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Call for improved 'enabling environment' for UAE non-profit sector at DSG event.

There has been tremendous growth of the non-profit sector in recent years in the UAE as individuals and organisations have responded to local needs with a greater sense of civic engagement. However, many non-profit organisations face a challenging environment given the relatively nascent legal framework governing such organisations, according to experts at an event hosted by the Dubai School of Government (DSG), a research and teaching institution that focus on public policy in the Arab world.

The comments emerged during a panel discussion titled 'Thinking Philanthropy: Being a Non-Profit Organisation in the UAE' that drew perspectives from Anisa Al Sharif, Head of Social Development, Policy and Strategy Department at The Executive Council, Nadia Roumani, Director at the American Muslim Civil Leadership Institute (AMCLI), and Saher Shaikh, Founder and Director of Adopt-a-Camp.

The second segment as part of DSG's 'Thinking Philanthropy' series, the event brought together local organisations, public sector representatives and best practice experts. It was held on the eve of the World Muslim Congress for Philanthropy that was hosted in Dubai on 23-24 March.

Across the board, panelists called for improving the enabling environment for non-profits in the UAE and across the Gulf, where there are common issues being faced by organisations. In addition to highlighting changes that would ease facilitation of registering and fund-raising as non-profit organisations, the panelists also pointed out that the need for greater awareness in the public and private sector on the role and structure of non-profit organisations.

Anisa Al Sharif said: "The non-profit sector has been evolving relatively fast in the UAE with many organisations operating informally. It is vital that the regulatory framework catches up with the realities on ground, as these organisations play an important role in our society."

Nadia Roumani, a consultant to several grant-making foundations in the US and Europe, agreed that while an improved enabling environment is necessary, it is equally important to professionalise the non-profit and philanthropic sector in the UAE and the Middle East, and create vibrant learning communities within this sector.

Despite the challenges, there are a number of success stories and many organizations have been able to achieve real impact.

The panel discuss local needs with a greater sense of civic engagement

Saher Shaikh, a Dubai-based social entrepreneur, said: "While we faced initial obstacles in maintaining our operations, today we coordinate with the Ministry of Labour to help resolve the issues of over 11,000 labourers in the country."

Taufiq Rahim, Visiting Fellow at the Dubai School of Government, said: "As an institution focused on public policy, we believe it is important to facilitate expert and informed discussion about improving the policy environment for non-profit organisations. Not only can the changes that emerge improve the viability of these organisations, they will also enhance the positive social impact these organizations have in the UAE."

Established in 2005 in cooperation with the Harvard Kennedy School, the Dubai School of Government (DSG) aims to promote good governance through enhancing the region's capacity for effective public policy. The institution remains committed to the creation of knowledge, dissemination of best practice and training of policy makers in the Arab world.

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Publication:SMB Advisor Middle East
Date:Mar 27, 2011
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