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  Middle East & Africa
UAE Continues the Process of Empowerment as It Celebrates 37th National Day
By Min Byung-il
UAE President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE marks the 37th anniversary of its National Day on December 2, 2008 with adamant determination to maintain the momentum of the process of political, social and cultural empowerment which President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan had launched 2 years ago.

After the passing of President Sheikh Zayed Nov. 2, 2004, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was keen to send a message to the world that the oil-rich country would remain stable on all fronts under the leadership of new President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Sheikh Zayed, 86, was buried Nov. 3, 2004 evening at the Zayed Grand Mosque outside Abu Dhabi.

Condolences poured in from around the region for the popular leader, who invested billions of oil dollars to transform Abu Dhabi from a dusty desert outpost into an oasis of high-rises, parks, fountains, manicured flower beds, restaurants and a wildlife island. The greening projects cost millions of dollars to maintain every year.

Needless to say, his death came as a big loss for the Arab and Islamic nations and to humanity but they voiced confidence in the new leadership, saying the unanimous election of President Khalifa would usher the UAE into a new era of progress, prosperity and stability laid out by the late President Zayed.

As expected, UAE easily coped with various challenges ahead under the new president, who successfully led the country forward in its rapid march towards balanced economic development and to implement the plans and strategies laid out by his late father.

The process builds on the rich and impressive legacy left behind by the Late Founding Father of the nation Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose visionary leadership speaks of itself in all fields of development.

As the nation celebrates this anniversary, it cannot but pay tribute the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose visionary leadership many remarkable strides were made.

Late Sheikh Zayed embraced firm belief that man, with his physical and mental ability, is the main capital which produces development and progress.

Thus, the late leader worked hard to elevate dignity of man and improve his living standards.

He did this out of his conscious understanding that people cannot change their reality or go forward without their men being armed with science and prepared to produce development and progress.

A prominent Arab scholar quoted late Sheikh Zayed as saying, “the real wealth is man not money and oil; money is worthless if it isn’t used for the benefit of people.”

He told the Seoul Times that Sheikh Zayed embodied, in his words and deeds, the greatness of the true religion of Islam, with its noble principles and tolerant teachings.
Late Sheikh Zayed embraced firm belief that man, with his physical and mental ability, is the main capital which produces development and progress.

He maintained that no other Muslim leader devoted his life to support Muslim issues and defend them as Sheikh Zayed who built, at his own expense, hundreds of mosques and Islamic centers, institutes, libraries, and schools in the different capitals of the world, with a view to serving Muslim communities and to protecting them from alienation, bigotry, and sectarianism.

Late Sheikh Zayed derived his understanding of benevolent work from the genuine Islamic culture, and the authentic Arab values as well as from his awareness that love and peace cannot spread in this world without equal opportunities and social justice which enable all humanity to live a decent life, based on their right to housing, healthcare, education, and other rights announced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

According to Mr. Abbas al-Tarabili, an Arab journalist and writer, the late Sheikh Zayed made two important steps to realize his unitary dreams. First he sought to connect the emirates with one another on sound and rational grounds, which led to the establishment of the UAE Union in 1971.

The second was strengthening the Abu Dhabi Defense Forces to be the backbone of the UAE Armed Forces and the shield that could protect the newly born state.

He added that Sheikh Zayed’s journey of nation building started during his moving from an office to another, since he became the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region.

Sheikh Zayed first started with building road network, then he thought of building the first oil refinery in the Umm Al Nar zone, in Abu Dhabi, before building Zayed Port, said Mr. al-Tarabili, stressing that Sheikh Zayed used oil wealth to build UAE man through establishing schools, hospitals, social services facilities, infrastructures, and so forth.

He said that one of Sheikh Zayed’s top priorities was to settle the Bedouins in their areas through providing them with modern services like education, healthcare, transport, and so on.

Agriculture and environment prominently figured in Sheikh Zayed’s effort and thought, he added noting that Sheikh Zayed’s vision for diversifying the UAE economy was deep and boundless.

Against this backdrop, the UAE has gained a conspicuous place among the nations of the world.

With major economic development projects achieved within a record time span of three decades, the country is now laying greater emphasis on empowerment of its people, a task which was clearly spelt out by the President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In his statement to the nation on the occasion of the 36th Anniversary of the UAE National Day in December 2007, President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan outlined his vision for the growth of the nation.

