Since its founding in 1971, the United Arab Emirates has delivered unconditional foreign assistance globally to support economic growth in developing countries and provide basic social services to communities in need to improve their quality of life.
The fundamental purpose of UAE foreign assistance is to reduce poverty, promote peace and prosperity, and foster mutually beneficial economic relations through expanding trade and investment ties with developing countries. At the same time, it focuses on specific segments of society with special attention to women and children during natural disasters and in conflict areas.
Generosity towards people in need has always been a distinctive hallmark of the UAE’s foreign relations. In recent years, the UAE has topped global charts in terms of the amount of assistance given as a share of gross national income of any country in the world. This generosity emerges from the nation’s Arab and Islamic heritage and spurs from the Emirati value of unconditional support for humanity.
The UAE is deeply connected to the developing world. We will be stronger and safer if there is peace and prosperity across our region and the wider world. We are a vital financial, commercial, and logistical hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, and therefore, our economy will grow if these regions can realize their potential of becoming the engines of global growth over the next few decades. The UAE started as a developing nation, and our experience can serve as encouragement to others, demonstrating that immense progress is possible with visionary leadership, dedication to the interests of the nation and its people, careful investment, and hard work.
UAE foreign assistance helps communities reduce poverty, enhance peace and stability, and protect the planet. Our lives get better when we help others.
History of UAE Foreign Assistance
UAE foreign aid is as old as the country itself. The Founding Father of the UAE, His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may his soul rest in peace), institutionalized UAE aid as early as 1971, the year the Union was formed, with the creation of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development as the country’s principal development agency.
Civil society joined the effort to deliver aid overseas in the late 1970s with the emergence of such organizations as Dar El Ber and the Dubai Charitable Society. The nation’s leadership further supported this momentum during the 1980s and 1990s by creating and sponsoring aid organizations and charities in every emirate. These included the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, Al Maktoum Foundation, and Sharjah Charity International.
The creation of the UAE Red Crescent in 1983 as the country’s principal humanitarian agency marked an important milestone for UAE foreign assistance.
In 2008, the Cabinet of the UAE created the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA), signifying the government’s commitment to supporting the transformation of the UAE aid sector. OCFA was assigned the responsibility of documenting and coordinating UAE foreign aid, assessing its impact, and supporting capacity building in UAE organizations. In 2013, OCFA’s mandate evolved, necessitating the creation of the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), which continue the responsibilities of OCFA, in addition to developing the UAE Foreign Assistance Policy. In 2016, MICAD merged into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC). In 2017, the UAE Foreign Assistance Policy was launched to ensure the effectiveness of this assistance.
Emergency and Humanitarian Response
The UAE provides humanitarian assistance to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect human dignity in crises. The UAE has contributed to a wide array of humanitarian emergencies through the multilateral system, as well as through direct assistance. Over 40 UAE charities, foundations, government entities, and private companies have provided humanitarian assistance for those in need. Dubai established the International Humanitarian City as a free zone authority in a strategic location to host humanitarian organizations and commercial companies, creating the world’s largest humanitarian hub.
Humanitarian challenges have grown to unprecedented proportions in recent years. Each year, there are over 20 major emergencies and hundreds of small crises and disasters, for many of which the response is still underfunded and inadequate. The MENA region is particularly afflicted: in recent years, it accounted for more than half of the world’s refugees and displaced people and faces all-too-frequent natural disasters from earthquakes and flooding.
The UAE will increase humanitarian relief efforts in the years ahead to help people both close to home and across the world. The UAE committed to devoting at least 15 percent of its total foreign aid to humanitarian purposes, which would make the UAE one of the most dedicated donors to humanitarian assistance.
The UAE humanitarian strategy includes both direct responses to emergencies, as well as contributions to multilateral organizations to strengthen the global humanitarian system.
Future Outlook of UAE Foreign Assistance
In the coming years, the UAE aims to support national development, humanitarian, and charity organizations, whose work in foreign assistance complements that of the UAE Government and its institutions; expand partnerships with relevant and effective multilateral organizations; and seek out opportunities for private sector engagement as a key element to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
By the time the country celebrates the anniversary of our union in 2021, the UAE will be a more effective donor, in addition to being a more generous one. Emiratis will have helped other peoples to emulate our development – and we will be able to celebrate our contributions to the world together with our achievements at home.