ABU DHABI // Of the many legacies left behind by Sheikh Zayed that has continued to prosper is the country’s foreign aid contribution, an audience at a Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis was told on Monday.
The UAE is the world’s top donor because Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, made foreign aid a fundamental pillar of the country’s foreign policy, said Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Cooperation and head of the UAE Committee for Coordination of Humanitarian Foreign Aid.
At the fifth lecture in the series, The Evolution of the UAE Foreign Aid Sector and its Future, the audience looked back on the life of Sheikh Zayed, who passed away 11 years ago on Ramadan 19.
“Whenever we talk of benevolence, Sheikh Zayed’s name has to come up,” Sheikha Lubna said. “On the day of his passing, we remember the altruistic spirit of giving that he instilled. He planted a tree of giving that the world is reaping benefits of.”
Foreign aid, Sheikha Lubna said, was on the board even before the UAE was formed, after Sheikh Zayed launched the Abu Dhabi Development Fund.
“Part of this giving spirit comes from our faith but it has become a trait of the Emirati people and part of our DNA,” she said.
“The UAE has a historical commitment of helping others.
“Sheikh Zayed believed that there was no use for wealth if it didn’t reach those who needed it the most – no matter where in the world they were or what their religion was.”
The creation of the fund, months before the emirates formed a union, sent a powerful message to the world, Sheikha Lubna said, underlining the importance of supporting developing nations.
Since its inception, the ADFD has funded infrastructure projects in several developing countries around the world.
In 2013 and last year, the UAE was named the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income (GNI). It was a leap up the rankings from 19th in 2012.
The UAE, Sheikha Lubna told the audience, dedicated 1.34 per cent of its GNI in 2013 on foreign aid and 1.17 per cent the following year.
The country was ranked top in a report released by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“To the world this may have come as a surprise but for us it was not – if you recall the foundations this country was built on,” Sheikha Lubna said.
UAE foreign aid reached Dh42.69 billion between 2009 and 2013, with donations accounting for Dh32.65bn, and loans the remainder.
Egypt was the biggest beneficiary of the UAE’s foreign aid, receiving Dh17.22bn. Jordan came second with Dh2.08bn followed by Palestine, which has received Dh1.11bn.
The objective of the UAE’s foreign aid policy is to reinforce peace and security in the region and support economic and social development in developing countries.
Other objectives include promoting the status of the UAE internationally, enhancing economic ties with developing nations and bolstering bilateral relations with partner countries.
The UAE has also diversified its foreign aid policy to include projects covering education, health care – including maternity care, child care and the eradication of infectious diseases – the environment and biodiversity projects.
Sheikha Lubna concluded the lecture by offering a prayer for Sheikh Zayed, in which all attendees joined her.
The lecture was attended by members of the royal family including Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, and other sheikhs, ministers, ambassadors and members of the media.
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(via The National)