He said "It is from the perseverance and dedication of our founding fathers that the nation derives its strength and pride. I pay tribute to those who have continued to keep the beacon of this nation ever shining through their handiwork and thinking. May the Almighty Allah bless us with strength, clear vision, and dedication so that we may continue to follow in the footprints of our founding fathers."

"As we celebrate this noble occasion, we are full of confidence that we will achieve the objectives which we set for ourselves a couple of years ago. These objectives were outlined in my address to the nation this day two years ago. In that speech, which has been translated into a strategy for Government, I noted that the nation was on the threshold of a new era, an era in which the UAE's human capital would take the centre stage," he added.

Other hallmarks of this new era also include, amongst others, enhancing cooperation between local and federal institutions; improving the decision- making process; upgrading the performance of government institutions; harnessing human resources; and improving the quality of services. All these elements constitute an integrated future strategy for our nation.

The key to the success of this strategy lies not in the ideas or financial resources that will be used but rather in the degree of commitment and dedication of those who will implement it. Ideas in themselves can never be realised if we lack competent and committed human resources.

The objectives of the strategy will not be achieved without the introduction of true programmes for the development of young national leaders who are capable of shouldering the responsibilities and its ends will also not be reached unless the private sector works pro-actively as a true, full partner in national development.

"We in the institutions of the State aspire for a clearer and more effective role to be played by the private sector. A role whose framework is responsibility towards the community, and whose final goal is the creation of more attractive and encouraging job opportunities for our young people, the introduction of modern technology, the creation of a safe, healthy working environment, the guarantee of workers' rights and the improvement of the quality of products and services."

"We - whether in the public sector, private sector or public interest organizations - are partners in preserving this homeland, pushing forward its march of progress, maintaining its identity and protecting its gains", Sheikh Khalifa continued.

He highlighted the important development with regard to political empowerment and the practice of democracy, as the Federal National Council, FNC, 14th legislative session has half of its members elected, with women representing 22% of the total number of FNC members.

He said "we remain committed to continuing our democratic change until we achieve all planned goals through paving the way for and offering the chance for more participation, and through enhancing the role of the FNC as a legislative and monitoring power."

"To keep in line with this trend and to support it, we call for the implementation of a national programme that aims at strengthening our identity and deepening the values of belonging and of citizenship, as well as providing the required conditions in society that reflect our country as an example of an open modern society whose values are consistent with our beliefs and our heritage", he added.

He called for a clear programme that sets out a clear vision for the objectives of our experiment in elections and the associated mechanisms as well as for an expansion of the authority of the FNC.

The National Identity

Sheikh Khalifa stressed that "there will be no compromise with whatever threatens our values, our traditions and language, which are the heart of our national identity and the soul of the nation and our heritage."

"Thus, we must confront the negative effects of globalisation and the defects in the make-up of our population. Any infringement of our identity is an infringement of the country itself. Simply, it is a violation of the country's sanctity", he remarked.

In this connection, he announced 2008 as the year of National Identity, to strengthen the national elements and components of our society and to specify the threats to them.

"Anyone lacking understanding of their identity is destined to remain in obscurity, whether now or in the future", he added.

Sheikh Khalifa said "the federal state is designed to preserve our identity, to enhance our capacities and to exercise our sovereignty. It ensures our security and stability in the Arabian Gulf, and, indeed, is a guarantee of support for our brothers in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

This, he said, offers a progressive model in the management of international relations on a humanitarian and moral basis.

Foreign Policy

The UAE foreign policy has been firmly principled on transparency, dialogue, openness, peaceful coexistence and good neighbourliness based on mutual respect for other states and non-interference in their internal affairs as well as the commitment to Arab, Islamic and international covenants and treaties and the promotion of regional and international peace.

Upon the establishment of the Federation 37 years ago, the UAE joined the Arab League and the United Nations Organisation and established bilateral relations with Arab and foreign countries." Based on a consistent theme of its foreign policy, the UAE continually seeks the extension of the range of its cooperation and friendly relations with the rest of the world.

It promoted the bilateral relations with the GCC countries through agreements and mutual visits. It has followed peace approach and flexible diplomacy to terminate the occupation of three UAE Islands by Iran either through direct serious talks or referral to the International Court of Justice.

