One of the most generous nations in the world, the UAE foreign aid is a growing success story based on humanitarian principles and is making a difference around the world–from Pakistan to Philippines
The UAE’s compassionate international behavior merits a closer look at the country’s foreign aid policies.
Foreign assistance is given in accordance with UAE diplomacy, for the purpose of promoting values, and in response to requests for developmental aid and emergency scenarios. Aid is categorized in three parts: The largest would be development aid (86.95 percent), followed by humanitarian (6.94 percent) and then charity (6.11 percent).
Becoming a large donor country means adopting international rules and standards in order to claim a place in the humanitarian club of countries. The UAE’s yearly reports delivered to OECD DAC confirm the UAE’s commitment towards declared values in transparency and accountability, as well as the strategic objective to engage with international development organizations. As a reminder, the OECD DAC praised the first report sent in 2010 for demonstrating transparent behavior.
The OECD DAC noted that the UAE became “the first country outside the DAC’s membership to report in such detail”. The latest 2012 report went a step further and provided a breakdown of the foreign aid in accordance to the OECD DAC standards. Such types of reporting are important for the comparative international standing of the UAE among other countries, as the UN has declared a desired percentage of the Gross National Income (GNI) which the donor countries should dedicate to foreign aid. Only few countries reached the ambitious 0.7 percent of their GNI.
Many others aim at reaching this minimum. For example, the UK, which has donated 0.56 percent of its GNI in 2012, has a declared goal of reaching 0.7 percent in 2013. The UAE, with its constant increase over the years, national organizational restructuring, and by improving its strategy is well on its way to reach the UN threshold, too.
One area for improving the better management of foreign aid is dedicating part of the UAE’s federal budget towards this cause. Projecting a share of the budget will pave the way for creating a national strategy to plan future allocations of UAE’s foreign aid. The type of assistance given by the Emirates over the last three years has been changing. The three main categories – direct project implementation, bilateral assistance to governments and contributions to national NGOs and civil society institutions – varied in size and in percentage of the total aid given by the UAE.
These different experiences in how the aid is provided, the evaluation of the results and the future projections should be used to develop a long term strategy. It is expected that the future direction of the foreign aid will seek to have a multilateral approach, rather than the bilateral one which has been dominant in the recent years. The strategy will have to envision clear goals, set standards, and unify the image of the UAE’s foreign aid assistance program, where it is worth noting that the UAE appears to be on a solid path forward in this regard.
When projecting a unified image, a national brand (e.g. UAE Aid) is needed. The brand will serve as an umbrella logo for all the aid going out of the country, and will demonstrate that all donors are harmonized. Additionally, the national foreign aid brand will further advance the already developed nation branding strategy of the UAE. Having a vision for the country’s foreign aid goals will also help the donors identify mutual interests and contribute to the achievement of those goals.
Equally important is that this strategy will maintain and improve the transparency and accountability of the UAE’s foreign aid. As mentioned earlier, transparency is vital for the international standing of every donor-county. Ultimately, by understanding the goals of the UAE’s structured foreign aid, the benefactors can have pragmatic expectations, plan their developmental projects accordingly and rely on a long term commitment. But securing money and deciding where to donate it is only one part of the process. There is a growing need for evaluating the effectiveness of the delivered aid through rigorous auditing.
Through monitoring and evaluation, the government can increase the impact of projects sponsored by UAE foreign aid. That is not an easy process and it is a constant worry for the whole international development community in the sphere of humanitarian operations. The Paris Declaration of 2005 recognized the problem and the document focused on improving aid effectiveness by setting guiding principles for all stakeholders. Three years later, the Accra Agenda for Action concluded that the efforts were not enough and there is a dire need to deepen the cooperation and accelerate the advancement towards achieving what was previously agreed in Paris.
The same actors met again in Busan in 2011 to reevaluate the process, to better understand the new complexities and, yet again, discuss aid effectiveness. The global ongoing search for finding the right way for improving the results of development aid implies that the UAE’s aid program will also struggle with creating maximum impact. The UAE should strive towards fast adoption of all principles laid out by OECD, and be innovative in designing its own national methods on monitoring and evaluation.
Why the UAE should Care about its Image