For the philanthropy sector, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an important shift to a new era of “collective strategic philanthropy” to better meet the challenges facing sustainable development.
In the Arab states, this represents a repositioning from using well-understood formulas of short-term giving, such as infrastructure projects and direct donations, to investing in sustainable solutions with measurable impacts. It is about tackling the root causes of the challenges of today through strategic and collaborative thinking and actions.
Previous generations of philanthropists focused primarily on charitable giving. In the Arab region they would give privately, with a humble integrity that spoke of their beliefs of civic and religious responsibility. In other regions, large-scale giving is still primarily an extension of public relations for corporations, differentiating them from their competitors.
The efforts of the previous generations have been instrumental in improving the quality of life for millions worldwide. In our increasingly globalized world, it is worthwhile to note that direct charitable giving is facing greater limitations to its potential outcomes.
Efforts that are made in isolation, or are solely donor-driven, have shown to have diffused and unfocused impacts. This sacrifices opportunities to create momentum to bring about lasting change.
A new era of collective strategic philanthropy is emerging around the world. The private and public sectors are being called upon to collaboratively design, implement, and fund interlinked, high-impact solutions to create a better and more sustainable future for all. Initiatives like the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children are galvanizing efforts to address problems that cannot be resolved by one person alone.
For years now, philanthropists have been institutionalizing their giving and operationalizing their efforts. This is allowing them to become globally-recognizedactors in the development sector, amongst others. Entire academic conferences and events like Philanthropy & the SDGs, hosted by the United Nations, are being organized around how to adapt current models to better incorporate partnerships with philanthropic organizations. The idea is to generate impact through collective action and strategic planning across sectors and priority areas.
Philanthropy has been taking a key position in this new system, as it has the advantage of being more flexible, innovative, and well positioned. Furthermore, philanthropy requires certain conditions to succeed and benefit all involved. It needs data for transparency and informed decision-making, technology to link donors and recipients, capacity-building to help make better use of existing resources, effective donor coordination, and professional accountability that builds trust between stakeholders.
So, what does this mean for the Arab region’s burgeoning philanthropic sector as it enters a new era of collective strategic philanthropy? Being driven to create sustainable impact requires Arab philanthropists to adapt and become more vocal and visible about the region’s shared culture of giving. It requires the engagement of likeminded actors across sectors to bring about sustainable progress through championing local solutions. This will drive the region’s recognition that the actors in the Arab states are key contributors to the progress of the region.
Philanthropy’s guiding principles and practices are being refined during the pandemic, as it’s been forced to further innovate to be effective in the new global reality. During these pandemic times, digital innovation is playing a key role, online learning is the new go-to solution for education, remote work has become a necessity, and new careers have emerged, pushing out some older ways of work. These are the changes that should be embraced, studied, and incorporated into more effective models of philanthropic programs and delivery of funds.
The world needs sustainable solutions to its longstanding challenges. Furthermore, the marginalization of so many Arab families, which is robbing the youth of their hope for the future, demands the Arab region’s response.
Collective strategic philanthropy has a key role to play in the upcoming post COVID-19 reality. This new era will be led by those who adopt and refine innovative and flexible frameworks for action, learning, and continuous improvement.
Calls for more funds to serve those who are facing aggravated health and economic risks in the Arab region due to the onslaught of COVID-19, have been multiplying every month since the pandemic struck in March this year.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA), in its COVID-19 appeal, has asked for $94.6 million this year alone to continue responding to the emergency needs of 5.6 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East. The funds are intended to be, among other things, spent on healthcare, direct cash assistance and education. According to UNICEF, 150 million additional children have been plunged into poverty due to COVID-19, pushing the total number to an estimated 1.2 billion.
“Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing multi-dimensional levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.
In such a grim scenario, it is not surprising that the number of appeals for funds is multiplying at an alarming rate, with governments in low and middle-income countries struggling to ensure that at least the basic needs of their populations are met.
Amidst this crisis, it is interesting to note that donors in the Arab region, and globally too, are looking at their donations in a very different way. There is a diametric shift away from giving money and counting success based on the dollar value collected and donated, to having an outcomes-focused mindset.
