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.
In 2011 total aid from the UAE to countries in need nearly tripled, amounting to over US$2 billion. These funds were spent on a range of projects worldwide: UAE contributions sheltered the displaced and homeless and gave food to the hungry, dug wells and fostered conflict resolution, built dams, highways, schools and hospitals, and supported research into renewable energy. It promoted international efforts to combat malaria and funded research into endangered species. 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.
In 2012 the OECD's Development Assistance Commission (DAC) ranked the UAE as the sixteenth most generous donor in its list of global givers, an improvement on the country's twenty-sixth position in 2010 and twentieth place in 2011. The ranking is based on Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a proportion of Gross National Income (GNI). The UAE is the only Arab country that registers its foreign assistance data with the DAC's Creditor Reporting System (CRS) aid activity database, further underlining the country's commitment, and that of its donor institutions, to foreign-assistance related international transparency standards.
UAE foreign assistance data is compiled in accordance with rigourous standards by the UAE Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA), which is now under the new Ministry of Development and International Cooperation headed by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. The new ministry will be responsible for public policy on overseas development aid, will propose areas of priority in terms of development assistance, will document foreign aid by Government and NGOs, will assess the impact of foreign aid programmes on recipient countries, and will handle coordination with local and international authorities in the humanitarian sector.
OCFA records that during 2011, 34 UAE donor organisations disbursed a total of Dh7.74 billion (US$2.11 billion) in grants and loans to development, humanitarian and charity programmes in 128 countries. In addition, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) committed another Dh674.9 million (US$183.7 million) to development programmes beyond 2011.Just over Dh3 billion of the UAE's total foreign aid disbursements in 2011 were recorded as ODA, which amounts to 0.22 per cent when measured against GNI.
The UAE Government was again the largest donor in 2011, giving Dh5.97 billion or more than 77 per cent of total aid, followed by ADFD, which disbursed Dh782.3 million. While Dh6.86 billion was disbursed for development projects, representing 88.7 per cent of the total UAE foreign aid and an increase of 201.2 per cent over the figure for 2010, the UAE also responded generously to humanitarian crises, dispatching coordinated UAE Relief Teams to contribute to international efforts to assist those displaced by fighting in Libya, the victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, and thousands of people affected by flooding in Pakistan. Overall, Dh625.3 million was spent on humanitarian aid in 2011, an increase of 54.2 per cent over the figure for 2010. A total of Dh253.1 million was devoted to charitable projects, an increase of 36. 9 per cent over 2010.
(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.)
in 2011, the UAE spent Dh5.17 billion (66.8 per cent of the total) on assistance to countries in the Middle East. Dh817.9 million was spent in South and Central Asia, Dh491.2 million in North Africa and Dh465.3 million in Sub-Saharan Africa. Individual countries receiving the most aid were the Sultanate of Oman (Dh3.68 billion), Jordan (Dh757.5 million), and Kazakhstan (Dh315.9 million).
Overall, total foreign aid disbursement by the UAE in 2011 increased by 176.2 per cent over 2010. While several donor organisations saw variations in their disbursements when compared to previous years, the overall rise in the UAE's aid is largely accounted for by the almost sixfold increase in spending by the Government. The Middle East and South and Central Asia regions were the biggest recipients of this rise, receiving 77.4 per cent of the UAE's total foreign aid in 2011, a 321.4 per cent increase over 2010.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of OCFA, commented in his Foreword to the 2011 report on the impact and motivation for this aid:
Our development iniatives in countries across the world have played a meaningful role in the creation of valuable infrastructure, including roads and water facilities, to promote inclusive progress for all the citizens of the countries where we have supported projects. As Muslims, we have an obligation from Allah to share our wealth with others and to help people become productive members of society. This extends beyond our own national boundaries to countries that share a historical or strategic path with the UAE.
Most of the aid disbursed by the UAE in 2011 went to implement eight international development goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2000. Known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), all 193 UN member states and at least 23 international organisations have agreed to achieve these goals by 2015.
As the 2011 OCFA report outlines, the extremely rapid economic and social development that the UAE itself has enjoyed has allowed the country to achieve the great majority of its MDG targets in a very short period of years. A principle motivation for the UAE Government's foreign aid programme is, therefore, to support the achievement of the MDGs by other countries that are committed to the eradication of poverty and the promotion of economic and social development for all.
As in previous years, in 2011 UAE donor organisations provided assistance that promoted the achievement of specific MDGs. Dubai Cares provided assistance worth Dh85 million for projects in 22 countries, which all reflected the organisation's core commitment to promoting the achievement of MDG 2 (Achieve Universal Primary Education) and MDG 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women).
