Dubai plans global aid network

Dubai’s government is planning to create a global network of centres to help aid agencies respond better to humanitarian disasters, Arabian Business has learned. The Dubai Aid City (DAC) led initiative could see over 10 facilities established in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Latin America, to provide logistical support to relief organisations.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  October 23, 2005

Dubai’s government is planning to create a global network of centres to help aid agencies respond better to humanitarian disasters, Arabian Business has learned. The Dubai Aid City (DAC) led initiative could see over 10 facilities established in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Latin America, to provide logistical support to relief organisations. DAC is currently negotiating with DP World to base humanitarian centres wherever the emirate’s port operating company has an international presence. The first has already been established in the east African port of Djibouti, to provide storage and distribution facilities for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). “Wherever DP World is managing ports and free zones, we will have facilities,” said Barbara Castek, chief executive officer of Dubai Aid City and Dubai Humanitarian City (DHC). “[DP World has] to negotiate with its landlords, but I’m sure countries would be very open to it.” The move, which Castek said could also see DAC opening offices in Geneva or New York, comes as attention is increasingly being focused on the effectiveness of international responses to natural disasters. President George W. Bush was heavily criticised for the US government’s slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina in August, while the tsunami of last December severely stretched the global aid community’s resources. Relief organisations have also suffered from extreme difficulties, particularly in remote areas, following the earthquake that hit Pakistan, India and Afghanistan earlier this month. Dubai’s location and strong air and sea links have seen the emirate used by several agencies to transport essential relief supplies to areas affected by the Pakistan quake. DAC is also constructing a huge facility in Jebel Ali, south of Dubai, to tap into growing interest from relief organisations in creating a regional hub. Castek said the move would cut costs and reaction times for agencies, and that the organisation was planning to set up an Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Response (EPER) department to help coordinate organisations’ work following disasters. “For example, we heard [last week] that in Pakistan, there are no tents left for refugees. One of our clients has plastic sheets so it’s important that agencies locate them quickly and get them sent out,” she said. Resources the DAC’s international centres are expected to provide include storage, training and recruitment, as well as a donor coordination facility, which will match donors with organisations that need funds. They would also offer access to a procurement database being developed by the organisation, which will help agencies to locate and purchase essential relief goods. The move follows the recent merger of DAC and DHC — two centres being set up in Dubai to support humanitarian agencies. Castek will shortly be announced as the head of the joint entity, which will operate on a not-for-profit basis and be funded by the emirate’s government. She said it would launch some of its services in the middle of next year, but that it would be two years before its full range of resources, including offices and warehouses, would be available. The initiative will also benefit from the continuing expansion of DP World, which was formed through a recent tie-up between the emirate’s domestic and international port operations, Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Ports International. It operates two large local ports in Dubai and 16 worldwide, including major operations in Hong Kong and China and others in Australia, Germany, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The company has also said that it is planning to expand its global presence further, particularly in China and India.

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