Ruler of Dubai Endows $10 bn Foundation to Promote Education in the Middle East.
May 19, 2007 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Sheik Mohamed, ruler of Dubai, has pledged to donate $10 billion to set up an organization devoted to improving human development in the Middle East. Recognizing that the Middle East lags behind in areas of human development, particularly education, the visionary ruler of Dubai, and avid horse breeder, who has transformed the Persian Gulf port into the financial center for the Middle East and South Asia, has announced one of the largest charitable gifts in history to improve education and human development in the region.
posted by Azaadistani (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What a curious metric
For every 100,000 books published in North America, there are 42,000 published in South America, and only 6,500 books published in the Arab world.
His richness is using a curious meter of measurement, which is quantity. That's quite a rough indicator of the intellectual developement of a country ; for instance we could have very religious country publishing 10000 different books a year each one dissecting a different aspect, that still wouldn't be much of an achievement, imho. Or 90% of this 100K books could be reprints or adaptations. I'd rather evaluate a country according to its spending in R&D and the amounts set aside to increase and advance general population education, -regardless- of their age. Education doesn't stop at college or after high school and isn't -necessarily- published.
posted by elpapacito at 5:08 PM on May 19, 2007

Here's an Economist city guide on Dubai. While I applaud the rulers of Dubai for good governance over the years (especially diversifying their revenue sources), I'm not sure whether a person who essentially is the government of Dubai can 'gift' anything in the traditional sense of the word. I mean, how interwoven is his families wealth with the wealth of the state?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:08 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

This brings a huge smile to my face. Call me enthusiastic, but maybe this is the change we've been waiting for.
posted by hadjiboy at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2007

$10 billion dollars is actually not that much money as far as these things go. The US spends 50 times times that on education every year[1]. And not only that, but the middle east's population skews young, with many more children per capita then the U.S.

There are lots of smart things to do with the money, but the fact that it's being spent can't really change anything. I would imagine it's a drop in the bucket even compared to what's currently spent on education in the middle east.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 PM on May 19, 2007

This is a positive sign. While Delmoi may discount it, things like this make a difference but directly and indirectly.
posted by bhouston at 5:54 PM on May 19, 2007

It won't be any kind of education that would threaten his grip on power or those like him (see the Saudis, for instance)--and isn't he one of those who keeps boys as jockeys in virtual slavery?
posted by amberglow at 6:04 PM on May 19, 2007

And i wonder if "human development" includes all the abused migrant workers there too?

HRW: ... “Building Towers, Cheating Workers,” documents serious abuses of construction workers by employers in the UAE. These abuses include unpaid or extremely low wages, several years of indebtedness to recruitment agencies for fees that UAE law says only employers should pay, the withholding of employees’ passports, and hazardous working conditions that result in apparently high rates of death and injury. ...
posted by amberglow at 6:14 PM on May 19, 2007

Actually delmoi is quite right, it's a drop in the bucket when _compared_ to U.S. budget. The links he provided are to actualized dollars (taking only inflation into account, afaik) , but I wonder what can be bought with $10B in U.S. now (not much) and what all over M.E. ( a lot more I guess).

Yet I am slightly suspicious of incredible generosity by power hungry individuals. If we consider wikipedia article on dubai as at least not a false source, if not a good one
sizable number of foreign accredited universities have been set up in the city over the last ten years. Some of these universities include the American University in Dubai (AUD), The American College of Dubai, SP Jain Center Of Management and the University of Wollongong in Dubai. In 2004, the Dubai School of Government in collaboration with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) were established in Dubai.
Follow the money ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:16 PM on May 19, 2007

