The UAE’s Humanitarian Action and Foreign Policy

Executive Summary

The United Arab Emirates remain among the world’s top humanitarian aid donor in relation to its Gross National Income. Further, through the use of its soft power, the country has effectively won the interests of the international communities. This has led to the opening of the UAE to the world. Consequently, the global aid exhibition offers the country the opportunity to showcase its foreign aid services, while the Humanitarian Database Hub has enabled UAE firms to do business. Using its foreign aid policy, it has impacted the region through SDGs funding, offering humanitarian assistance to disaster-prone populations, and providing logistics for COVID-19 supplies. This has propelled the UAE as a friendly international donor. Therefore, soft power has become an economic tool for the economic development of the UAE. Conversely, to continue its humanitarian aid, the UAE should use the situation presented by the health crisis to strengthen its image through the provision of more assistance while creating new foreign aid management mechanisms to strengthen its global position.


Many countries use foreign aid to accomplish both political and economic objectives of their governments, enabling them to gain global recognition. Under the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Ministry, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a 2017-2021 Foreign Aid Strategy, which had three pillars with definitive goals (UAE Government, 2021). These included transport and urban infrastructure, women empowerment, and technical cooperation. The main goal was to enhance peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. Further, UAE aimed to improve people’s living conditions and reducing poverty across the globe through its foreign aid (Krzymowski, 2022). As such, it enhances these goals through humanitarian assistance to other countries in the region. Almatrooshi (2019) asserts that the UAE is one of the most generous donors in the world, as witnessed in 2016 when it was rated the sixth country globally in humanitarian aid. Further, it has maintained the top position in world aid remittances for five consecutive years. Between 1971 and the beginning of 2020, the UAE had transferred more than $80 billion in foreign aid (Krzymowski, 2022). Thus, it became among the leading countries in humanitarian assistance worldwide.

Drawing upon the available secondary literature, personal interviews, and theoretical frameworks, the study examines the impact of humanitarian aid and development plans concerning the UAE’s foreign policy. Similarly, it aims to decern whether the aforementioned policy enhances its agenda and the effectiveness of soft power tools. It concludes by looking at the foreign policy’s future: whether it is sustainable or an economic development stumbling block for the UAE. Therefore, this paper will augment previous research on international relations, whereas case studies on the UAE’s assistance to Iran and Egypt indicate the deepening cooperation between these countries through foreign aid.


This research paper sought to answer the following questions below.

Main Question

Has the United Arab Emirates’ foreign aid policy enhanced the fulfillment of its agenda?


  1. Is it effective as a soft power tool for the UAE?
  2. Is foreign aid policy sustainable in the future or it is a hindrance to the United Arab Emirates’ economic development?

The UAE has published annual reports on its humanitarian efforts. Further, through its foreign affairs and international cooperation ministry, the country has carried out more analysis of its aid work. However, there are few studies on the UAE’s soft power tenet about foreign aid and its cooperation with other states. This paper utilizes various studies to add to the development of research on the aforementioned topic. To that end, the work by Krzymowski (2022) “Significance and Role of the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Aid for its SDGs and Soft Power,” evaluates various elements and their role in Sustainable Development Goals. It shows how the country has propelled its humanitarianism toward the UN agenda.

Similarly, the report details the country’s assistance in the region and specific states assisted. The UAE Government (2021), highlights the 2017-2021 strategy, while Gökalp (2020) in “the UAE’s Humanitarian Diplomacy Enhancing International Recognition,” recognizes the country’s ODA remittance. The author analyses the country’s role in enhancing its global image. In addition, the paper evaluates other studies on the country’s assistance in the region. As such, it borrows from Shahrour’s (2020) work “Theoretical Perspective on Foreign aid Policy” highlighting the UAE’s leaders’ contribution to foreign aid, and OECD (2021), which evaluates the United Arab Emirates’ multilateral and bilateral contributions. Consequently, critical evaluation of the aforementioned studies and other research based on the applied analysis by various authors led to the results herein.

On the other hand, the paper comprises three parts, with chapter one consisting of an introduction to the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy and the definition of international aid. Section two discusses the UAE’s foreign aid policy, its profile, the reasons for its humanitarianism, and the importance of assisting the countries. Chapter three highlights the case studies of Egypt and Iran and concludes by giving recommendations on how the UAE can improve its international image through its foreign aid policy.

Foreign Aid

Perhaps the main question many researchers ask is: what is foreign aid? Williams (2021) asserts that it is the transfer of goods, services, and capital between countries or by international organizations to another state to assist the populations therein. This can be through economic or emergency humanitarian aid, especially during the occurrence of disasters. Further, it is viewed as an adaptation that results from new changes experienced in the international environment (Krzymowski, 2022). In addition, it encompasses various elements such as commodities, transfer of technical expertise or training, and financial resources from one country to another. Similarly, funds can be given in the form of concessional credit, which involves exports or bilateral grants between states (Williams, 2021). Official Development Assistance (ODA) is the most prevalent type of foreign aid and it is used to eradicate poverty and enhance development, with its primary source being bilateral grants and sometimes loans.

Similarly, countries provide aid to others to increase their security capabilities; hence economic assistance can be seen as leverage for setting a military base in foreign countries (Williams, 2021). Moreover, it is used to avert a government being influenced by another state with different political ideologies from the donor country. Furthermore, donations can be a means to diplomatic goals enabling an organization to be recognized and supported by other states in international bodies as well as accessing foreign officials (Williams, 2021). Foreign aid helps in promoting a country’s language, religion, and culture. Some donors use it for marketing their products, where the recipient is required to use the funds to purchase goods from the aiding country. It relieves suffering caused by famine, war, and diseases hence promoting economic development while enhancing the strength of governmental institutions to counter problems such as environmental degradation and terrorism (Williams, 2021). Conversely, foreign aid is multifaceted, and as such, it is hard to identify the most important purpose as several programs that are supported by the grant are launched simultaneously by recipient entities.

On the other hand, developments in the world arena led to the UAE’s prominence in helping other countries. As such, the new paradigm in global affairs that occurred in 2011 during the Arab-Spring movements led to a fundamental impact on international relations resulting in major political, military, and economic changes (Krzymowski, 2022). Consequently, this influenced the UAE’s foreign aid policy immensely as it began to strengthen its position in Northern Africa and the Middle East hence starting and implementing many projects. Furthermore, the UAE undertook various international roles to realize its dominance in the Middle East (Krzymowski, 2022). For instance, it became a donor and invested resources in friendly countries to promote their development and prosperity.