The increased attention on outcomes, rather than outputs, is paramount as the development sector has evolved over time. The delivery of goods or services is no longer the metric by which success is measured; rather it is more and more about “measurable benefit.”
In education, this will signify that providing training to a group of people is no longer enough for donor accountability. The training must offer upskilling to beneficiaries and pave the way for them to access better opportunities and attain elevated levels of living and livelihood. In other words, we do not need more youth earning a “certificate of completion” for a course that does not give them a better chance of getting a job.
This global shift towards “responsible giving” is arguably more pronounced among Arab philanthropists and young Arabs in general. It is operationalized through initiatives like the Gulf-backed Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at Cambridge Judge Business School, the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund and Alfanar, the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy. These are examples of initiatives that demonstrate the new ways in which Arab philanthropy is leveraging funds to achieve better results for vulnerable populations. In other words, monetary donations are an insufficient mechanism when it comes to the new way of giving in the Arab region.
Interestingly, we are now seeing education grants being given based on a competitive selection process solely to organizations that work directly with refugee and conflict-affected children and youth in the UAE, Lebanon, and Jordan. In addition, the philanthropists are embedding an impact-driven funding approach in their partnership-agreement model.
The most notable piece in this puzzle is the foundation of professional accountability within the strategic partnership model that facilitated the rapid responses needed for operators to respond to urgent situations. The result of this approach is that refugee and vulnerable Arab youth receive educational opportunities that lead to credentials even during the pandemic.
Overall, philanthropic giving in the Arab world needs to define success within the context of approaches, protocols, and procedures that lead to results-based, transparent communication between the donor and program partners. In other words, organizations must explore ways in which co-created processes allow for fiscal, technical and results-driven reporting, creating a platform for knowledge-sharing, and designing responsive solutions. If they believe that the best outcomes are enhancing the livelihoods of thousands of beneficiaries, then they need to innovate together for a measurable impact on the lives of these vulnerable individuals.
The shift to online learning that the Covid-19 shutdowns forced on universities and schools has created particular set of challenges for technical and vocational schools in the Middle East and North Africa region, where lack of access to digital devices, poor Internet connections and a widening digital divide are causing some students to fall behind.
Many technical and vocational courses rely on practical demonstrations that are difficult to translate to a digital environment, and the programs typically attract students from low-income backgrounds who are less likely to have access to digital devices.
With Covid-19 caseloads climbing and many students unable to attend class, there is concern that these young people, many of whom already live in challenging environments, will suffer a lasting impact on their education.
“There is a huge need to build digital skills amongst the most vulnerable,” says Sonia Ben Jaafar, chief executive of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, which provides scholarships and skills training to underserved students in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Jordan.
“What the Covid crisis exposed was an increase in the gender digital divide (which) adversely affects gender gaps in education, violence and higher risk of female drop-outs,” she says. “The result is girls are left behind and cultural norms dictate that online learning remains in the male domain.”
“The new Covid-19 reality taught us to re-emphasize the importance of being a flexible donor … and provide grantees with the opportunity to be creative in exploring solutions.”
Danah Dajani, Director of philanthropic partnerships of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education
In response, the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation has enabled its grantees to repurpose funds and buy laptops and data bundles for students to continue their education during the pandemic.
“The new Covid-19 reality taught us to re-emphasize the importance of being a flexible donor … and provide grantees with the opportunity to be creative in exploring solutions,” says Danah Dajani, the foundation’s director of philanthropic partnerships.
Mistrust of Online Learning
This hasn’t been easy, though. Despite the recent efforts to create functioning virtual classrooms in response to Covid-19, online learning remains far from mainstream for many schools across the Middle East and North Africa.
A survey of 1,000 Arab university students conducted by the Al Ghurair Foundation between October 2018 and January 2019 found that, while many students were willing to top up their studies with online courses, “Arab youth still have misconceptions around online learning, which seem to limit their openness to pursuing it for traditional degrees.”
This hesitancy seems particularly strong among students in vocational and technical schools.
In Sudan, Hamdan Mohamed, a student at the Department of Telecommunications Engineering at Gezira College of Technology, in Khartoum, says the online method has failed the more vulnerable in his community. “We will not benefit. The Internet is weak in Sudan and students do not have the means to afford it,” he says. Worse, additional charges have been levied for courses going online. “I decided to stop studying this year because I need to earn money,” Mohamed says.
Others struggle to engage with online lessons. In Egypt, Ahmed Saeed, 19, has been trying to keep up with his first-year mechatronics course at Beni-Suef University of Technology from his home in Alexandria, but says online teaching is no substitute for in-class training. “I am a technical high school graduate and I do not like theoretical study,” he says. “I do not feel that I have absorbed the lessons well … but we had no other solution.”
Even students who succeed in completing a program online may face frustrations as they start new jobs from home.
Two weeks into his new role as a software engineer at an IT services company in Jordan, Osama Mousa is becoming familiar with the demands of his job, but he misses the buzz of an office. “I like to be in an environment where I can mingle with friends and enjoy my work,” the 25-year-old says. “I’d prefer to prove myself in the office, but they told us that to stay safe we have to work from home.”
Mousa is in a better position than most. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Jordan, prompting one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in mid-March, he was already halfway through his course at the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair School of Advanced Computing, part of Luminus Technical University College, in Amman. The school switched to virtual classes, delivering 170 laptops to students so they could continue their studies online. “It was difficult at first but after that we learned how to communicate and ask questions virtually,” he says.
Reaching More Students Remotely
Even institutions that were operating a blended learning model before the pandemic have found the sudden shift online disruptive. Zeina Saab, the co-founder of SE Factory, which runs coding bootcamps for refugees and vulnerable youth in Lebanon, recalls a conversation with colleagues in early March, when the rising Covid-19 caseload began to have a profound impact on everyday life.
“We were really concerned. … A lot of these students needed to be in class in person. The question was how to make this experience really valid and maintain the quality of the course, even if it went online.”
At first, the dropout rate increased as power cuts and poor Internet connections interrupted classes and teachers struggled to keep students engaged as they logged in from homes that were often crowded and noisy.
It was a stressful period, says Saab, but over the last few months it’s become clear that online learning brings benefits, too, like allowing the organization to reach more students in remote areas and reducing costs for rent, transportation and refreshments. Interactive online tools like Miro, a visual collaboration software that facilitates brainstorming sessions and workshops, have also helped keep students engaged, while English classes have boosted their ability to navigate the digital space.
“The Covid crisis forced people to speed up to online. Resistance was not an option.”
Sonia Ben Jaafar Chief executive of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education
It has also helped change attitudes toward online education. “Remote learning has really been validated, even remote work. This wasn’t a culture that people openly embraced even before Covid in Lebanon,” Saab says. In the future, she feels a blended learning model would be best. “Online alone won’t work,” she says. “Even with the pandemic, people are not yet ready to go fully online. It needs to be blended.”
But the pandemic has sown the seeds for a new era of education in the region, accelerating a digital uptake that was long overdue. “The Covid crisis forced people to speed up to online,” says Jaafar, of the Al Ghurair Foundation. “Resistance was not an option.”
‘Tech Is the New Reality’
The shift comes at a time when pressure is mounting on Arab education ministries to upgrade outdated learning models and modernize curricula as labor markets evolve and job requirements change. According to a report published by the Al Ghurair Foundation, 47 percent of work activities in the region’s largest economies are likely to become automated in the coming years, requiring new skill sets that will transform the way people work.
Vocational education—which has typically prepared Arab students for low-paid jobs such as carpentry, construction, sewing and salon work—runs this risk, limiting the opportunities available to young people and failing to address market requirements by churning out hundreds of graduates for roles that are already over-subscribed.
“We need to make sure all TVET (technical and vocational education and training) courses are aligned with what the market demands and needs,” Ben Jaafar says, and “ensure the private sector is engaged from the onset.” Otherwise, it becomes the same mismatch in skills between many higher education institutes and the workforce, she adds.
And the future is decidedly online. “Tech is the new reality,” she says. “You can’t get a job and improved livelihood if you don’t have digital literacy at a minimum.”