But amberglow, they are giving opportunity to poverty striken people from indian, bangladesh and you name it ! And indeed
The government says that workers are free to leave the UAE if they’re unhappy
Ahhh this line I heard over and over again and not only in Dubai, but that's the practical equivalent of workers striking without a cause, just for the heck of it. Except that if you strike like that, you are decried for being irresponsible, but if your employer threatens to cut you off like that, it's a normal business practice.Yet unlike the bitterly individualistic, polarized and freemarket ideologized westerners, the political equivalent of couch potatoes, it appears that indians are gaining ground in UAE
Expatriates make up at least 80% of Dubai’s population, and consist mainly of Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos, who take the emirate’s low-wage jobs. The government is attempting to address this imbalance through “Emiratisation” (replacing expatriates with local employees), but most native graduates prefer well-paid work in the public sector. Expatriates from rich Western countries, along with Iranians and Lebanese, are employed mainly in white-collar capacities, and middle class Indians are increasingly influential.
Although UAE nationals account for just one-fifth of the country’s 4.1m inhabitants, they are the only people who matter politically. Expatriates—whether unskilled Asian labourers or rich Western executives—have no representation.
Which closes the loop : the 1/5 is paid to "vote" the President-King and his system, but I have little doubt the locally well established indians will feel like returning home anytime soon , expecially when they have a potential base of supporters that share their culture and traditions. The golden gooese better lay continuous contracts for a long time or , maybe, someone may convince the workers that they, indeed, can live the country at once ..or just cross arms while they slowly go home...I mean there's no hurry and they have no money to come back :D !
posted by elpapacito at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have to echo elpapacito's concern that this money would be benefiting a relatively small portion of the population in places with heavy expatriate populations, but if this money goes to, say, schools in Lebanon or rural Iran or Algeria or something, then great.

I worry, though, that the money will end up being spent on too much swish technology and expensive foreign consultants, rather than being invested in school infrastructure, local capacity-building, teacher training, or incentives to enroll urban slumdwellers, rural populations, minorities, and especially girls and women in schools and universities.

It seems like the Gulf states, especially, are trying to out-do each other with megaprojects that outstrip their human capital resources and require huge influxes of expat labor and expertise: Qatar holding the Asian Games last year, all the skyscrapers going up in the cities of the region...I wonder, really, if local talent, drawn from such a comparatively small pool of non-expat labor, can ever replace imported workers.
posted by mdonley at 7:01 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

So that's about as much as the Burj Dubai, eh?
posted by smackfu at 7:03 PM on May 19, 2007

Charitable gifts are nice, but they don't offer any sort of permanent reform. No representation without taxation!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:15 PM on May 19, 2007

I completely agree that the UAE rulers are disgusting for not having stopped the abuse of child jockeys and also for their treatment of foreign labor, mainly from South Asia. They should be royally criticized and excoriated for that and pay to former child jockeys and abused foreign workers adequate compensation (I would make them pay consequential and punitive damages).

However, the rulers of oil-rich states in and around the Arabian peninsula rarely give money away for progressive charitable missions. Also, Sheikh Mohammed is also the first one to respond to the Arab Human Development Report published by the UNDP in 2005 in this manner. It is a positive step--likely a drop in the bucket, but certainly to be applauded, so as to encourage other such philanthropic endeavors in that region.

Last, with more education will increase a respect for human rights and the realization that employing children in camel racing is abominable, and ultimately, the democratization of societies subject to monarchical rule.
posted by Azaadistani at 7:26 PM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

But that's just it, Azaad--will they allow any of this money to really go towards anything that will increase openness and democratization, or will it just go to create a new business elite to work for (and not with) the royal elites now in power in so many places? This really would end their reigns and hold on power if it was truly open to all.

Knowledge is power, and there's a reason so many are not given access to full knowledge in the region. Every protest in Jordan or Syria makes the rulers of the UAE and Saudi Arabia shiver with fear--their hold on power is not strong at all.
posted by amberglow at 7:33 PM on May 19, 2007

Real education has the potential to topple them entirely and wipe them from the face of the earth--they know that.
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on May 19, 2007

Being atop a mountain of money doesn't make you a visionary.
posted by bru at 7:48 PM on May 19, 2007

bru: He may be an autocratic visionary, but a visionary he is. He has transformed Dubai from a small oil-rich Emirate with diminishing oil reserves into the financial center of the Middle East in the last decade.

amberglow: there already is plenty of 'real' education in the Emirates, particularly Dubai. It is the rest of the region where many of the Human Development indicators are deplorable.

