Abu Dhabi: UAE’s founding father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was a man who gave to his country, and the world, without expecting anything in return and who translated every good thing he knew into action.
Shaikh Zayed, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966, and UAE President from the formation of the federation on December 2, 1971, till his death in 2004, was widely loved and respected as a benevolent Arab and world statesman, who believed in unity and compassion and determined that humanitarian assistance should be extended to people around the globe, regardless race, sex, language or religion.
During his time, the UAE gave Dh90.5 billion worth of aid in various forms to 117 countries.
Dr Yousuf Al Hassan, a leading Emirati political analyst, said Shaikh Zayed established solid foundations for humanitarian action, which today constitute an approach for sustainable generosity and giving.
“Shaikh Zayed believed that the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to assisting less fortunate countries and individuals. He expressed this very clearly when he declared: “We believe that the benefit of the fortune granted to us by Almighty Allah should spread to cover our brothers and friends,” Dr Al Hassan said.
He added Shaikh Zayed humanitarian work and development assistance were dedicated for the good of people around the world, regardless of their race or religion.
Dr Al Hassan was speaking ahead of the UAE Pioneers Award 2017, which will honour 46 Emirati philanthropists in a ceremony on November 28.
The award will mark the conclusion of the Year of Giving initiative.
“2018 has also been declared the Year of Zayed to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest and most noble men who dedicated his life for the present and future of the nation,” His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said.
Zaki Nussaibah, Minister of State, said if during the early 1970s Abu Dhabi’s financial reserves were modest, it was because Shaikh Zayed dedicated a significant portion — running into hundreds of millions of dollars — to the Arab world.
Nussaibah recalled the first budget of Abu Dhabi and the first master plan for the emirate. “Shaikh Zayed dedicated a chunk of that first budget to humanitarian and development assistance to be extended to nations around the world,” Nussaibah, who worked with Shaikh Zayed on the first five-year master plan for Abu Dhabi, said.
UAE citizens deeply cherish the memories of Shaikh Zayed, as do people of different nationalities around the world who remember him for his extraordinary good deeds whose beneficial effects are being felt even today.
The sweep of Shaikh Zayed’s humanitarianism is vast and it has touched millions of lives. From launching housing projects for the needy to providing food and medicine for people suffering from poverty regardless of race, sex, language or religion, Zayed’s inclusiveness was all-encompassing.
History stands witness to his brilliant decisions, one of which was to pass a resolution to establish the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development in 1971, at a time when he was still laying the foundations of the UAE’s union.
Shaikh Zayed employed wisdom and unflinching hard work in building his nation, a task which came with many challenges. His vision and efforts took the UAE from a sparsely populated desert settlement to a nation with dizzying records of achievements and prosperity, enabling the UAE to be counted among the most dynamic countries in the world in a record time.
His vision always extended beyond the borders of the UAE and prioritised moral values, as reflected in his untiring support for charity and philanthropy.
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, all the other Rulers of the Emirates, and all UAE citizens and residents, have continued to walk in the footsteps of the late leader. Because of Shaikh Zayed’s generous vision, the UAE is now regarded as one of the world’s most charitable countries.
Shaikh Zayed fully grasped Islam’s compassion for the needy. He never hesitated to extend assistance to the global community and was a pioneer in humanitarian work.
World’s top aid donor
The UAE has become the world’s top aid donor for the third consecutive year, according to a Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report.
Data published in April by the Paris-based organisation, which has a membership of 35 developed countries, noted that the UAE spent Dh15.23 billion on development assistance in 2016.
Last year, international aid contributions of 29 countries that are members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average 0.32 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI).
GNI is the sum of the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country.
This figure is slightly up from 0.30 per cent in 2015.
In contrast, the UAE gave more than three times that average over the same time frame — donating 1.12 per cent of its GNI in foreign aid.
The UAE reports its aid flows to the OECD even though it is not a member.
Last year saw the continuation of providing aid to Africa, which received Dh8.95 billion of the UAE’s total development assistance — around 54 per cent.