Currently, there’s a high demand for programmers in the Emirates, where the emphasis on theoretical over practical learning at the university level leaves many graduates ill-prepared for the jobs sector. This creates a gap that organizations like Luminus, which is one of the Al Ghurair Foundation’s grantees, hope to fill.
“We’re seeing this with students graduating from the programming and software development courses, who are getting jobs they would never have been able to access previously, and they are getting them really fast, even in a pandemic,” Dajani says.
Ready for the World of Work
Since funds were repurposed during the pandemic, 150 students have been able to take online courses at the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair School of Advanced Computing, at Luminus Technical University College, and 22 have graduated so far. Of these, 14 have gained full-time employment at companies including Amazon, Bank al Etihad, and Bayt, a major Middle East job platform, with salaries starting at $1,000 a month, approximately four to six times the average wage in Jordan.
A month before finishing her course at the advanced computing school, Hidaya Syam, 22, had already landed a job doing coding work remotely for a company in Canada. After graduating from the Jordan University of Science and Technology earlier this year, she was apprehensive about her prospects. “I had a lot of fears about how I could get a job after uni because all universities in Jordan focus on theory not practical studies and I wasn’t prepared to get anything in the job market.”
Syam, who is Palestinian and lives in the Jerash refugee camp in northern Jordan, says a lot of young people like her struggle to find work, despite having degrees in relevant sectors. But since taking the course, she’s mastered some of the soft skills needed for the workplace. “After I started with ASAC I felt, OK, I can go to the job market with confidence.”
In wealthier countries, too, efforts are underway to bolster the vocational sector and furnish students with practical skills for the changing world of work. The U.A.E. government says the country needs to produce 10 Emiratis with vocational skills for every university graduate in order to achieve its goal of creating a sustainable and diversified knowledge-based economy. With a focus on new and emerging technologies, materials and systems, it is now a national priority to ensure the Emirati population is armed with skills to drive the economy of the future, beyond oil.
Co-authored by: Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children and Dr. Sonia Ben Jaafar, Chief Executive, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education
This time last year, education ‘stole the show’ at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, where hundreds of policy and financial pledges were made to get refugee children in school and learning. Twelve months on, we face a global education emergency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic – and the international response has been dismal. Only 8.4% (USD $28.6 million) of the USD $342 million required for the education sector in the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded.
2020 has been a hugely challenging year for children. In April, over 170 countries enforced national school closures, affecting 1 billion children. For the first time in human history, an entire global generation has had their education disrupted.
As of December 2020, nearly 200 million pre-primary and school-aged children are still out of education – and we know from previous crises that the longer children are out of school, the greater the risk that they do not return.
FOR REFUGEE CHILDREN, THE PANDEMIC IS PUSHING EDUCATION FURTHER OUT OF REACH
“I miss my school so much because it is my second home, and I miss my teachers,” says 14-year-old Maya, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan. Yet she is one of the lucky ones who had a place in school before the pandemic and has been able to stay connected via distance online learning provided through the government and her family’s access to a tablet.
Almost half of all school-aged refugee children and youth – 3.7 million – were out of school before the pandemic. This already dire situation will deteriorate without an effective, well-funded, and well-coordinated international education response. 85% of refugees live in low- and middle-income countries where education systems already struggle to meet the needs of marginalised communities. These countries need the international community to step up with more funding. Teaching refugee children must be a shared global responsibility.
Refugee children are even less likely than others to return to school when they reopen, with many of their families no longer able to afford school fees, uniforms, and books due to increased poverty caused by the pandemic. They are also less likely to have access to the internet and technologies needed for distance learning.
Yet refugee children critically need safe, quality and inclusive education. It’s a building block of recovery, resilience and long-term development. They, and their families, consistently identify education as a high priority.
WORKING TOGETHER TO IMPROVE EDUCATION FOR REFUGEES
While global education institutions, private sector, multi-nationals and philanthropic foundations have been implementing innovative education approaches for refugee children throughout the pandemic, funding efforts remain largely uncoordinated. Lessons and best practice from across the sector are not being shared effectively.