Based on my conversations with people who have lived and presently live in Dubai, they do regard Sheikh Mohamed as a progressive, especially in contrast to the rulers of the other six Emirates and others in the region. Contrast him with the Saudi rulers who have bankrolled wahabi madrassahs throughout the Muslim world, exporting the most retrograde version of Islam that exists today.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, of course. We will have to wait and see how successful this endeavor is but just as Bill Gates was feted when he announced his substantial charitable donations to combat AIDS and poverty, in advance of any results, this contribution deserves commensurate applause.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:11 PM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Real education has the potential to topple them entirely and wipe them from the face of the earth--they know that.

Just like the British monarchy!
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

"UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh"

Now that's a title.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 8:32 PM on May 19, 2007

Seconding hadjiboy's enthusiasm.

Wonder if the improving education will include things like 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense?
posted by nickyskye at 8:47 PM on May 19, 2007

I disagree with amberglow's comments here as amberglow seems to be coming at this from a position of significant prejudice rather reasoning using facts or waiting to judge what does happen. Change is a slow process, and things like this are a move in the right direction.
posted by bhouston at 8:48 PM on May 19, 2007

They are hereditary dictators--of course i don't believe they act in good faith--why would they?

State Dept report on Human Rights Practices in the UAE 2006: Note especially these:
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Freedom of Speech and Press ,
Internet Freedom,
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events,
Freedom of Assembly,
Freedom of Association,
Freedom of Religion ,
and Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:
The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government,
Government Corruption and Transparency ,
and Section 6 Worker Rights
posted by amberglow at 9:02 PM on May 19, 2007

What a curious metric

elpapacito, the comparison of book publication comes from the 2002 United Nations Development Program report on Arab Human Development. Written by Arabs for Arabs, the report challenged Arab countries to improve education and literacy. In the intervening five years, the effort has borne some fruit, but there's still far to go. I'm sure the authors of the report are gratified to have a major political figure backing them. At the time it was released, one of the few Muslim leaders ready to risk talking openly about these shortcomings was Pervez Musharraf, who is now pretty much discredited.

Not only does the entire Arab world have a book publication rate smaller than just Spain, its rate of translating books is woefully small, a fraction of what is translated into Greek every year.

The report is not without its critics.
posted by dhartung at 9:06 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

... Societal discrimination against noncitizens, while not legally sanctioned, was prevalent and occurred in most areas of daily life including employment, housing, social interaction, and healthcare. National origin played an important role in employment, immigration, and security policies, as well as cultural attitudes towards noncitizens, who comprised approximately 85 percent of the resident population. More than 50 percent of foreign workers were estimated to have come from the Indian subcontinent.
The government failed to provide many free or reduced-cost services to noncitizens including child and adult education, health care, housing, and social and recreational club memberships. ...

Let them educate the 85% of their population they're currently not educating before pretending to help elsewhere. Let them stop censoring their internet and all speeches and organizations and media...
posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on May 19, 2007

Even sermons are monitored there, btw.
posted by amberglow at 9:19 PM on May 19, 2007

Amberglow; I think we all accept that the UAE is not the most free place in the world, but neither is your country. It is certainly better than any of its neigbours. What I applaud here is that a ruler recognizes there is a problem and offers a solution or at least part of a solution not only for his small country but for the region as a whole. I think maybe people here are not as conversant with the Middle East as a whole as they could be. I am now coming perhaps from a more European point of view. The arab nations of the middle east have Saudi Arabia - the Kingdom - as their religious nucleous; protectors of the holy places and who just happen to be sitting on more than a few barrels of oil; and the Saudis are just fine with that. We are talking Arab world here not Persians so that excludes Iran. We are left with Egypt, Yeman, Oman, Iraq, Bahrein, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria ,Jordan, Lebanon and the great destabilizer - Iraq.
The ruler of Dubai wishes to preserve his family's power and grip on things and realises that the main scource of instability especially from the non oil nations is unemployment and illiteracy fuelled by fundamentalism. A remedy could be education. Frequently a higher level of education leads to less tribalism and more acceptance of others. There are notable exceptions as in most cases. An educated individual has a greater change of employment and therefore a better chance to move into a middle class which will be less affected by fundamentalism.
The non oil producing Gulf states are redeveloping themselves as the service centre of the region. To maintain this in the future they must train personnel now. The projection for travellors to Dubai alone for 2010 is 15 million pax. UAE is developing itself as the crossroads between the Indian subcontinent and Asia / Australia with Europe and S. Africa and is the financial hub of the region.
From the article: "Our region needs at this moment 15 million job opportunities, and our Arab world will need in the next 20 years between 74 to 85 million job opportunities,"
Maybe Sheik Mohamed realises that by helping others you help yourself.
posted by adamvasco at 12:54 AM on May 20, 2007

dhartung writes "2002 United Nations Development Program report on Arab Human Development."