In addition, it adopted the role of a promoter, enhancing and championing partnerships among new friends. Therefore, by implementing its foreign aid policy, the United Arab Emirates has contributed immensely to its influence on international affairs. As a result, this has enabled it to pursue its objectives effectively in the international arena. Notwithstanding, foreign aid has led to the enhancement of its soft power strategy initiated in 2017 (Krzymowski, 2022). Similarly, there is a correlation between UAE’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and foreign aid as it enhances the country’s international image. Furthermore, the role of donations as implemented by the UAE has cemented its position and presence as a powerhouse in the humanitarian world.

Background to Foreign Aid

Since time immemorial, the act of assistance between kingdoms or countries has been taking place. Further, during ancient times foreign aid was through military support to warring friendly and strategic states (Williams, 2021). Similarly, it was prominent in the 18th century during the Prussian kingdom, assisting some countries. Moreover, in the 19th and 20th centuries, many European countries began increasing their economic output by providing aid in the form of money to the former colonies to improve infrastructure (Williams, 2021). Furthermore, the backbone of the modern foreign aid experienced today can be traced to the aftermath of World War II. Williams (2020) expounds that through the Marshall Plan, the US reinstated more than seventeen world economies, leading to the establishment of international organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, and the United Nations. These global entities continue to play an integral part in determining, allocating, and evaluating the eventual impact of foreign aid on a country.

Conversely, postwar aid programs initiated by France and the United Kingdom resulted from early assistance given to their colonies. However, during the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union used foreign aid to enhance political alliances, where assistance was used to punish countries that aligned themselves with either side (Williams, 2021). For instance, in 1947, the US gave aid to Greece and Turkey as a political incentive to prevent them from becoming communist states. Further, following the death of Stalin in 1953, allies of the Soviet Union provided aid to other developing countries to promote their economies and become partners (Williams, 2021). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States started using foreign aid as a peace-making and transition to democracy tool, especially in former communist states.

Other countries such as Japan developed programs that saw many states, especially in South Asia and Africa benefit. Further, since 2013, China has become a major donor to the African continent, offering loans to the countries for infrastructure development (Williams, 2021). On the other hand, with the establishment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD), foreign aid is remitted through the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) comprising countries such as the US, Japan, Australia, and Canada. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates, China, South Korea, and Turkey are some of the countries that provide significant assistance across the globe. In addition, in 1970 the United Nations set a 0.7% gross national income as foreign aid target for every member country (Williams 2021). However, only a few member countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, have maintained their set targets. The UAE is the other only country outside Europe that has met the above target over the years.

The UAE’s Contribution to Foreign Aid

The United Arab Emirates continues to champion donations to other countries across the region and beyond. As aforementioned earlier, it has led for 5 years in the remittance of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a part of the Gross National Income hence exceeding the target by 0.52% (Almatrooshi, 2019). Furthermore, for the aforementioned period, it was the largest donor of ODA as compared to other countries. In addition, from 2013 to 2018, seven countries met the UN 0.7 percent requirement, with the UAE being the only non-DAC member to remit 1.22% of its GNI (Almatrooshi, 2019). Further, records by the OECD show that the United Arab Emirates has donated much money in recent years. Krzymowski (2022) concurs that the UAE was in the first position globally for four years in remitting its Gross National Income. Furthermore, it remains the only state outside Europe to feature among the top 10 list of countries meeting their GNI requirements.

EAU as the top world Gross National Income donor
Figure 1. EAU as the top world Gross National Income donor (Krzymowski, 2022).

Similarly, the country has ensured that a percentage of its total revenues are earmarked for foreign aid. For instance, in 2017 it gave funds for development assistance with a value of Dh 19.3 billion, equivalent to 1.31% of the total national income (Almatrooshi, 2019). The country does not only lead in meeting the UN set targets but also, it is in the forefront of fighting poverty. Following the rampant destitution in the least developed countries, the UAE met the target of 0.7% of its GNI as set by the United Nations (Almatrooshi, 2019). Moreover, the country became increasingly generous in its humanitarian assistance. For instance, in 2015 when war broke out in Yemen, the UAE’s foreign was $8.804, while in 2019 it recorded a total of $8.005 million respectively.

United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Aid from 2013 to 2019
Figure 2. United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Aid from 2013 to 2019 (Krzymowski, 2022).

The 2017-2021 Foreign Aid Strategy

Before coming up with the five-year plan, the new ministry launched various strategies aimed at revamping the country’s international image. For instance, the strategy with the caption “promoting prosperity and global peace” outlined the UAE’s foreign assistance for the next 5 years (Al-Saif, 2020). Furthermore, it emphasized three key areas in the provision of foreign aid through which the country could choose to highlight its brand, indicating both financial and technical aid to other countries. Moreover, foreign aid is first among the four pillars as it encompasses fundamental values through which the UAE was founded. The country’s participation in international activities is geared toward peace, stability, and tolerance.

The second pillar involves technical cooperation, which contributes to the increment of their foreign assistance to other states. Further, the third strategy involves active participation in the international organizations’ multilateral diplomacy. Consequently, the UAE has increased its cordial relations with other global entities, such as the European Union and the United Nations. This has resulted in the location of the world headquarters of the Renewable Energy Agency in the UAE’s capital city (Krzymowski, 2022). In addition, the last pillar is realized through the organization of various international events where the country reports initiatives that are crucial in the global community, including its foreign aid.

Nevertheless, the strategy defines various goals that are connected to the aforementioned pillars. The first goal is geared towards bettering people’s lives and reducing poverty across the globe. In addition, the second objective is working for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. Subsequently, the UAE is keen on establishing alliances and strengthening relations with other states. As a result of the coalitions, the country can expand investments and trade for the benefit of the developing partner countries (Krzymowski, 2022). In line with this, three priority sectors, including women empowerment, infrastructure, and good governance, were prioritized. These areas have been viewed as sectors with myriad opportunities through which the UAE showcases its developments hence strengthening its brand (Krzymowski, 2022). Concurrently, it links the country’s activities in line with the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.

On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates’ international aid is seen to serve other purposes. Al-Saif (2020) reiterates that towards the end of 2016, the country had channeled aid with a monetary value estimated at $60 billion, and in 2018 alone, it contributed 7.79 billion US dollars to 42 states. Although the UAE government affirms that foreign aid is for humanitarian purposes only, it advances other motives, such as enhancing its soft power, broadening the states’ international standing, and attaining political objectives (Al-Saif, 2020). Other Gulf countries view the UAE’s policy on foreign assistance as advanced and professional in the way it is carried out. However, it has been bureaucratized with various changes undertaken by the government over the recent years. For instance, the office for foreign affairs coordination was established in 2008 whereas in 2013 another ministry for international cooperation and development was created. Further, in 2016 foreign affairs and coordination were matched by combining six ministries (Al-Saif, 2020). This showed the importance of foreign aid as the son of the founding president was appointed to head the amalgamated ministries.

