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UAE donates more than Dh32bn in foreign aid

posted on 25/04/2010: 879 views

The UAE poured more than Dh32 billion (US$8.7bn) into foreign aid between 2000 and 2008, the agency responsible for tracking humanitarian contributions has said. The figure, which includes aid from both Emirati organisations and the Government and which amounts to some US$8.7bn, is the first major piece of data to be released as part of a project announced last year to compile all of the country's aid data since 1971

The amount makes the UAE a "serious donor”, a UN official said.

Hazza al Qahtani, director general of the UAE's Office for the Co-ordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA), added that the figure was "provisional” and would likely go up slightly. "I think it is in line with expectations ... Dh32.6bn over eight years is significant,” Mr al Qahtani said. The figures show that the aid is reaching all around the world. It is very important for the UAE to be internationally recognised as a key donor.”

Last May, the OCFA said it would calculate the total amount of humanitarian aid provided by the UAE since 1971 and track where the funds had been directed. The aim, according to Mr al Qahtani, was to help organise foreign aid and create a system to track future amounts given by Emirati donors, including organisations such as the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and Dubai Cares.

Exactly how much foreign aid comes from this country has been the subject of some debate.

In 2008, claims that the UAE gave away 3.6 per cent of its gross national product were called into question by Sir John Holmes, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

The OCFA – which is chaired by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative to the Western Region and president of the RCA – was launched in 2009, charged with responsibilities including documenting the flow of foreign aid.

The provisional data does not include breakdowns of the annual amounts given, which is expected to be released at a later date.

The vast majority of aid – Dh15.8bn, or 48 per cent of the total given between 2000 and 2008 – remained within the region. "Since the UAE is located in the Middle East, it is normal to support our regional neighbourhood,” Mr al Qahtani said.

"The UAE has provided aid on almost all continents, including in Europe.”

According to the office, the UAE has channelled aid – including development assistance, humanitarian aid and charitable donations – to 140 countries around the world.

Last year, OCFA officials said they anticipated that a report detailing the UAE's role in international humanitarian efforts since 1971 would be released by the end of 2009.

However, Mr al Qahtani last week declined to give a revised deadline for the project, saying it was proving to be "more time consuming” than anticipated and that the office was still waiting on data from some organisations. "We did not expect the process to be as laborious as we have found,” he said. "We are collecting, verifying and collating the data and applying very strict quality controls so that we don't publish any data that will be in doubt.”

One of the main aims of the reporting project, he said, was to help "streamline” the local humanitarian sector, particularly for future planning, to ensure efficient use of funds and greater transparency, in addition to highlighting the UAE's role as a major donor.

Kayan Jaff, the UN's resident co-ordinator for the UAE and Qatar, said the Dh32bn constitutes a "significant amount”. "This shows that the UAE is a serious donor by committing these kinds of funds,” he said.

According to figures compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, over the same 2000-2008 time frame, the Australian government contributed about $14.7bn in foreign "development assistance”, while Turkey gave $3.3bn and Norway gave $21.8bn. – The National


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