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«March 2011 GPPi Research Paper No. 14 Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization Khalid Al-Yahya • Nathalie ...»

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March 2011

GPPi Research Paper No. 14

Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian

Donor: High Potential, Little


Khalid Al-Yahya • Nathalie Fustier



The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not

necessarily reflect the views of the Global Public Policy Institute.

Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi)

Reinhardtstr. 15

10117 Berlin

Phone: + 49 (0) 30 275 959 75-0

Fax: + 49 (0) 30 690 88 200

gppi@gppi.net · www.gppi.net Authors: Khalid Al-Yahya and Nathalie Fustier Editors: Nicolas Kumanoff, Claudia Meier and Oliver Read Published: Berlin, March 2011 Table of Contents About the authors..................................................................................... 2 Abbreviations and acronyms..................................................................... 3 1 Introduction.......................................................................................... 4 2 Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian assistance at a glance............................ 7 3 The Saudi humanitarian aid structure: Decision-makers, implementers, strengths and weaknesses.......................................... 11 4 Saudi Arabia and the international humanitarian system.................. 21 5 Explaining aid motives 24

6 How to achieve better cooperation: the way forward......................... 29 Bibliography.............................................................................................. 32 Funders Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) The Humanitarian Assistance: Truly Universal? project is financed through a research grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Sida has not contributed to this paper and does not vouch for the content of the project publications.

Islamic Relief Germany Islamic Relief Germany e.V. has contributed to the project by translating the

present study into Arabic. The Arabic translation of the paper is available at:

http://www.gppi.net/approach/research/truly_universal/ Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization About the authors Khalid Al-Yahya, PhD, is an assistant professor and the director of the governance and public management research program at the Dubai School of Government. He has also been an associate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government since 2008. He was an assistant professor of public policy and management at Arizona State University (2005-2008), where he taught courses on governance and globalization, political economy, comparative public management and policy analysis, organization development and reform. Previously he was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (2004-2005) and a visiting scholar at the Department of Political Science and Public Management at the University of Southern Denmark (2007). His work is comparative and focuses broadly on the dimensions, antecedents and consequences of governance and the gap between human capital development and institutional change. He has recently collaborated with the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard and the World Bank in writing a series of studies on governance reform, innovation and government performance in the Middle East. He has lectured and made presentations in the US, Germany, Denmark, England, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Indonesia, Singapore, Tunis, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the GCC countries.

Nathalie Fustier is currently senior consultant with the European Company for Strategic Intelligence (CEIS) in Paris. She holds a degree from the Institute of Political Studies in Aix-en-Provence. She joined the information and public relations services in the Armed Forces (SIRPA) as a political analyst on the Middle East (1990-1992), then the Strategic Affairs Commission as official representative and then head of the office for the Arab, Turkish and Persian Region (1992She was also visiting fellow with the Rand Corporation (1998-1999), and an associate researcher with the International Peace Academy (1999-2000). Fustier joined the UN as a political analyst with the Office for the Iraq Program (2000From November 2002 to August 2004 she was a specialist on political issues with the Iraq Team in the Political Affairs Department. This led her to return to the front line from June to August 2003 with the special representative of the secretary general in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. From 2004 to 2006, Fustier was part of the team at the French Embassy in Doha, where she held the positions of cultural advisor and director of the French Cultural Centre. From 2006 to 2008 she was director of the Paris office of ID-International Decision.

The authors would like to thank Don Babai at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Claudia Meier at the Global Public Policy Institute, for their valuable comments on previous versions of this paper.

Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization Abbreviations and acronyms

–  –  –

1 Introduction Saudi Arabia has emerged as the world’s largest donor of humanitarian assistance outside the Western states, traditionally the members of OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). In many recent natural disasters, the country’s contributions far exceeded those of any traditional donors. In 2007, in response to Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, which killed more than 3,000 people and left millions homeless, Saudi Arabia gave Bangladesh $158 million for humanitarian purposes, compared to $20 million from the United States and less from the United Kingdom (Smith 2010). Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Saudi Kingdom made $50 million available to the Emergency Response Fund, a pooled funding mechanism set up by the United Nations. Saudi pledges for the ongoing response to the floods that ravaged huge swathes of Pakistan in 2010 amount to $220 million - surpassing the pledges of all European donors taken together ($209 million) (Saudi Ministry of Interior 2010 and Smith 2010). In 2008, Saudi Arabia provided $500 million in cash to the World Food Program, the largest contribution in the Program’s history.

For development and humanitarian aid to the Arab and Muslim world, Saudi Arabia is the undisputed leader. Between 1975 and 2005, total Saudi aid to developing countries amounted to $90 billion or 3.7% of its annual gross domestic product (GDP), far higher than the UN 0.7% of GDP target for development assistance and four times the average achieved by OECD-DAC countries. Saudi Arabia also helps finance many key regional development funds and instruments.1 The Kingdom’s munificence notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia’s record in international humanitarian assistance leaves much to be desired. The country’s actual capacities hardly match its growing roles and commitments. It lacks a coherent and organized humanitarian aid framework and there is no central agency to coordinate and supervise relief operations. Instead, we find a multiplicity of actors often working chaotically and at times at cross-purposes. There is a dearth of permanent and professional staff able to respond swiftly and effectively to natural or manmade disasters. The modalities for monitoring and evaluation remain nascent.

