Dubai, UAE, 26th May, 2013 – Under the Patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Youth, Culture, and Community Development, the conference on Role of Philanthropy in Sustainable Development was hosted by University Leadership Council (ULC) of the UAE in Dubai today. The regional conference, themed ‘Philanthropy in Higher Education and Responsible Social Giving: When Giving is a Reward,’ was inaugurated by UN Under-Secretary-General and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France HE Philippe Douste-Blazy, Jack Lang, President, Arab World Institute and Former Minister of Culture for France and Michael Corbin, US Ambassador to the UAE. The event highlighted the increasingly important role of philanthropy and responsible social contribution towards sustainable development.
The ULC is a committee of academic institutions that seeks to facilitate the creation of an intensive knowledge-based economy in the UAE. The council executive committee comprises American University of Sharjah, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Zayed University, UAE University, Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Researc. ULC members also include Abu Dhabi University and the education division of Dubai Healthcare City.
This first-of-its-kind conference led to an exchange of ideas on socially responsible philanthropy, and explored philanthropy-led initiatives in higher education in the UAE. The opening remarks were delivered by Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, on behalf of the ULC organizing Committee.
Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh said: “The culture of giving is inherent in the very traditions, customs and rites of this region. The discussions at this event aimed to bring to the fore these practices, the multi-layered contribution of the key participants and raise awareness about how deeply entrenched they are in our societal practices. The participating stakeholders adequately emphasized the need for sustainable development through responsible social contributions.”
Commenting on this initiative, Dr. Thomas Hochstettler, Provost and Acting Chancellor of American University of Sharjah said: “Philanthropy in education is of mutual benefit where industry and government support universities in funding their educational projects and at the same time provide a platform to develop new talent for building the regional knowledge economy. Regional universities are establishing endowments, scholarships, chairs and other opportunities for philanthropists to advance their corporate social responsibility initiatives. This conference is a perfect launch-pad for bringing the donor community in the form of our leading charitable foundations together with leading universities. It will begin what I hope will be an ongoing effort to leverage the philanthropic impulse inherent in our culture in support of higher education.”
Dr. Nada Mourtada-Sabbah, Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs at the American University of Sharjah commented that “this was a singular event, in that it brought together the senior leadership of all universities in the United Arab Emirates and those at the helm of key foundations in the region to raise consciousness on the importance of responsible social giving in building the very fabric of societies in the Arab world in multi-faceted meaningful ways. The involvement of high-powered business leaders in the dialogue between academia, governmental agencies, and the private sector testifies to the increasing awareness and significance corporate social responsibility is achieving in the region.”
In addition to Ministers HE Philippe Douste-Blazy and Jack Lang, other keynote speakers at the conference included Dr. Hisham El-Sherif, Chairman of IT Investments and Professor Emeritus, American University of Cairo in Egypt and Dr. Shaikha Al Maskari, Chairperson of Al Maskari Holding who highlighted the role of women in sustainable development and shared her experience as a co-founder of many entrepreneurial and charitable initiatives.
Four panel discussions featured top government officials and major international corporations and focused on the role of private philanthropic foundations and government organizations in supporting national development efforts. Panelists included Dr. Mohammed Banyas, UAE University; Dr. Nabil Ibrahim, Abu Dhabi University; Dr. Tod Laursen, Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Research; Dr. Amer Ahmad Sharif, Dubai Healthcare City EducatÄ±on; Dr. Larry Wilson, Zayed University; Abdullah Saeed Al Darmaki, Chief Executive Officer, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development; Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares; Dr. Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, Chief Executive Officer, Al Jalila Foundation; Fouad Makhzoumi, Founder, Makhzoumi Foundation, UAE; and Clare Woodcraft, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Foundation.
Acting as a link for faculty and students to interface with both the public and private sectors, the University Leadership Council aims to seek industrial, government, and private individual financial support for the academic and research activities of the universities. It is also mandated to advance the educational goals of the UAE-based universities and align their policies with the government with regard to meeting the requirements of the economy and the industry.
The conference is also a regional response to the contemporary global discourse on how ‘giving’ can be more effective and strategic. An art exhibition titled ‘Art Through University and Community Dialogue’, featured contemporary works by renowned Qatari artists Ali Hassan, Salman Al Malik and Amal Al-Athem, and Emirati pioneer artists Dr. Najat Mekki, Abdul Rahim Salem, and Khalifa Al Shimi, provided an additional dimension to the event. A tangible investment in the cultural creativity of the GCC region and a form of social giving and creative philanthropy, the exhibition aimed to build relationships among educators, artists, and the wider community.