Dubai announces multi-million dollar fund to help world’s poor

The ruler of Dubai unveils a multi-million dollar initiative to help fund development and humanitarian projects around the world, with a particular focus on the Middle East.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (OCTOBER 4, 2015) (REUTERS) – Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced a global development initiative on Sunday, (October 4) with an annual budget of one billion UAE Dirhams (272 million dollars) that will be used to alleviate poverty, fight disease, boost education and drive innovation.

The new foundation, the “Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiative” will focus its efforts on the Middle East, though it will work in around 116 countries in total.

Speaking at the launch on Sunday, the director of the initiative, Minister Mohammed al-Gergawi, said the objective was to address the challenges facing the Middle East in particular, with much of the region struggling with political and economic upheaval.

“The goal behind the Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiative is to resume its (historic) civilisational role of the (Arab) nations. The Arab world is passing through difficult stages. The human being is our most valuable possession. So the Initiative invests in the core issue, which is human development,” he said.

The foundation was established through the consolidation of 28 existing charities and organisations that are already working in the field of human development.

The initiative hopes to educate some 20 million children and provide medical treatment for 30 million people suffering from blindness and eye diseases over the next 10 years.

Among other investments, the initiative aims to establish medical research centres and hospitals in the Middle East, and dedicate funds towards finding solutions to the growing water crisis in the region.

“Human development has failed in the Arab world. So our focus on the Arab world is a focus on the human being, on battling ignorance, poverty, a focus on innovation and finding alternatives for youth development. The circumstances that the Arab world is passing through today warrants our intervention,” said Minister Gergawi.

Attending the launch were government officials and foreign guests, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunis who said he was “impressed” with the initiative, with its goals, and with the UAE’s past achievements in humanitarian and development aid.

However, he warned that the key to success for such projects was to ensure they could keep going beyond their initial funding.

“Creation is important, using the money is important, but then what? How to make it sustainable, ownership of the initiative taken by the local people so that they own it and runs it by itself, it doesn’t need fresh donations from outside, it’s not possible. So you can create something but it should become an organic growth, it now starts growing by itself,” he said.

Those behind the initiative say it will also focus on spreading a “culture of tolerance” in a region struggling with religious and sectarian conflict.

“I can confirm to you that the task ahead is great. But our motivation is greater,” Sheikh Mohammed told the audience after the launch.

According to officials, the initiative will be the region’s largest development foundation, targeting more than 1,400 programmes and reaching 130 million people over the next 10 years.