In the UAE NGOs are usually known as associations or societies for public welfare. Although the sector is relatively small (see estimated figures below), it includes a number of wealthy philanthropic organisations, which work internationally.
Federal Law No. (2) of 2008 in respect of National Societies and Associations of Public Welfare defines and provides the framework for public welfare organisations operating within the UAE. This has replaced Federal Law No. (6) of 1974, and its amending laws, which previously governed public welfare societies operating within the country.
Youth organisations and schools remain an exception, and are regulated under Law No. 25 of 1999.
The primary regulator of public welfare organisations operating across the UAE is the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities provides licences to those organisations operating in Dubai only. Before issuing a licence the Department seeks approval from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. See the licensing rules, published on itís website for more details.
In addition the International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai counts a number of international NGOs among its membership. These organisations are not required to register with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs or the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department unless they plan to fundraise or carry out work within the UAE. The IHC was set up by Royal Decree Ė Law No. 6 of 2007 Establishing the International Humanitarian City, which established the city as a free zone. Details of the membership requirements are available on the IHC website.
Public welfare societies or associations are required to submit annual financial accounts to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs 15 days after it has been approved by the organisationís Annual General Assembly.
The Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities requires organisations it registers to provide annual reports of its activities along with financial accounts. The department audits each societyís accounts.
The IHC (mentioned above) also requires its members to provide reports of their activities and financial reports when they apply for their annual licence.
An estimated 120 public welfare societies are registered and supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The majority of charitable societies in UAE focus on social and humanitarian issues, with some professional and religious associations. The Ministry has recently launched an internet site called Musahama, which lists all NGOs and charities in the UAE.
In the Emirate of Dubai the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities lists 13 organisations on its publicly available register.
The International Humanitarian City also hosts a number of NGOS. Currently around 37 NGOS are listed as members, including 3 Emirati organisations.
The Foreign Aid Coordination Office was established by Royal Decree in 2008. This is an independent body which reports directly to the Cabinet.
The office coordinates the delivery of humanitarian aid from the state and non-governmental bodies. There are also plans for the Office to take on a capacity building role, providing and coordinating training for the aid sector in the UAE.
We have undertaken two study visits to the UAE where we met with both sector and government representatives to discuss the regulatory environment for NGOs. The UAE hosted a Gulf workshop in November 2006, which was then followed up by a visit to the Charity Commission of England and Wales by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, HE Mariam Al Roumi, in 2007.
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