Moreover, globally, many states view assistance from other countries as an element of that state’s foreign policy. Therefore, it is a tool used for the pursuit of their national interests (Krzymowski, 2022). This is true when analyzing the UAE’s aid data which is implemented on a point-of-need basis. Further, the assistance was more pronounced in those countries with conflicts or wars as well as in response to the prevalent international environment (Krzymowski, 2022). In addition, aid was used for economic and geopolitical goals.

The percentage of foreign aid given to countries by the UAE from 2013 to 2019
Figure 3. The percentage of foreign aid given to countries by the UAE from 2013 to 2019

Nevertheless, another motive is the interdependence of their neighboring Arab states, such as Egypt and Yemen, on the United Arab Emirates for donations. Consequently, in 2013 the UAE remitted 375% of foreign aid to other countries, with Egypt taking 78.6 percent of the total, while in 2018 half of its donations went to Yemen (Al-Saif, 2020). To further its objectives, the UAE has committed to assisting foreign aid recipient states in achieving their SDGs. However, Al-Saif (2020) asserts that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; recession is likely to make the UAE reevaluate its foreign aid strategy since it cannot relinquish the policy. As such, to manage its foreign mandate post-coronavirus era, there is a need for a dialogue focusing on national priorities; hence this could affect its foreign aid efforts in the long run.

The UAE’s Foreign Aid Policy

Theoretical Perspective on Foreign Aid Policy

In many countries, foreign aid policy is an underpinning of their complex and amorphous foreign policies. While it is a sub-field of a state’s international relations outlook, a country’s diplomacy seeks to elucidate the correlation between external environments and internal forces (Shahrour, 2020). Similarly, various schools of thought try to explain the reasons behind a country’s foreign aid policy. On one the hand, some believe that inherent state structures dictate its international outlook, while on the other hand, the necessity to participate in global affairs by countries forms its basis. Shahrour (2020) concurs with the neorealists’ view of foreign policies as an outcome of the international forces and structures that shape the resultant laws. On the other spectrum, the Marxist perspective alludes that political economy is among the major factors considered in statecraft. As such, uneven resource distribution between central and periphery states in the international system dictates the type of foreign policy to be implemented by a country (Shahrour, 2020). Furthermore, there are those with the view that laws focusing on global affairs are products of a leader’s traits and the inherent internal dynamics of a state.

On the other hand, the aforementioned views do not explain the reasons behind the UAE’s foreign aid policy and therefore, there is a need to explore a more precise definition. Pointing to their inadequacy, Galal (2020) highlights that the above frameworks do not apply to the study of small states’ external laws, thereby suggesting the need for a more robust analysis. Formerly referred to as Gulf Cooperation Council States, the United Arab Emirates’ international law on donation can be analyzed through a multi-contextual approach that encompasses different steps. Consequently, the country’s foreign aid policy consists of three phases. Where the first level involves the evaluation of its domestic composition, including state history, socio-political contexts, and its decision-making process (Shahrour, 2020). Further, regional level analysis elaborates on the security, economic and political dynamics inherent in geographically associated countries. In addition, the third level involves influences realized by countries from the international system structures and global powers (Shahrour, 2020). Therefore, this approach comprehensively analyzes the Gulf’s ever-changing internal, regional and foreign dynamics, thus shaping the UAE’s foreign aid policy.

The UAE’s Foreign Aid Policy

The United Arab Emirates’ foreign aid policy is enshrined in its humanitarian objectives. It focuses on the reduction of poverty and the improvement of human life, especially among the underprivileged communities, and the promotion of relations with aid recipient countries (Krzymowski, 2022). Further, it encourages economic cooperation with other developing states and their donor counterparts. In addition, the UAE’s foreign policy is not limited by geography, the recipient’s religion, color, or race (UAE Government, 2021). It embodies the principle of tolerance right from within the country. As such, it is geared towards the enhancement of cordial relations between the United Arab Emirates and other countries. Moreover, by building coalitions throughout the world, it wants to expand its investment and trade with member countries (Krzymowski, 2022). Although most of its aid programs are based in the Arab world, UAE’s foreign aid proves the adaptive nature of its foreign policy.

Started by the founding president Zayed bin Sultan, it stresses aid and humanitarian assistance as the main pillars of the country’s foreign policy. Furthermore, the initiator’s underlying belief in international cooperation among countries while upholding the principle of non-interference and dispute resolution through peaceful means has led to tremendous success in the UAE’s foreign aid policy. According to the current leader Khalifa bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates enjoys international respect resulting from its diplomacy founded by his late father, who laid a firm foundation (Almatrooshi, 2019). As such, it is based on the UAE’s commitment to the Gulf, Arab neighbors, friendliness with other countries around the world, respect for sovereignty, and non-aggression and interference in states’ matters. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy is confined to the principles of international law, the UN Charter, and peaceful conflict resolution (Almatrooshi, 2019). As a result, it acts as a guide when undertaking international activities, especially during aid donations.

Further, the adherence to the UN Charter, respect for good neighborliness, and honor for international treaties enabled the country to carry out its aid agenda smoothly. The United Arab Emirates entrenches the rule of law, human rights, and justice for all and emphasizes the provision of an enabling environment for all residents and citizens (Almatrooshi, 2019). This emanates from its realistic policies that focus on economic development with the populations at the center. Similarly, UAE’s government sees it paramount to invest in the citizens with tolerance and acceptance while ensuring there is gender equality. Through its foreign policy, it enhances state protection against sectarianism and extremism hence maintaining governmental stability.

In addition, before coming up with the final approach to international affairs, the country had to consider the best strategy to implement. Therefore, during the policy formulation that focused on the provision of assistance, the United Arab Emirates adopted sustainable development and mankind’s welfare development as its main objective (Almatrooshi, 2019). It emphasized the EAU’s commitment to the support of the SDGs as espoused by the international community to be achieved by 2030. Consequently, the policy is people-centered and geared towards the alleviation of human suffering across the world. Almatrooshi (2019) asserts that since its foundation in 1971, the UAE has espoused a foreign aid policy marked by moderation, wisdom, and support for justice based on dialogue between states. As a result, the strategy has enabled the country to make strides in the humanitarian world.

