The Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) hosted its seventh annual event on 3-6 April 2010 attracting humanitarian aid practitioners and experts from around the globe.
DIHAD’s core theme was ‘Global Health Challenges of Tomorrow: Impact & Response’ and the conference was inaugurated by HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The Princess’s opening speech was extremely relevant to our work on understanding global humanitarian aid flows. In her speech the Princess highlighted that we currently have limited knowledge on global financial aid flows and cannot answer basic questions such as how much aid money is being spent, what channels is it being delivered through and who the recipients are. The Princess emphasised the need for increased transparency in the aid system as well as changing the way we respond to humanitarian crises. She concluded that the “culture of aid must change”.
Our work in examining the humanitarian contributions of countries outside of the set of donors within the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) continues and we have plans to deepen our understanding of these donors (which we often call non-DACs as a shorthand) and gain greater clarity on how much humanitarian aid they give, why they give it and what emergencies and countries they support. Talking with participants at the DIHAD conference gave us greater insight into the philosophy of charitable giving in Muslim countries and possible explanations as to why Gulf States report less on aid flows. There is a definite culture of giving amongst Muslims. For example, 2.5% of a Muslim’s wages must go towards charitable work but “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand gives”. In this sense Muslims and Muslim countries provide assistance but perhaps this helps explain why they do not necessarily discuss or report fully on how much is given.
The DIHAD conference demonstrated the complexity of non-DAC donor humanitarian systems. There are a multitude of agencies, NGOs, foundations and government ministries which all act as donors each giving different types of assistance. For example, the UAE has three strands to assistance: development, humanitarian and charitable giving (money that is used for building mosques etc). DIHAD confirmed that non-DAC donors are not a homogenous group; each donor adopts a different approach to humanitarian policy, definitions, implementation and reporting.
The GHA team plans to further engage with these donors at events like DIHAD to develop partnerships and expand our knowledge.