ABU DHABI, 29th November, 2016 (WAM) — On the occasion of the 45th National Day celebrations of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, has issued a series of reports regarding the achievements of the state over the past year. In part seven, we examine the importance of the UAE’s contributions to Humanitarian initiatives.
Humanitarian aid 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 UAE founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, expressed this very clearly when he declared, “We believe that the benefit of the fortune bestowed on us by God should spread to cover our brothers and friends.”
Sheikh Zayed’s successor, President His Highness 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.”
UAE funds allocated for the reconstruction of Gaza are being dispersed over a period of three years (2015 to 2017) under a plan submitted by 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. The total value of the UAE’s humanitarian and development aid to Egypt amounts to AED47.3 billion.
Pakistan has been a significant recipient of UAE aid. 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, rebuild infrastructure, and provide humanitarian aid. The 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 millions of Pakistani children under the Health for All-Better Future programme. Under this initiative, 86 million polio vaccinations were administered 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, His Highness 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 the year 2018, with a special focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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 quality of education. Dubai Cares supported programmes worth a combined total of AED39.6 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.
Emirates Red Crescent, ERC, 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 ERC 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. It is instrumental in providing humanitarian assistance following natural disasters throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceana.
Over and beyond its own humanitarian and charitable 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, enabling 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.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation signed a cooperation agreement in September 2016 with the International Committee of the Red Cross to support the humanitarian response plan in Yemen. Under the agreement, the UAE will provide AED37 million to the ICRC to support the implementation of health, water and sanitation programmes targeting those affected in Yemen.
The UAE provided aid worth AED4.34 billion to Yemen, equivalent to US$1.2 billion, from April 2015 to July 2016. The provision of such large amounts of foreign aid comes within the framework of humanitarian and development responses of the UAE toward the current crisis in Yemen, to help it overcome its ordeal, support it to restore stability, and preserve Yemen’s territorial integrity.
In a statement on World Humanitarian Day 2016, Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemi, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, said that the UAE is deeply committed to protecting humanitarian workers and providing emergency relief to more than 130 million people affected by humanitarian crises in over 40 countries.
“Between 2012 and July 2016, we have provided AED2.65 billion (US$720.7 million) in emergency assistance to address the Syria crisis, including to Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as to the internally displaced inside Syria. In Yemen we have provided AED1.5 billion (US$404 million) in humanitarian assistance over the last two years,” she said.
In October 2016, H.R.H. Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, escorted an AED1.2 million humanitarian aid delivery to Haiti to oversee a delivery of 90 metric tonnes of relief supplies to those affected by Hurricane Matthew.
The aid, which was transported on a plane personally supplied by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, was estimated to impact approximately 340,000 people. It included water purification units, mosquito nets, medical supplies, tents and other support equipment to be distributed among those in need.
In May 2016, the UAE announced that it would allocate 15 percent of its projected budget to humanitarian contributions over the next four years. Dr. Maitha bint Salem Al Shamsi, Minister of State, made the pledge while addressing a session of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, highlighting the directives of the UAE leadership to support people suffering in crises.
On 2nd November, 2016, the UAE announced a new donation of AED55 million (US$15 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to support the education system of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip. The move aims to ensure that students receive a basic education in an appropriate school environment through UNRWA schools.
The total UAE aid to Palestine from 2011 to date has so far reached US$445 million. The UAE offers a voluntary contribution worth $1.8 million annually to UNRWA. It has become, since December 2014, a consulting member of UNRWA in the steering committee for resource mobilisation. With this additional support, the UAE’s aid to UNRWA from 2011 has so far amounted to $85 million.