EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Islamic Development Bank President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali

Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the Islamic Development Bank, invited MuslimGirl to a private media roundtable and luncheon on the occasion of IDB’s 40th anniversary and the World Bank and IMF’s annual meeting. People from all facets of the global Muslim community — from governors and ministers to organization and business heads — joined IDB to discuss its upcoming programs, current issues, and the impact of its work around the world.

We had the chance to speak with Dr. Ali exclusively and hear his thoughts on our concerns, from women’s empowerment to the BDS movement. Check out his remarks below:

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh IDB Dr Ali

MuslimGirl: One thing that stuck out about IDB’s mission is that you particularly mentioned that you hope to empower women and work on women’s programs.

One of the basic parts of our 1440H Vision, or the 2020 Vision, is right there.

MG: So, does the IDB have programs in place in its member states solely to empower women?

We have a panel of very active ladies that advise IDB. They meet almost twice a year — their last meeting was last March in Morocco, and they advise us on how we can do that. They’ve suggested a number of steps, including having three annual prizes to be awarded to outstanding women who have an active role in supporting development in their countries. You will find very successful stories in there and I’m sure you will be very happy to learn about them.

MG: I know that a lot of the work that you’re doing in your member countries are through the governments. Do you primarily work through state governments or do you also get involved with grassroots organizations and work more directly with people?

We have a special unit for cooperation with non-governmental organizations. Also, we have a special program for cooperation with Muslim communities in non-member countries to support their education; we have a scholarship program for qualified students.

MG: Is there some type of framework in place to be able gauge what the people need for their livelihoods or does that primarily come from institutional knowledge?

IDB celebrated its 40th anniversary this past June. During last year, under the direction of IDB’s Board of Directors, we engaged a consultant to help in appraising and evaluating the work of IDB in the region over the last 40 years. The tier program was prepared by the consultant and was submitted last June to the Board of Governors. Accordingly, the Board of Directors has been directed by the Board of Governors to work out a ten-year strategy program for the IDB, and that’s what we’re working on this year. So, an appraisal has been done of our programs, what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong, and we’ll benefit from that, God willing, in preparing our ten-year strategic plan.

An appraisal has been done of our programs, what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong, and we’ll benefit from that.

MG: What has been the biggest challenge to the IDB in the global community in recent history?

Of course. As you know, a big problem in our member countries is the low level of education. This is a big challenge — of the least developed countries in the world, most of them are members of IDB. Out of the 48 least developed countries according to the United Nations, about 29 of them are members. So, this is the main challenge facing the IDB, really — poverty and low levels of education.

MG: A primary concern of many Muslim youth living in America is the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement. You’re working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and just a few months ago, as a result of student protests at the University of California, they decided to sell all of their stocks in G4S, which is an Israeli prison contractor.

As you know, we have a special relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We have a program with them in a number of areas, including poverty elimination and fighting diseases. Bill Gates was there at our 40th anniversary celebration last June and he addressed our Board of Governors as well. There was also a representative from the foundation at our luncheon yesterday and he talked about the cooperation between IDB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Hopefully, we can utilize this cooperation in making them more understanding of what IDB is about, what our principles are about, and through this way we can have more understanding.

MG: Does the IDB hold its member states to a moral standard? Given the actions that governments might be partaking in, is that something that affects IDB’s decision whether to support a project or an effort in that country?

Another wording for Islamic banking is ethical banking. Ethics are an essential part of IDB financing. So, we always observe this and we expect all IDB collaborations to be done accordingly. We think that this will have some influence on the actions of all member countries — we are confident of that, God willing.