Sustainable Development Goals

Attaining Sustainable Development Goals through its foreign aid policy are some of the ways the UAE positions the country in the world. The United Arab Emirates initiated a 5-year foreign aid strategy in 2016 that was tied to its support for the SDGs to be achieved by 2030 and the global community (Almatrooshi, 2019). Further, by achieving the aforementioned goals, the country aims at ending various maladies befalling the world society. Thus, it intends to find a solution to all forms of poverty, ensuring quality education and inclusivity, and gender equality, especially among girls and women. In addition, promote sustainable economic development, build resilient modern infrastructure, fosters innovations, promote inclusive and peaceful societies and enhance global partnership aimed at the attainment of sustainable development (Krzymowski, 2022). Further, the UAE has made an imprint in the global community as one of the countries at the forefront of attaining SDGs through its foreign aid policy which assists other states in achieving the same.

Various activities illustrate how the country has taken an active role in the international arena to see that other countries are on the right track to attaining Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, in implementing the United Nations Agenda 2030 through its foreign aid and the inherent results, the UAE has incorporated the Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) (Krzymowski, 2022). Furthermore, it funds the international federations for the Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies with its aid covering natural disasters mainly. Similarly, it provides financial support to the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, among other United Nations agencies (Krzymowski, 2022). On the other hand, while the UAE uses its foreign aid policy as a conduit for its international activities, the SDGs strive as led to deepening relations between the country and other nations, especially in the European Union, for many years.

UAE’s Foreign Aid Policy and Global Cooperation

Many scholars have argued that the UAE’s foreign policy, to a large extent, is concerned about its global image. Shahrour (2020), asserts that identity factors influenced the Emirati global aid strategy during the reign of Sheikh Zayed. Therefore, the sense of being part of the larger Arab nation made the leaders look for a foreign policy that was geared toward common interests among their neighbors.

Although it was, to some extent, aimed at gaining international recognition, it was an expression of solidarity with the Muslim states. Further, it pursued a foreign aid policy amounting to ten percent of its Gross Domestic Product during the 1980s (Shahrour, 2020). Conversely, the UAE’s geographical size, location, and strength it relies on external cooperation to ensure its national security. Notwithstanding, the country has been an ally of the US for a long time and the two countries have participated in most military operations in the Middle East (Shahrour, 2020). In addition, under the leadership of Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s foreign aid policy oscillates between economic liberalism and secular ultra-authoritarianism, as overseen by Sheikh.

On the other hand, the country has made tremendous steps by setting goals and milestones to be achieved at a specific period. For instance, its foreign aid policy is tied to the UAE’s 2017-2021 strategy launched by the country’s ruler in 2010 (Almatrooshi, 2019). Consequently, it has four pillars based on unity whereby, first, it emphasizes responsibility in which people’s heritage is seen as the background to their success and oneness. United in destiny describes the UAE’s togetherness as a country with a common future. The third pillar highlights the importance of knowledge which leads to innovation and an improved economy for all citizens (Almatrooshi, 2019). Similarly, it envisions a sustainable and nurturing environment for the people hence the quality of life. Furthermore, in supporting vision 2021, the guidelines presuppose that internationally, the UAE will enhance diplomacy, host global events, and build on developmental and humanitarian assistance (Almatrooshi, 2019). Similarly, there are four key elements in the United Arab Emirates’ foreign aid policy. The foremost component highlights there the need for effective foreign aid that entrenches the country’s values while enhancing its reputation.

Consequently, the UAE pledges to help communities and people to build prosperous nations while promoting peace, stability, and tolerance. Second, there is an emphasis on technical cooperation geared toward the enhancement of foreign assistance. To develop the country, the government believes that its citizens have wealth, expertise, and knowledge that can be utilized by other developing states and this in turn, will make the UAE prosperous. In addition, the technical knowledge is valuable as well as its financial assistance. Third, through active participation in multilateral organizations’ activities such as economic development, peace and stability, renewable energy, and security; the country boosts its image (Almatrooshi, 2019). Fourth, as a global hub, the UAE boasts of promoting international events and other initiatives hence bringing people together to learn, debate issues, and collaborate on challenges facing the globe.

As a result, the UAE has built coalitions with other countries aimed at expanding its investment and trade while creating many opportunities for its government to promote its brand. Moreover, the 2017-2021 strategy remains to be seen as the UAE’s creative modification of its foreign policy to suit the changing times on the world scene (Krzymowski, 2022). The aforementioned elements show how foreign aid policy is envisaged and becomes the core of its international cooperation activities.

Profile of the United Arab Emirates’ Aid

In the beginning, the Emirati’s contribution was unknown, and as such, scant and few details on the country’s portfolio were available. However, in 2009 the country started submitting its project data to the OECD where its humanitarian assistance constituted 18 percent of the country’s total foreign aid (Cochrane, 2021; Gökalp, 2020). Currently, the United Arab Emirates is leading in foreign aid contribution as a fraction of its gross national income. Cochrane (2021) asserts that the UAE started attracting attention to its aid portfolio in 2013 when it increased its contribution significantly, although it had been identified earlier as a leader in Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid in the region. Furthermore, its remittance has been on a significant increment even before the new millennium. In 1995 and 1999, the UAE’s ODA/GNI was at 0.24% and 0.26% and between 2000 and 2004, the country’s OECD average was 0.22% and 0.25 percent respectively (Cochrane, 2021). As a result, the country’s aid profile shows a long history as a donor with high contributions to its gross national income.

The UAE values foreign aid to other countries, a vision from the founding president Zayed Al Nahyan who believed that the country’s wealth will be beneficial if channeled to needy people. Further, the country is working to assist the vulnerable and as such, it has been ranked among the best providers of ODA in the world. The UAE Embassy in Washington DC (n.d.) asserts that from 2016 to 2018, the United Arab Emirates assisted 147 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa with funds valued at $5.26 billion. Furthermore, the country’s major relief and aid agency has been the Red Crescent. Similarly, it provided humanitarian relief and development aid to the aforementioned regions with a long-term plan of development cooperation aimed at the promotion of prosperity and world peace (UAE Embassy in Washington DC, n.d.). Moreover, it remains committed to enhancing the development of partner states around the world.

