Islamic Relief has used its platform at the World Economic Forum to advocate for equity and decisive action to eradicate global poverty.

Poverty and inequality at the heart of unrest

At the high-profile annual meeting – which was held in January in Davos, Switzerland – the Islamic Relief Worldwide CEO, spoke about the ongoing unrest in the Middle East. “It is hard for me as a humanitarian to talk about the issue of poverty and inequality in isolation, or as if they are the only concerns to human dignity,” said Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, who explained that both problems lie at the heart of the unrest – which is often overshadowed by political discussion.

“For today, there is violence taking place across the region. People have the right not to be tortured and not to be slaughtered. As a humanitarian I am not interested in taking sides. But I am interested in saving lives and I am interested in the dignity of human life.”

Civil society and state must work together

Dr Ashmawey urged that to make progress, civil society must be given the space and freedom to flourish – and that it must work with the state to build inclusive societies.

“Governments and civil societies need to realise their joint responsibility. An authentic civic society needs certain foundations: freedom of culture, expression and media, a legitimate and pluralist civilian political authority and depoliticised legal systems.

“Civil society bodies have work to do. They need to rebuild trust with much greater levels of transparency and clear purpose. They cannot be seen to be taking sides – religious or political. They also need to open their doors to younger populations who can give a new meaning to a dynamic civil society that is building rich and competing visions of these countries.”

In addition, at the Interfaith Peace Vigil to End Torture, the CEO spoke out firmly against inhumane acts of torture, and the sanctity of human life. He relayed the story of Prophet Ibrahim, when he was thrown into the fire for believing in God.

“I remember how the Angel Jibreel asked him, ‘O Ibrahim! Is there anything you wish for?’ and he said, ‘From you Jibreel, I need nothing… From Allah, it suffices that he knows my situation’. And God said, ‘O fire! Be coolness and safety for Ibrahim!’”

Islamic Relief Worldwide has also advocated for new ideas at Davos, including action to secure a safer world and tackle inequality – as well as tackling climate change, creating opportunities for young people, and picking up the pace of development.