HRH Princess Haya talks about the future of humanitarian aid at the World Government Summit in Dubai
Your Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies,
It is a great honour to be here today to highlight the achievements of the humanitarian sector and address its future challenges in a world witnessing an increasing number of crises. I wish to also share with you key aspects of the proud history of the United Arab Emirates in this field.
Before I begin, please join me in a moment of silence, to pray for the souls of the Emirati martyrs who recently lost their lives in Kandahar, while providing assistance to the underprivileged in Afghanistan.
May Allah have mercy on them and give patience and comfort to their families.
These brave men followed in the footsteps of our forefathers, the late Sheikh Zayed, and his brother, the late Sheikh Rashid, may Allah bless their souls. Today, such efforts are led by the President of the UAE, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may Allah protect him, and closely guided on regional and global levels, by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, with his brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
The Mother of this great Nation, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, May Allah protect her, continues, with her endless support, to be our role model and a champion of all UAE humanitarian activities.
Let me start with some statistics: According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which collects statistics on government aid, the UAE became the world’s most generous donor in 2013 reaching 1.34% of gross national income and maintained that position in 2014. The only other donor to reach a comparable level in the last few years is Sweden. The OECD figures on Official Development Assistance do not include private aid which adds billions of dollars more to the UAE total.
In 2015, the United Arab Emirates registered a 43% increase in total foreign aid to reach more than 32 billion dirhams, approximately 8.8 billion US dollars.
And the story continues, earlier this year, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa declared 2017 the Year of Giving to encourage people across the Emirates to contribute to their communities and strengthen the spirit of volunteerism.
As Chairperson of Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, which was founded in 2003, I have seen the IHC grow, under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to become the largest humanitarian logistics hub in the world. It has also become the world’s first in its response time, which is no more than six hours to most of the world’s major conflict sites.
The vision for the IHC was to set up a unique free trade zone that brings together all the major players in humanitarian aid under one roof – nine major UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, more than 50 NGOs.
The guiding principle behind all of our work at the IHC is to respond to humanitarian emergencies in record time, and above all, to facilitate and coordinate for our members, because it is the members of the IHC who are the main actors in the humanitarian community that makes the IHC what it is. We credit them for our achievements.
When the United Nations evacuated its staff from Kabul to Dubai several years ago, the IHC handled the whole operation in just three hours. A similar evacuation was staged for the World Food Programme after the bombing of their offices in Islamabad. Our team is ready to respond to emergencies anywhere in the world.
These humanitarian missions are executed under HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed, President of the UAE Red Crescent, who continues to lead the Nation’s sons and daughters who work in the field. This has motivated us to work harder to bring about positive change.
We would also like to extend gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, for the excellent support and coordination that has been provided to all the teams in the field.
Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s gathering, I see many government leaders and decision makers. I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few important facts:
- More than 65 million people have been displaced from their homes due to wars in Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and other trouble spots – the highest level since World War II.
- The cost is staggering. The magnitude of immediate humanitarian aid required from the UN organisations and NGOs has grown to 22 billion US dollars, ten times the amount in 2000.
- About 800 million still suffer from chronic forms of hunger.
- In addition to these human tragedies, a UN report estimates that 50 million will be displaced due to desertification and climate change in the next ten years.
Brothers and Sisters,
Who among us has not seen the horror and grief caused by the many on-going conflicts? Some images will be embedded in our minds forever… such as the photo of the child whose body was washed on to the shores of the Mediterranean, the overwhelming destruction inside the hospitals bombarded in Syria, the daily tragedies in Gaza and many more.
Despite all of these challenges, in the last 60 years, we have been operating within a conventional humanitarian aid model. At the time, it was considered innovative. The Marshall Plan was put in place to pull Europe out of hunger and poverty in the wake of World War II. It is still our model in today’s world.
In this day and age, the humanitarian sector seems to stand against creativity, innovation and technology and is slow to change. It stands against any unconventional mindset… even though it is just what we need to address the problems and put an end to them once and for all.
In all honesty, both Arab and Western governments are suffering from an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Actors on the ground are appealing to policy makers to prevent the loss of billions of dollars of aid.
The issue is not limited to what we have to deal with on the ground. If we do not act, we are bound to lose our sense of humanity, which would be far worse than the disasters themselves.
As governments, you have the power to make decisions and solve current crises; especially those that are political. You can also empower those working in the relief and humanitarian sectors to continue to fulfil their missions.
Despite the fact that governments are somewhat reserved when it comes to disclosing the number of people suffering from hunger and poverty, I can assure you that our work in the humanitarian field must first begin with ending hunger. We must reduce it to zero and then proceed to combat poverty through development programs, sound planning and consistent monitoring to ensure transparency.
Frankly, if you are hungry, the only thing you can think about is how to get a loaf of bread.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the yearly food waste worldwide is about 2.6 trillion US dollars, taking into account the required workforce, energy and water for producing it. This waste can feed three times the population of the earth including the 800 million hungry today.
If we are to end hunger, we must have the political will to do so. The United Arab Emirates recently took a step in this direction when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the UAE Food Bank, chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Hind Bint Juma Al Maktoum. We sincerely hope that many other governments will join the UAE.
We must move beyond the conventional methods of offering aid and relief. We must agree that the objective of offering aid is by no means competitive or monopolistic. Innovation is absolutely necessary for sound planning of relief operations. Effectively, these operations are more like an investment in the future and internal security; like education and health. Therefore, governments and the private sector must work together to employ innovation, creativity and technology in this field.
There is no doubt that advances in technology, the use of mobile phones, for example, have contributed to change in many remote regions such as contributing to containing the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, as well as making it possible to better and faster target of people in urgent need of aid.
Today, drones are being used to transport vaccines to remote areas in Africa. Satellite imagery is also being
used to pinpoint disaster areas. These are all good practices. However, as disasters continue to increase,
governments must support even more advanced technology and employ the necessary tools to better serve remote populations.
Also, financial institutions have a significant role to play. For example, they could offer bonds in support of development programmes and emergency operations.
At the International Humanitarian City, we have started to collect and organise data that could be used to speed up our response efforts and promote innovation and better use of advanced technology.
I would like to propose that we create a global hub for humanitarian data on logistics and aid deliveries to be hosted by the IHC. I ask all of you here today, as representatives for your governments, as well as other governments around the world, to provide any specialised data to assist and to document your experiences.
I also call upon the technology sector to work with aid providers in the field to ensure more advanced technological services to relief workers around the world.
This global hub for humanitarian data on logistics, which will promote the latest in innovation and technology, is just one of many initiatives. There are many ideas and needs, and your contributions and collaboration are crucial. In the UAE, we are able to support innovation, because the goal of our leadership is crystal clear: We seek to build a forward-looking state that contributes to a world where peace, security and human decency prevail.
This is our responsibility. This is our humanity. And this is what future generations will judge us by.
A warm welcome to you all, you are among your family here in the United Arab Emirates, and peace be upon all of you.