Charitable Sector in Qatar
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.
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. In essence, most of the charities provide services that are complementary to those provided by the government of Qatar especially in terms of humanitarian assistance, relief aid and development projects.
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. This has made it extremely difficult for small charitable organizations to arise funds because the royal foundations shave strong relationships with major donors and philanthropists.
The third category of Qataris 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 Foundations 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 Qataris 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 less than half a million people. 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.
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 Qatars 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.
Qatar Authority of Charitable Activities 2004-2009
Following the terrorist attacks of September 2001 in the United States, the international community led by the United Nations Security Council set stringent regulations for the global charity sector. This was in response to the realization that certain charitable organizations had helped the terrorist to pan and finance the attacks. One of the measures taken by the UN Security Council was the strengthening of the role of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in fighting money laundering. Member states of the task force as its affiliate institutions are required to take appropriate measures to compliy with the set recommendayoion sfor combating money laundering and other financial crimes. Part of these recommendations (Special Recommendation VIII) refers to the regulation of No-for-profit organizations, which include charity groups and other nion-governmerntal organizations. FATF requires member states to implement laws for regulating the activities of the not-for-profit sector.
Qatar is one of the several countries that have implemented the FATF recommendations about combating money laundering and terror financing. The government of Qatar established the Qatar Authority of Charitable Activities (QACA) in 2004 with a key manadtae of developing, regulating,m encouraging, supervising and supporting all types sof charitable activities conducted by charitable organizations in Qatar. In addition to regulating fundraising by Qatari charities, QACA also directly supported humanitarian activities. Under the lawsregulating charitable activities in Qatar, all charitable institutions and associations operating in the country are subject to control and supervisiuon by qaca. In addition, individual snad entities authorized to raise donations or initiate charitable activities are also subject to supervision by QACA.
Like similar organizations in other countries, qaca was responsible for approving charaitable organizations in Qatar, keeping crucial documents and overseeing financial management. All charitable institutions (including those funded through royal foundations) are subject to rigorous accountability tests and thorough auditing by QACA. Qaca specifies the legal requirements that must be met organizations and individual sinvolved in charity activities. Qaca retains the rights to deregister or dissolve anty charitable organization that violates the law. It can also recommend prosecutions against entities and individuals suspected of violating the charity law. Under the law, no charitable group registered in Qatar can be part of another charitable group in another country without permission from qaca. Similarly, no charity can receive or send funds abroad without approval of qaca.
Role of Qaca in Regulating Charities in Qatar
Between 2004 and 2009, QACA played increasingly critical role in making Qatars charoitable sector more efficiency and competitive in the region. One of these roles was facilitation of information sharing and accreditation of overseas charitable partners. Under Qatar laws, it is required that charities present information about other organizations and associations with which they have formal working relationships. QACA conducted due diligence to ensure that the foreign partners of Qatari charities were lawfully registered in their countries and that they were engaged in legitimate activities. Most importantly QACA sought to ascertain if the foreign entities were blacklisted or designated as sponsor of terrorism or money laundering. In conducting the due diligence, QACA worked closely with many stakeholders including law enforcing agencies and regulatory bodies in home countries. QACA also distributed notices to financial institutions in the country informing them of foreign and domestic partners for Qatari charities.
For ongoing monitoring of the activities of Qatari charities and their foreign partners, QACA implemented a system that allowed its staff to regularly inspect the legal and financial documents of the charities. In addition, the authority encouraged Qatari charities to request their foreign partners to provide required information as a way of ensuring transparency. In some cases, QACA turned down requests for registration whenever it was felt that certain charities or their foreign partners were not engaged in legitimate activities. For example, where it found that the supposed foreign partners were registered as a commercial entities rather than a charitable organization, registration was automatically declined. Registrations were also declined if the foreign partners were found to be from countries that lacked clear regulatory frameworks. This unique approach employed enabled it to ensure that Qatari charities operated lawfully and in accordance with international regulations.
The second role that QACA played related to regulation of the fundraising activities of all charitable organizations registered or operating in Qatar. Unlike other countries, Qatars charitable associations do not operate like typical donors when handling requests for charities from abroad. Instead, they convert requests for funds into funding projects. They then conduct a fundraising campaign to support the specific cause. In so doing, some charities may abuse their powers to misappropriate charitable funds. QACA took a series of measures to protect the interests of donors and the public during fundraising. Among these...
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