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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launches development foundation to help millions worldwide

DUBAI // The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai on Sunday launched a development foundation to fight poverty, spread knowledge, build communities and encourage innovation in more than 100 countries.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives will consolidate the work of 28 existing aid organisations, such as Dubai Cares, UAE Water Aid and the blindness-prevention charity Noor Dubai, with an annual operating budget of Dh1 billion.

The foundation will implement more than 1,400 programmes in 116 countries, targeting more than 130 million people, with a particular focus on the Arab world.

“The world today is facing great challenges on all levels, in terrorism, wars and mass immigration, and the only solution lies in human development which can be achieved by educating people and helping them build their future,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Sunday. “The Arab region is undergoing massive challenges. We will not turn our backs on our region, we will provide our support and bring hope for our youth.”

By 2025, the foundation hopes to have supported and educated 20 million children, and prevented or treated blindness and eye disease for 30 million people. It will invest Dh2bn in medical research centres and hospitals in the region, and Dh500 milion in research projects addressing water shortages that challenge the Middle East.

More than 10 million books will be distributed, and 25,000 foreign-language titles translated into Arabic, and the foundation will promote “a vibrant reading culture” in schools. Investment in education and science initiatives totals Dh1.5bn.

Encouraging tolerance and openness is the overall development strategy of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, and more than Dh600m has been set aside for promoting media dialogue and steering communities away from extremism and discrimination.

The organisation will give Dh150m in awards to encourage artists, intellectuals and journalists to create a cultural discourse based on empowering communities.

It will also invest more than Dh5.5bn in innovation and science to support 5,000 innovators and researchers, nurture 50,000 young entrepreneurs and support new companies that will provide 500,000 jobs in the region.

The foundation hopes these efforts will help to eradicate unemployment, provide Arab youth with dignified lives and defeat the lure of terrorism.

“The world has spent tens of billions on addressing global challenges. If only a quarter of this amount was spent on development in our region, we would overcome our challenges and our people could overcome their difficulties to restore their role in building vibrant societies which contribute to the development and wellbeing of mankind,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

Sheikh Mohammed will head the foundation’s board of trustees, with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, as Deputy Chairman. Other members include Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Princess Haya bint Hussein, Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed, Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed, Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed and Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the foundation’s secretary general.

Mr Al Gergawi said: “We are actually in the business of creating tolerance. It’s not easy in the Middle East, but that’s our task.”

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Cooperation, said: “This initiative raises the level of global commitment to international pledges and the responsibility of developed countries to achieve development and extend a helping hand.”

Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, said: “This represents the largest concentration of initiatives around the world.

“It works at harnessing resources for the benefit of humanity through the development of education, health, studies and energy and water research.”

The scale of the region’s challenges requires a foundation of equal scope, said Sheikh Mohammed.

“With all our work and initiatives we seek nothing but God’s approval.

“Our true value is measured by what we add to this life and our true happiness lies in what we offer to make people happy,” he said.

“God has blessed the UAE with many gifts and we show our thankfulness with such acts.”

* Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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(via The National)