Official Development Assistance through Multilateral and Bilateral Organizations

Looking at various aid sectors, the country has been at the forefront in ensuring that foreign assistance to other states is carried out as per the multilateral and bilateral agreements. In line with this, the UAE provided $1.7 billion for development assistance which represented 0.48 percent of its 2020 gross national income (OECD, 2021). However, the remittance was lower as compared to the previous year. It was a 26.3% volume decrease from the 2019 GNI, while in the UAE’s gross ODA profile, 27.8 percent and 72.2% of the aid was given as non-grant and loans, respectively (OECD, 2021). In addition, in 2019 the country provided a high percentage of its bilateral contributions to other organizations. Consequently, sixteen percent of the total 95.9% gross official domestic assistance was channeled through the multilateral organizations, with 4.1% earmarked for core contribution to the same entities during the year (OECD, 2021). This shows how the country is committed to fulfilling its international aid portfolio.

When comparing the previous years, there has been a decrease in terms of remittance. As such, contributions by the UAE to the multilateral system in 2019 were $546.7 million of its gross ODA; being a reduction of 32.5% of its total contributions when compared to 2018(OECD, 2021). Similarly, in 2019 the United Arab Emirates’ multilateral contributions were channeled to the UN. As a result, the United Nations received 94.5% of the total aid which translated to $517 million with UNICEF and the World Food Program getting 56.1 and 237.8 million dollars, respectively (OECD, 2021). Conversely, the UAE’s bilateral contributions and spending have been on the decline between 2018 to 2019. OECD (2021), highlights that the country provided $ 2.6 billion, which was a decrease of about 38 percent as compared to the previous spending, whereas its program aid comprised 57.1% of its bilateral ODA. The aforementioned aid is not only given to international organizations but also disbursed to civil societies (CSOs) in the recipient countries.

Moreover, in both 2018 and 2019, the United Arab Emirates channeled $344.3 million to CSOs for the implementation of projects initiated by the donor country (OECD, 2021). Therefore, it has the upper hand on the programs to be undertaken by those governmental and community organizations in the specific states that receive the donations. On the hand, there are thematic focus and geographical concentration of the UAE’s aid. For instance, since 2018 it has focused on Africa and Asia wherein in 2019 it remitted $1.3 billion and $181.2 million, respectively (OECD, 2021). This has led to numerous programs starting in these regions.

Similarly, much of the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral aid has been allocated to various sectors in the recipients’ economies. Therefore, the country’s commitments amounted to $1.5 billion, with the program assistance sector racking 60.6% of the total amount, while infrastructure took USD 106.2 million, and humanitarian aid was allocated 562.7 million (OECD, 2021). Further, it committed a percentage of its 2019 total aid to promote trade development in developing countries hence integrating into the global economy. In addition, the UAE allocated 73.9% of its total bilateral aid to women’s empowerment and gender equality which was an increase of 17.8 percent from 2018 translating to $ 921.5 million (OECD, 2021). On the other hand, all the above allocations are handled by the foreign affairs and international cooperation ministry, which prioritizes policies and maps a geographical focus on the main government engagement. Furthermore, in 2016 the ministry launched the UAE’s 2017-2021 development cooperation strategy with the role of coordinating all donation activities, especially the Abu Dhabi Fund ensuring their alignment with civil societies, private donors, and philanthropy.

The UAE’s 2019 total ODA disbursement through various government agencies
Figure 4. The UAE’s 2019 total ODA disbursement through various government agencies (OECD, 2021).

Analysis of the early stages of the UAE’s foreign aid profile shows it considered Muslim and Arab identities. However, recent records indicate that these priorities have changed tremendously hence the major recipients of current aid are Africa and Asia. For instance, between 2009 and 2018, much of the Emirati ODA went to North Africa, especially to Egypt and Morocco (Cochrane, 2021). Furthermore, there has been a shift in its focus to more countries globally. Consequently, aid between 2010 and 2017 indicates that between 70 and 113 countries were assisted in that period, while monetary value increased from $339 million to $1.1 billion, respectively (Cochrane, 2021). In addition, some states remained constant ODA recipients, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Others included Palestine, which in 2009 and 2010 received USD 230 and $87 million, respectively (Cochrane, 2021). The funds are mostly given in bilateral forms from the UAE to the recipient countries.

In addition, it has complied with international reporting requirements and maintained transparency in its aid flows hence becoming among the top countries with best accountability practices. Consequently, it has become among the best-performing countries in foreign aid remittance after launching the 2016-2026 foreign assistance policy (OECD, 2021). Further, the UAE is currently enhancing its activities through the foreign affairs and international cooperation ministry. This involves the alignment of the development fund from all the civil society, and other ministries (OECD, 2021). In the COVID-19 pandemic response, the country has provided medical aid, including personal protective gear, testing kits, ventilators, and other supplies of weight worth over 1944 tons to many countries around the world (OECD, 2021). The UAE is looking to the future past the current aid period and has started mobilizing resources from philanthropy and the private sector.

Similarly, the United Arab Emirates has made advancements in cementing its role as a regional leader in aid. Further, its strategic investments in the development and foreign assistance sectors have led to the establishment of various organizations, that have boosted its profile as a world donor. For instance, the international humanitarian city founded in 2013 has been voted the largest hub in the philanthropist world (Cochrane, 2021). In addition, through the initiatives, the country has positioned itself as a major donor as well as a partner with other nations. Furthermore, this has led to his leading role in both the global and south-to-south cooperation (Cochrane, 2021). The UAE’s aid agenda has been boosted by the hosting of various events. The 2012 G77 Science and Technology conference and the 2016 South-South Global Development Expo; an annual event by the UN, marked the UAE as an economically stable country (Cochrane, 2021). Therefore, its approach to aid has elevated its status in the international community.

Reasons Why the UAE Provides Humanitarian Aid

At the heart of its charity work, the UAE is committed to helping other countries by sponsoring developmental projects to boost their growth. It addresses the plight of the affected people in the specific countries through various initiatives by charities, with much of its foreign assistance going to humanitarian aid. Gökalp (2020) expounds on the UAE’s role in philanthropy by pointing out how it has become a global powerhouse with political, economic, and institutional capabilities for achieving its foreign policy objectives in the global arena. Further, through humanitarian aid in various states and its engagement with other international bodies and European countries, the UAE, consolidates its image as a powerful country.

On the other hand, its continuous contribution to the UN agencies and other international organizations enables the UAE to have more leverage in the current aid world dominated by Western states. In 2009, while funding the IMF, the UAE’s Central Bank governor asserted that they could assist with the condition that their country is recognized globally (Gökalp, 2020). These are some of the reasons behind its humanitarian aid to countries and international agencies. Gökalp (2020) highlights that the United Arab Emirates intertwines its development goals into the country’s humanitarian agenda, especially in states where they have both political and economic interests. Therefore, it becomes an avenue to advocate for its policy goals and cement international relations.