In direct support of MDG 4, Reduce Child Mortality, under an agreement announced by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI), received Dh18 million in general support and a special grant of Dh33.4 million for its programmes in Afghanistan.
The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi also gave Dh18.4 million (US$5 million) to Roll Back Malaria (RBM), an international partnership dedicated to combatting the disease. This was the second of five promised installments worth a total of US$25 million (Dh91.8 million), and is a substantial contribution towards MDG 6 (Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases).
Several donors contributed towards the attainment of MDG 7, Environment Sustainability: ADFD disbursed funds amounting to Dh55.8 million to six countries and made a commitment of Dh18.4 million in support of solar energy projects in Tonga. Other UAE donor organisations contributed a total of Dh40.8 million to the water and sanitation sector.
The general approach adopted by ADFD and its partner organisations in the Coordination Group of Arab Institutions to their development projects is fully aligned with the principles of partnership elaborated in MDG 8. The fund regularly joins consortia of international donors in financing major infrastructure projects that are essential to enable governments to provide their populations with the power supply, communications systems or access to markets and social services, without with progress towards the achievement of all MDGs is not possible. In Afghanistan, a land-locked country, the fund is working in triangular partnerships with the British and German governments to support major projects in the transport and storage sector.
Percentage foreign aid contribution by UAE donor organisations (2011)
|Organisation||% of total|
|Abu Dhabi Fund For Development||10.11%|
|UAE Red Crescent Authority||3.95%|
|Sharjah Charity Association||1.18%|
|Al Maktoum Foundation||0.78%|
|Dubai Charity Association||0.64%|
|Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment||0.49%|
|International Humanitarian City||0.27%|
|UAE International Humanitarian Mobile Hospital||0.26%|
|Sharjah Charity House||0.19%|
|Noor Dubai Foundation||0.12%|
|Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund||0.07%|
|Emirates Airline Foundation||0.03%|
|Sultan bin Khalifa Foundation||0.01%|
|Ewa's Shelters for Women and Children||0.003%|
As the table above indicates, the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) is the third-largest UAE donor of foreign aid. Established in 1983, the RCA has funded and implemented several charity projects in countries throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Some of its most effective activities include providing drinking water in countries impacted by drought and desertification, as well as equipping hospitals in remote areas, helping to set up refugge camps in conflict zones and distributing relief in disaster areas. These efforts have given the RCA 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. As an active member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) the UAE is also an important actor in terms of disaster relief.
Over and beyond its own activities, the UAE is also an international centre for humanitarian relief. The international Humanitrian 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.
Preliminary figures for the disbursement of foreign aid by the UAE in 2012 indicate that giving is still very much on its agenda. At the end of November 2012, loans and assistance offered by ADFD and the Abu Dhabi government amounted to Dh393 million. Other organisations also offered extensive development, humanitarian and charity assistance in 2012 in countries as diverse as Syria, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Ghana, Comoros, Mauritius, Haiti, Palestine, Australia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Seychelles and Tajikstan.
The UAE continues to be involved in global health initiatives and in April 2013, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan pledged US$120 million (Dh440 million) in support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's (GPEI) new comprehensive six-year plan, with a specific contribution towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. The donation was made on the eve of the inaugural Global Vaccine Summit, which was held in Abu Dhabi in conjunction with the UN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The UAE provided Dh213 million (US$58 million) in humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia over a three-year period from 2009 to 2012 with 15 of the UAE's premier aid organistations supervising the process. This figure was almost doubled in May 2013 with a pledge of a further Dh183 milion (US$50 million) in aid, peacekeeping and capacity-building for the country's institutions being key recipients of the money. The UAE, along with the UK, also agreed to contribute Dh11.6 million to help Somalia deal with sexual violence.
The Red Crescent Authority, which celebrated its thirtieth birthday in April 2013, continued its myriad relief programmes in a number of countries, including Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Senegal, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Benin, Thailand, Chad, Ghana, Lebanon, Libya and Mauritania. 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 4,000 families.
The UAE already has considerable expertise in assisting refugees having been deeply involved with UNRWA over many yeas,, especially providing substantial assistance to Palestinian refugees. These efforts continued in 2013: for example, 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. The UAE has also pledged US$200,000 to the UN refugee agnecy's 2013 budget.
Other significant UAE relief programmes in 2013 include assistance in rebuilding a tornado-damaged high school and a hospital in Joplin, Missouri, USA; relief aid to Madagascar in the wake of the tropical cyclone 'Haruna"; assistance to Pakistan following an earthquake in Baluchistan; and major food distribution programmes in Yemen.