The UAE plays a pivotal role in efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East through its distinguished relations with the international community and its membership in the Arab quartet, which was set up at the 19th Arab summit in Riyadh.

The UAE has always been supportive of a just and comprehensive solution to Arab-Israeli conflict which it considers as feasible if Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on the UN's Security Council resolutions and the international legitimacy.

The UAE has joined 14 international agreements related to the anti terrorism. It endorsed the last one on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

The UAE has also endorsed the regulations and procedures allowing it to monitor and freeze suspicious banking financial transactions use in financing terrorist activities.

Earlier, the UAE has issued anti terrorism crime law in 2004 and money laundering law in 2002 and set the Counter Terrorism National Committee. Sheikh Abdullah said before the UN on Sept. 28, 2007, that the UAE cooperates with all efforts to combat all forms of terrorism, including money laundering.

Since it joined the UN in December 1971, the UAE has been actively supporting the international body activities based on the view that the UN charter, laws, and international norms represent human conscience and boost international relations to maintain international peace, security, and sustainable development.

The UAE joined cooperation agreements with 28 UN organisations, which run 80 consultative missions in the country at a number of federal ministries, local department public institutions.

In October 2008, the UAE hosted the NATO Parliamentary Seminar on The Middle East and Global Challenges whose discussion forums urged for greater inter-regional co-operation and dialogue to address concerns facing the region.

Seminar participants agreed that additional work was still needed to reach greater awareness of the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, which was launched at the 2004 NATO summit to build genuine partnerships between NATO nations and selected countries in the Middle East.

More than 50 Parliamentarians from 15 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) nations and legislators from Middle Eastern and North African countries attended the seminar, and took part in debates on key issues affecting the Middle East and NATO nations.

Among prominent speakers were Micheal Gaul, Deputy Director, Defence Security Economics Directorate, Political Affairs and Security Policy Decision, NATO HQ; and Scott Ritter, former Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq.

The seminar, which is part of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group's activities, was held in coordination with the UAE Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group, provides a forum for parliamentarians from NATO member countries and their counterparts in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa to discuss common security and political issues. The UAE Ministry of Federal National Council Affairs has a mandate to promote political awareness in the region.

In October 2008, the UAE and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a joint UAE-Iran committee.

Sheikh Abdullah described the signing of the MoU as "one of the fruits of the visit to the UAE by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad".

Foreign Aid

In 2008, the UAE continued the cherished tradition of helping out others who are in need worldwide. The list of UAE humanitarian, relief and development programs and operations is long and stresses that the United Arab Emirates is a major contributor to international emergency relief to regions affected by conflict and natural disasters.

Over the 37 years of the Federation, the Red Crescent Authority have disbursed around Dh 2 billion in financial assistance to relieve victims inside the UAE and abroad with 95 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, as main beneficiaries.

The philosophy behind the UAE's aid policy is two-fold: first, a belief that helps for the needy is a duty incumbent on all Muslims and, second, that part of the country's wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to helping other countries that have been less well-endowed. The philosophy was well-described by the Late Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

In 2008, one major initiative, launched by Vice President and Prime Minister HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in October, was the 'Dubai Cares' campaign, which seeks to provide primary education for at least a million school children in the poorest countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

By late November, Dh1.7 billion had been donated by public and private sector organizations, as well as by individuals. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum matched the sum of money raised, ensuring that the total reached Dh3.4 billion.

Also in 2008, Noor Dubai, an international charity to help eliminate preventable blindness and visual impairment in underdeveloped areas in need, was launched by H.H Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on September 3, 2008, to reflect the spirit of the Holy Month of Ramadan as a month of charity, social awareness and community solidarity and to provide therapeutic, preventative, and education programs to treat and prevent blindness and visual impairment in developing countries on a local, regional, and international scale.

Following the devastating Israeli bombardment of Lebanon and invasion of the south of the country in the summer of 2006, President HH Sheikh Khalifa directed that substantial aid should be provided to help the sisterly Arab country recover from the damage caused by the attacks and the ensuing displacement of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.

A major US$300 million soft loan programme was announced by the UAE during the January 2007 Lebanon donors' conference in Paris, to supplement aid provided earlier. Individual projects have also been funded by a number of UAE agencies, including the Red Crescent Authority,

The Zayed Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian, The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Foundation and other bodies operating under the aegis of the UAE Project for Supporting and Reconstructing of Lebanon.

