Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

UNHCR unveils new Zakat donation programme

Global scheme aims to raise $200m for displaced families in the Mena region

Men wait to collect Zakat donated by the public and distributed by the Zakat Fund in Abu Dhabi. The National
Men wait to collect Zakat donated by the public and distributed by the Zakat Fund in Abu Dhabi. The National

The United Nations has unveiled a newly structured programme aimed at raising millions of dollars worldwide to assist refugees.

Officials hope the new Refugee Zakat Fund will encourage both individuals and institutions to dig deep and donate more of their earnings.

Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is a form of alms-giving treated as a religious obligation or tax.

The new global fund aims to assist some of the most vulnerable displaced populations in the world, such as those in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

“The Muslim world has the potential to transform philanthropy through strategic targeting of tens of billions of dollars of obligatory alms,” said a statement from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

“The Fund allows individuals and institutions alike to fulfil their Zakat obligations efficiently through a globally trusted structure, governed by UNHCR, with 100 per cent of contributions delivered directly to the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced families.

“It is fully Sharia-compliant; backed by fatwas from leading Islamic scholars and institutions, and subject to strict governance, ensuring utmost transparency.”

The UNHCR’s original Zakat programme, focusing solely on raising funds for the Mena region, was first launched two years ago.

Its remarkable success - $14.4 million between 2016 and 2018 - encouraged organisers to expand the scheme to better appeal to donors all over the world.

Globally, Zakat giving currently stands at $76 billion, but experts believe as much as $356bn could be leveraged annually if improved mechanisms for giving are put in place.

Houssam Chahin, UNHCR’s head of private sector partnerships in the Mena region, said their new scheme could potentially transform the lives of more than 150,000 vulnerable families in the Middle East.

“Over the past few years demand has grown for a trusted and efficient way of fulfilling Zakat obligations, while making an impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable populations in the world,” said Mr Chahin.

“It was inevitable that our Zakat program would evolve to better appeal to the global Islamic finance industry.

“The Fund allows the UNHCR to be even more transparent and trusted in how it receives and distributes Zakat funds.”

“There is a huge need to help refugees and displaced people. The challenge in this region is to raise $200m.”

There are currently 68.5m displaced people around the world, of which 40.8m are Muslims, according to UNHCR figures.

The organisation said more than 50 per cent of refugees under its care come from just five countries – Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

“Responding to refugees is the responsibility of all global leaders and related stakeholders including Zakat institutions globally,” said Dr Irfan Syauqi Beik, executive secretary of World Zakat Forum.

“The UNHCR Zakat programme’s role is to guarantee the basic needs of refugees.”

Updated: April 25, 2019 07:43 PM

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