The UAE has translated development and humanitarian aid into a foreign policy instrument. The philosophy behind this is two-fold: first, it is dictated by an Islamic belief that helping those in need is a primary duty; and second, that part of the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to assisting less fortunate countries and individuals. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, expressed this very clearly when he declared:
We believe that the benefit of the fortune granted to us by God should spread to cover our brothers and friends.
Sheikh Zayed's successor, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has continued on the same path based on his conviction that:
Humanitarian diplomacy is one of the main pillars of our foreign policy, and our country will continue to support international efforts to respond to disasters and answer the call for relief.
The UAE established the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA) in 2008 to pursue a more coordinated and sustainable approach to foreign aid. OCFA was subsequently merged with the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), which is officially mandated to propose strategies and policies related to foreign aid, raise the profile of the UAE as a major donor and support the foreign aid decision-making process. MICAD produces an annual report, the most recent being United Arab Emirates Foreign Aid 2012, which gives a comprehensive analysis of UAE foreign assistance during the year.
This report reveals that In 2012, 43 UAE governmental and semi-governmental, development, humanitarian and charity organisations, as well as the private sector and individuals disbursed Dh5.83 billion (US$1.59 billion) in the form of grants and loans to development, humanitarian and charitable programmes in 137 countries and territories, and committed Dh5.59 billion (US$1.52 billion) to development projects. More than three-quarters of the funds disbursed are estimated as gross Official Development Assistance (ODA) as defined by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD DAC), causing the UAE to be ranked among the world's most generous donors of foreign aid in 2012.
These funds were spent on a range of projects worldwide: UAE contributions, improved access to education and healthcare services, supported research, innovation and infrastructure development, and provided relief during emergencies. The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Bridge in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, for example, helped to connect 15 towns and 45 villages on either side of the Swat River, while UAE support for demining projects in Afghanistan has benefitted 45,000 people by clearing the way for the construction and restoration of farms, roads, schools, clinics, irrigation channels, and other infrastructure facilities.
In addition, the UAE joined global efforts to support health initiatives such as the elimination of Guinea Worm disease in Africa; the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) to increase access to immunisation in developing countries; and the Roll Back Malaria programme, an international partnership dedicated to combating the spread of the disease.
The breadth of the commitments already made for the future ensures that this work will continue and grow as the UAE consolidates its position as a major donor on the international stage.
The 2012 Foreign Aid report underlines that there was a notable increase in the proportion of UAE foreign assistance that could be registered as gross ODA. In 2012, an estimated 78.2 per cent of foreign assistance was being allocated to least developed, low, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries and therefore fell within DAC's definition of ODA, compared with 38.7 per cent in 2011 and 74.6 per cent in 2010. Correspondingly, the report points out that the proportion of the UAE's gross national income (GNI) that was spent on ODA increased to an estimated 0.33 per cent for 2012, compared to 0.22 per cent in 2011 and 0.17 per cent in 2010.
The report also records the generosity of the UAE's private sector and individuals (which are not recorded as ODA), as well as the private contributions that enabled the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and other organisations to offer significant humanitarian relief assistance to countries and populations in need.
The UAE Government was again the largest donor in 2012, giving Dh2.62 billion or almost 45 per cent of total aid, followed by ADFD, which disbursed Dh1.28 billion or 22 per cent.
While Dh5.07 billion (US$1.38 billion), representing 87 per cent of the total, was disbursed for development projects*, the UAE also contributed generously to humanitarian operations, donating Dh404.4 million (US$110.1 million) to alleviate the suffering of people in Syria, Yemen and 49 other countries and territories. A total of Dh356.2 million (US$97 million) was dedicated to charitable projects.
In terms of regional recipients, West Asia received the highest proportion of aid. Here, the UAE spent Dh2.24 billion (US$610.6 million and 38.5 per cent of the total). Dh822.9 million (US$224 million) was spent in South Asia, Dh520.3 million (US$141.6 million) in East Africa, Dh405.5 million (US$110.4 million) in North Africa, and Dh312.6 million (US$85.1 million) in West Africa. Taking individual countries into consideration, Jordan (Dh966.9 million or US$138.1 million) and Afghanistan (Dh366.8 million or US$99.9 million) received the most aid.
*Development refers to assistance provided to programmes aimed at improving quality of life, such as constructing roads, hospitals or schools, as well as providing economic assistance and budgetary support. Humanitarian refers to assistance designed to save lives and alleviate suffering. Charity refers to assistance provided with a cultural or religious motivation, such as building mosques.
UAE and UN MDGs
At the dawn of the new millennium, the UN General Assembly agreed that all 193 UN member states and at least 23 international organisations would work towards the achievement of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Since then, Foreign Aid 2012 points out that the UAE has achieved most of its MDG targets and is motivated to support the achievement of the MDGs by low-income countries.
For example, Dubai Cares programmes directly support MDG 2, 'Achieve Universal Primary Eduction'. All of the organisation's Dh57.6 million (US$15.7 million) disbursements in 2012 were made to support the provision of primary education, with nearly two-thirds (Dh36.4 million or US$9.9 million) spent in seven least-developed countries (LDCs) and the remainder spent in lower middle-income countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan.
UAE donor entities supported various initiatives to help achieve MDG 4, 'Reduce Child Mortality'. As part of the Dh183.7 million (US$50 million) committed by the UAE in 2011 under an agreement concluded between H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bill Gates, whose Foundation also committed the same amount, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation received from the UAE the second tranche of Dh32.4 million or US$8.8 million in 2012 in support of immunisation programmes in Afghanistan.
The UAE also reaffirmed its support for MDG6, 'Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases' as the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi disbursed Dh18.4 million (US$5 million), the third of five committed installments (worth a total of Dh91.8 million or US$25 million) to Roll Back Malaria, an international partnership dedicated to fighting the disease.
Supporting MDG7 'Ensure Environmental Stability', the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and MASDAR disbursed a combined total of Dh239.6 million (US$65.2 million) in 2012 towards solar energy projects in three ODA-eligible countries (Afghanistan, Mauritania and Tonga), while 11 donor entities provided Dh112.5 million or US$30.6 million in support of water and sanitation projects in 40 low- and middle-income countries and territories, including LDCs.
Percentage foreign aid contribution by UAE donor organisations (2012)
|Organisation||% of total|
|Abu Dhabi Fund For Development||21.99%|
|UAE Red Crescent Authority||7.86%|
|Dar Al Ber Society||2.32%|
|Ahmed bin Zayed Foundation||1.48%|
|Sharjah Charity Association||1.04%|
|Al Maktoum Foundation||1.03%|
|International Humanitarian City||1.02%|
|Noor Dubai Foundation||0.82%|
|Dubai Charity Association||0.74%|
|Sharjah Charity House||0.41%|
|Al Rahma Charity Association||0.41%|
|Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation||0.40%|
|Private Sector and Individuals||0.13%|
|Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund||0.11%|
|Emirates Airline Foundation||0.07%|
|Sultan bin Khalifa Foundation||0.03%|
|Ewa's Shelters for Women||0.01%|
To access the full report Foreign Aid 2012 log on to www.micad.gov.ae
Foreign Assistance in 2013
A major focus of UAE foreign assistance in 2013 has been to support Arab countries in need of assistance. In May, the UAE pledged US$5 million to the Transition Fund established by the G8 Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, an international effort launched by the G8 at the Leaders Meeting in Deauville, France in 2011. In July, the UAE gave US$3 billion to Egypt in the form of a US$1 billion grant and a US$2 billion no-interest loan.
The UAE has also been very active in assisting refugees fleeing from crises in the region, particularly from Syria, setting up camps in neighbouring countries to alleviate the suffering of the many victims of conflict who have left their homes.
The UAE has a long history of assistance to refugees, especially Palestinan refugees, much of which has been provided through the auspices of the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA). RCA, the fourth-largest donor of foreign aid from the UAE, celebrated its thirtieth birthday in April 2013.
Many of the RCA's humanitarian, health and educational projects in Palestine are executed in partnership with the UN refugee relief agancy, UNRWA. For example, in 2013, medical equipment and supplies worth Dh5.5 million were provided by the RCA to Al Aqsa Hospital in Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, whilst US$2.1 million was donated to support the construction of UNRWA's Shu'fat Health Centre in East Jerusalem. The UAE has also pledged US$200,000 to the UN refugee agency's 2013 budget.
The RCA has also been active on the broader Syrian front. One of its major challenges in 2013 was helping to set up the Emirates-Jordan Camp for Syrian refugees near Zarqa in Jordan. RCA is working closely with a number of international organisations to ensure that the camp will provide decent living conditions for the many families living there.
In April 2013, the Higher Committee of Foreign Aid at the RCA allocated Dh4 million to carry out development projects in a number of countries, including Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Senegal, Bosnia, uganda, Benin, Thailand, Chad, Ghana, Lebanon, Libya and Mauritania. The assistance will cover health, eduction and social services in addition to the provision of water supplies.
Other significant UAE relief programmes in 2013 include humanitarian assistance to the victoms of tornados, earthquakes and cyclones from the USA to Australia, to Madagascar, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Through its considerable efforts, the RCA has earned the distinction of being one of the top-ten member organisation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in terms of the amount of relief assistance provided.
Over and beyond its own activities, the UAE is an international centre for the distribution of humanitarian relief. International Humanitarian City in Dubai is the world's busiest logistics hub for humanitarian relief, hosting nine UN agencies and 44 NGOs and commercial entities. These organisations have chosen the UAE as a site for their warehouse facilities, which enables them to carry out their operations more efficiently throughout Asia and Africa, given the geographical location of the UAE and the infrastructure that it offers to support urgent and complex emergency relief missions.
The UAE Government also participates in a number of multilateral aid-giving institutions, including the International Development Agency, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Arab Gulf Fund for the United Nations, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Abu-Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund and the Islamic Development Bank.