The Foreign Aid Policy of the UAE

Foreign Aid

The problem of financial support for the developed countries that faced harmful social or economic conditions is the question that has remained relevant for the decades. The developed states formed the group of organizations that are aimed to accumulate and distribute funds for the support of the recipient countries worldwide. At the same time, the variety of experts noted the presence of private interest of the donors in the development of the foreign aid as a tool of political attraction and influence on the recipient countries. In this situation, it is important to establish the relevance of this argument on the basis of the study of the foreign aid practice of the UAE as one of the leading countries incurring expenses for the humanitarian support of developing countries.

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The Foreign Aid Policy of the UAE

The United Arab Emirates conducts an active and effective policy when it comes to the foreign aid. According to the UAE Government (2017), two years ago, the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) started to get the UAE involved into the succession of countries performing most donor activity within the program of Official Development Aid (ODA). The country had demonstrated the highest share of foreign aid in the structure of Gross National Income (GNI) among the participants of the OECD – 1.09% – in 2015. In general, the state authorities had spent AED 16.1 billion for the aims of foreign aid. In 2016, the same value was lower – AED 15.23 billion (UAE Government, 2017). Here, the UAE is considered one of the most active players in the sphere of foreign aid in the Middle East and worldwide.

According to the official position of the UAE authorities, the country performs the foreign aid on the basis of the humanitarian ambitions (UAE Government, 2017) and does not aim to acquire political influence in the regions of Asia and Africa. Since these are the main spheres of the UAE’s foreign aid, it is possible to define the presence of a certain level of political interest in these regions among the UAE political leaders. The updated legal requirements regarding the foreign assistance in the UAE were introduced by the state’s benefactor President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. To guarantee the effectiveness of the foreign aid policy in the UAE, the UAE Humanitarian Committee had been established to coordinate the country’s foreign aid initiatives.

The main forms of the foreign aid in the UAE are investments in the developmental projects, humanitarian aid, and charitable assistance (UAE Government, 2017). The top issues targeted by the UAE state authorities include addressing the manner of foreign aid were the “humanitarian assistance, elimination of poverty, support for children, global sectoral programs such as transportation, infrastructure, governments support and empowerment of women” (UAE Government, 2017). Basically, the state has already provided assistance to the large number of different states worldwide. The biggest share of financial aid is distributed among the countries of Africa and Asia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2017). The UAE also plays an important role in the financial support of refugees from the zones of the military conflict in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

The Future Foreign Aid Initiatives of the UAE

It is also important to define the future plans of the UAE Government in the sphere of the foreign aid. In this case, the new foreign aid strategy for 2017-2021 that was launched by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in December 2016 should provide general information about the intentions of the government. The main questions that required resolution, according to the new foreign aid plan, were the issues of “women’s empowerment and protection, transport and urban infrastructure, and technical cooperation” (Gulf News, 2016). According to the position of the Foreign Affairs Minister of the UAE, the target of the foreign aid policy of the country is to guarantee the reduction of poverty and the sustainable development in the recipient countries (Gulf News, 2016). Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that the state authorities considered the improvement of connections between the UAE and the recipient states as one of the tasks of the foreign aid. It is possible to deduct that the country can have certain political interest in such activity. Henceforth, it is important to define the real contributions of the UAE’s foreign aid to the recipient states and the real motivation of the UAE’s state authorities to participate in such activities.

The Result of the UAE’s Foreign Aid Plan for the Recipient States

It is necessary to accept the significant positive role of the UAE’s foreign aid in the support of the social sustainability among the recipient states. In this respect, the top priority is the encouragement of the refugees from such low socio-economic states as Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. UAE has been performing an important function in the ODA organization not just encompassing foreign humanitarian assistance, but also significant socio-economic ambitions in the spheres of “tourism, health, transport and storage, education, social services, infrastructure development water and sanitation, environment and climate change, agriculture” (Red Cross, 2015) both locally as well as globally. The UAE does not just provide humanitarian resources but also invests funds into the economic and social development of the developing states across the globe. This support was especially important for the population of the Middle East and North Africa, which were affected by the political and military crises that recently took place in those regions (Red Cross, 2015). The recognition of the UAE as the world’s leading foreign aid activist by the Red Cross Organization defines the effectiveness and importance of the UAE’s foreign aid initiatives in the modern world.

The Real Aims of the UAE’s Foreign Aid Policy

It is obvious that the desire to provide foreign aid to the less-developed states cannot be realized without the personal interest of the donor in the development of effective cooperation with the recipient. In this way, the argument that can prove this idea is the expression of the concerns by the UN Organization about the political and economic subtext of the foreign aid provided by the majority of the OECD states (Gastautor, 2016). Therefore, the experts from the UN stated that the financial support of the OECD states to the developing countries in Africa and Asia had led to the issues with the promotion of the political and economic liberalization in these countries. This process can be connected with the political influence of the donors in the discussed states.

In the modern world, the foreign aid can be considered to be an integrated element of the Gulf States’ foreign policy (Gastautor, 2016). In addition to the political and diplomatic pressure, the economic leaders of the Middle East perform the financial transactions for the realization of the following tasks: “investment activities, trade agreements, the transfer of workers’ remittances, and aid delivery by the major donors” (Gastautor, 2016). The significant role of the foreign aid in the structure of the UAE’s budget defines the important role of this activity in the foreign policy of the state. Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine the reasons that could lead to the significant increase in the foreign aid expenses during the last decade.

The analysis of the foreign aid activity of the UAE during the last decades shows that the country had used this financial instrument to pay for the socio-economic stability and peace in the Middle East and other zones of the country’s interests in Africa and Asia. The significant financial support of the Mubarak’s regime in Egypt in the end of the 20th century showed that the UAE had used foreign aid instrument to maintain peace in the Middle East (Gastautor, 2016). The same process took place with the financing of Afghanistan and Pakistan after the end of the US military campaign in Asia. Here, the UAE state authorities tried to buy the loyalty of the Afghan government through its social development.

As a result, it is possible to state that the UAE, as any other country, has used the tool of foreign aid to support its own interest in the recipient states. Moreover, it is important to discuss not only the political results of such financial help. The experience of the 20th century shows that the UAE has managed to use the foreign aid to support even economic interests in the recipient states. For example, the support of the authoritarian regime in Egypt led to the situation when this country bought more than 65% of consumed oil in the UAE (Gastautor, 2016). In general, there are always political and economic interests that govern the humanitarian initiatives of the states. Regarding the current and future aspirations of the UAE, the new foreign aid policy is also oriented toward the realization of the state’s interests.


The analysis of the foreign aid practices in the UAE allowed defining this state as one of the world’s leading donors. The country realized a variety of programs connected with the economic and social development of the recipient states. At the same time, the study of the previous experiences of the foreign aid demonstrated that the UAE had always used this tool to safeguard its own political interests. In general, the foreign aid is one of the key elements of the foreign policy of the Gulf States. Thus, it is important to define the causes and aims of the new foreign aid initiatives that were present in the UAE’s case. This approach can help the researchers define the political future of the Middle Eastern, African, and Asian regions

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