x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arab aid organisations encouraged to be more "strategic"

Dozens of donor groups and humanitarian organisations gathered in Dubai for the 10th annual Arab Foundations Forum meeting.

Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a board member of the Emirates Foundation, delivers his keynote speech during the opening of the Arab Foundations Forum in Dubai.
Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a board member of the Emirates Foundation, delivers his keynote speech during the opening of the Arab Foundations Forum in Dubai.

DUBAI // Arab aid organisations are being encouraged to be more "strategic" in their giving. Dozens of donor groups and humanitarian organisations gathered yesterday in Dubai for the 10th annual Arab Foundations Forum (AFF) meeting, co-hosted by Dubai Cares and the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy. "If anything, the importance of philanthropy is growing - as our society grapples with the complex challenges of globalisation, education, meaningful employment, social improvement and environmental decay," Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a board member of the Emirates Foundation, said in his keynote address.

However, as the challenges grow, he said, so must efforts to work together. "A number of foundations in the UAE are finding that an effective way to expand their work is by spreading what I call the 'culture of philanthropy', by involving both the public and particularly the private sector in our activities." Dr Marwan Awartani, the chairman of the AFF, said one of the aims of the forum was to promote more "strategic philanthropy" rather than just sporadic donations, which do not have the same impact.

Philanthropic organisations have a huge role to play, he added, saying that it was impossible for governments alone to "shoulder" all the challenges facing the Arab world, from environmental problems to illiteracy. "Partnerships are crucial to the success of social and economic development initiatives in this region," Dr Awartani said. "The private and non-profit sectors need to work together in a strategic, transparent and effective manner."

Dr Mona al Bahar, the head of the Emirates Foundation's social development programme, described the private sector companies her organisation works with as "partners in the process". "They are not just giving money, they bring expertise to the project," she said. "We have developed co-operation and relationships and would encourage other organisations to do so as well." Another group that has worked to establish private-sector partners is Dubai Cares, which was set-up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2007 to focus on primary education in developing countries.

Anas Bukhash, the country programme manager at Dubai Cares, said it was important for the private sector and organisations to "join forces". The co-operation, he said, not only provided vital funding, but increases awareness about humanitarian issues within the wider community. More than 150 people from 40 organisations took part in the forum. zconstantine@thenational.ae