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In line with the directives and support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Excellency Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, has announced the launch of the Awqaf International Organization (AIO) during the opening ceremony of the third Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES 2016) held at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

Instituted by Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF) in collaboration with the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy, the pioneering initiative is mandated to enhance the role of endowments in the development of societies worldwide

During his keynote speech at GIES opening ceremony, Al Gergawi pointed out that AIO complements the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in globalizing the Islamic economy ecosystem and enhancing the role of endowments as one of the most important social and economic development tools.

Al Gergawi said, “The initiative is a main pillar for the 'Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy' initiative that aims to develop the awqaf sector and unify the efforts of global awqaf entities and organizations to improve the role of waqf as a key catalyst of economic development."

“The new organization will unify all local and global efforts to establish a shared system for endowment investments whose laws and regulations are approved by all awqaf organizations worldwide. This step will further enhance the role of the endowment sector and make it a partner in financial transactions and investments in various Islamic economy sectors," he added.

Following the opening ceremony, AMAF held a press conference to announce the details of newly launched Awqaf International Organization. The press conference was attended by His Excellency Tayeb Al Rais, Secretary General of AMAF, His Excellency Abdullah Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center, and His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al Hammady, Secretary General of Mohammed bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy. Also in attendance were representatives of the founding members of AIO, international Islamic economy experts, and members of the global media.

Addressing the conference, Tayeb Al Rais, Secretary General of AMAF, said that the AIO was inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Elaborating on the mission of the new entity, Al Rais said, “This new global initiative is based on our view of the current state of Islamic societies in the region and around the world. Such societies are in urgent need of holistic and sustainable development that is not only in harmony with Islamic values, but also grounded in the realities of modern development.

"We are proud to note that there are several Islamic endowments active around the world. Their tireless efforts have benefited various underprivileged sections of society in terms of imparting education, quality healthcare, vocational training, employment and other socio-economic support. With the establishment of AIO today, we have created a common platform for all diverse awqaf institutions worldwide - an umbrella organization that will empower their work by opening up channels of coordination, collaboration and exchange of best practice."

Noting AIO's capacity to boost awqaf's ethical mission to bring prosperity to humanity at large, Al Rais said, “The AIO will facilitate a better use of the enormous potential of endowments, and place us in a stronger position to help people at grass roots, regardless of religious or ethnic backgrounds."

The founding members of the AIO represent several parts of the world. They include:

  • Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation
  • Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center
  • Mohammed bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy
  • The Department of Awqaf in Sharjah
  • Awqaf SA (National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa)
  • Awqaf Canada (National Awqaf Foundation of Canada)
  • Awqaf New Zealand
  • Awqaf USA
  • Awqaf Australia
  • The Independent Committee of Islamic Finance in Europe
  • ​Awqaf Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz Al Rajhi.

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, Chief Executive Officer of DIEDC, said that the launch of AIO reinforces Dubai's position as an incubator of innovative concepts that advance the Islamic economy. He added, “With the establishment of the AIO, we expect to achieve a positive impact on the lives of communities across the globe. We also anticipate the AIO to play a pivotal role in strengthening the functioning of endowment institutions through facilitating the financing of SMEs in these countries, and providing the right human resource training to advance their competencies."

Dr. Hamad Al Hammadi, Secretary General of Mohammed bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy, said, “The vision of our wise leadership has always focused on addressing the root challenges first, which then yield sustainable outcomes. Unequal social development is one root cause that often leads to a decline in social relations and slows economic growth. We take pride in Dubai's and the UAE's constant efforts that seek to enhance the well-being of all people."

Imad Kaddoura, Secretary General of Awqaf Canada, said, “As the Islamic economy framework gains ground and becomes a vital part of the mainstream global economy, it is crucial that we consolidate our efforts to manage and invest awqaf assets, capital, and returns in a Shari'a-compliant manner. The newly established Awqaf International Organization will enable awqaf projects to play a stronger role in our society as sustainable projects beneficial to our stakeholders, as well as the wider global community. We appreciate AMAF's support and dedication to lead in the launch of this ground-breaking initiative."

Khalid Sukkarieh, Secretary General of Awqaf Australia, said, “The establishment of the Awqaf International Organisation is a turning point in crystalizing the efforts of Awqaf International entities. With this new body we can all work together on a global scale to achieve social development and pursue a mandate that transcends geographical borders. Awqaf has always had a historical place in uniting people of different nationalities and faiths - without discrimination and this is a message we can send globally. We have no doubt that this new initiative will emerge successful due to the visionary thinking and support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for the Islamic economy, as well as the commendable efforts of all those present here today at this important gathering."

Jamal Askar, Director of Awqaf USA, said, “Despite Muslims representing at least one per cent of the population with more than 3.3 million citizens in the 2015 census - there are still a comparatively small number of awqaf foundations and entities in the American financial and economic landscape. Through this body, launched by at this summit today, we hope to raise awareness of the benefits of waqf for all and improve awqaf's impact on the social projects than benefit society and overall development - not only in Muslim countries or Muslim-majority nations, but across the globe."

Zeinoul Abedien Cajee, National Coordinator of Awqaf SA, stated, “Muslims in Africa and much of our society need well planned, sustainable development projects that can support healthcare and education. The newly established Awqaf International can help unify and standardize the work of awqaf entities across the world. In doing so, it will enable awqaf international entities to leverage best practices, and customize initiatives according to geographies to achieve maximum social impact. We are grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, for his commitment to ensuring the success of this initiative."

Talib Al Marri, Secretary General of the Sharjah Awqaf General Trust, commented, ““Through this initiative, and in collaboration with other awqaf entities, we hope to enhance all of our efforts. The Awqaf International Organization aims to advance awqaf traditions, strengthen its role in society, and establish awqaf international standards to meet the needs and priorities of the public which can then benefit every segment of society. We commend the efforts of all the founder members and DIEDC in undertaking the responsibility of instituting this unique global organization and look forward to supporting and adding value to this noble and collaborative endeavour."

Bader Bin Mohammed Al-Rajhi, Chairman of the National Committee of Endowments, said, “The role of awqaf and waqf investments is part of our religious beliefs, our history and society. Now, as we join together in the new Awqaf International Organization, we will be united in spreading the message of the importance of waqf investments and trust formations on a global level. This will help change the future of Islamic finance and we are proud to be among the founders of this important new group."

Husain Benyounis, Secretary General of Awqaf New Zealand, said, “The Awqaf International Organization has been launched not merely to coordinate the efforts of member foundations and entities, but to create a global network that shares best practices and can manage international endowments and funds. The body has also been tasked with recommending unified templates for legal frameworks, supporting the organizing of awqaf investments, and overseeing applications of Shari'ah standards in accounting, reviewing, and governance."

Tareq Abou Nour, Secretary General of the Independent European Committee for Islamic Finance Studies, said, “The launch of this global awqaf organization is the result of the growing interest in the Islamic economy, and its prominent presence in various financial sectors of significance. The Awqaf International Organisation reflects a bright future in creating an international platform that convenes all awqaf and like-minded philanthropic foundations. We believe that collaboration is a vital part of change, and awqaf's new organization can successfully utilize this approach to enhance its outreach."