Two years after Bill Gates announced a major fund to fight poverty, the initiative took shape in Jeddah on Thursday.
The Lives and Livelihoods Fund will invest $2.5 billion over the next five years on projects that help the poorest people in 30 of the poorest Muslim countries lead healthy and productive lives.
The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) held the first meeting of the Impact Committee of the Lives & Livelihoods Fund (LLF) in Jeddah on Thursday.
The fund was officially launched through the committee meeting.
The decision-making body approved projects worth $363 million for the first of the five years that the fund will be operational.
Two years ago, in Jeddah, the major new fund to fight poverty was announced by Gates, founder of Microsoft, who now dedicates his time to philanthropy.
That announcement marked the beginning of work to create an innovative, large-scale fund that could fight disease and poverty across the Muslim world. Today, after two years of intensive collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, that initiative formally came to life.
The Lives and Livelihoods Fund has become the largest ever development initiative of its kind based in the Middle East. It officially launched Thursday through the first meeting of its Impact Committee.
Projects approved for the first wave of funding will be primarily in the Middle East and a number of Islamic and African countries.
The funds will be used to protect communities from the risk of malaria and HIV/AIDS, increase access to water and primary health care, and empower poor farmers to grow more food through the development of necessary infrastructure.
Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of IsDB, stated that the fund represented a major milestone in the journey to improve lives in Muslim countries.
“I am delighted to see the hard work of all the partners pay off; these projects will save lives, and that is what we are here to do,” he said at the sideline of the meeting.
Administered by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the fund combines $2 billion of IsDB financing with $500m in grants from donors.
So far, $400 million in grants have been committed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (20 percent of the total up to $100 million), the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development ($100 million), the Qatar Fund for Development ($50 million), the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Center ($100m), and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development ($50 million).
The Impact Committee met under the chairmanship of Maher Al-Hadrawi, executive director of the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Center.
Al-Hadrawi said he was delighted with the progress of the fund since its inception, adding that it was the result of the joint efforts of the parties involved, and that it will be active and effective in developing the lives and livelihoods of people in the beneficiary countries, particularly in rural areas.
Al-Hadrawi noted that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had provided directives for the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Center to contribute $100 million on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Lives and Livelihoods Fund.
The aid from the King Salman Center will help support incomes, provide the means for dignified living, and strengthen infrastructure in 30 Islamic countries, and is an extension of the significant efforts made by the Kingdom to help those in need.
Qatar was the first donor country to join the fund, committing $50 million in April 2016.
Ali bin Abdullah Al-Dabbagh, director of Strategic Planning at the Qatar Development Fund, said: “We at Qatar Fund For Development are proud to contribute to this unprecedented initiative in the Middle East region. We have complete confidence that the management team of the Lives and Livelihoods Fund, through its close cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank, will launch high-quality projects in vital sectors that will reflect positively on improving the living conditions of millions of people across the Islamic world.”
The UAE also joined the inaugural impact committee as a founding member, with a major commitment of $50 million.
Representing the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Mohamed Al-Suwaidi commented: “The LLF is a great example of the innovative financing mechanisms that we need in order to achieve the 2030 development agenda. We are proud to be a founding member of this joint regional effort and look forward to realizing the funds’ full capabilities in reaching those most marginalized.”