This is why our organisations came together with Education Cannot Wait and the World Bank to co-host a high-level, virtual roundtable to discuss key experiences, learnings and promising practices that have emerged. Today we publish an outcome paper which sets out what we learnt.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?
We discussed how donors need to increase their education funding and deliver it at speed, while focussing on accountability. We heard how the “normal” way of delivering education to refugees – in temporary learning centres or in the classroom – had been turned on its head, and how donors collaborated with partners to reallocate funding and rapidly respond to that shift. This meant delivering flexible funding to allow local organisations to be innovative and pilot, adapt and scale up new approaches to distance education (such as online, radio or paper-based materials) that are tailored to their context.
The pandemic has reinforced the need for pooled funding and collective action such as that delivered through Education Cannot Wait, the Global Partnership for Education, and the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children,
Global stakeholders need to support local and national delivery of education, including by partnering with refugees in the design and implementation of programmes. Refugee children, parents and educational communities know what they need, so involving them will be more effective and more sustainable in the long run. For example, the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund in partnership with Discovery Education is collaborating with local organisations in Lebanon to ensure that vulnerable refugee children can access high-quality digital learning resources and continue their education within public schools without interruption during the pandemic.
DISRUPTION AND OPPORTUNITY
To effectively address refugee children and youth’s access to education, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and ensure their integration in national education systems, we need to understand how best to support host countries. While this is a time of incredible disruption and change, roundtable participants emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic also presents “the moment” to develop refugee education approaches and systems that are inclusive and resilient to emergencies.
While distance learning approaches have proved instrumental in including some refugee children and youth who are traditionally excluded from education, online platforms can also create barriers. The reality for too many refugees is limited access to digital technology, unreliable internet and electricity, and cultural barriers that exclude them from access to online education solutions. UNHCR estimates that the connectivity level of refugee communities is 50% that of non-refugees.
COVID-19 could trigger the biggest reversal in education progress in modern history – and we owe it to the children and communities we serve to shift how we approach refugee education. We need to take the best of what we do now, and build it into new, sustainable approaches that are a better fit for an unknown and uncertain future. It’s only by making education systems inclusive and resilient to emergencies that we will be able to meet our promises to refugees and all children in the years to come.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund is pleased to announce that its third round for grant cycle is now live. The Fund supports high impact education programs in Jordan and Lebanon with two areas of priority. First, programs that utilize technology for upskilling youth to be better prepared for jobs needed in the labour market today. Second, strengthening access to secondary education.
Leading organisations invested in children’s education met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week to share programmatic and financial learnings developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to strengthen digital learning.
Entitled ‘Meeting our Promises on Refugee Education during COVID-19’ the virtual roundtable brought together senior government, institutional, private sector and philanthropic partners to discuss learnings and solutions that have emerged throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Co-hosted by Save the Children, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, Education Cannot Wait and the World Bank, this high-level event provided a unique opportunity for partners from across the aid sector to discuss these important education topics.
“The global pandemic crisis has exacerbated the several challenges that the refugee education was already facing. Philanthropists have a unique role in being responsive and strategic in addressing challenges during the pandemic. We came together today to confirm our commitment to continue our support to ensure that refugee education is prioritised and successfully supported with solutions that have been shown to make a difference,” said H.E Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education.
“All financing options must be pursued – additional donor resources, debt relief, as well as more efficient and equitable public spending – in order to ensure that every refugee child receives a quality education. This has always been true and is even more urgent given the exacerbation of inequalities in education service delivery resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Keiko Miwa, Regional Director, Human Development, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank.
Learnings and insights from the discussions will result in a joint paper, published to inform the sector on how to better respond to refugee children’s learning and wellbeing needs during this on-going pandemic and in the face of future such crises.
Among the attendees were senior representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Community Jameel, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the LEGO Foundation, Dubai Cares and the Olayan Foundation.
The themes of the event were:
Adapting financing mechanisms for refugee education: Philanthropists, the private sector and multilateral funding institutions shared how financing mechanisms for refugee education have been adapted throughout the pandemic, and how philanthropy can be directed strategically to complement institutional and private sector funding during crises.