Conversely, the astounding humanitarian aid provided by the UAE has made other world powers acknowledge its geopolitical ambitions, which are responsive to regional challenges other countries face. Gökalp (2020) postulates that philanthropy has been formulated strategically as a component of the Emirati’s foreign aid for the sole purpose of serving their economic interests in Africa, the Middle East, and the world. Consequently, humanitarianism has been embraced as a 21st foreign policy innovation used by the UAE to achieve its international goals. Further, as part of its foreign policy, aid is used as a pragmatic approach to political challenges while asserting its economic power over rivals and partners hence expanding its influence in the international arena (Gökalp, 2020). Therefore, with the ever-expanding logistical ability in the humanitarian sector, the UAE has become a successful entity amid a challenging environment marked by disasters.

While marking the 50th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates in 2021, the government unveiled ten principles guiding its undertakings both within and outside the country. Gökalp (2022) asserts that the UAE’s humanitarian aid is a major component of the country’s moral duty and vision to the less fortunate populations while it is endeared toward world peace and harmony through dialogue. Further, it strives to establish global and regional stability through partnership hence, stressing the purpose of giving its aid. On the other hand, during its address to the United Nations Security Council in June 2021, the UAE highlighted that humanitarian aid occupied the main position in their country’s vision of helping other countries develop (Gökalp, 2022). Perhaps this illustrates some of the reasons why the UAE is at the forefront of foreign assistance.

Institutionalization of Humanitarian Aid

Started by the first president, humanitarianism, just like foreign aid plays an important role in the UAE’s international engagements. The founding of the Red Crescent in 1983 opened doors to the country’s involvement in philanthropy and it has become one of the most important prominent institutions in humanitarian aid (Krzymowski, 2022). In addition, numerous institutions have been opened by the government to implement its foreign assistance projects. The UAE became a member of the Red Cross and Crescent, while the founding of Sharjah Charity International in 1989 saw it become a major humanitarian organization assisting people globally (Krzymowski, 2022). As such, it has provided aid during wars and natural disasters. In addition, by making Sheikha Fatima, the wife of the institution’s president, an honorary chairwoman, it elevated the status of the aforementioned charity organization hence receiving more funds. Further, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Charity and Humanitarian Establishment (MBRCH) founded in 1997, focused on helping the poor, orphans, widows, and those suffering throughout the world. Similarly, the UAE provided humanitarian aid to Kosovo in 1999, leading to conflict resolution, while Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADFD) provided grants to Albania as the Emirati became the largest donor to Macedonia (Krzymowski, 2022). Through the above institutions and the government, the UAE provides aid to alleviate suffering, resolve conflicts and help develop projects in the partner receiving countries.

The United Arab Emirates has become one of the leading donors to international peace stabilization crusades through the use of humanitarian aid in conflicting countries across Africa, Asia, and Europe. Gökalp (2022) expounds that the UAE has lately started using its humanitarian diplomacy according to its military interests and foreign policy in line with the UN guidelines on sustainable development in developing states. Consequently, the 21st century brought global security structure dynamism that has affected the Middle East and Africa. Following the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 the UAE founded one of the world’s largest aid centers (Krzymowski, 2022). The International Humanitarian Center (IHC) coordinates the activities of more than one hundred organizations and UN agencies concerned with aid work. Further, it promotes its agenda by partnering with and funding other institutions hence enhancing its influence through aid. Through aid, they diversify their national economies and merge the capacities in military and commercial logistics where the UAE has transnational space, including highways, docks, ports, warehouses, and free zones owned and operated by the state (Gökalp, 2020). Therefore, this becomes a business venture for the country to diversify its resources. Conversely, the IHC has become vital in strengthening ties with humanitarian organizations and the UN, attracting private companies to the UAE hence expanding the Emirati sector to include the country’s humanitarian logistics (Gökalp, 2020). Furthermore, with the introduction of a digital platform in Dubai recently, the state’s humanitarianism has moved to the next level. The Humanitarian Logistics Database (HLD), established in 2018 opened a leeway for the UAE’s transport firms to facilitate the transfer of aid to new least, developed countries (Gökalp, 2022). This was an avenue for the country to diversify its economic empowerment and increase its humanitarian generosity, increasing its global dominance in logistics.

Further, after the UAE’s Red Crescent was voted the second-best organization in the Asian continent for helping needy cases, the country’s image was elevated as well as the, strengthening of its global position. Furthermore, in 2004 it launched an aid exhibition conference center, “DIHAD” which holds annual global meetings. As a result, it held the world’s attention as it became a social enterprise to showcase the services that are required in the humanitarian work by different actors attending (Gökalp, 2022; Krzymowski, 2022). Moreover, the launch of DIHAD in Dubai has led to the city becoming an international humanitarian hub attracting new initiatives and projects that offer help during emergencies such as natural disasters and crises. In addition, events such as the World Summit and the Humanitarian Forum share the country’s global assistance component (Almatrooshi, 2019).

Similarly, the starting of the Khalifa Bin Zayed foundation in Abu Dhabi in 2007 realized the diversification of aid with the organization’s funding initiatives providing clean water, education, and health. This has led the humanitarian support by the foundation of more than 87 countries while it funds multilateral projects by UN agencies (Krzymowski, 2022). On the other hand, the UAE has continued to assist countries affected by political instabilities, especially after the Arab Spring upheavals. Following the aftermath of the mayhem of 2011politicaal uncertainties, the country delivered humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians while it allowed over one hundred thousand refugees, which later in 2012 increased to 240,000 people (Krzymowski, 2022). Therefore, for many decades of the UAE’s sovereignty, humanitarianism has become part of its foreign policy geared toward adapting to new challenges.

The latest COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the work of the UAE in offering help to many countries. By mid-2021, the countries had made 196 flights providing 2.154 tons of medical accessories, reaching more than 135 states, whereas the Hope consortium distributed more than 6 billion vaccines (Krzymowski, 2022). On the other hand, due to the increase in hunger due to corona, the United Arab Emirates initiated “100 million meals”. It provided food to the hungry population in more than thirty countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America (Krzymowski, 2022). The program has resulted in a special partnership between the UAE and global donors. Consequently, the UAE creatively increased its participation and, in the process, it led to cementing the country’s position in global activities.

