Islamic Finance

Responsible finance Summit urged to ‘think and act differently’ with ‘Sustainable, Responsible, Islamic’ approach to humanitarian crises

ABU DHABI - Jordan’s Princess Sarah Zeid has called for a “new SRI”—sustainable, responsible, and Islamic—approach to address the challenges facing humanitarian settings globally, at the Responsible Finance and Investment Summit 2019 in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The Summit is the fourth organised by UK-registered RFI Foundation, an industry body that covers different forms of responsible finance—including Islamic finance and Socially Responsible Investment (SRI)—necessary for sustainable development.

“We need a new SRI, one that allows us to be true to our faith and our shared beliefs in the values and consequences of ethical finance and social impact, of long-term solutions which are people- and planet-centric,” said Princess Sarah, who is a member of the U.N. refugee agency’s Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement, and Protection.

At the heart of her address to the Summit, the Princess called on delegates to “be the just, the bold” to “think and act differently – and with an urgency” to prioritise the people most in need.

She cited two examples of Islamic finance instruments used in new ways to support humanitarian crises.

The first was the launch on Thursday of a dedicated Shariah-compliant zakat fund from the UNHCR aimed at helping the most vulnerable displaced populations while meeting the needs of Islamic institutions and individuals in fulfilling their social responsibility.

“[M]uslims generate, on the lowest end of the scale, around $232 billion a year in zakat, a figure which, if strategically channeled, could fundamentally transform lives of millions,” said the Princess, who is also a Special Advisor to the World Food Programme on Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition.

The UNHCR said that $208.6 million in zakat-eligible funds will be required to assist the most vulnerable refugee and internally displaced families across several member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The second involves a partnership between the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Islamic Development Bank to use sukuk, underpinned by a blended finance facility, to fund the reduction of cholera deaths in OIC countries.

For Princess Sarah, today’s humanitarian architecture is fundamentally flawed and not designed to adjust to populations living as refugees for an average of 17 years.

“It is not designed to provide comprehensive education, healthcare, water and sanitation facilities, food and nutrition to millions - for decades,” she said.

This system, she said, has “too many shockingly under-funded humanitarian appeals” to achieve even the bare minimum, and rallied the responsible finance community to “be the tipping point” to shape a “financial, investment and business footprint reaching the most vulnerable.”


The RFI Summit 2019 also announced winners of its Support Disruption for Good (SDG) Challenge, an RFI Foundation initiative that identifies and rewards start-ups that use technology to help financial institutions deliver economic, social and environmental good.

Sanshodhan, an e-waste company from India; Denmark's Ekofolio that offers investments in sustainable forests; and UK-based Greenmatch were the start-ups that won the SDG Challenge this year.

The Summit also saw the launch of the Islamic Finance ESG report, developed by RFI Foundation and Refinitiv. The report highlights the roles and initiatives of governments, financials and non-financial institutions on the road to Shariah-compliant Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

(Reporting by Seban Scaria; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim


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