Kuwait: The six Arab Gulf Countries are the biggest donors of humanitarian aid world-wide after the industrial nations. Yet, their presence at the different organisations of the United Nations (UN) doesn’t reflect their generous contributions, a Saudi-researcher said.
Khalid Al Yahya, Director of Governance and Public Policy at the Dubai School of Government and a fellow at Harvard University, told a recent meeting on humanitarian work held in Kuwait that the Gulf states have offered aid, in some cases during catastrophes, that was more than that submitted by other countries around the globe.
“According to my estimates, the GCC countries between 1970-2000 have offered more than $120 billion (Dh440 billion) in humanitarian aid throughout the 30 years,” said Al Yahya. “This amounts to nearly 3 per cent of the GCC countries’ GDP,” adding that this percentage is more than the proportion suggested by the UN of 0.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to official figures, the aid of the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Organisation, which includes the top industrial and rich countries, in 2010 reached $128.7 billion. In 2011, donors’ aid fell by nearly 3 per cent.
“The GCC countries offered $200 million to Bangladesh in 2007, while the US offered $20 million and the UK offered less than that,” said Al Yahya of the aid offered to the Asian country in the aftermath of the natural disaster and the floods that year.
After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the GCC offered $70 million as a contribution to the Emergency Fund. In the same year, the aid offered to Pakistan following the floods was estimated at $250 million, compared to $200 million offered by the European Union.
Apart from the desire of the governments and peoples of GCC to offer aid in difficult times, the international community has high expectations that the Gulf States, rich in oil and gas, will help.
However, Al Yahya noted that the GCC contribution to the humanitarian relief work in the world is not compatible with its representation at the different international organisations.
“I blame the GCC countries’ attitude and actions for this more than blaming it on the international organisations,” Al Yahya told Gulf News. The GCC hasn’t articulated the demand to have more of its citizens in the international bodies.
Some participants noted during the meeting that some GCC nationals seek higher salaries than that offered by the UN; some others say GCC governments should encourage their citizens to apply for positions at the UN.
For example, in Saudi Arabia, “you have 170,000 people with masters and doctorates graduated from some of the best western universities. If you put an advertisement, you will receive at least 100 applications,” Al Yahya noted.
The meeting, the Third Annual Conference on Effective Partnership and Information Sharing for Better Humanitarian Action, was attended by scores of officials from both governmental and non-governmental levels from many Arab and non-Arab countries as well as representatives from several organisations in the field of charity and humanitarian aid. It was sponsored by the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry and organised by the Kuwaiti International Islamic Charitable Organisation, the United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Direct Aid Association – also a Kuwaiti organisation.
One of the goals of the meeting was to discuss ways to enhance the partnership between the different relief and humanitarian organisations.
Producing a directory, or a map, for the different organisations could be a fruitful path, some participants believed.
Al Yahya agreed.
“It took me six months to collect data on the working organisations inside the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia].
Preparing an institutional map for the various organisations inside the different countries and regions could develop the required partnership, he added.