The journey of Kuwaiti charitable giving

By Samir Abu Rumman

Perhaps one of the most prominent features of the reign of the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, which spanned 14 years, was that appreciation, support and interest in Kuwaiti charitable work, considering it a partner in development and a manifestation of the country’s foreign policy and building relationships with other countries. This greatly contributed to the institutional and organizational advancement of Kuwaiti charitable work, its global spread, and its acquisition of international recognition, which culminated in 2014 by the United Nations’ naming the late Amir as a ‘Humanitarian Leader’ and Kuwait as a global center for humanitarian work.

The late Amir’s support for Kuwaiti charitable work was evident in several aspects. With his directives, the Kuwaiti government facilitated the work of Kuwaiti charitable societies and gave them the freedom to collect and direct donations at home and abroad, within a system of controlling legislation aimed at organizing Kuwaiti charitable work and protecting it from terrorism.

On the domestic level, the late Amir’s reign witnessed the Kuwaiti charitable societies’ active involvement in achieving development, and ensuring and caring for the less fortunate in the Kuwaiti society. Their contributions reached an estimated $182 million annually. Furthermore, they launched a strong partnership with official authorities to face the emergency crises Kuwait faces, which was recently embodied in the role of Kuwaiti charities in facing the coronavirus pandemic.

With regard to Kuwaiti charitable work directed abroad, the late Amir instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Kuwaiti embassies in the countries of the world to provide support and facilities for the work of Kuwaiti charitable societies, and to grant them the maximum possible freedom in choosing projects and their destinations.

Kuwaiti official bodies did not interfere in the work of charitable societies except within the limits of non-binding directives. This was reflected in the great role of Kuwaiti charitable societies in various parts of the world in alleviating the suffering of millions of people affected by wars and disasters. The volume of Kuwaiti foreign charitable work jumped, according to some estimates, to $1 billion annually.

The late Amir also took the initiative, sponsoring four international conferences for donors for the reconstruction of Iraq and relief for Syria, as well as sponsoring global initiatives undertaken by some Kuwaiti charities, such as the ‘One Humanity Against Hunger’ initiative that was launched by the International Islamic Charity Organization two years ago.

The late Amir has repeatedly described Kuwaiti charitable work as a ‘crown on the heads.’ In his memory and recognition of what he offered to support Kuwaiti charitable work and its gaining of a prestigious international status, all parties, official bodies and charitable foundations, are required to work on further development and advancement of Kuwaiti charitable work, in a way that preserves Kuwait’s position as a global center for humanitarian work.