Riyadh (UNA-OIC) – The United Nations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (UN in KSA) and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) launched on Thursday a research paper on “Awqaf for the Achievement of Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
Awqaf (Islamic endowments) have been a central form of social finance in Saudi Arabia for centuries. Awqaf have been used to fund, on a perpetual basis, institutions and projects that support poverty alleviation, education, health care, and numerous other social objectives.
In many countries, the awqaf sector has become dormant and the social awqaf is contributing less strategically than it could to social and economic development. The aim of this study is to provide actionable recommendations on how waqf can be a source of sustainable financing for Vision 2030 and SDGs in the Kingdom. The findings of this study present recommendations to enhance the role and impact of awqaf in achieving the SDGs and Vision 2030 goals.
The study set out to estimate the potential contribution that awqaf in Saudi Arabia can make in financing the National Transformation Program (NTP) and the SDGs, provide a conceptual framework by which awqaf in the Kingdom can align with NTP and the SDGs; identify challenges to be overcome in achieving NTP and SDG alignment; and provide actionable recommendations for awqaf stakeholders to move forward in aligning the sector with the NTP and SDGs.
The study reveals, through in-depth interviews with more than 25 participants representing awqaf stakeholders’, three levels of alignment challenges: 1) Challenges in the alignment of purposes, including unclear roles in relation to other institutions, legal difficulties in adjusting existing awqaf purposes, weak governance and board’s involvement in strategy, and lack of information on local priorities for local regions; 2) Challenges in the alignment of projects, including the lack of information on “what works” for local communities, difficulties in changing organizational processes and cultures, and scarcity of specialized human resources, and access to impact management tools; 3) Challenges in the alignment of investments, including preference for low-risk investment, legal difficulties in changing the investments of existing awqaf, access to impact investment tools and experts, and availability of impact investment opportunities.
Based on the findings of the study and the guidelines and standards of various international organizations and standards-setting bodies, the study presents recommendations to enhance the role and impact of awqaf in achieving SDGs and Vision 2030 goals.
The UN in KSA and ICD expressed hope that the research paper will be a starting point for further joint cooperation to support accelerating the achievement of the SDGs in Saudi Arabia, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic which still affects many of the most vulnerable in the country.
In order to activate the study findings, UN RC Mrs. Nathalie Fustier called for an active follow up on all recommendations that were agreed upon to exchange information and experiences, in addition to coming up with joint projects that could be implemented.
“I strongly believe that this study has the potential to yield in exciting results, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of Vision 2030 will require innovative approaches and solutions that can integrate and balance the economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Awqaf as a means to enhance social services can provide a unique opportunity for innovative solutions.” UN RC Mrs. Nathalie Fustier.
CEO of ICD Ayman Sejiny commented ” It is clear that awqaf’s framework is consistent with some of the key objectives of the SDGs which are also consistent with Maqasid al-Shariah (the higher objectives of shariah).
This study gives the available literature original value on the possibilities of waqf in the field of development and achieving the 2030 vision. It analyzes the role of waqf in the attainment of the most urgent SDGs based on Maqasid, thereby filling the vacuum existing in a systemic investigation on potential cooperation of global awqaf and SDGs.”