Qatar charities


1.1 Overview Charitable Sector in Qatar

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The Gulf country of Qatar has one of the most developed charitable sectors in the Middle East. While some of the charitable organizations in the country operate locally, others are involved in a wide range of humanitarian missions in faraway places especially in countries hit by conflicts such as Syria, Sudan, Libya and Iraq. Generally, most of the charitable organizations of Qatar depend on donations from private donors as the main source of funding. They also get funding from the public in the form of Islamic charity, commonly known zakat. To a small extent, they also get funding from sadaqah (the non-obligatory form of Islamic charity). A few of the charities are involved in commercial activities through which they get money to support their activities (Abdul, n.d). 

The charitable organizations of Qatar can be classified into three broad categories. The first category comprise of those charitable organizations working under the forum of non-governmental organizations. The leading charitable organizations in this category are the Qatari Red Crescent Associations and the Qatari Charity, both of which operate as NGOs. The two organizations get their funding mainly from the obligatory almsgiving collected during the holy month of Ramadan. These NGOs have implemented complex administrative and operational systems to ensure compliance with the law and statutory provisions. They pledge to remain neutral with regard to political issues and to pursue policies that are distinct from those pursued by the government. 

Qatar Charity Sector

The second category comprises of charities founded by members of the Qatari royal family. These include the Sheikh Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani Foundation, the Sheikh Thani Bin Abdul Allah Al Thani Foundation and the Sons of Sheikh Eid Al-Thani Charitable Foundation. These charities depend greatly on their founders’ endowments (waqfs) for funding. However, as the charitable becomes more competitive and resource constrained, the royal family foundations have in the recent years resorted to fundraising to support their activities. For example, during the 2010 catastrophic floods in Pakistan, the Sons of Sheikh Eid Al-Thani Charitable Foundation organized a series of public funds drives to help the victims of the floods. Thus, the royal family foundations are actively competing against NGOs for funding (Abdul, n.d). 

The third category of Qatari’s comprises of those founded by the Qatari Foundation. These charities depend on the Qatari Foundation for their financial needs, and are mostly civil society organizations. The Qatari Foundation’s scope of operations is mostly domestic and therefore the charities supported by the foundation focus mainly on providing support to disadvantaged groups such as children, the elderly and the disabled. They also help victims of catastrophic disasters. A few charities funded by the Qatari Foundation provide limited relief support and aid overseas. These include the Education Above All Initiatives, the Al-Fakhoora Project and Reach out to Asia. 

As in many other countries, the level of volunteerism within Qatari’s charitable sector is very small. As such, most of the charities depend on paid staff to execute their mandates. It can be noted that Qatar is a small country with population of 2.3 million people (about half a million are nationals of Qatar with the rest being foreigners). Accordingly, the charitable sector is very small, with most of the charities pursuing fairly similar objectives. For this reason, there have been persistent calls for Qatari charities to consolidate their missions and work together. This has not been achieved due to various factors such as differences in organizational cultures, fear of loss of donors, and lack of trust between charities (Abdul, n.d).  

Islamic donation organizations

The government of Qatar takes cognizance of the fact that the charitable sector not only provides vital services but also acts as a platform through which Qataris express the spirit of altruism to promote the change they could like to see in the country and beyond. The government has taken further consideration of the fact that the charitable sector is vulnerable to abuse and illegal activities such as terror financing and money laundering. In this regard, the government has taken various measures to regulate the charitable sector. Charitable organizations are accountable to their financiers and the government, and are expected to account for all funds received. By regulating the charitable sector, the government of Qatar aims to minimize vulnerabilities of the sector. The various regulatory mechanisms put in place by the government enable tracking of charity funds right from the source to the beneficiaries.    

The global war on terror has been an issue of great concern for Qatar’s charities and non-governmental organization since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA. It has been established that a number of charities across the world have been clandestinely working with terrorist groups through funds transfer and other forms of material support. Moreover, some charities are run by associates of terror groups for the purpose of collecting funds from the public and other well wishers who are never informed of the really missions of the charities. This has led to increased pressures by government oversights over the charities. In countries such as the UK and USA, several NGOs and Islamic charities have been blacklisted for helping terrorist groups. Consequently, these charities have had their assets frozen, and operations stopped. In other cases, some of the charities’ leaders have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Qatar is fortunate in that it has not had any of its charities designated as a sponsor of terrorism. Nonetheless, the government of Qatar has worked tirelessly to strengthen the law on terrorism to ensure that charities do not abuse their privileges to support terror groups. To this end, the government is committed to developing a robust regulatory framework for civil society and NGOs to bring out long-term positive changes.