United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates has become one of the largest providers of official development assistance (ODA), following the launch of its foreign assistance policy (2016-26). In 2020, the United Arab Emirates ranked among the largest development co-operation providers reporting data to the OECD in Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a share of gross national income (GNI). The United Arab Emirates’ ODA particularly focuses on supporting fragile countries and contexts. 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).

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

In 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). 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 undersupported 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. Development co-operation is mainly delivered bilaterally, with plans to increase multilateral allocations over time. 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 almost USD 1.5 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2021,1 representing 0.4% of GNI. This represents a decrease of 24.1% in real terms in volume and a decrease in the share of GNI from 2020. In 2020, the United Arab Emirates ranked among the largest other official development co-operation providers in terms of GNI. Within the United Arab Emirates’ ODA portfolio in 2020, 95.7% was provided in the form of grants and 4.31% in the form of non-grants, such as standard loans.2

The United Arab Emirates provided a higher share of its ODA bilaterally in 2020. Gross bilateral ODA was 98.7% of total ODA. Seven per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions) and 1.3% was provided as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, the United Arab Emirates provided USD 117.4 million of gross bilateral ODA for the COVID-19 response, representing 6.2% of its total gross bilateral ODA. Less than 1% of total gross bilateral ODA was provided as health expenditure within the COVID-19 response.

In 2020, the United Arab Emirates provided USD 152.4 million of gross ODA to the multilateral system, a fall of 72.9% in real terms from 2019. Of this, USD 24.6 million was core multilateral ODA, while the remainder was earmarked for specific countries, regions, themes or purposes. Project-type funding that is earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 66.4% of the United Arab Emirates’ non-core contributions and 33.6% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

The United Arab Emirates’ total contribution to multilateral organisations in 2020 was allocated to the World Bank (39.4%), United Nations (UN) entities (30.9%) and other multilateral organisations (22.3%), such as the Global Partnership for Education.

The UN system received 38.4% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross ODA to the multilateral system, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 58.5 million to the UN system, the two largest UN recipients of the United Arab Emirates’ support (core and earmarked contributions) were: WHO (USD 12.5 million) and the WFP (USD 9.7 million). USD 5.9 million went to unspecified UN entities.

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 2020, the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided almost USD 1.9 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 29.9% in real terms from 2019. In 2020, the United Arab Emirates focused most of its bilateral ODA on addressing the education and health goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In 2020, country programmable aid was 62% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA.

In 2020, the United Arab Emirates channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector and multilateral organisations, as earmarked funding. Technical co-operation made up 2.6% of gross ODA in 2020.

In 2020, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 84.6 million of gross bilateral ODA. This represents 4.5% of gross bilateral ODA, which was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2019 to 2020, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs decreased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 13.2% to 4.5%. 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 2020, the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa and the Middle East. Over USD 1.2 billion was allocated to Africa and USD 203.7 million to the Middle East, accounting respectively for 65.6% and 10.8% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 46.2 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in Europe. Asia was the main regional recipient of the United Arab Emirates’ earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, 73.3% of gross bilateral ODA went to the United Arab Emirates’ top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are notably in the Africa and Middle East regions, in line with its policy priorities. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 9.1%.

In 2020, least developed countries received 65% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA (over USD 1.2 billion). This is above the DAC country average of 24.4%. The United Arab Emirates allocated 15.3% gross bilateral ODA to lower middle-income countries in 2020, noting that 9.1% was unallocated by income group.

Support to fragile contexts reached over USD 1.3 billion in 2020, representing 71.6% of the United Arab Emirates’ gross bilateral ODA. Of this, 13.6% was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 27.4% in 2019, while 0.5% was allocated to peace, an increase from 0.1% in 2019.

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

In 2020, half of the United Arab Emirates’ bilateral ODA was allocated to other sectors, mainly including general budget support and multi-sector aid. Investments in this area accounted for 53.7% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 1 billion), with USD 940.7 million for programme assistance (budget support). ODA for social infrastructure and services totalled USD 310.4 million, mainly for education, health, and government and civil society. ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled USD 79.7 million, with a focus on transport and storage (USD 34.1 million) and energy (USD 45.6 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance was USD 419.7 million (22.3% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused primarily on social infrastructure and services and humanitarian assistance in 2020.

In 2020, the United Arab Emirates committed 63% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 73.9% in 2019),3 compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 44.6%. This is equal to USD 187.6 million of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The United Arab Emirates screens all activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (100% in 2020). 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.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) 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. In December 2016, the MOFAIC launched the United Arab Emirates development co-operation strategy for 2017-21. The MOFAIC co-ordinates the activities of all of the country’s public donors, including the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, and ensures activities are in sync with those of its private donors, notably private philanthropy and civil society.

Explore the Monitoring Dashboard of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

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

The United Arab Emirates’ aid to foreign countries: https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/charity-and-humanitarian-work/the-uae-aid-to-foreign-countries

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 2018 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.

← 3. The use of the recommended minimum criteria for the marker by some members in recent years can result in lower levels of aid reported as being focused on gender equality.

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