The UAE’s Soft Power

While this is an amorphous term, the main question is: what is soft power? This is the ability of a country to use subtle actions or through proxies and unforced partners to influence other actors’ decisions to their advantage (Krzymowski, 2022). On the other hand, donations and the use of other economic resources and compulsion become the opposite of the above definition. It consists of pillars such as humanitarianism, foreign aid, sustainable development, and diplomacy (Krzymowski, 2022). Furthermore, for it to be effective and counterproductive, it must contain an economic component. In 2019, a soft power council was unveiled where the strategy was to promote the UAE’s global image as that of tolerance, modernism, and humanitarian foreign aid (Gökalp, 2020). In addition, it was the first among six pillars that were formulated in the country’s public policy framework.

Therefore, there is a need to ask the following question: can the UAE use soft power as an effective tool for its economic development? The United Arab Emirates adopted the strategy whose main purpose was to identify ways through which the country could develop and enhance its reputation. To ascertain this, we sought input from the following two people; Amal al Suwaidi and Salem Mohammed. They reiterated their views this way during recent personal interviews. “Foreign aid can be used by the UAE as a soft power tool to shape its international policy to enhance its goals” (al Suwaidi & Mohammed, personal communication, April 24, 2022). Similarly, humanitarian aid has been another crucial element that the UAE uses to promote its image hence strengthening its soft power and elevating its global position. Further, through its aforementioned elements, countries that are small in size, such as the UAE, become influential in the world. Moreover, as a tool, its impact depends on the country or organization’s brand and global inherent image.

On the other hand, the use of diplomacy as a soft power element in the international arena has resulted in rewards for the UAE. For instance, it led to the establishment of the Abu Dhabi headquarters for the agency for International Renewable Energy, where global leaders converge to find solutions for power sources. Further, the role of the country’s soft power infrastructures enables efficient delivery of humanitarian aid to Least Developed Countries. In addition, one of its tenets, the UAE is continuously building a network of modern highways and roads.

On the other hand, in the international space, the country has the best ports that play an integral role in the humanitarian world. The UAE’s Port Jebel Ali, the largest container terminal in the world is within the proximity of the humanitarian city whereas Khalifa Port is 6km from the IHC and midway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai cities (Krzymowski, 2022). Notwithstanding, it shows the value of soft power strategy which in turn enhances the smooth running of its humanitarian aid projects. In 2021, the UAE was first in Africa, the Middle East, and 17th globally in soft power rankings (Krzymowski, 2022). Nevertheless, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy has worked to the advantage of the country globally through its soft power projection. Shahrour (2020) says that after the 9/11terrorism episodes, the Emirate was viewed negatively. As such, the country had to redeem its image through heavy investments in international brands to win the world’s affection on various fronts ranging from tourism where the country built modern infrastructure, and public relations lobbying (Shahrour, 2020). In addition, by encouraging international culture through education, sports, and films the country became a global destination.

Therefore, when evaluating the importance of soft power to the UAE, it is vital to realize its numerous far-reaching implications that indicate its value. Consequently, it is an effective tool in foreign aid policy, as explicitly explained, since it has contributed immensely to the state’s role in international activities as well as building the brand (Krzymowski, 2022). Similarly, as illustrated above, it has become part of the UAE’s development as it increases the state’s influential power on the world stage thereby providing many economic opportunities for the country.

The Importance of Providing Humanitarian Aid to the Countries

Humanitarian aid provided by the United Arab Emirates plays an important role in bridging the gap between the developed and the poor countries. As such, it enhances prosperity, peace, and stability, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Working through collaborations with governments and societies across the region, it addresses crucial services in neglected communities as it built their capacities. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Aid and International Cooperation (n.d.) expounds that the importance of their foreign aid is the reduction of poverty and the improvement of the lives of poor people. Further, its objective is to cement relations with other countries including aid recipients and other humanitarian partners hence encouraging economic collaborations with developing states having common interests. As a result, this becomes a win-win situation for both the UAE and the recipient countries since they are economically empowered. Therefore, the importance of the United Arab Emirates’ humanitarian aid is two-fold; it helps other countries out of crisis and in turn, enhances its image and capacity in the global arena.

In addition, the UAE has divided its foreign and humanitarian aid into specific areas of interest. Its largest assistance component is demarcated for projects in partner countries where it is geared toward augmenting the states’ development plans by working in collaboration. In response to the above, the UAE has created three major programs including urban infrastructure and transport, women’s protection and empowerment, and good governance. Furthermore, humanitarian assistance is seen as an integral part of the country’s overall foreign aid hence, the government is ever-expanding its coverage (UAE Ministry of Foreign Aid and International Cooperation, n.d.). Similarly, the UAE seeks business opportunities in the private sector and encourages their private companies to invest and work in developing countries. Using their technical expertise, the country shares experiences and knowledge with other nations

On the other hand, over the past years, the UAE has grown to become a leader in the global humanitarian sector as it enhances generosity in its foreign aid. This underlines its dedication to improving lives as indicated in 2018 when its contributions totaled more than Dh28.5 billion (The National News, 2019). These funds were directed to the provision of emergency supplies in conflict regions and the construction of homes in some countries. For instance, the UAE facilitated humanitarian aid for cholera-prone children in Yemen, social support, and education for over 5.5 million people in camps across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine (The National News, 2019). The disbursements are directed to the neediest cases in more than 42 countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Further, in 2018, the Abu Dhabi Development Fund provided $300 million in humanitarian aid to Jordan which is a major recipient of foreign assistance (The National News, 2019). Moreover, the UAE’s aid encompasses Sustainable Development Goals highlighted by the United Nations.

Similarly, the SDGs echo the country’s emphasis on hunger and poverty eradication, gender equality, and the provision of sanitation and clean water. In 2016, the UAE allocated $4.14 billion to Sustainable Development Goals efforts where 30 percent of the allocations went to LCDs. Further, by emphasizing the economic growth of North Africa and the Middle East, the UAE gave various government grants to promote small enterprise projects (Krzymowski, 2022). Further, in 2017 it supported UN programs on disabilities in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Supporting the SDG on sustainable communities and cities, the UAE provided $414.6 million for projects in Egypt, Morocco, Mali, and Afghanistan (Krzymowski, 2022). Moreover, the UAE has given humanitarian aid to reduce hunger in many Arab countries. For example, the construction of dams in Jordan and the Sheikh Zayed Canal in Egypt is meant to provide water for the masses for agriculture (Krzymowski, 2022). The aforementioned projects are undertaken by Abu Dhabi Foundation hence the UAE uses its technical expertise and funds the work.

