The UAE Soft Power Strategy and Humanitarian Diplomacy

Topic: Diplomacy
Words: 1150 Pages: 4

Humanitarian Diplomacy of the UAE Soft Power Strategy

Humanitarian diplomacy is one of the UAE’s Soft Power Strategies, which aims at providing charitable aid to people affected by natural calamities and conflicts. Through this strategy, the UAE has achieved its overall objective of increasing the country’s global reputation, hence opening more opportunities for its growth and development. The use of the Soft Power Strategy has also enabled UAE to establish its reputation as a tolerant modern country welcoming all the people across the globe. Various sectors, including media, humanities, and science, continue to grow due to the immense contribution of humanitarian diplomacy. Therefore, this essay analyses the humanitarian diplomacy of the UAE Soft Power Strategy and provides a recommendation on how to enhance the strategy.

Humanitarian aid plays a central role in the country’s foreign policy. The impact of humanitarian diplomacy in the UAE dates back to the 20th century when UAE was founded. The first foreign aid agency, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), was founded, which later led to the establishment of the UAE Red Crescent Authority in 1983 (Krzymowski, 2022). The organization’s main aim was to provide aid to people faced with natural calamities and war within the UAE and abroad. For instance, UAE offered financial assistance to Kosovo in 1999 following the new security challenges of the Western Balkans (Krzymowski, 2022). Through its charity organizations, it significantly contributed to conflict resolution.

Additionally, loans and grants were given to Albania by the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADFD) during a major crisis. Thus, since UAE was founded, humanitarian aid remains an essential element of foreign policy that serves to adjust to new challenges (Krzymowski, 2022). The donor roles of the UAE humanitarian aid are not only limited to countries in the Middle East, but also in other parts of the world.

In the 21st century, the UAE Soft Power Strategy continues to uphold humanitarian diplomacy, with far-reaching consequences that have elevated the country’s global position and growth. In 2001, the UAE’s Red Crescent was ranked as the second-best humanitarian association in Asia (Krzymowski, 2022). This provided the country with global recognition, hence strengthening its international position. According to Krzymowski (2022), foreign aid is a naturally crucial element of the UAE’s soft power approach and a reliable instrument for implementing economic and political goals. The 21st century has led to dynamic global security structure changes, especially within North Africa and the Middle East. For example, in 2003, the US military intervention in Iraq led the UAE to open International Humanitarian City (IHC), which since then remains the largest global humanitarian aid center (Krzymowski, 2022). Krzymowski (2022) also states that more than 100 organizations join forces under IHC, including UN agencies. The International Humanitarian City continues to serve as a symbol of unity as both local and international join forces to deliver projects to the areas affected by natural calamities and war.

The Humanitarian diplomacy of the UAE Soft Power Strategy provides financial aid to areas faced with crisis through different organizations. The UAE launched the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition (DIHAD) in 2004, an event held annually that attracts global attention (Krzymowski, 2022). Dubai is currently recognized as an international humanitarian hub, providing logistics for various governmental and non-governmental organizations’ meetings. It also attracts new initiatives and projects that offer both financial and material aid in areas affected by different calamities globally (Krzymowski, 2022). On the other hand, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, established in July 2007, supports innovative initiatives for creating health awareness and providing safe drinking water (Esraa & Abubaker, 2019). These global activities support projects in more than 87 countries. In addition, the organization plays an active role in supporting bilateral initiatives within the UN.

The UAE’s growing national and worldwide participation in foreign relief necessitated the adoption of humanitarian diplomacy organizational framework. This led to the establishment of the Foreign Aid Coordination Office in 2008 (Gökalp, 2020). The Foreign Aid Coordination Office provided the UAE with an opportunity to regularly publish foreign aid reports. An example of international aid that followed these revolutions was the USD 700 million assistance offered to support refugees from Syria. In addition, more than 100,000 citizens with Syrian passports were allowed into the UAE, growing its total number of refugees to over 240,000 (Gökalp, 2020). The surprising foreign and humanitarian aid offered by the UAE draws attention to the sound geopolitical ambitions of this country (Miller & Verhoeve, 2019). Both national unification and federal state alliance are UAE’s progressing political projects whose parameters are pragmatically fashioned within the foreign aid policy (Young, 2018; Bartlett et al., 2018). The ultimate result of this Soft Power Strategy has been shown in the vigorous response to regional and global adjustments aimed at gaining international recognition, leverage, and relevance.

Humanitarian diplomacy as a part of UAE’s Foreign Policy has allowed the country to explore its ambitious efforts to incorporate western practices and achieve its overall international standards. These include but are not limited to institutional transparency, overall economic growth, and cultural cognition. Other disciplines, such as humanities, science, culture, and religion, have significantly grown and continue to thrive due to the overall humanitarian approach and foreign aid given to people in dire need.

Lastly, humanitarian diplomacy remains integral to the UAE’s business and long-term economic strategy reaching far beyond the Middle East. For instance, Dubai embraces the humanitarian aid sector as a 21st-century innovative enterprise practice. This is due to the global capacity to capitalize on the current trends in commercialization and privatization of humanitarianism. The UAE demonstrates a realistic approach in response to international geopolitical challenges in merging and asserting the country’s economic power with partner rivals and expanding its power of influence within the dynamic international order (Ziadah, 2019). The humanitarian diplomacy approach has helped to build alliances, business contracts, and economic partnerships beyond the Middle East countries.

Recommendation to Enhance the Strategy

As discussed above, humanitarian diplomacy has significantly helped the UAE in achieving its overall objective of promoting the country’s position globally. The economic and social-cultural trends show great improvement since the adoption of the Soft Power Strategy. However, although the country has been performing exemplarily in the past years, there are several approaches that can enhance this strategy. Working in partnership with other global humanitarian agencies, such as the UN and World Food Program, can enhance the humanitarian diplomacy strategy by allowing the country to reach more people who require foreign aid in times of crisis. Although there has been a partnership with other organizations, the UAE may need to endorse more partnerships. This will also attract more funding from these organizations, as well as partnerships that can facilitate more projects. Finally, partnerships with the global humanitarian agencies will not only achieve the objective of humanitarian aid but also open avenues for other UAE sectors, such as economy, science, and technology to grow.


Bartlett, W., Ker-Lindsay, J., Alexander, K., and Prelec, T., (2018). The United Arab Emirates as an emerging actor in the Western Balkans: The case of strategic investment in Serbia. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(1), 94-112.

Esraa, I., and Abubaker R. (2019). UAE a global model for promoting peace through humanitarian role in Yemen, says EU President. WAM, January 14. Web.

Gökalp, D. (2020). The UAE’s Humanitarian Diplomacy: Claiming State Sovereignty, Regional Leverage and International Recognition. CMI Working Paper, WP 2020:1. Web.

Krzymowski, A. (2022). Role and significance of the United Arab Emirates foreign aid for its soft power strategy and sustainable development goals. Social Sciences, 11(2), 48. Web.

Miller, Rory and Verhoeve, Harry (2019) Overcoming smallness: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Strategic Realignment in the Gulf, International Politics, 57,1-20.

Young, K. E. (2018). A new politics of GCC economic statecraft: The case of UAE aid and financial intervention in Egypt. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(1), 113–136. Web.

Ziadah, R. (2019). Circulating power: humanitarian logistics, militarism, and the United Arab Emirates. Antipode, 51(5), 1684–1702. Web.

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