Adapting education approaches to distance learning and ensuring that other school services are continued: governments, non-governmental organisations, donors and foundations that have implemented distance education shared their best practices. This included no-tech, low-tech and high-tech approaches such as distributing paper materials and the use of radio,computers, tablets, mobiles and TVs.
Organisations shared how they have continued school services that refugees rely on. These services included: school meals, health services, child protection services and mental health and psychosocial support.
The roundtable co-hosts were: His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, Dr Sonia Ben Jaafar, Chief Executive Officer, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, Keiko Miwa, Director for the Educational Global Practice, World Bank, Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait, Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children UK, The roundtable moderator was Andrew Jack, Global Education Editor, Financial Times.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Covid-19 Online Learning Emergency Fund for Refugee Education,was launched by H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair in April 2020to ensure vulnerable populations are able to continue their learning without interruption. This partnership with Discovery Education will help fill the educational gaps that have emerged because of the COVID -19 crisis. This program will reach 5,000 at-risk students in addition to over 17,500 students already being helped by REF in Jordan, Lebanon, and the UAE.
As part of the partnership with the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, and for the first time ever, Discovery Education will collaborate with local organizations in Lebanon to provide accessto a high–quality digital learning resources aligned tothe Lebanese curriculum for students in Grade 8 – 12. This partnership is a component of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund’s effort to help 5,000 refugees and marginalized youth communities transition to Grades 9 and 12 and give them a chance to succeed when sitting the critical Lebanese national examinations
Discovery Educationwill also provide Professional Learningto100 teachers to address the challenges of remote instruction, enabling them to access a diverse set of new digital tools to help them deliver online lessons to students effectively. Through a series of online workshops, including but not limited to remoteclassroom management, effective teaching strategies for enhancing learning with digital resources will be offered. Participating teachers will also become part of Discovery Educator Network, anonline community of practice comprised ofeducators from all over the globe.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Covid-19 Online Learning Emergency Fund for Refugee Education will also provide students access to devices and internet connections to ensure their Discovery Education experience is not obstructed by any technical difficulty or lack of equipment.
As students in Lebanon continue to face multi-faceted challenges with an unprecedented high risk of dropping out of school, this first of its kind partnership between Discovery Education and The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund comes in a timely manner.
The increase in dropouts from secondary education amongst refugees is alarming, whereby less than2% of Syrian refugees complete their secondary education. This program will help students catch up on the education they have missed – onand off since October 2019 – through interactive and creative online tools and pedagogies.
H.E Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and founder of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fundsaid:“The economic crisis followed by the pandemic and the devasting blast in Beirut has forced Lebanon to adapt to a new challenging reality. We are proud of this partnership with Discovery Education as digital education is the new go to solution for education, this program ensures refugees and vulnerable youth have effective access to high quality education that they would not have otherwise.”
Robin Headlee, managing director of Discovery Education International said: “Refugees and vulnerable youth in Lebanon have faced unprecedented challenges over the last year, which have posed several risks to their access to education. We strongly believe that no child or young person’s education should be halted due to external factors which are beyond their control. That’s why we are doing our part to ensure these young people have the opportunity to continue their education online, in order for them catch-up on their development and not be held back in the future.I am delighted that what started out as a kernel of an idea by two like-minded organisation has resulted in this practical, proactive and tangible project.”
H.E Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair signed the donor contribution agreementwith the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and UNICEF as the lead donor for the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children (GMPFC).
This contribution marks thefirst significant commitmentfrom a philanthropist to the Fund. The$10millioncontribution by H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair will focus on supporting refugee education programsin the Middle East and North Africa region.This contributionrepresents an important step towards the activation of the Fund.
Over a virtual signing ceremony, H.E.Abdul Aziz Al Ghurairsigned the Donor Cooperation Agreement withH.E Dr. Bandar Hajjar President ofIsDBas the trustee to the Fund. UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore, as the co-founder of the Fund, signed as a witness to the agreement.
The Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Childrenis a unique Shariah-compliant global platform for Muslim philanthropists to collectively help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for children and young people. The Fund aims to support children in need in IsDB member countries, particularly those facing humanitarian crises, by ensuring that children have access to health, education, safety and opportunity. The Fund is administered by the IsDB, which coordinates with UNICEF and donors the selection of programs and projects, which will reach children most in need and offer most long-term social benefit.
Based on shared values, theFundbrings together like-minded partners ranging from government agencies to philanthropists and foundations to harness the Islamic almsgiving and social finance for humanitarian and development purposes.
This initiative is important because it goes beyond simplypoolingresources. It offers a platform to exchange ideas and solutions with a process to promote collaboration for deliveringgreater positive impact. This effort will result in supporting results-based programs that address the challenges facing children and youth with the goal of achieving the United Nations’ SDGs.
The Fund will address cross sectoral emerging needs in education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, early childhood development, youth empowerment and more.
The signing of the Donor Cooperation Agreement is timely, given the unprecedented challengesresultingfrom the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis, as the Fund could play an important role in coordinating and channeling Muslim donor support to mitigate the public health and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these vulnerable populations.
With IsDB’swealth of experience and expertise in project design and implementation combined with its drive for innovative solutionsthat canaddress the multifaceted challenges facing children and youth, and UNICEF’s deep commitment to children across the globe and its strong field presence in allIsDBmember countries,this strategic partnershipwill enhance joint actions through an effectivemulti-stakeholder approach and results-orientedprogramming process.
Commenting on this partnership, H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said: “Wehave tohave collective action if we are serious aboutmaking thepositive impact that is urgently neededand I hope that this partnership will encourage other philanthropists to follow suit. It is an opportunity to show howMuslim philanthropy is strategic.”
In the same context H.E Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair also added: “We are looking forward to this important milestone to start the implementation phasewhichwill have direct impact on children and youth in the Muslim world. We see this fruitful partnership withIsDBand UNICEF as an opportunity to showcase a new era of Muslim giving. Having more philanthropists join these efforts will institutionalizeMuslimgiving in a strategic way and make it easier to develop and support innovative homegrown solutions that will address the emerging challengesacross all sectorsin a holistic and impactful manner.
Hosting the virtual ceremony, H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar stated “IsDB and UNICEF are grateful to H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair for his generous contribution to the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children, and for recognizing the added value of our closecollaboration. We are truly excited about this strategic partnership”. The IsDB chief went on to underline the forward-looking global prospects of Muslim philanthropy. “It is my firm belief that Muslim philanthropy can play an important role in achieving the SDGs. As we grapple with the deep impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the time is now for Muslim philanthropists to act collectively and strategically to address the impact of the pandemic, and to tackle head-on poverty and disease in our member countries. I call upon Muslim philanthropists seeking to maximise their impact to consider joining this ground-breaking partnership”, he added.
On the same occasion, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said: “ I am delighted to witness the important commitment from His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, which is an important step forward in our shared vision of creating a Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children. I am pleased that the contribution will support education in the Middle East and North Africa. COVID-19 has exacerbated the global learning crisis, which means nearly 1 in 3 adolescent girls from the poorest households around the world has never been to school. We hope many other leaders in Muslim philanthropy will join us in this critical initiative.
Witnessing the signing ceremonys, H.E. Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Assistance & Relief Centre, stated “In light of the very difficult humanitarian conditions the world is going through, as a result of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic that negatively affected women and children, and the necessity of intensifying programsdedicated to supporting these groups, we deeply appreciate the initiative of the Emirati Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, to support the work of the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children’s with an amount of $10 million for the education of refugees.”
The fund focuses on refugees living in overcrowded camps, informal tent settlements and congested host communities where access to online education is currently out of reach.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE), has launched a COVID-19 Online Learning Emergency Fund, it announced on April 30.
As part of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, the emergency fund will focus on the gaps and challenges faced by the most vulnerable refugee youth and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon, which are in the top 10 countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees globally.
The fund focuses specifically on refugees living in overcrowded camps, informal tent settlements and congested host communities where access to online education is currently out of reach.
It strives to reach 6,000 children and youth to ensure the continuity of their education during the current crisis. For such communities, home-schooling is also inaccessible due to similar challenges.
