At the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington DC in April 2009, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke of the importance of addressing the issue of poverty. “One of the great principles of Islam, in all its interpretations,” he said, “is the elimination of poverty in society, and philanthropy’s centrality in this duty.”

As the novel coronavirus has ravaged the planet this year, our global society has had to both mobilise itself against this pandemic and recover from its plight. While one pandemic has been plenty for many of us, millions of global citizens have had to deal with another one: the poverty pandemic. Faced with a public health crisis and a growing environmental crisis, 2020 has further revealed how the poor and ultra-poor within our communities are at the front lines of these crises, as reflected upon at the recent UN General Assembly.

Since 1992, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been celebrated annually on 17 October to promote dialogue and understanding between people living in poverty, their communities, and society at large. This year, the international day tackles the theme, “Acting Together to Achieve Social and Environmental Justice for All”. The two facets of this year’s theme - social and environmental justice - are not distinct; rather, they are becoming increasingly interconnected. Individuals who struggle socioeconomically will also be the most affected by the changing climate, despite their minimal contribution to its deterioration. At the same time, those who are impoverished do not just face a lack of resources to tackle these challenges, but also a lack of solidarity from the wider community.

Under the guidance of His Highness the Aga Khan, the work of the AKDN ensures the active engagement of communities in need with the agencies which support them. Be it through education and skills training or infrastructure development, the AKDN’s programmes provide long-term support to communities and facilitate the path to self-reliance and poverty alleviation. The AKDN embodies Islam’s dedication to the elimination of poverty and should be celebrated for its trailblazing efforts on this day.

Community volunteers in the UAE mirror the AKDN’s commitment to uplifting members of the community. From an Economic Planning and Social Welfare perspective, volunteers aim to support and empower the poor and ultra-poor members of the community by seeing them through to prosperity. Rahim Ladhani, a community volunteer, said, “we aim to provide the community with a one-window solution for all their needs, to ensure their needs are met in a holistic manner. We aim to change the community’s perspective on social welfare, beyond just financial support. Our mandate is to improve people's quality of life and to bring them out of the poverty cycle by considering their current issues and their potential to grow, learn, and develop financial independence.”

Coupled with the UAE’s efforts to ensure environmental sustainability in its role as the host of MENA Climate Week, the Ismaili community’s work to support community members in need provides a source of hope in otherwise turbulent times. Community institutions and governmental bodies play an essential role in the effort to eradicate poverty by acting in partnership and in solidarity with those in poverty. Equally, we must continue to remain aware of social and environmental injustices in our society so we can amplify the voices of those tackling them from the frontlines.

To learn more about the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, click here: