Development and humanitarian assistance is a crucial aspect of the UAE's foreign policy. 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 President 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 full extent of the UAE's foreign aid was highlighted in a special report prepared by the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD) for the UAE's 44th National Day on 2 December 2015: between 1971 and 2014, government and non-government organisations, charitable and humanitarian institutions in the UAE provided Dh173 billion in foreign aid to 178 countries across all geographical areas.
Dh129 billion (74 per cent) of this foreign aid emanated directly from government institutions; Dh30.5 billion from the Abu Dhabi Development Fund; Dh5.7 billion from Emirates Red Crescent and Dh2.9 billion from Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.
Asia received Dh79.4 billion in foreign aid from the UAE during this period, followed by Afria at Dh75.4 billion. Much of this aid is concentrated in 'government and civil society' sectors (Dh80.6 billion) followed by 'public programmes support' ( Dh22.5 billion). Humanitarian and relief aid in emergency situations accounted for Dh7.7 billion. Projects associated with children, including health programmes, education and relief efforts, have received Dh2 billion over the past 44 years.
The UAE continues to play a leading role in responding to humanitarian crises in Yemen and promoting development, MICAD noted, citing data from the UN Financial Tracking Service (FTS). UAE aid to Yemen between 1971 to 2015 amounted to Dh6.65 billion. Foreign aid to Yemen in 2014 alone accounted for Dh1.3 billion (until the end of October), including Dh844.2 million in direct humanitarian aid and Dh494.7 million for planned infrastructure rehabilitation projects.
To date, and as part of its response to the crisis in Syria, the UAE has provided Dh2.14 billion (US$583 million) to help 1.5 million internally-displaced people and refugees in Syria and host countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. The UAE pledged US$460 million at the first, second, and third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria held in Kuwait. UAE aid for Syria is conducted through the UN Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan and the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan. Aid is coordinated with international organisations including the United Nation's Children's Fund (Unicef), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Relief and Words Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The UAE also established and funded Mrajib Al Fhood refugee camp and the UAE-Jordanian field hospital in Jordan, and collaborated with a number of countries, including the United Kingdom and Norway, to implement aid projects. It also set up the Emirati Red Crescent camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq.
In this context, the UAE has granted around 100,000 visas for Syrians since the start of the crisis in Syria in 2011. About 242,000 Syrians currently reside in the UAE, where the majority have been accommodated in schools and universities and have found jobs.
The UAE continues to provide in-kind and financial assistance to support the Palestinian people and strengthen Palestinian institutions in the occupied territories, to improve living conditions in the Gaza strip and assist in the rebuilding of Gaza following its destruction, and in Palestine in general.
To this end, the UAE announced a pledge to donate Dh736 million (US$200 million) for reconstruction in Gaza at the Cairo International Conference on Palestine held in October 2014. To date, the UAE has disbursed about US$76.34 million of the total pledge of US$200 million, while the remaining US$123.56 million has been distributed according to the commitments agreed upon with UAE donor institutions, the most significant portion of which is managed by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Foundation.
The UAE funds allocated for the reconstruction of Gaza will be dispersed over a period of three years (2015 to 2017) under a plan submitted by the United Nations organisations and the Islamic Development Bank, and in line with the national plan for early recovery presented by the Palestinian government to the donor conference in Cairo.
The UAE continues to assist Egypt in its recovery, as it has done over many years. Between 1971 and 2014, the total value of the UAE's humanitarian and development aid to Egypt amounted to Dh47.3 billion.
Pakistan has also been a significant recipient of UAE aid over the past 44 years. The UAE Project to Assist Pakistan has implemented development and humanitarian programmes costing US$320 million to address the effects of the devastating floods that struck the country in 2010, reconstruct infrastructure, and provide humanitarian aid. Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation provided the bulk of the finance in the first and second phases of the project.
A second important initiative was launched by President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa to vaccinate milllions of Pakistani children under the Health for All-Better Future programme. Under this initiative 86 million polio vaccinations were administed to the children of Pakistan in 53 areas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the tribal Fateh Jang region as well as Baluchistan and Sindh regions.
In addition, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, launched an initiative providing US$120 million as a contribution in support of the global effort to eradicate polio by 2018, with a special focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 2011, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a strategic partnership that provided a total of US$100 million, divided equally between the two parties, for the purchase and delivery of vaccines for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The partnership resulted in the disbursement of US$34 million for the provision of 85 million oral polio vaccine shots to the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan, while US$66 million was allocated for the delivery of pneumococcal and pentavalent vaccines to Afghanistan. H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed also launched a campaign to vaccinate 20,000 Pakistani children against measles and polio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where, according to Unicef, measles is the most widespread disease among children: 2.1 milllion cases of measles occur in Pakistan each year resulting in the death of about 21,000 children, because one-third of children in Pakistan are not vaccinated against the disease.
MICAD also produces an annual audited report that provides a comprehensive analysis of UAE development, humanitarian and charity assistance, government institutions and charitable organisations supplying the aid, as well as the development programmes operating in recipient countries. To date, five foreign aid reports covering the years 2009 to 2013 have been released. UAE foreign aid statistics are collected in accordance with international best practice and all official development assistance (ODA) is monitored by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the UN Financial Tracking Service (FTS) based on strict international standards. MICAD's Foreign Aid Tracking Service (FATS), an electronic database for the collection and documentation of foreign assistance, including the UAE's foreign aid data from 2009 to 2013, is available on the ministry's website.
These annual reports contribute to enhancing transparency and credibility, in addition to reinforcing the position of the state as a major international donor. DAC calculates the proportion of official development assistance against the gross national income each year to determine the UAE's rank among the most giving states on the international scene.
According to MICAD's Foreign Aid Report 2013, total aid emanating from the UAE in 2013 amounted to US$5.89 billion (Dh21.63 billion). Net ODA in 2013 was estimated at US$5.42 billion, moving the UAE into first place globally in terms of development assistance as a percentage of gross national income (GNI). In other words, the UAE provided 1.33% of its GNI as ODA in 2013, exceeding the UN target of 0.7% for donor countries. Provisional figures for 2014 indicate that the UAE has retained its ranking as the most generous donor of foreign aid as a percentage of national income, having donated US$4.89 billion in 2014, equivalent to 1.17 per cent of GNI.
Nearly 40 government and nongovernment organisations as well as private individuals in the UAE distributed foreign aid to 145 countries in 2013: 82.57 per cent of this aid was supplied by the UAE Government, Abu Dhabi Department of Finance providing the vast majority of the assistance, largely in the form of bilateral assistance to Egypt. Organisations such as Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Khalifa Foundation, UAE Red Crescent Authority, Dubai Cares and the Sharjah Charity Association provided the remainder.
In addition to assisting Egypt in its recovery, providing for refugees and IDP in Syria and surrounding countries, funding infrastructure and health projects in Pakistan and supplying humanitarian relief to Yemen, MICAD's annual report reveals that in 2013 the UAE also reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to support Afghanistan. UAE assistance with demining projects in this war-torn country have cleared the way for the construction and restoration of farms, roads, schools, clinics, irrigation channels, and other infrastructure facilities. The provision of solar energy to rural villages has also assisted greatly in modernisation. Some 20,000 Imams have been trained to promote the principles of Islam based on moderation and tolerance and considerable assistance (US$10.1 million) was given to support the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) campaigns in the country. With a multi-year funding commitment of Dh55 million (US$15 million), first signalled in January 2010, the Khalifa Foundation has also built a strategic partnership with the Government of Afghanistan and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to address chronic malnutrition in the most vulnerable segments of the Afghan population, especially children under five, pregnant women and new mothers.
Much of the aid emanating from the UAE outlined in MICAD reports was geared towards supporting the achievement of UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by world leaders in 2000 for fulfillment by the end of 2015. The eight strategic tasks framed by the MDGs were identified by the international community as critical to an accelerated and sustained effort to rid the world of poverty.
The UAE worked closely with partner countries and international organisations to meet international MDG targets thereby contributing to improved food supply in poor countries, greater environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation, as well as better water management and improved health.
The UAE also took an active part in drawing up the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, the UN plan of action for 'people, planet and prosperity' beyond 2015.
Projects directly supporting MDG 2, which aimed to achieve universal primary education, include construction by the UAE Government of 100 schools in Egypt and the funding of schools in Pakistan, Tunisia and Sudan, amongst others. Dubai Cares' primary education programmes integrate four key components: school infrastructure; school health and nutrition; water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and qualithy of education. In 2013, Dubai Cares supported programmes worth a combined total of Dh39.6 million (US$10.8 million) in 16 countries, primarily in Asia and Africa, working with local and international NGOs to disburse individual grants. Dubai Cares also forged a partnership with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), reinforcing Dubai Cares' commitment to making primary education accessible to children in the developing world.
The UAE strives to be a leader in global efforts to limit the impact of climate change. It is not surprising, therefore, that renewable energy projects featured strongly in the UAE's pursuance of MDG 7. In 2013 Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) committed Dh624.4 million (US$170 million) for the development of solar-energy systems in seven countries. Masdar was the implementing partner on one project funded by the Department of Finance in Egypt; one project funded by the Crown Prince's Court in Morocco; and five projects funded by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
ADFD also works in close cooperation with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Through IRENA, ADFD has pledged to provide development loans worth Dh1.285 billion (US$350 million) in seven cycles of Dh183.6 million (US$50 million) each for financing renewable energy projects in IRENA member countries. In 2014, the second phase of funding, ADFD agreed to provide loans totalling Dh209 million (US$57 million) at minimal interest rates to five projects in Cuba, Mauritania, St.Vincent & the Grenadines, Iran and Argentina .
Renewable energy is just one facet of ADFD's multi-layered development assistance programme: since inception, ADFD has provided more than Dh61 billion of financing to 415 projects in 69 countries around the world, including Dh20.7 billion in long-term loans, and Dh41 billion in government grants. ADFD's funding strategy focusses on sectors that are critical to the economic and social development of developing countries, such as agriculture, electricity, water, housing, transportation, industry, as well as social and health services.
The UAE's Red Crescent Society plays a significant role in humanitarian assistance emanating from the UAE, earning the distinction of being one of the top-ten member organisations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in terms of the amount of relief assistance provided. The UAE RCS is involved in a wide range of projects in a number of countries, including Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Senegal, Bosnia, Uganda, Benin, Thailand, Chad, Ghana, Lebanon, Libya and Mauritania, covering housing, health, education, social services and the provision of water supplies. And it is instrumental in providing humanitarian assistance following natural disasters, throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceana.
Over and beyond its own activities, the UAE is an international centre for the distribution of humanitarian relief. International Humanitarian City, a free zone in Dubai, is the world's busiest logistics hub for humanitarian relief, hosting nine UN agencies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 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. Additionally, IHC has also developed a facility to assist with fund-raising for its member organisations.