Moreover, numerous important contributions have resulted from the UAE’s donation, especially in support of the SDGs. They include the construction of road networks, delivery of relief items and food; building of learning centers and schools, scholarships for students, rehabilitating hospitals, and constructing and supplying power to remote villages (Almatrooshi, 2019). This has led to the improvement of the lives of many people in recipient countries across the world.

Case Studies


Over the years, much literature has been written about the reasons behind the friendliness between the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Perhaps the start of UAE’s foreign aid to the North African country was after the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011 and 2012 that led to the overhaul of countries’ international policies (Cochrane, 2021). This was in response to the then-present challenges that had unfolded. Further, the uprising led to a change of regime in Egypt and other neighboring states hence presenting a threat to many Middle East states in form of the Muslim Brotherhood (Shahrour, 2020). Consequently, the United Arab Emirates considered the suppression of such groups in the region their main priority as they became a threat to their country and other surrounding states.

Therefore, they mounted a multi-faceted and well-coordinated campaign against them in North Africa and the Middle East to counter their influence. As such, Egypt became an ally in combating the aforementioned organizations (Shahrour, 2020). The UAE backed the 2013 coup which overthrew Fatal al-Sisi and afterward they started funding the new regime. Between 2013, and early 2015 it had provided over $18.9 billion as foreign aid to Egypt while it mobilized its private sector and state-owned companies to invest in the country. Of the total money provide, $3 billion was directly injected into the central bank while $2 and $1 billion were given as loans and grants respectively (Shahrour, 2020; Cochrane, 2021). This resulted in massive developments and business between UAE companies and the Egyptian government. In addition, USD 957 million was meant to cover petroleum requirements and $503 million for house projects funded by the Abu Dhabi Finance Department (Cochrane, 2021). The aforementioned financier has provided assistance in Egypt for many programs.

On the other hand, one of the UAE’s firms was awarded a major contract in Egypt after the country’s mass assistance from the Emirati. For instance, in March 2014, the Arabtec construction company and the Army agreed on a $40 billion project (Shahrour, 2020). Furthermore, the UAE made tremendous efforts to support the Egyptian military government by financing its operations. Krzymowski (2022) points out that from 2013 to 2015 Egypt remained the major beneficiary of the UAE’s foreign aid getting, $4.63, $3.19, and $6.339 billion for the three years respectively. Conversely, the logic behind the continuous foreign is unclear to many. This is illustrated through cash transactions in four years that exceeded $16.1 billion (Cochrane, 2021). On one hand, it reminds the UAE that insurgency can topple a successful government, while on the other hand, it gives room for innovation and transfer of technical knowledge to the Egyptians through megaprojects.


The United Arab Emirates and Iran have had a conflict of interest in a supremacy battle in the Middle East for decades. Further, in the Arab Spring period, the UAE’s foreign policy was geared toward the containment of Iran’s influence in the region (Shahrour, 2020). Further, their animosity reached a climax during the Yemen war with both countries supporting opposing warring sides. In addition, the United Arab Emirates has been a United States ally and it does not augur well with Iran which is an antagonist of the US. However, the 2019 attack on UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Norway oil tankers in his territory resulted in lessening the hostility between the two states (Shahrour, 2020). Conversely, due to the event of the current global pandemic, Iran and UAE have come together to address some of the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Consequently, the United Arab Emirates became among the countries that responded by helping in the logistical section and through humanitarian assistance. On 3rd March 2020, it sent 49.1 tons of medical accessories and supplies to Iran. These consisted of 101 thousand testing kits and forty-nine thousand one hundred personnel using four planes where one of the aircraft carried 5 experts and the World Health Organization’s 7.5 metric tons of medicine and commodities (UAE Government, 2021). Further, on the 15th of the same month, the Iranian foreign minister called the UAE’s president bin Zayed Al Nahyan to thank him and confirmed receiving the humanitarian aid as they tried to deal with the crisis. In addition, on the 16th of March, the second batch of 33 metric tons of supplies such as surgical masks, gloves, and other protective gear (UAE Government, 2021). The aid was destined to help over thirty-three thousand healthcare workers and medical personnel in Iran that were in dire need.

Emirate officials highlighted the importance of his government assistance during the crisis. The UAE ambassador to Iran while lauding the efforts of his country reiterated that the United Arab Emirates’ supplies to help the crisis reflected the country’s genuine nature of humanitarianism and tolerance (Reliefweb, 2020). He went on to highlight that the UAE was with the people and leaders of countries undergoing the difficult time and will continue assisting them to save lives without considering their convictions. Furthermore, in June 2020, the United Arab Emirates sent another batch of supplies meant for medical professionals with a weight of 16.1 metric tons (UAE Government, 2021). As a result, this humanitarian aid led to the alleviation of suffering medical personnel in Iran. This shows how the UAE has transformed itself into a global donor without impartiality during emergencies.

Conclusion and Recommendations

In summation, foreign aid is the transfer of capital, goods, and services from a donor to recipient countries to address emergencies and other economic, social, and political needs. The United Arab Emirates’ assistance has impacted the region through the funding of SDGs, offering humanitarian assistance to disaster-prone populations, and providing logistics for COVID-19 supplies. As a humanitarian champion, the UAE remains the only non-European country to meet its annual ODA/GNI target over the years with the overall performance showing that foreign aid is the main element in its diplomacy. In addition, the country has used its soft power as a tool to propel itself as a friendly international donor with an irrefutable global image. As a result, the aforementioned element has become an effective component of the UAE’s economic and geopolitical future goals. In addition, the research shows that the United Arab Emirates’ timely response to crises and its global humanitarian outreach has elevated the country to be among the best foreign aid donors in the world. However, for the country to remain relevant and prepared for future challenges, the following recommendations should be implemented.

The UAE is to continue implementing its soft power and foreign policy instruments as a remedy to the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The country should use the situation presented by the health crisis to strengthen its image by providing more humanitarian aid. Further, the UAE to create new foreign aid management mechanisms in the international arena hence strengthening its global role and position. Lastly, there is a need for continuous research to show the impact of the UAE’s foreign aid past the COVID-19 era in the Least Developed Countries devastated by the pandemic.


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Two interviews were carried out independently with Amal al Suwaidi and Salem Mohammed. The respondents were asked whether foreign aid can be used by the United Arab Emirates as soft power to shape its policy and assist it to achieve its goals. Responding to the above question separately, they agreed that indeed the UAE can use humanitarianism to achieve its objectives.

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