Since its founding in 1971, the United Arab Emirates has delivered unconditional foreign assistance globally to support economic growth in developing countries and provide essential 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 particular 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 on 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 stems 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 peace and prosperity occur across our region and the wider world. We are a vital financial, commercial, and logistical hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Therefore, our economy will grow if these regions can realise their potential of becoming engines of global growth over the next few decades. The UAE started as a developing nation. Our experience can serve as encouragement to others, demonstrating that immense progress is possible with visionary leadership, dedication to the nation's interests and its people, careful investment, and hard work.
UAE foreign assistance helps communities reduce poverty, improves peace and stability, and protects 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, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may his soul rest in peace), institutionalised 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 organisations 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 organisations 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 a significant 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 to document and coordinate UAE foreign aid, assess its impact, and support capacity building in UAE organisations. In 2013, OCFA's mandate evolved, necessitating the creation of the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), which continues the responsibilities of OCFA and developing the UAE Foreign Assistance Policy. In 2016, MICAD merged into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). 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 and direct assistance. Over 40 UAE charities, foundations, government entities, and private companies have provided humanitarian aid for those in need. In addition, Dubai established the International Humanitarian City as a Free Zone Authority to strategically host humanitarian organisations and commercial companies, creating the world's largest humanitarian hub.
Humanitarian challenges have grown to unprecedented levels in recent years. Each year, there are over 20 major emergencies and hundreds of minor crises and disasters, for many of which the response is still underfunded and inadequate. The Middle East and North Africa is particularly afflicted: it accounts for over half of the world's refugees and displaced people in recent years. In addition, it 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% 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 and contributions to multilateral organisations to strengthen the global humanitarian system.
Future Outlook of UAE Foreign Aid
In coming years, the UAE aims to support national development, humanitarian, and charity organisations, whose work in foreign assistance complements that of the UAE Government and its institutions; expand partnerships with relevant and effective multilateral organisations, and seek out opportunities for private sector engagement as a critical element to achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
By the time the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of its union in 2021, the UAE will be a more effective donor, in addition to being a more generous one. As a result, 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.