The help included extensive work to repair houses, schools and other facilities. Over 250 schools were rebuilt or repaired, while the UAE Government also donated funds to ensure that 400,000 schoolchildren at government schools would be able to obtain the books they needed for their study in the 2006/2007 academic year. As a result the academic year was able to get under way without delay.

One major project undertaken by the UAE Red Crescent was a new hospital in the rural Shiba'a area, which will provide healthcare services to over 35,000 people, who previously had to travel over 70 kilometres to reach specialized medical care.

The Zayed Foundation donated US$200,000 for new equipment at the Dar Al Shifa hospital in Tripoli, US$100,000 to the children's cancer hospital at the American University of Beirut and US$2 million to Al Manar University, Tripoli, for the building of a Sheikh Zayed library for its students.

Other aid provided to Lebanon included diesel generators for villages without electricity supply, repairing of fishing ports and healthcare centres.

The UAE Armed Forces also worked closely with the United Nations on the clearing of newly-laid minefields and the removal of unexploded cluster bombs and other munitions in the south of the country, in many areas revisiting land that had previously been cleared of mines under another UAE initiative following the withdrawal of Israeli ground forces from Lebanon several years ago.

The outbreak of fighting near Tripoli, in June and July 2007, also prompted further relief assistance from the UAE to people who had been forced to flee to escape the conflict.

By late July, seven deliveries of relief supplies, including food and medicines, had been handed over by the UAE Red Crescent to Palestinian aid committees in the Badawi Refugee Camp and the villages of Tebnin, Al Minyeh and Bahneen.

Continuing support has also been given to the people of Palestine, whose needs have been exacerbated both by the boycott of the Palestinian Authority by the international community during the period up to June 2007, and by subsequent disputes between the PA's President and Prime Minister.

Recognizing the Authority's urgent need for funds to pay salaries and to keep essential services working, President HH Sheikh Khalifa ordered in December 2006 that US$30 million should be given to the Authority.

The UAE Red Crescent completed its biggest project to date in Palestine, the Dh100 million (US$27.2 million) reconstruction of the Jenin refugee camp.

Besides repairing 4000 homes damaged during Israeli military activity, the project also included the building of over 450 new housing units, a girls' high school, a large mosque, healthcare facilities and associated infrastructure.

Other major projects have included the Sheikh Zayed Centre in Jerusalem, housing complexes in Gaza and Beit Lahia and the Sheikha Salama bint Butti eye hospital in Nablus.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, established by the UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister, also completed schools, hospitals and medical centres in the Palestinian West Bank.

Further support was provided during the year to the two key United Nations agencies working in the West Bank and Gaza, the UN Development Programme, (UNDP) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Overall, the UAE Red Crescent and other UAE bodies have now contributed over Dh2 billion (US$544 million) to humanitarian projects in Palestine.

Help has also been provided through the UAE Red Crescent to Palestinian refugees in Syria, with the construction of a girl's school at a refugee camp near Damascus. The project was undertaken in association with the UNRWA and cost nearly US$800,000.

Also in Syria, the Red Crescent financed the construction of 110 housing units and the rehabilitation of healthcare facilities at a Palestinian refugee camp near Aleppo, again in association with UNRWA.

A key focus of the UAE's international humanitarian relief operations has always been the desire of the UAE's own agencies to collaborate with other national and international agencies, not just in the provision of funds but also in terms of joint operations on the ground, to avoid duplication of effort and the waste of resources.

Much of the collaborative effort, of course, is undertaken with the various agencies of the United Nations and in mid-2007 the UAE Red Crescent agreed on a methodology for cooperation with the United Nations Office for Project Services, (UNOPS), which is responsible for providing urgent technical, logistical and administrative support to other UN programmes.

The two bodies will now work to devise more efficient ways of targeting the delivery of relief aid to those affected by natural and other disasters as well as, more generally, those in need in Africa and Asia. The UAE Red Crescent is one of the world's top ten Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in terms of the volume of aid provided.

The list of Red Crescent operations, besides Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, is long and included help for victims of conflict Afghanistan and Somalia, help for those affected by floods in Tanzania, Somalia, Malawi and the Philippines, medical assistance for people in Burkina Faso, the Comoro Islands and Somalia and continuing reconstruction programmes in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sir Lanka.

