha Riza, Wolfowitz’s partner, and Foundation for the Future’s board member, had received pay rises exceeding the staff rules set up by the World Bank (see Update 56).
The creation of the Foundation in 2006 was actively promoted by the US democracy promotion department, led by Elizabeth Cheney (daughter of US vice-president Dick Cheney), Riza’s former boss at the State Department . Neither the involvement of Cheney, nor the status of Riza as a member of the board can be found on the Foundation’s website.
The Foundation for the Future’s mission statement is to strengthen civil society, promote freedom, and endorse democracy in the Middle East and North Africa through the allocation of grants. The foundation receives support from: Bahrain, Denmark, the European Commission, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Qatar, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In an attempt to learn more about (1) the establishment and operations of the foundation, and (2) details of UK financial support, The Bretton Woods Project sent a Freedom of Information request to the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The response from DFID stated “DFID has not given any financial support for the Foundation for the Future. The Foreign and Commonweatlh Office is the lead department for the funding of that organisation.” The document attaches 4 disclosures regarding the foundation’s establishment, and withholds 2 claiming that “releasing information supplied by an international partner government could inhibit the other Government’s willingness to share information with the United Kingdom.”.
One of the disclosures reveals the lack of consensus between the 11 countries involved in the establishment of the foundation. The document shows the way in which the United States ignored some of the other countries’ objections and preferences regarding the degree of civil society inclusion, the selection of a “Coordinator to do the initial work of the Chairperson”, and the degree of financial commitment.
The FCO, on the other hand, provided no information regarding the Foundation’s establishment and operations, objecting that the request was “very broad”. It did, however, confirm the UK’s $1 million dollar pledge to the foundation.
In regards to its current projects and operations, the foundation did not award any grants until May 2007, one and a half years after it was established. According to the Foundation’s website, “The Board decided to award grants to five proposals based on the soundness of the proposed projects and their consistency with the overall mission and stated goals of the Foundation.” However, there is no available information on the grantees, no link to their proposals and no follow up on the progress of these initiatives three months after they were approved.