Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) 2011 was inaugurated by UN Messenger of Peace and Chairperson of the International Humanitarian City HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

HRH Princess Haya was accompanied by Lady Valerie Amos, the United Nations Under–Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, HE Ibrahim Bumelha, Cultural and Humanitarian Advisor of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Est. and Chairman of the Higher Committee DIHAD, President of DISAB, HE Ahmed Humaid Al Mazroui, Chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority as well as a number of local and international figures.

This year’s theme, ‘New Technologies: How they Impact Humanitarian and Development Operations’, highlights the manner in which new technologies affect and change the way humanitarian and development organizations collectively operate and also, the extent in which these changes benefit populations in need of assistance. After the traditional ribbon cutting, HRH Princess Haya spoke at the opening ceremony, addressing an audience of international organizations and associations as well as several key international leaders in the industry, and then proceeded on a tour of the exhibition area, where She met with local, regional and international humanitarian and charity associations, relief agencies, NGOs, donors and procurers.

“There are exciting developments that now allow aid agencies to communicate and deliver services far more effectively than in the past both in humanitarian crises and development,” stated HRH Princess Haya. “Technological advances in areas like health and agriculture have had a dramatically positive impact on the lives of the poor and hungry. Technology also presents new ways to transfer cash or food rations to beneficiaries through the use of coupons or vouchers, bank cards and even cell phones.”

“However, not all technology is appropriate and even the technology itself can sometimes be seen as a cultural intrusion,” continued HRH Princess Haya. “Further complicating the picture is who has access to technology. If you had to assign a gender to technology it would most certainly be male and in the developing world men have far greater access to it, whether you are talking about something as simple as a cell phone or a complex mainframe computer. But our targets in humanitarian aid are far more likely directed at women and children who remain outside the circles of technology and market capitalism. This presents another significant challenge.”

HE Al Mazroui also spoke at the opening ceremony, stating that “the United Arab Emirates has embraced DIHAD for its eighth year in a row, reflecting the human inheritance and civility of our heritage. The UAE has always been the right place for events that focus on people in need and misfortune, under the guidelines and supervision of HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.”

“The UAE has always been active in developing and enhancing human dignity and rights of those living around the world, which is also a great responsibility; to carry out efforts to alleviate human suffering. According to international figures, the UAE had achieved unparalleled levels in humanitarian assistance and relief; it was also ranked first in reference to the number of donations compared to its gross GNP among the countries who are not members of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 2009. This achievement reassures that the UAE foreign aid sector is committed towards people who suffer and is diligent to provide all the help required,” HE Al Mazroui continued.

In his speech, HE Ibrahim Bumelha stated that, “in the past eight years, DIHAD has excelled in attracting the world’s key humanitarian executives and leaders to Dubai, providing a platform where they can share their expertise, express their opinions and contribute to solutions that would have major input in raising the standard of living. These solutions would target affected communities, building their capabilities and teach them how to respond quickly and more effectively during a crisis.”

He also said that the DIHAD conference will address new technologies and their impact on relief operations and development. Such technologies have proven to be effective during international relief operations, saving time and providing humanitarians with the data they require during emergencies and crises.

“The world now is witnessing a tremendous change in the digital and technical production industry,” HE Bumelha stated. “In addition, there are an unlimited number of wireless, digital and electrical gadgets, which can be used effectively in the humanitarian development and relief operations. Technology can accelerate the development process as it focuses on the follow-up of the strategic plans and the preparation of the necessary programs to meet these challenges that affect communities in many parts of the world.”

As part of the program, HRH Princess Haya then toured the exhibition, visiting the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, the UAE Red Crescent Society, the Tkiyet Umm Ali, the International Humanitarian City (IHC) and World Food Programme (WFP) stands, to name a few.