United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates launched its foreign assistance policy in December 2016 and published an updated policy in 2022 in consideration of the global impact of COVID-19. The United Arab Emirates’ ODA focuses, in particular, on supporting fragile countries and contexts and is mostly channelled bilaterally. The United Arab Emirates is currently focused on improving the effectiveness of its activities, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation co-ordinating the activities of all of the country’s providers (e.g. Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, other ministries and civil society organisations [CSOs]). The United Arab Emirates’ total ODA (USD 1.4 billion, preliminary data) decreased in 2022, representing 0.33% of gross national income (GNI). This was mainly due to a decrease in both its bilateral and multilateral ODA.

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

In December 2016, the United Arab Emirates launched a five-year foreign assistance policy, identifying priority partner countries and global themes (transport and urban infrastructure, government effectiveness, empowerment and protection of women). In 2022, the United Arab Emirates updated its foreign assistance policy, which emphasises its priorities in seven global themes (infrastructure; women and girls’ empowerment and protection; health; education; addressing climate change; food security; and science, technology and innovation) to reduce poverty; promote stability, peace and prosperity in the region; and protect the planet. The policy is “demand-driven” and based on collaboration with other development partners (i.e. bilateral providers, multilateral organisations, the private sector and domestic companies), focused on the United Arab Emirates’ comparative advantages, a commitment to addressing neglected issues and under-supported communities, sustainability, and making aid transparent and focused on results. The overarching objective of its development co-operation is to promote global peace and prosperity, with humanitarian aid also playing a central role in the country’s global sustainable development efforts. The United Arab Emirates is a proponent of the “beyond aid” agenda and is mobilising funds from other actors, notably the private sector and philanthropy.

The United Arab Emirates provided USD 1.4 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2022 (USD 1.4 billion in constant terms), representing 0.33% of GNI.1 This was a decrease of 5.6% in real terms in volume and a decrease in share of GNI from 2021. ODA volume has consistently decreased over the past ten years, despite a slight increase in 2018. Within The United Arab Emirates’ ODA portfolio in 2021, 95.9% was provided in the form of grants and 4.1% in the form of non-grants.2

The United Arab Emirates provided most of its ODA bilaterally in 2021. Gross bilateral ODA was 93.6% of total ODA. Twenty-four per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). The United Arab Emirates allocated 6.4% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2022, The United Arab Emirates provided USD 7.6 million of gross bilateral ODA to Ukraine in humanitarian assistance to respond to the impacts of Russia’s war of aggression.

In 2022, The United Arab Emirates provided USD 150.2 million in ODA for the COVID-19 response. Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, The United Arab Emirates provided USD 90.2 million in ODA for donations of doses to developing countries. These donations were doses bought directly for developing countries. No donations of excess doses over domestic supply were reported.

In 2021, the United Arab Emirates provided USD 434.7 million of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 168.2% in real terms from 2020. Of this, USD 98.0 million was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. One hundred per cent was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Eighty per cent of the United Arab Emirates’ total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2021 was allocated to UN funds and programmes, the UN system, and regional development banks (in descending order).

The UN system received 73.3% of the United Arab Emirates’ multilateral contributions, mainly in the form of earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 318.5 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of the United Arab Emirates’ support (core and earmarked contributions) were WFP (USD 146.8 million), UNHCR (USD 43.8 million) and UNICEF (USD 38.3 million).

See the section on Geographic and sectoral focus of ODA for the breakdown of bilateral allocations, including ODA earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2021, the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.4 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 28.2% in real terms from 2020. In 2021, United Arab Emirates focused most of its bilateral ODA on SDGs 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) and 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In 2021, country programmable aid was 25.6% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA, compared to a non-DAC country average of 46.4%.

In 2021, the United Arab Emirates channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector, followed by multilateral institutions as earmarked funding. Technical co-operation made up 2.5% of gross ODA in 2021.

In 2021, civil society organisations received USD 80.4 million of gross bilateral ODA. No gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions, and 5.6% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2020 to 2021, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 4.5% to 5.6%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs, civil society engagement in development co-operation, and the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2021, the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral ODA was primarily focused on the Middle East. USD 547.9 million was allocated to the Middle East and USD 398.2 million to Africa, accounting respectively for 38.4% and 27.9% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 252.2 million (17.7%) was allocated to Asia (excluding the Middle East). The Middle East was also the main regional recipient of the United Arab Emirates’ earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2021, 62.1% of gross bilateral ODA went to United Arab Emirates’ top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are mainly in the Middle East region. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 11.1%.

In 2021, the least developed countries (LDCs) received 50.5% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA (USD 721.6 million). This is greater than the non-DAC country average of 13.7%. United Arab Emirates allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (50.5%) to least developed countries in 2021, noting that 11.1% was unallocated by income group. The United Arab Emirates allocated 15% of gross bilateral ODA to land-locked developing countries in 2021, equal to USD 214.5 million. United Arab Emirates allocated 3.9% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states (SIDS) in 2021, equal to USD 55.2 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 852.6 million in 2021, representing 59.7% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA. Fifty-two per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 13.9% in 2020.

Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2021, most of the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral ODA was allocated to economic infrastructure and services, which totalled USD 39.4% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 213.4 million), focusing on transport and storage (USD 156.4 million). Investments in social infrastructure and services accounted for 6.9% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 37.4 million), with a strong focus on support to water supply and sanitation (USD 25.4 million) and health (USD 11.8 million). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled USD 213.4 million, focusing on transport and storage (USD 156.4 million), and energy (USD 57.0 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 2.0 million (0.4% of bilateral ODA).

In 2020-21, the United Arab Emirates committed 26.3% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 46.4% in 2018-19, compared with the 2020-21 non-DAC average of 24.2%). This is equal to USD 99.7 million of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The United Arab Emirates screens virtually all activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (100% in 2020-21). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality, the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2021, the United Arab Emirates also committed USD 316.8 million (71.8% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2021.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is responsible for setting policy, geographical and sectoral priorities for the United Arab Emirates” development co-operation. In addition to its strategic role, the ministry also identifies modalities and mechanisms for foreign aid distribution and implementation, and documents aid flows. The ministry co-ordinates the activities of all the country’s public donors, including the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. It ensures activities are in sync with those of its private donors, notably private philanthropy and civil society.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC): https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en

The UAE Foreign Assistance Policy: https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en/The-Ministry/UAE-International-Development-Cooperation/UAE-Foreign-Aid-Policy

The United Arab Emirates’ aid to foreign countries: https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en/The-Ministry/UAE-International-Development-Cooperation/Annual-Foreign-Aid-Report

Participant in the OECD Development Assistance Committee. Reporting to the OECD since 1970 and reporting activity-level data since 2010.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including the grant-equivalent methodology, core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, country programmable aid, channels of delivery, bilateral ODA unspecified/unallocated, bilateral allocable aid, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.


← 1. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2019 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

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