Ah thanks dhartung, that's some answer. Now I can see better that the problem isn't the variety of book nor the quantity of translations / new titles , but the demand
the overall educational achievement among adults in Arab countries remains low on average. Arab countries have nevertheless made tangible progress in improving literacy: the estimated rate of illiteracy among adults dropped from approximately 60 per cent in 1980 to around 43 per cent in the mid-1990s. However, illiteracy rates in the Arab world are still higher than the international average and are even higher than the average in developing countries.
Which would explain the little demand for books, combined with poverty reducing avaiability of money for recreational and educational reading.

Yet , for the future, I wouldn't could _much_ on book buying as a very reliable meter of education. That's just me, but in the last 10 years I almost stopped buying new books, as internet has completely replaced by spare-time reading with metafilter and other blogs or Project Gutenberg and I seldom buy new college level books, as reform of italian public college has "forced" the production of "dumbified" literature , combined with the "invisible hand" suggested racket of formulating an exam on a _new_ edition of a book instead of just reducing the program.

This digression to signal that, for the future, we should reconsider book reading as a very significant indicator of divulgation of higher education , as I suspect education causes increase in reading , but reading doesn't necessarily cause acquisition of desire to read more.

adamvasco writes "An educated individual has a greater change of employment and therefore a better chance to move into a middle class which will be less affected by fundamentalism."

I concour with the "less affected by fundamentalism" likelyhood, but not with greater chances of being able to change employement, insuring a permanent employement. At some point , unless one is working in a highly technical field demanding and possibly financing continuous education, a broader preparation doesn't produce linear returns, or produces less then proportional. Specialization is encouraged mostly with words, but only up to the employer current demand, while the demand for new skills is usually immediate and often doesn't give enough time+resources for people to prepare, leading do devaluation of accumulated experience.

It's a bite and run education that doesn't encourage capitalization of knowledge, but for few financially very stable levels of population.
posted by elpapacito at 3:53 AM on May 20, 2007

The ruler of Dubai wishes to preserve his family's power and grip on things and realises that the main scource of instability especially from the non oil nations is unemployment and illiteracy fuelled by fundamentalism. A remedy could be education. Frequently a higher level of education leads to less tribalism and more acceptance of others. There are notable exceptions as in most cases. An educated individual has a greater change of employment and therefore a better chance to move into a middle class which will be less affected by fundamentalism.

Fine--let him start with the overwhelming majority in his own country--the resident population there. As long as they're held down and shut out from even basics like education and equal rights, this rings hollow. If his own regime doesn't allow for mobility or a middle class or access to one or reduction of illiteracy, then why believe he truly wants that for all in the region? What makes anyone think he truly will put this money towards true education and improving social mobility when his very existence and the basis for his largess depends on that not happening at all?
posted by amberglow at 9:38 AM on May 20, 2007

Excellent - this ought to pay for a couple hundred thousand degrees in Islamic Studies.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:54 AM on May 20, 2007

Just to toss something else out for your consideration, the sheik is also a supporter of Special Olympics. He has provided Dh 5 Million to support the regional games in addition to providing one of his own stables for the equestrian athletes to use for training. I just read about his efforts with Special Olympics in this quarter's Spirit Magazine which arrived at the house last week. It is not yet posted on their website. However, if you go to his website and search on Special Olympics, you will find several different articles. I think this qualifies as a progressive charity.
posted by onhazier at 6:33 PM on May 20, 2007

it all smells like greenwashing to me (or whatever the word is for dictators who are dependent on good overseas press and foreign investment).
posted by amberglow at 7:46 AM on May 21, 2007

He's only been in there since January 2006. Give him a few years before you judge his failures/achievements.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:44 PM on May 21, 2007

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