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UN to add an aid office in Abu Dhabi

posted on 11/10/2011: 1125 views

The United Nations will set up an office in the capital next year to coordinate humanitarian assistance from the UAE and other Gulf states.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) branch in Abu Dhabi will aim to speed up response times to crisis situations.

"There is not enough aid coordination in the Gulf," said Rashid Khalikov, the director of Ocha in Geneva, after a meeting on Sunday with the UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi.

This will be the organisation's second office in the Emirates, but the first in the capital. It is expected to begin operations from January 1.

Mr Khalikov said coordination "is not happening at the level it needs to be ... The assistance is ad hoc in nature. We want to have more sustainable and predictable relationships."

Mr Khalikov said dialogue needed to take place before crises developed.

The Abu Dhabi branch of Ocha will work with governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Gulf to increase the efficiency of aid delivery. "It will be at the disposal of all six countries," he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations: the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Ocha will also seek to engage with the governments on policy decisions, raise awareness about the UN's humanitarian agenda, help in capacity building, and increase the GCC states' trust in the agency's operations.

"The purpose is also to establish dialogue so [the Gulf states] can influence humanitarian policy," he said.

The organisation also hopes to counter "ignorance" in the UN about the role these countries play in humanitarian relief.

Mr Khalikov said the UAE's Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid in Abu Dhabi was the first agency in the region to track and analyse the country's foreign aid. It was established in 2009 by the federal Government to support the nation's foreign and development aid, and to facilitate cooperation among local donor agencies. Ocha's liaison office in Dubai - the first in the GCC - reports on humanitarian operations.

"A lot of assistance is being provided by the UAE. People here give because of their religious commitment. But that is not widely acknowledged. We hope the establishment of an Abu Dhabi office will help that," Mr Khalikov said.

He said that the UAE's recent relief efforts in Somalia, at the Libya-Tunisia border, in Pakistan and in other countries had helped millions of people and highlighted the country's role as a major humanitarian actor.

In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked the UAE as the world's 14th most generous donor of foreign aid, measured as a percentage of the economy.

The Government and local organisations gave nearly Dh9 billion in foreign aid in 2009. – The National


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