July 26, 2018

Dubai’s New Law to Regulate Volunteering Activity

The new Dubai Volunteering Law is the latest move in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to regulate charities, donations and charitable works. In this article, we look at the aims of the new Law, the types of activities it regulates, and actions voluntary organisations and individuals should consider taking following the new obligations they will face.

The lack of penalties has been reinforced by government officials stating that the new law is intended to encourage volunteer activities and not to penalise those for non-compliance.

Volunteering organisations and individuals have a 6 month period until 25 October 2018 to comply with Dubai Law No. 5 of 2018 (Dubai Volunteering Law); however there are no prescribed penalties for non-compliance. The lack of penalties has been reinforced by government officials stating that the new law is intended to encourage volunteer activities and not to penalise those for non-compliance.

Aims of the Dubai Volunteering Law

The Dubai Volunteering Law seeks to organise and regulate volunteering work in Dubai. In particular, it is aimed at encouraging volunteering within the Emirate by providing incentives and recognition for volunteers and to offer protection to individual volunteers.

Dubai Community Development Authority

The Dubai Community Development Authority (the CDA) is the regulatory authority responsible for implementing the Dubai Volunteering Law and its functions are to include:

  • Developing plans and policies to supervise voluntary activity in Dubai;
  • