A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

Foreign Aid

Net development aid from donor countries worldwide reached record levels in 2013 according to the OECD, totaling $134.8 billion. That the UAE led the pack that year by Official Development […]

Net development aid from donor countries worldwide reached record levels in 2013 according to the OECD, totaling $134.8 billion. That the UAE led the pack that year by Official Development Assistance (ODA) to GNI ratio was no accident. Wise leadership, strong sources of finance and capital, an effective organizational infrastructure, and a deep-rooted cultural belief in generosity—particularly to those in need—are some of the key ingredients attributable to the UAE’s commitment to the betterment of struggling populations worldwide. Humanitarian diplomacy is also one of the core foundational pillars upon which the UAE’s foreign policy is based, and as a result, Emirati aid is behind several sustainable development programs and humanitarian efforts around the world.

The proportion of Emirati ODA to GNI is a figure that has been increasing with each passing year. The Emirates spent $5.4 billion in aid in 2013, a 435% increase from the previous year, taking the UAE’s global rank from the 19th largest donor nation globally in 2012 to the 1st in 2013. This upward trend in foreign aid spending shows no sign of slowing down as the Emirates became an official member of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) for the first time in July 2014, the main international body of donor countries. The move has opened the door to more collaborative efforts between the UAE and other donor countries on a global level, allowing for greater exchange in expertise from effective financing models to project management. Improved coordination and cooperation between donor countries increases aid effectiveness, the ultimate measure of the success of foreign aid—how much the recipient countries feel the benefits.

Tens of thousands of lives worldwide have benefited from the Emirates’ support. A look at the UAE’s financial and humanitarian aid disbursements by country shows that in 2012, the top 10 recipients of UAE foreign aid were Jordan, followed by Pakistan, Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Libya, Eritrea, and Azerbaijan. The breakdown of aid by sectors suggests that the majority of UAE aid is targeted at encouraging self-sustaining local production in recipient countries, followed by aid to general program assistance, economic infrastructure building and support to human capital development in education, health and population-based sectors. The country’s role in providing sustainable development assistance around the world is facilitated in part by two key institutions, both of which are headquartered in the capital city of Abu Dhabi.

Of the UAE’s more than 30 primary donor organizations, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development is the UAE capital city’s flagship foreign aid organization. Established in 1971, the ADFD is the government’s main foreign aid channel, directing funds in the form of concessionary loans and grants to developing countries. A non-profit organization, the ADFD finances projects and investments with the aim of energizing economic development in impoverished countries. Targeting vital development sectors is the ADFD’s modus operandi, financing over 400 projects in 71 developing countries worldwide in areas such as infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, renewable energy, electricity, and other economically catalytic sectors.

The Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD) is the UAE’s official public sector foreign aid entity and the first Ministry of its kind in the GCC. Headed by HE Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, MICAD documents foreign aid provided by Emirati organizations and guides project strategies and programs toward international best practices in financial management, monitoring project success and working to ensure the efficient allocation of funds.

The scope of development and humanitarian programs funded by Emirati donor organizations to date is remarkable, and expanding these programs in the years to come will represent a major aspect of the UAE’s foreign policy. As the Millennium Development Goals approach their 2015 expiration date, world leaders will be meeting in 2015 to discuss the strategy ahead, one that will likely be aimed at 100% eradication of poverty by 2030. As a member of the OECD-DAC and a major provider of development funding, the UAE is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the post-2015 agenda moving forward.