Jawaher Al Qasimi … Five Years of Global Refugee Advocacy

Recent years have seen the world witness a wave of wars and armed conflicts, with outbreaks of hostility causing death and destruction as they sweep across countries. This situation has impacted millions of lives and forced hundreds of thousands of people, including entire communities, to flee their homes and become refugees.

In a desperate attempt to save their lives and those of their loved ones, innocent civilians have abandoned their cities and villages, which have been transformed from once safe and secure environments into zones of indiscriminate death and destruction. The desperate conditions in these affected regions have prompted aid organisations to respond by providing much needed assistance to victims in an attempt to assuage what is the 21st century’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Alongside these organisations, prominent community leaders have spearheaded initiatives and campaigns that aim to bring relief and positive change in the lives of innocent people trapped by the unceasing violence and devastation. Such leaders include Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.

Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher’s unwavering commitment to displaced persons and her outstanding efforts to create better lives for those affected by war have been acknowledged by major international agencies, including the United Nations. In recognition of her humanitarian contributions to refugees across the region, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher was appointed Eminent Advocate for refugee children of the UNHCR for the third time this year after being appointed in 2013 and again in 2015.

Sheikha Jawaher’s appointment honours her efforts to conceive and oversee initiatives that raise awareness on refugee issues and mobilise resources for humanitarian assistance. Her Highness’s campaigns and programmes are conducted through TBHF, a global charity set up in 2015 to channel the emirate of Sharjah’s wide-reaching efforts to help vulnerable children and families worldwide. With a mission to work wherever support is most needed, TBHF has actioned change in many countries, including Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and Syria.

Her Highness played an outstanding role in launching ‘Love You Lebanon,’ a fundraising initiative in the wake of the July 2006 war in Lebanon. The campaign succeeded in raising more than AED 23 million, which supported Lebanese charities and orphanages, as well as St. Jude Children’s Cancer Centre.

Included in her actions for Palestine was ‘Salam Ya Seghar,’ a prominent humanitarian initiative launched by Her Highness to ease the plight of children in the Gaza Strip. The programme, which has made significant contributions to support and further children’s education amid the tight blockade and problematic conditions in Gaza, has now been expanded to include children worldwide.

The efforts of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi have taken on a new and significant dimension with the UAE’s hosting of ‘Investing in the Future,’ an international conference held in Sharjah. The annual event was conceived to shed light on the most pressing humanitarian issues, to find practical solutions to them and to ensure the sustainable development of all nations.

A first-of-its-kind event in the region, the inaugural ‘Investing in the Future’ conference was held in October 2014 under the slogan ‘Investing in the Future: Protecting Refugee Children and Young Adults in the Middle East and North Africa Region.’ The event aimed to develop the necessary mechanisms to ensure the protection of refugee children and young adults and to develop partnerships between the private and public spheres in order to protect the youngest of refugees, who are the most vulnerable.

Themed ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region,’ the second edition of the Investing in the Future conference focused on empowering Arab women and girls, with the aim of building their capacities in all fields. The forum underscored the importance of women as irreplaceable agents in the development process and raised awareness about specific issues relating to women.

Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi views the growing refugee crisis as one of the greatest obstacle to collective human progress and consider it a moral responsibility of those who enjoy safe environments and greater privileges in life to give back to the global community. She is a strong advocate of the strengthening of international efforts directed towards ending the sufferings of millions of internally displaced peoples, especially women, children and the elderly, irrespective of their religion, nationality or ethnicity.

To this end, the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA Award), organised by TBHF in collaboration with UNHCR, was launched in January this year. It was established to pay tribute to the outstanding contributions by individuals and organisations aimed at improving the lives of millions of individuals and families who have been displaced because of war, civil conflict or natural disaster.

The SIARA Award is in alignment with the announcement of 2017 in the UAE as the ‘Year of Giving’, the Sustainable Development Foundation in Yemen was the recipient of the first SIARA Award as the ‘Best Humanitarian Foundation in the MENA Region’ in recognition of its efforts in supporting refugees and displaced people in Yemen.

Through the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, TBHF has worked with several major international organisations and UN agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the SOS Children’s Villages, the UN Social Welfare Commission (UNSWC), the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP),  the Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP), the Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID) and the Jordan Health Aid Society international (JHASI), among others.

With a big heart and genuine compassion for people, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi has dedicated time, effort and financial assistance to thousands of refugee children who are deprived of even the very basics of life. At a time when humanitarian crises in the Arab world have been elevated to unprecedented levels, Her Highness continues to provide much-needed relief to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced peoples, in particular the younger generation, who are afflicted by violence, hunger and poverty.