Prince Talal: Coordination of Attitudes Grants The “Arab Aid” an Added Value and Deepens Its Impact
Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz, President of the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND) stressed that the implications of the current changes taking place in the Arab region urge donors to adopt an approach that makes fighting poverty via microfinance an essential aspect in their activities and he additionally motivated countries receiving donations and aids to give way for the microfinance. HRH addressed the officials of the “Arab Aid” group as he called for the importance of associating the donated aids and grants with the importance of preparing strategies for fighting poverty and passing legislations and regulations that encourage empowering the poor and integrating them within the financial system which consequently helps fulfill their basic needs.
Tuesday January 7th, 2014 marked the start of the 73rd annual meeting of the Coordination Group of the Arab Aid Funds and Institutions in Riyadh. Meetings of the “Group Operations Managers” shall continue to be held at Faisaliah Hotel till Thursday in the presence of representatives of the World Bank, German Society for International Development and “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation” .
The “Arab Aid” group includes nine institutions and funds which, besides to AGFUDN, are namely: The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Qatar Fund for Development and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).
Prince Talal delivered a speech at the opening session in which he clarified that the developmental partnership between the “Arab Aid” group strides forward through coordination of approaches at global forums and unifying attitudes in addressing any proposed developmental issues. HRH further noted that such coordination grants extra value to the “Arab Aid” and deeps its developmental impact especially in light of the many challenges and obstacles that influence societies and affect their stability, particularly in our Arab region. The president of AGFUND further elaborated that sharing the developmental burdens and consolidation of mutual understanding as well as the exchange of experiences and successful trials between the group members eventually managed to increase the accumulative knowledge in the field of development between the “Arab Aid” institutions thus highlighting the crucial role the group plays in supporting development worldwide.
In the speech delivered by Nasser Bakr Alkahtani, AGFUND CEO, on behalf of HRH, Prince Talal briefed the members of the “Arab Aid” Group and its friends on the development of his initiative for fighting poverty through microfinance and establishment of banks for the poor.
“AGFUND has managed since 2006 to establish seven banks for the poor in each of Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Sudan and Palestine. Additionally, work is currently executed for the completion of three other new banks throughout 2014 in each of Philippines, Tunisia and Mauritania. The total beneficiaries out of AGFUND banks have actually exceeded one million and four hundred thousand poor people”. HRH said.
The prince continued clarifying that the initiative of the banks for the poor in particular doesn’t only aim to establish microfinance banks but also to lay basis for the microfinance industry according to standards and specifications that ensure the best applications; this in other words means truly integrating the poor in the financial process.
Referring to AGFUND methodology in the establishment of microfinance banks, Prince Talal said in his speech:
“The developmental approach which we adopt in establishing banks for the poor depends mainly on the strategic alliances with bodies sharing our developmental objective. AGFUND banks – since the initiative inception – have provided loans of more than US $ (224) million where AGFUND investments in them didn’t exceed the US $ (13) million”.
In expression of his thanks to the institutions of the “Arab Aid” group that have enhanced AGFUND approach, Prince Talal noted that each of the Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) have greatly contributed to supporting AGFUND efforts in expanding the scope of banks for the poor. Likewise, he called the institutions of the “Coordination Group” – ones which regulations allow – to partner with AGFUND in the banks for the poor initiative as he addressed the World Bank, the German Society for International Development and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.“We hereby call upon the “Group Friends” to support this approach in the region and we’re also totally ready to cooperate with you outside the region according to the “Group” standards and priorities”- says the President of AGFUND.
Prince Talal briefed the members of the “Arab Aid” group on the new developmental alliance lately founded by AGFUND to train 100 thousand youth in the fields of leadership, empowerment and fighting poverty. He also expected that such a local-regional–international alliance (holding each of AGFUND, the International Youth Foundation, AGFUND banks and the Arab Open University) would eventually open new horizons of cooperation and partnership. HRH additionally expressed his aspiration that the alliance would widen as other partners join it.
H.E. Dr. Sulayman bin Jasser Al-Habrash, Director General of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), spoke at the opening session pointing out the most vital development issues and the role OFID plays in their regard. He also spoke of the importance of the partnership between members of the “Arab Aid” group in achieving the group developmental targets. Al-Habrash stressed the significance of the “Energy for the Poor Initiative” launched by the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and its role in achieving sustainable development. Moreover, he called for further cooperation and coordination between the Arab Aid group and its friends.
The session also witnessed a word delivered by Kamal Mahmoud, operations manager at the Arab Bank for Development in Africa – as the bank is scheduled to be the institution responsible for organizing the next meeting of the “Arab Aid” group. Inger Anderson, Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, also spoke highlighting the importance of investing in approaches of priority – ones that achieve sustainable development especially in developing the private sector, granting more job opportunities and caring for the youth and their issues.
Day one sessions of the Arab Aid group meetings included meetings between the group and each of the World Bank, The German Society for International Cooperation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where the concerned parties exchanged developmental interests. For her part, Ragina Sakland, Head of the Middle East Department at the German Agency, offered cooperation with the group whereas Hassan Al-Damluji, Head of Middle East Relations at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addressed horizons of cooperation with the Arab Aid group.