The UAE has long been a hub for trade and commerce in the region. With a population of around 9.2 million, most of whom are from overseas. Following the emerging donorship from the non-Western world as well as the increasing social and economic power of several non-Western states, UAE has established itself as an important humanitarian player – not only through large contributions, but also by actively shaping policy discussions on aid. Most of its aid goes to Arab and Islamic countries, in line with its foreign policy. It also gives aid in response to disasters affecting the home countries of its large expatriate population. UAE has managed to build relationships with established donors and multilateral organizations alike – as demonstrated by the fact that the Global Humanitarian Appeal was exceptionally launched in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
Politically, UAE has played a leading role among the GCC countries in the response to regional emergencies (Syria, Yemen) andis a member of the Top Donors Group (TDG) for Syria since the beginning of the Syria crisis. The UAE was the first country in the Middle East to join the ODSG in 2008. After initial limited involvement due to capacity, engagement increased with the UAE’s participation in the ODSG Field Visit to the DRC in 2014. Since 2003 the UAE patronizes the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD), an annual high-level event that brings together various actors from the regional and international aid and development community.
Governmental humanitarian partners
The main governmental partner is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC), which leads UAE’s foreign aid policy. OCHA has been working closely with MOFAIC to organize several trainings on humanitarian principles. A Host Country Agreement is currently being finalized between OCHA GLO and UAE government. The UAE Committee for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid and UAE Relief Team both work with MOFAIC towards enhancing humanitarian response and coordination of its efforts.
The International Humanitarian City (IHC) is a global logistical hub for humanitarian aid based in Dubai. It also acts as a platform for United Nations agencies and NGOs to strengthen aid response. The IHC collaborates actively with GLO and has signed several agreements with OCHA on event organization and capacity building. Following the launch of a new strategy for 2015-2021, IHC has undertaken an effort that includes digitization of data for ‘smart’ governance and strengthening its partnership with the private sector. And most recent announcement in December 2016 of comprehensive expansion plans to enhance operations, accelerate aid response and improve management of relief projects in high stress regions worldwide.
The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams are important humanitarian partners. UAE has two USAR teams: the UAE USAR (classified as Heavy USAR Team in 2013) and the Dubai Police Rescue Team. GLO has organized trainings for USAR team members through the former Ministry of International Cooperation and Development. UAE hosted the 2nd INSARAG Global Meeting in October 2015 and the Launch of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing Report in January 2016.
Other humanitarian actors
The UAE Red Crescent is the humanitarian arm of the government and operates based on governmental directives. It has been among the first responders to regional emergencies (Yemen). It tends to work outside coordination mechanisms. However, recently it joined the Yemen crisis coordination meeting.
Several Sheikh-founded charities, such asKhalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation,Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation and Mohammed bin Rashid Charity and Humanitarian Establishment, not only carry out charitable educational and health projects for the needy in the UAE, but also provide relief aid to global crises. They operate independently under the leadership of the government and seldom collaborate with UN agencies. The partnership with OCHA is limited to attending GLO conferences in the region.
Emirates Foundation for Youth Developmentis a philanthropic foundation set up by the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. In addition to programmes aimed at youth and community development, it fosters Sanid emergency response programme which offers free training in emergency response and occasionally plays a support role in UAE emergency response abroad.