Qatar’s extensive foreign aid programmes help tackle some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and development challenges
It is not your average day in the office. When the Director General, His Excellency Khalifa bin Jassim Al Kuwari, oversees the work of Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), he meets recipients of Qatar’s foreign aid all over the world.
They are the beneficiaries of Qatar’s foreign aid programme, established in 2002 to deliver the nation’s development pledges and commitments to other countries.
QFFD’s work started in earnest four years ago, when dedicated resources were allocated to help Qatar tackle some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and development challenges.
HE Mr Al Kuwari says: “QFFD’s mission is influenced by Qatar’s steadfast commitment towards spreading hope and promoting peace and justice through sustainable and inclusive development.”
Historically, Qatar has been a generous donor and its aid has reached many countries all over the world. In 2016, QFFD’s contributions reached USD 507 million, while in 2017 this increased by nearly 33%, to USD 674 million.
HE Mr Al Kuwari says: “Today our aid reaches over 80 countries in the form of grants, concessional loans, and technical assistance. For next year, QFFD has already signed agreements with partners and will be working in eight new countries.
“Our primary focus is to support human development by improving education and health systems and promote sustainable economic development initiatives geared towards strengthening communities’ resilience by creating jobs and improving workers’ skills.”
He adds: “Over the past four years, QFFD has been able to reach more than eight million direct and indirect beneficiaries in more than 80 countries. During that time, QFFD has developed various partnership models with national and international NGOs and multilateral organizations to ensure that its funds are efficiently used in targeting communities and individuals.”
The partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a case in point. In 2016, QFFD pledged USD 50 million to establish the Lives and Livelihood Fund (LLF).
An innovative financing mechanism, it aims to raise USD 2.5 billion over a five-year period, offering soft loans that promote human development, healthcare, and agriculture in the world’s least developed countries.
QFFD has also developed an initiative with several national NGOs and international partners to provide Syrian children affected by the war with access to education.
Qatar Upholding Education for Syrians’ Trust (QUEST) has implemented 13 projects so far, totalling USD 80 million and helping 400,000 students.
And in Tunisia, Qatar has established the Qatar Friendship Fund to support development. The fund, which partners with leading Tunisian micro-lending financial institutes and local NGOs, is helping create jobs by building businesses.
It is seeing these projects in action that gives HE Mr Al Kuwari his greatest sense of achievement. He says: “Each time I visit QFFD projects abroad there is an indescribable feeling of accomplishment in seeing that our work has supported students, teachers, parents, fishermen, and civil servants who live thousands of miles away from us.”
There is one project that stands out. He says: “Out of all QFFD projects, our work in Darfur has inspired me the most, as it is a concrete embodiment of what QFFD stands for.
“In Darfur, violence has forced people to abandon their homes and livelihoods, undermining the production and supply of food, resulting in acute humanitarian needs. In addition to the protracted conflict, natural hazards such as floods and droughts exacerbated the situation.”
The Reconstruction of Darfur Program is designed to support displaced persons’ return to their hometowns. It builds trust in a future based on security and stability, preventing the return of violence.
Model Service Centres have been built in five villages in Darfur targeting 150,000 people. They include a water station, health centre, primary and secondary schools, police station and a mosque. Through providing educational opportunities, health services and promoting the rule of law, these projects have had a profound impact on local communities, often influencing people’s decision to return to their villages after so much destruction.
Affordable social housing and space for establishing micro-enterprises, will form the second phase of this work, providing sustainable livelihoods for locals.
HE Mr Al Kuwari says: “I am very proud to see QFFD grow to what it has become today. A few years ago, there were only three of us in the office, and today we have nearly reached 50 employees. We still have a long way to go, but I am certain that we are on the right track.”