THE ROOM BURST into spontaneous applause but only the faintest flicker of a smile crossed the face of the great man himself. Yet his philanthropic gesture, of donating $10bn to launch an organisation to promote human development in the Arab world will undoubtedly change the lives of many thousands--if not millions--of people.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation is "a personal initiative aimed at building a knowledge-based society throughout the region", Sheikh Mohammed told participants at the World Economic Forum in Jordan in May.
"The past offers lessons for the future," he noted. "History teaches us that the rise and fall of civilisations and the prosperity of peoples and nations is connected to a process of renewal, development and change that includes economic, political, educational, administrative and intellectual reforms. It is impossible to advance this process unless we provide the basis for innovation to find creative solutions to the developmental challenges."
The new Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation will work to put knowledge at the forefront of development, as Sheikh Mohammed pointed out. "The foundation's mission is to invest in knowledge and human development focusing specifically on research, education and promoting equal opportunities for professional growth and success of our youth. The foundation's programmes are also aimed at enhancing the standing of scholars and intellectuals in the Arab world," he added.
Having referred to the Arab world's historic civilisation and its ancient eminent scientists and scholars, Sheikh Mohammed revealed his concern that currently much of the Arab world lags behind other areas. "There is a wide knowledge gap between us and the developed world in the West and in Asia. Our only choice is to bridge this gap as quickly as possible, because our age is defined by knowledge and determines how a country is positioned in terms of weakness and strength, backwardness and advancement, efficiency and stagnation, wealth and poverty." Sheikh Mohammed highlighted illiteracy as a major challenge facing the Arab world. "The illiteracy that is still rampant in the...