The UAE, Sheikh Zayed once declared, will always welcome those in need. The generosity of the Founding Father has been the animating spirit behind this country's approach to giving. These past 12 months, designated by President Sheikh Khalifa as the Year of Giving, have broadened our understanding of benevolence while fostering solidarity. The objectives of the Year of Giving were threefold: to strengthen social responsibility, encourage the spirit of volunteerism across society and promote service to the nation.
Where once giving was regarded as a private virtue or a state imperative, the Year of Giving has taught us that it can be an act in service of a larger goal. Being kind, donating books or blood or clothes, and radiating tenderness towards those in need: these seemingly simple actions are all forms of giving. Every individual can make a difference, as demonstrated by the 275,000 volunteers who devoted 2.8 million hours to good causes.
The spirit unleashed by the Year of Giving will not end when the year ends, and the compassion shown by individuals at the local level will continue to be on the world's stage by the state. Between 1971 and 2014, the UAE gave nearly $50 billion in foreign aid alone. As Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said earlier this year: "The UAE does not provide conditional assistance and neither does [it give aid] for the sake of reciprocal interests. It does so only for the good and stability of all peoples." In April, it was ranked the world's most generous donor for the third consecutive year by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Thanks to the UAE's unyielding efforts, polio has practically been eradicated from its last remaining hideouts in Pakistan.
Instead of resting on its laurels, the UAE promptly hosted the Reaching the Last Mile forum to find a way to eradicate malaria and other deadly diseases. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, made a personal donation of $20 million to the $100 million fund announced at the forum. As Sheikh Mohammed said as he announced his generous gift at the Last Mile Forum, "Sheikh Zayed's life and legacy are a never-ending celebration of the principles, values and beliefs that are foundational to our country's identity." It is fitting that the Year of Giving will segue, come January 1, 2018, into the Year of Zayed, dedicated to celebrating and honouring his vision.
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