x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The greater good requires giving back

The result of a survey suggests that residents are reluctant to donate money to local organisations because of a perceived lack of transparency.

After the Israeli incursion into Gaza last year, the UAE's Red Crescent loaded 18 ambulances with medical supplies and shipped them to the strip. Months later, the Red Crescent would provide housing for thousands of displaced families in Yemen as the Houthi rebellion surged. These are but a couple of the humanitarian efforts the UAE Government has undertaken recently, to say nothing of its assistance in Sudan, Lebanon and even further abroad, where construction projects in far away places such as Kosovo and New Zealand testify to the country's global impact. And yet, as we report today, a survey by YouGov Siraj shows that more than 30 per cent of those in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the UAE do not trust local charities. The result suggests that residents are reluctant to donate money to local organisations because of a perceived lack of transparency. Without knowing how donations will be spent, residents fear that donations will be mismanaged or worse. Revelations in recent years that some aberrant Muslim charities have had links to militant organisations have added to the public's hesitancy to part with their hard-earned money.

But that is no reason for the UAE's population to shy away from generosity. Institutions such as Dubai's International Humanitarian City, which functions as a clearing house for aid organisations, have demonstrated the country's willingness to be more transparent in its aid administration. The historic partnership between the UAE Red Crescent Society and the United Nations can also reassure donors that their money is being properly spent.

For their part, many residents already contribute generously. Muslims observing their obligatory zakat donate to organisations such as the Zakat Fund, which gives meals to the poor during Ramadan and assists low-income families during times of hardship. Others, such as the Keralite businessmen in Abu Dhabi who recently financed a mass wedding back home, act charitably on behalf of their communities. Still others, such as volunteers at Dubai Cares, or marathon participants in charity runs, donate their time and energy to causes that transcend nationality.

A vibrant economy should fuel a generous spirit. Despite pockets of need that exist within the country, the UAE has created an environment of abundance in a region of scarcity. One out of every five people lives on $2 a day or less in the Middle East but a tax-free salary is an opportunity for every resident in the UAE to extend their hand to the region's poor. To those who are reluctant to contribute to the greater good of the country, the region, and the world, we repeat that old adage: "To whom much is given, much is expected."