This emergency fund helps organisations address issues in transferring their education programmes to online modalities or TV, including logistical barriers such as the lack of internet and technology access, which will be addressed through the provision of internet, laptops and tablets, as well as technical support for digital content.
The fund will also provide access to innovative modalities of learning, such as engaging bilingual educational platforms and online tutoring support.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said: “Online learning has become the new norm to ensure the continuity of education for millions of students across the world, and we know that access to this modality of learning is restricted for too many refugee communities. Refugee education has been severely affected by the pandemic and the aim of launching the COVID-19 Online Learning Emergency Fund as part of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund is to collaborate closely with grantees and partners to find creative solutions to address pressing needs for refugees and vulnerable students.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a strategic partner of the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, emphasised the need for more support to refugee education during this crisis.
Khaled Khalifa, senior advisor, representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries and UNHCR, said: “The world is going through challenging times. The spread of COVID-19 is disrupting the lives and education of millions of refugees. The strategic partnership between UNHCR and The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund will help provide refugees in Jordan and Lebanon who are not equipped with the necessary tools to join their peers in distance learning without further exposing them to infection.”
The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, launched in 2015, supports the provision of high-quality education opportunities for Emirati and Arab youth across the Arab region.
NEW YORK, 26 September 2019 – UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) today launched an innovative fund that will open new opportunities for Muslim philanthropy to reach the millions of children currently in need of humanitarian support and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children (GMPFC) is the first fund focused on Muslim giving to be launched by a United Nations organization together with a Multilateral Development Bank (MDB). The fund will enable multiple forms of Muslim philanthropy, including obligatory giving such as Zakat and voluntary giving such as Sadaqah donations and Waqf endowments, to contribute to emergency response and development programmes.
It is estimated that global annual Zakat contributions alone may reach up to US$600 billion, making this a significant potential source of sustainable funding to help achieve the SDGs. Seeking to raise US$250 million, the Fund will be administered by the IsDB and unite giving from private and public foundations, Zakat agencies and individuals.
Funding will be allocated to UNICEF and IsDB programmes in the 57 Member Countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which have been identified as eligible to receive Muslim giving, uphold UNICEF core values and deliver the greatest strategic impact for children and young people. This will include support for children in education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, early childhood development, protection and youth empowerment.
As a lead investor to the Fund, Abdul Aziz Abdulla Al Ghurair, chairman of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, today committed to contribute US $10 million to the Fund over a three-year period. This commitment will support refugee education programmes in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“Global humanitarian needs are at critical levels and rising,” said Dr. Bandar Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank. “Nearly 184 million people, including 89 million children need humanitarian assistance in 2019. Children are especially vulnerable– they face the highest risk of violence, exploitation, disease and bear the brunt of climatic events, be they floods or droughts. That is why we need urgent and innovative solutions such as Islamic finance. We are proud to partner with UNICEF to develop this innovative, ethical and sustainable funding solution. Together we can provide help and assistance today and ensure a brighter tomorrow for those who need it the most– our children.”
“Every child has the right to survive and thrive, but conflicts and other emergencies continue to deny children the protection, health and futures they deserve,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Emergency programmes in OIC countries account for two thirds of UNICEF’s humanitarian funding needs. This new partnership with IsDB will accelerate our efforts to reach the most vulnerable children with life-saving support and demonstrates the power of collective action to help every child attain every right.”
The GMPFC offers a coordinated and structured mechanism through which Muslim giving can respond to the children and young people who need it most. It benefits from UNICEF’s on-the-ground presence in all OIC member states and areas affected by emergencies, pooled resources and reduced costs, and programmes that have been pre-approved to absorb Muslim funding.
At the same time, the Fund will build on the decades-long experience and relationships of the Islamic Development Bank in its member countries to build financing partnerships at scale to support development. By working together holistically, UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank aim to catalyze massive and long-term change benefiting all children in supported countries.
“The Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children is an important and much needed initiative in Islamic philanthropy and will have a meaningful impact for children and youth at the global level,” said Abdul Aziz Abdulla Al Ghurair. Through our investment in the Fund we help to ensure that refugee children are able to claim their right to a quality education.”