The Lives and Livelihoods Fund (LLF), announced two years ago by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and supported by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, formally came to life yesterday.
The announcement marked the beginning of work to create an innovative, large-scale fund that could fight disease and poverty across the Muslim world. The largest-ever development initiative of its kind based in the Middle East, the LLF had its official launch yesterday through the first meeting of its Impact Committee in Jeddah.
The decision-making body approved projects worth $363mn for the first of the five years that the fund will be operational. These projects will be primarily in the Middle East and several 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 healthcare, and empower poor farmers to grow more food through the development of necessary infrastructure.
According to a statement received in Doha, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of IsDB, said on the sidelines of the Jeddah meeting that the fund represented a major milestone in the journey to improve lives in Muslim countries.
The LLF will invest $2.5bn over the next five years on projects that help the poorest people in 30 of the poorest Muslim countries lead healthy and productive lives. Administered by the IsDB, the fund combines $2bn of IsDB financing with $500mn in grants from donors.
So far, $400mn in grants have been committed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (20% of the total up to $100mn), the ISFD ($100mn), the Qatar Fund for Development ($50mn), the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Centre ($100mn), and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development ($50mn).
Qatar was the first donor country to join the fund, committing $50mn in April 2016.
Ali bin Abdullah al-Dabbagh, director of Strategic Planning at the Qatar Development Fund, said: “We have complete confidence that the management team of the Lives and Livelihoods Fund, through its close co-operation 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 Impact Committee met under the chairmanship of Maher al-Hadrawi, executive director of the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Centre. He expressed delight 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.
The UAE also joined the inaugural impact committee as a founding member, with a major commitment of $50mn. 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 realising the funds’ full capabilities in reaching those most marginalised.”