A NOBLE UNDERTAKING
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, founder of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund
AS-SALAAM-O-ALAYKUM. Your Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, excellencies, thank you for this recognition. I am truly humbled. This is a particularly meaningful award to me.
For Emiratis and business leaders, giving is both a privilege and a duty. For me personally, it is also about learning and sharing the most meaningful experiences of my journey. My philanthropic journey over the last few years has led me to a new conviction: I believe it is time for a new era in Arab giving.
The Arab world is very generous. The real challenge is not in the size of our donations but in what we donate to and how we do it so that our contributions can have a more meaningful impact on our communities.
At this time, Arab giving is not at its best. While we have much to be proud of, we must remember that Arab philanthropists before us paved the way for remarkable impact. Our history is full of great examples of giving but we have not progressed as much as we should have.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the recent past, we only trusted giving that went from our hands to the hands of those who needed help. This type of giving is still preferred among many personal donors. If we are honest, we know that this is neither effective nor efficient.
Today, too many large donations continue to go to buildings – everything from schools, universities to mosques – without having the intended impact on people’s lives because of lack of continuous financial support and engagement of the donors. In the new era of Arab giving, I hope we will prioritise lifting people up from poverty, conflict and ignorance.
I also want to emphasise that it is not just what you give to, it is how you give. I am calling for a new era of Arab giving built on five approaches:
First: more Arab philanthropists must institutionalise their giving. While I do not think every philanthropist has to create his or her own foundation, I believe all should develop a strategy that is focused, has clear results and accountability structures.
At the moment, we do not have many institutionalised foundations in the Arab world and that makes it difficult for us to build a donor community that can exchange ideas and work together. Having more foundations will make it easier for us to develop home-grown solutions.
Second: more Arab charities must professionalise and specialise. Too often, donors do not see the impact of their donations because they donate to informal organisations. This must end. We need to apply the same standards to the charitable sector as we do to the business sector. Charitable organisations must be legally registered, have a board, staff, corporate governance, strategy, goals and work for impact.
But even that is not enough. Charitable organisations also need to specialise and earn their reputation as experts in one field whether it is health, education or relief. No one organisation should be expected to work in all sectors and do a good job.
Third: all Arab donors and charities must adopt transparency and accountability. All donors should be able to track their donation very simply and clearly. I believe that a more transparent and
“The real challenge is not in the size of our donations but in what we donate to and how we do it so that our contributions can have a more meaningful impact on our communities”
accountable charitable sector will boost the confidence of Arab donors and encourage governments to work more closely with them.
Fourth: more Arab philanthropists need to be open about their giving and work together with other philanthropists. I believe giving should be talked about and discussed publicly as it will encourage other donors to give and go public to establish quality giving approaches and organisations.
Fifth: Arab philanthropists should be personally engaged in their giving. I believe that philanthropy is not only about giving your money; it is also about giving your time.
My deep engagement in philanthropy over the last three years, has opened my eyes to the magnitude of the refugee problem in our region and in particular the critical need for support to refugee education. Meeting many bright young refugees from Syria and other Arab countries on scholarship with my father’s foundation – the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education – motivated me to create own philanthropic initiative dedicated to refugee education.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund will help 20,000 refugee youth access education over the next three years in continuing their secondary, vocational and higher education. Through partnerships with key organisations including UNHCR, Unicef and the UAE Red Crescent, the Fund is already helping 6,500 youth in Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE.
Once again, I thank Arabian Business and ITP Media Group for recognising my efforts through this award. I accept this award humbly and with the hope that it will encourage many others in our region to work together more effectively to uplift the people who most need our help.
“I accept this award humbly and with the hope that it will encourage many others in our region to work together more effectively to uplift the people who most need our help”
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair set up the fund in order to help thousands of refugees get quality education
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair accepts his award from Ali Akawi, CEO of ITP Media Group