During 2006, the UAE Red Crescent disbursed a total of Dh250 million (US$68 million) outside the Emirates. Overall, between 1999 and late 2006, it has provided over Dh2.7 billion (over US$730 million) in humanitarian operations, both at home, and, much more extensively, overseas.

One recent initiative under the aegis of the UAE Red Crescent is the Emirates Heart Group, a voluntary collective of cardiologists working in the UAE, and from several countries, including the Emirates, France, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and South Africa. Started by five UAE cardiologists, and now boasting over 200 participants, the group's members volunteer their time to carry out surgery in countries where there is a lack of such skills.

Their missions have included trips to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Kenya.

The Zayed Foundation not only responds to urgent needs arising out of natural disasters, but also contributes to infrastructure projects, like hospitals, healthcare institutions and schools.

The scope of the foundation is perhaps the most active in global terms of all the UAE agencies. Among the countries in which it was active in 2006 and 2007 were Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Morocco, Yemen, Comoros Islands, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and Mauritania, in the Arab world, Niger, Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Chad, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Mauritius, the Comoro Islands, Burkina Faso and Cameroon in the rest of Africa, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Tajikistan and the Philippines in Asia, and Kosovo and Bosnia in Europe.

Even when several years have passed after a particular natural disaster, there often remains a need for continuing international assistance.

One such event was the massive earthquake in December 2003 that hit the southern Iranian city of Bam, where the UAE Red Crescent completed in mid-2007 the construction of an orphanage and a centre for people with special needs.

Another natural disaster from which the effects are still felt was the major tsunami that hit much of the Indian Ocean in late 2004. The UAE was one of the first countries on the scene with emergency assistance, but the need for help with reconstruction continues.

In Indonesia's Aceh province, a housing complex of 400 homes was completed in late 2006 and early 2007, while help for Sri Lanka, also seriously affected, has included completion over the last year of over 1000 new homes, including a new 100-home Khalifa bin Zayed township in Ambara and an 'Emirates Housing District' in Katakundi, with over 500 houses.

Following up on the impact of the earthquake that hit parts of Pakistan in October 2005, the Red Crescent, in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) signed agreements in late 2006 to build health centres and is also establishing vocational training centres in association with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

Support for the rebuilding of Afghanistan's war-battered economy also continued throughout the year. Of particular value was a well-digging programme in rural areas, to help villagers resume the agriculture on which their livelihoods depend.

Over 100 wells were completed during the year. In the five years from October 2001 to October 2006, the UAE's official and non-official humanitarian aid to Afghanistan was worth a total of around US$120 million, according to official figures.

Other UAE aid projects encompassed initiatives by individuals, including a hostel for over 300 girl students in the Sir Lankan capital, funded by HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, who also donated US$2 million for a children's cancer hospital in Cairo, and a 500-home village for victims of the Sri Lankan civil war, funded by HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council member and Ruler of Sharjah.

In Pakistan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan has funded a private academy in Islamabad for around 150 children orphaned by the 2005 earthquake.

Humanitarian aid is also provided by commercial UAE companies, one example being Dubai-based property developer Emaar, which, in association with the World Association of Non-Government Organisations (Wango), financed reconstruction of a village, building of a clinic, a school and homes and planting of new fruit trees to replace those destroyed during a May 2006 earthquake in western Indonesia.

Much of the UAE's aid, whether government-to-government, or from organisations or individuals, goes to countries which receive little international attention unless they are affected by natural disasters or conflict. For such states, aid from the UAE can be of very real importance.

One such state is Chad, landlocked in the Sahel region of northern Africa. Help provided to Chad over the last few years has included emergency relief, in response to epidemics and drought, and also programmes to improve the country's educational and social infrastructure.

While much of the UAE's development assistance is provided on a government-to-government basis, the country is also a major contributor to international agencies. During the course of the last 30 years, for example, over Dh100 billion (over US$27 billion) has been made available through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, according to the Ministry of Finance and Industry.

Over US$500,000 was donated to various UN development funds and programmes for 2007, including UNICEF, UNDP and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR (November 2006), with the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) receiving a further US$500,000.

The UAE Government also participates in a number of other multilateral aid-giving institutions, including the International Development Agency (IDA), and other bodies like the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Arab Gulf Fund for the UN (AGFUND), the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Overall, according to Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE has now provided over US$70 billion in loans, grants and assistance for development projects in some 95 countries.

