4th December 2019, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, New York, United States of America | The General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) and the United Nations (UN) have successfully launched the first Executive Knowledge - Sharing Forum on “The Role of Islamic Finance in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: Opportunities and Challenges” at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain.
The forum was attended by senior executives of Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) across various countries, UN officials from the MENA region and beyond, as well as high-level representatives from multilateral institutions, international and national regulatory bodies, policy-makers, inter-governmental agencies and the academia from 20 countries. The forum aims to bring a fruitful discussion on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sustainability, governance and social responsibility within the Islamic financial services industry and how the values and modalities of Islamic finance align with the SDGs.
The Opening Ceremony of the forum has witnessed welcoming remarks from Dr. Abdelilah Belatik, Secretary General, General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI); H.E. Mr. Amin El Sharkawi, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Bahrain; H.E. Dr. Shaikh Abdullah bin Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Undersecretary of International Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain; and Mr. Mounir Tabet, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on behalf of H.E. Dr. Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Lebanon.
Commenting on the forum, Dr. Abdelilah Belatik said: “Being the global representative of Islamic financial institutions (IFIs), CIBAFI is keen to cooperate with other international organisations to support the development of the Islamic financial services industry while adhering to the values of Islamic finance. Global challenges require global action, thus CIBAFI is pleased to have organised this forum in partnership with the United Nations to discuss and share views on the global sustainable development agenda and how Islamic finance is seen as an alternative mode of financing its goals.
We are overwhelmed by the active participation of the attendees, participants and speakers alike, who most of them even flew from outside Bahrain to support this initiative. Being the home to CIBAFI, we had the first series of the forum here in Bahrain. We look forward to having another successful series of this initiative as we expand to other parts of the world.”
H.E. Mr. El Sharkawi added: “The Islamic financial industry itself is still in need of a strong enabling environment. Undoubtedly, strengthening partnerships between stakeholders and exchanging knowledge between Islamic and non-Islamic financial institution, international and national institutions: governmental and private is key to fund SDGs investment. We are starting to do this today in this forum.”
The first session themed, “Alignment Between Sustainability and Islamic Financial Services Industry (IFSI)” was chaired by Dr. Abdulmajeid Haddad, Deputy Regional Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who facilitated the discussion among the session speakers which included Dr. Nihat Gumus, Islamic Finance Advisor, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Dr. Dalal Assouli, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, College of Islamic Studies, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar; and Dr. Salman Syed Ali, Lead Economist, the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), Saudi Arabia. The session provided an overview of the principles as well as the challenges underpinning the financing of the SDGs and how Islamic finance serves as an emerging and effective tool for supporting and achieving the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda.
“Finance Infrastructure & Development by Sukuk” was the main theme of the second session of the forum. Chairing this session was Mr. Abdirahman Aynte, Director of Strategic Partnerships, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Jordan. While the panelists included Mr. Ijlal Ahmed Alvi Chief Executive Officer, International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM); Mr. Lilian Le Falher, Executive Manager & Head of Treasury and Capital Markets, Kuwait Finance House, Bahrain; and Mr. Nitish Bhojnagarwala, VP-Sr Credit Officer, Financial Institutions Group, Moody's Investors Service Middle East Limited. The Session provided an overview of the Islamic financial markets and architecture for long-term investment needs, with focus on the potentials of Sukuk.
The first day of the forum was concluded with the third session titled “Zakat & Waqf as Tools for Financial Inclusion and Shared Prosperity”. This session examined the use of resources from Waqf and Zakat to finance microfinance and Qard al-Hasan programmes as well as it discussed the characteristics of specific financing programmes and tools in the Islamic economy that present opportunities to mobilize additional untapped resources for poverty alleviation and financial inclusion. The session was chaired by Mr. Houssam Chahin, Islamic Finance Task Force, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Among the distinguished speakers who presented their expertise in this session were Dr. Faisal Mahmoud Atbani, Assistant Professor of Law and Head of Risk Management & Insurance Department, King Abdulaziz University - Islamic Economics Institute, Saudi Arabia; and Dr. Mohammed Burhan Arbouna, Head of Shariah Compliance, Al Salam Bank Bahrain.
The forum will continue for the second day with the fourth session on the “Use of Islamic Finance to Fund Development Projects (Education, Health, MSMEs)”. This session will explore the development of new and adopted financial instruments for financing education by Islamic banking as a key growth sector in Islamic finance and will aim to provide a comprehensive review of the current financial issues facing MSMEs and the aspirations of the Islamic finance industry to provide financing for businesses. This session will be chaired by Mr. Rafael Martinez, Partnerships Development Specialist, UN Volunteers. While the panelists include Dr. Mohammed Alyami, Director of Development Effectiveness Department, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Saudi Arabia; and Dr. Ali Adnan Ibrahim, First Vice President - Head of Sustainability & Social Responsibility, Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG), Bahrain.
The 2-day forum will end with the fifth session, themed “Key Contributions from Islamic Finance Institutions into Achieving the SDGs and Address Key Challenges”, which will be chaired by Dr. Lulwa Al Mutlaq, President and CEO, Golden Trust, Bahrain. The panelists include Mr. Iyad Asali, General Manager, Islamic International Arab Bank, Jordan; and Dr. Mohd Ma'Sum Billah, Professor of Finance & Insurance, King Abdulaziz University – Islamic Economics Institute, Saudi Arabia. The session will showcase key contributions of Islamic financial institutions in financing MSMEs and development projects, education and health capacity building and climate change as well as other current global initiatives that promote transparency and accountability in the disclosure of Islamic financial institutions’ sustainability and social responsibility practices.
The General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) and the United Nations (UN) extend their highest appreciation to all speakers, guests, the media and attendees for making the forum a success. Special appreciation is extended to the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), for partnering with CIBAFI in this endeavor.
The forum was organized by CIBAFI in partnership with the United Nations as an initiative that aims to raise awareness and engage with key issues such as sustainability and Islamic finance value proposition in the international arena. Other initiatives will follow in Bahrain as well as in other parts of the world.