Basic principles underlie UAE’s solid aid record

The UAE can take pride in both the generosity of its foreign aid, and the principles behind the policy.

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Helping the needy is a universal human urge, endorsed and encouraged by religious and secular value systems alike.

At the individual level, private acts of charity are common and simple. But aid delivery is more complicated and can be controversial at the country-to-country level. Motives can be mixed, statistics can grow confusing, categories can become muddled, and efficiency is not always guaranteed.

By any measure, however, it is clear that the UAE and its citizens can take pride in the country’s increasingly impressive record in sharing its prosperity with less fortunate peoples elsewhere.

Figures made public this week by the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development outlined the grants, low-interest loans, and other aid disbursed around the world by the UAE’s government and a range of government-related and private organisations in 2012.

The sum in question, Dh5.83 billion, puts the UAE well up the global league table for aid. These figures vary widely, since aid flows are measured in so many ways: by total amount, by per capita giving, as a share of gross national income, as the amount dedicated to “official development assistance” (ODA) from governments, by the newer gauge known as “country programmable aid” which measures ODA actually received, and so on. There are also calculations of bilateral versus multilateral aid, development assistance versus humanitarian disaster-relief, civilian versus military aid and so on.

Almost as much as the numbers, it is a country’s approach to aid that matters. Some states provide grants and other assistance almost exclusively to their ex-colonies, and demand political favours, at the UN and elsewhere, in return. Many countries organise self-serving “foreign aid” projects that leave fat profits in the hands of donor-country companies. Indeed, fully 20 per cent of announced ODA never actually leaves the “donor” countries, one British study found.

The UAE, to its credit, does not operate that way. Most of this country’s aid effort is naturally directed towards Mena states and other Islamic countries, but the UAE’s generosity is not limited by geography.

“The UAE does not provide conditional aid or wait for a return,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said this week. “The motivation to provide humanitarian aid is [the UAE’s] strong keenness to contribute to achieving stability and providing a dignified life for all peoples, regardless of their race or religion.”

That policy should be a source of pride to everyone in the UAE.