Sheikha Fatima's initiatives

Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the UAE General Women's Union and President of the Family Development Foundation has a number of initiatives, at both the internal and external levels, attached to her name. The outcome of these initiatives has left a great impact on all the beneficiaries.

The initiatives began with Sheikha Fatima championing the cause of UAE women and leading them to achieve their rights in education and employment to pave the way for their progress and development.

Sheikha Fatima took many steps and measures in this regard to push forward the issue of UAE women until they made a lot of achievements that catapulted them to higher offices, including administrative, judiciary, cabinet and legislative offices.

These achievements, championed and supported by Sheikha Fatima, have echoed far and near, on both the Arab and International scenes, making many women's organisations to follow suit.

Sheikha Fatima headed the 2nd Arab Women's Organisation Conference, which was held here in Abu Dhabi last week, and attended by the first ladies of Arab countries, heads of various Arab women's associations and organisations. The conference ended with a number of recommendations which seek to solve the problems of Arab women and to lead them to progress and prosperity by seizing all opportunities that come their way.

Sheikha Fatima's initiatives, which cross the UAE boundaries to many other countries across the globe, from the UAE to Palestine, Morocco to Pakistan and other Arab and Islamic countries, have seen her reaching out to all people in distress.

Her support range from building of hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centres for the handicapped, orphanages, women's care centres and many others. The latest of her initiatives was paying for the medical treatment of a Sudanese woman who suffered 3rd degree burns leading to loss of sight and other deformities.

Commenting on Sheikha Fatima's latest initiative, the Board Chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, Dr. Ali Al-Ka'abi, said Sheikha Fatima's initiative manifests her deep sense and true feeling of the Sudanese woman's cry for help, thus translating into action her care for people in distress no matter where they are or when they made the distress call.

In another initiative Sheikha Fatima donated a piece of land in Abu Dhabi to used in building a housing facility for victims of human trafficking.

Commenting on this initiative, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said Sheikha Fatima's initiative had bolstered the UAE's anti-human trafficking strategy and helped alleviate the sufferings of the victims of this heinous crime, which is alien to the UAE.

He said the UAE is one of the countries which realised very early the humanitarian sufferings of the victims of human trafficking, raised alarm on this crime and promulgated laws and legislations to arrest the situation from spreading out.

Also commenting on another form of Sheikha Fatima's initiative, Sana Darwish, Advisor on Humanitarian Affairs to H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Chairperson of the Founding Committees of shelters, said apart from the piece of land donated for the building of home for victims of human trafficking, Sheikha Fatima has also expressed true concern about the plight of women and children in conflict zones.

She cited Sheikha Fatima's initiative in 2000, during the World Mother's Day anniversary, when Sheikha Fatima set up a special fund for the protection of refugee women and donated one million Dirhams to the fund. She went on to donate another one million Dirhams to the fund on April 4, 2001, an action which won her worldwide applause and admiration.

Sheikha Fatima's deep understanding of the plight of refugee women was stressed by her call to the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and the Abu Dhabi branch office of the United Nation's Higher Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to jointly highlight the issue and plight of women refugees and galvanise support for humanitarian programme aimed at providing the refugees with their needs and boosting the fund's revenue.

The two organisations heeded Sheikha Fatima's call by organising a number of events, including workshops, seminars, and forums on the plight of women refugees and highlighted the significance of the fund. This attracted the interest and cooperation of various individual philanthropists and organisations to make generous contributions in support of the fund and the refugees.

RCA Sheikh Hamdan's Initiatives

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan also has to his name a number of initiatives, some of them through his outfit, the RCA, while others are through his individual efforts.

Sheikh Hamdan has always been committed to reaching out to people in distress. His personal follow-up of the humanitarian situation of distressed people, has won the UAE the high respect of international organisations, which also see the UAE as a champion in the area of humanitarian works.

Sheikh Hamdan has always advocated the plight of millions of distressed peoples, whose lives are being threatened by conflicts and natural disasters. In view of this, Sheikh Hamdan, on several occasions, have pleaded with the international community to shoulder their responsibilities fully by alleviating the sufferings of the poor and the deprived, and raised alarm on the spread of hunger in conflict zones and hot spots of the world.