Moreover, cooperation and coordination with other actors in the international humanitarian assistance network – other donor governments, global bodies, and non-governmental organizations – is weak. Saudi Arabia has yet to put its stamp on this network. Aside from its financial contributions and assistance in kind, it is widely seen by many of these actors as a laggard, not a leader.

Saudi Arabia has yet to develop a clear policy or strategy for humanitarian assistance. Saudi conceptions of and motivations for humanitarian aid remain 1 For example, Saudi Arabia provides 27% of the budget of the Islamic Development Bank, 15% of the Arab Monetary Fund, 30% of the OPEC Fund for International Development and 25% of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa. (Saudi Fund for Development 2009).

Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization poorly understood – in no small part because little effort has been made to communicate them to the outside world. The country has hesitated to seize numerous opportunities to enhance its international reputation by publicizing its efforts to succor the world’s afflicted. Whether intended as such or not, Saudi humanitarian assistance is a formidable source of “soft power” – a means of winning hearts and minds – that would be the envy of any other country. Yet, ironically, for the numerous reasons underscored in this study, it is a power that the Kingdom has not adequately comprehended, let alone fully exploited.

The present study is part of a research project on non-Western donors of humanitarian assistance at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi).2 The objective of this study is to develop an in-depth understanding of the norms, foreign policy priorities, modalities and operational procedures that characterize Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian assistance. More specifically, the study aims to address the following

broad questions:

• How does Saudi Arabia see its humanitarian role? What norms, ideas and foreign policy interests form the basis of its humanitarian engagement?

• How does Saudi Arabia conduct its humanitarian activities? What approach, thematic and regional focus has the country chosen and how does it participate in the traditional international humanitarian system?

• What are the enabling factors and obstacles to enhanced cooperation in international humanitarian aid efforts?

Due to a lack of scholarly research on Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian aid and poor access to data, the authors have relied on three sources of information to prepare this paper. First, they conducted more than 40 in-depth interviews with policy makers, academics, and international humanitarian and development practitioners inside and outside of Saudi Arabia (in person in Riyadh and Kuweit). Second, they drew on reports by international organizations, Saudi governmental organizations and NGOs. In the absence of a central system to formally report Saudi humanitarian contributions, they used OCHA’s financial tracking service (FTS) for quantitative data on Saudi aid, complemented by data from interviews and media reports.3 This data, however, is incomplete because Saudi Arabia does not report all its contributions to the financial tracking service.

The study faced further limitations. Results and findings of this study are based on preliminary, inconclusive evidence that must be substantiated by additional research. Accessing data from official sources – if existent – was difficult. Moreover, 2 Information about the project and other publications can be found at: http://www.gppi.net/approach/research/ truly_universal/ 3 The paper takes into account developments until January 2011; the last interviews were conducted in December 2010.

Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization the study was based mostly on small samples of respondents’ perceptions and attitudes and might thus be subject to problems of selection bias and social desirability.

This report is organized into six sections. The first part introduces the study’s scope and objectives. The second provides a glimpse of the Saudi humanitarian aid record and the country’s conception of humanitarianism and aid modalities. The third part identifies the key actors and institutions involved in aid decision-making and implementation, including an assessment of the various factors that have inhibited effective aid implementation so far. The fourth section seeks to describe the nature of Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the multilateral humanitarian system.

The fifth chapter attempts to explain the motives and considerations that inform Saudi humanitarian aid decisions and programs. In conclusion, the last section discusses measures that international multilateral organizations, Western donors, and Saudi Arabia might consider enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of aid implementation and foster better cooperation.

Saudi Arabia as a Humanitarian Donor: High Potential, Little Institutionalization 2 Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian assistance at a glance

2.1 Geographic patterns of Saudi aid practice The full scale and scope of Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian assistance is difficult to trace. Saudi aid is delivered to more than 80 countries through a range of governmental, semi-governmental, and private mechanisms and channels, both bilateral and multilateral, yet little is reported internationally or even to a national agency within the country.

Historically, a large portion of humanitarian aid has apparently gone to countries in the Arab and Muslim world and to a lesser extent to other Asian and African countries. This pattern is particularly strong with respect to aid raised and delivered by non-governmental and semi-governmental organizations and public relief campaigns which, though set up by official bodies, receive donations from private citizens and businesses.4 Government aid, on the other hand, is not limited to the Arab and Muslim world and extends to countries or regions deemed strategic partners. In recent years and with increased acknowledgement of the Kingdom’s global economic and political importance, Saudi Arabia has started to engage in many regions that do not fit the profile of its traditional aid recipients. Haiti is a good example of this emerging trend.

Illustration 1: the different categories of Saudi recipient countries

–  –  –

4 Private and corporate contributions to the 962 Saudi charities – of which 18 operate internationally – and nongovernmental organizations are a major source of humanitarian assistance and account for the bulk of funds dispensed by those organizations.

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