His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has presented the third annual Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) to Amel Association International, a non-sectarian Lebanese NGO, at an awarding ceremony, held at the Sharjah Police Academy today (Wednesday).
The prestigious Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) award – a cash prize of AED500,000 ($136,000) and a trophy – recognises the efforts of Amel’s founder, Dr. Kamel Mohanna and his team in protecting human rights, and providing education, child protection and livelihood opportunities to those affected by the Lebanese civil war that broke out in 1975. Amel has also shown exceptional leadership in offering humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Lebanon, and has expanded its operations to several countries including France, Switzerland and USA.
Additionally, the Sharjah Ruler also announced a US$ 1 million financial contribution for Amel. The donation has been made to significantly bolster the efforts of the non-profit, which has been working tirelessly since 1979 to provide emergency as well as rehabilitation assistance to those in need. Last year, the organisation’s beneficiaries exceeded 100,000, with half of them being women and children.
His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi congratulated Amel Association International, its supporters and partners for their efforts to serve those in need, and lauded the humanitarian efforts and initiatives of TBHF to support refugee children and their families.
The ceremony was held in the presence of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at UNHCR; Amin Awad, UNHCR Director for the Middle East and North Africa Bureau, and representatives of humanitarian and charitable institutions from around the world.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher congratulated Amel for their outstanding humanitarian efforts for the past four decades, and noted that humanitarianism should touch every aspect of life, especially in present times when the escalating refugee crisis makes it more an obligation than an option for all individuals and organisations worldwide. In saying so, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher highlighted the essence of Sharjah’s and its Ruler’s humanitarian vision, who believe that every human being has the right to a secure, decent life irrespective of changing circumstances.
“Refugees have the right to safe asylum. Therefore, it is a collective obligation the international community must share to not only provide them with life’s basic needs, but extend long-term support so they can get back on their feet in host countries as well as rebuild their homes and lives upon returning to their home country. Also, they must exercise their influence and power to prevent the aggravation of crises,” Sheikha Jawaher emphasised.
Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “With the unwavering support and commitment of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawahar Al Qasimi, TBHF is constantly working on establishing a culture of humanitarian work within institutions and societies in order to nullify the impact of conflicts around the world.”
Al Hammadi noted that the number of refugees worldwide was nearing a record 70 million. “These are not mere statistics and case numbers. These are millions of stories, details, memories, feelings and ambitions. Refugees are an integral part of the community, and the numbers we broadcast is an attempt on our part to shine a spotlight on the magnitude of efforts that need to be carried out by humanitarian entities to help and support them.”
She added: “SIARA was established by is three years ago in partnership with the UNHCR to highlight individuals or organisations who implement pioneering and influential initiatives that have had a positive and tangible impact on refugees within Asia and the MENA region. With each edition of the award, our desire is to continue to motivate community organisations, the private sector as well as individual champions to improve the lives of refugees.”
Al Hammadi also pointed out that the award’s cash prize is a special contribution by TBHF, independent of any donations made to support the organisation’s funds and initiatives.
Amin Awad, said: “Allow me to express my deep appreciation to the Sharjah Ruler for convening the third edition of SIARA, which a truly exceptional initiative in promoting humanitarianism. Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher has been instrumental in driving humanitarian efforts and change on regional and global levels, for which we are truly grateful on behalf of the millions of refugees we work for. Her Highness’ and TBHF’s contributions have helped us strengthen our humanitarian protection and assistance efforts, and reach hundreds of thousands of people belonging to the most vulnerable communities in the world.”
“Even though the population-to-refugee ratio of this region is highest compared to anywhere else in the world, what fills us with an immense amount of hope and positivity is that the level of solidarity, compassion and collaboration among Gulf states, North Africa and the larger region is truly impressive. This is seen, for instance, in the unrelenting humanitarian dedication of the winner of this year’s SIARA award, Amel Association International. Big congratulations to you,” he added.
Dr. Kamel Mohanna, received the award on Amel’s behalf, thanking the Sharjah Ruler for sponsoring it, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher for her unwavering humanitarian commitment and support.
“This award holds immense value in the Arab world, which has been suffering from division and conflict. It symbolises solidarity with the vulnerable and marginalised, especially those seeking refuge in host countries.
“Two decades ago, there were 10 million refugees around the world. Today, there are 65 million refugees and displaced – half of them in the Arab world.”
Mohanna further explained that Amel International chose to be a non-sectarian civil society organisation, saying their work is largely a response to the following question: “How do we nurture humanity in humans regardless of their political view, religion, or geographic location?” He emphasised that Amel’s vision and mission are rooted in a complete and absolute disregard to sectarianism and fundamentalist ideologies.
As Amel International takes Sharjah’s prestigious international humanitarian award this year, the non-profit’s founder, Dr Mohanna, has also received his fourth consecutive Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
Stone artworks by Syrian artist, Nizar Ali Badr, depicting the plight of his displaced countrymen, women and children were showcased at the event to shine a spotlight on their perilous journeys and harsh realities of life as asylum seekers in host nations.
SIARA was instituted in 2017 under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and His Wife ness Sheikha Jawaher. The award is dedicated to individuals and organisations who lead pioneering projects designed to alleviate the sufferings of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and asylum seekers in host nations encompassing the Asian and MENA regions. The award also considers humanitarian efforts launched in communities affected by natural disasters, armed conflicts and poverty worldwide.
TBHF was officially developed into a full-fledged foundation in June 2015, following a decision by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi to transform the “Big Heart” campaign into a global humanitarian organisation, coinciding with World Refugee Day. The decision aimed to double efforts to help refugees and people in need all over the world, a move that added value to the UAE’s rich record of humanitarian initiatives and contributed to reinforcing its reputation regionally and globally.