Sheikh Hamdan stressed on the UAE's efforts in arresting poverty, hunger and malnutrition. He expressed grave concern about the disastrous humanitarian situation of peoples affected by drought and desertification in a number of countries of the world.

He said his outfit, the RCA, realises the volume of the challenges caused by the food crisis encroaching the world hence the RCA's continuous efforts to remain engaged in all affected areas. He urged all UAE social sectors to support the RCA's efforts and programmes.

With regard to his personal initiatives, Sheikh Hamdan has personally reached out to many deprived people in Arab and Muslim countries, including funding the education of 98 Palestinian students to pursue their studies universities in Egypt. This followed the students' personal appeal to Sheikh Hamdan to come to their help as they can not afford to pay for their education.

Sheikh Hamdan also shouldered the medical expenses of three Palestinian deaf brothers, who were treated and rehabilitated in specialised hospitals in the UAE.

The latest of Sheikh Hamdan's individual initiative was his reaching out to two Yemeni brothers who survived the devastating flood that hit Yemen recently. The two brothers, who are part of a family of 11, lost their home and all other members of the family during the flood, but found Sheikh Hamdan's support to cater for them and their needs for the rest of their life.

Sheikh Hamdan has also sponsored the medical expenses of a number of children in Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, etc. His deep concern for children made him to issue a decree to establish a shelter home in the UAE to cater for children and women, victims of human trafficking, to provide for them health and psychological care, and social support.

Regarding his initiatives through his outfit, the RCA, Sheikh Hamdan has led the RCA to reach out to people in distress in various parts of the world. The RCA is one of the biggest and most active humanitarian organisations, not only in the UAE but also in the whole world. Its rapid response to distress calls worldwide has won the organisation great respect and applause from all related international organisations, which show great interest in cooperating and collaborating with the RCA through the signing of cooperation agreement.

Perhaps the volume of money expended by the RCA on humanitarian and charity works tells part of the full story. Over the past years, the RCA has spent more than Dh2 billion on millions of families and individuals in 95 countries of the world. The RCA also sponsors currently 43,468 orphans inside and outside the UAE (in 24 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe) at a total cost of Dh100 million.

On humanitarian programmes and charity projects executed abroad, RCA statistics show that the organisation has executed from January to march 2008 a number of projects at a total cost of Dh52 million. It spent Dh17 million on charity and development projects, Dh10 million on relief supplies, Dh12 million as financial support allowances and Dh14 million on orphan sponsorship programme inside and outside the UAE.

The major beneficiaries of these programmes are in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries hit by drought and desertification.

As for charity projects, the RCA executed during the first quarter of 2008 a total of 496 projects at a total cost of Dh17 million. These include 153 mosques at a total cost of Dh12 million, 303 water wells at a total cost of Dh2 million and 40 other projects (health centres, classrooms and endowment projects) at a total cost of Dh2.5 million. These projects were executed in 17 countries, including Albania, Yemen, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, India, Sudan, Niger, Chad, Togo, Thailand, Bosnia Herzegovina, Indonesia and Mauritania.

The RCA is also running a number of vital Health-related projects in Somalia, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Niger and Yemen.

During the recent flood that hit Yemen, the RCA also dispatched relief assistance by air to Yemen to help alleviate the sufferings of the victims. The UAE government also committed itself to building 1000 homes for those who lost their houses during the flood, thanks to the directives and generosity of President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Regarding hot spots of the world, the RCA has spent from 1994 to date a total amount of Dh447 million in reaching out to refugees in conflict zones like Palestinian territories and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

The RCA also spent Dh11 million on refugees in Darfur and displaced persons other areas in Sudan, as well as Dh2.5 million in housing internally displaced persons in Bangladesh, and built two villages comprising 50 housing units, for internally displaced persons in Indonesia at a total cost of Dh500,000.

The RCA has also executed in the last decade a number of development programmes for Somalian refugees in Yemen, Burmese refugees in Bangladesh, refugees in Mauritania, Rwanda, Angola, Mali, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Congo, Liberia and a number of countries in West Africa.

The RCA has also spent a total of Dh102 million on victims of the Bosnian war in Bosnia Herzegovina, Dh3 million on emergency supplies for Kosovar refugees in Albania, Dh 38million on Afghan refugees in the Pakistani border town of Cheman, who chose to return home voluntarily and Dh16 million in building the Sheikh Zayed City in Kabul. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)






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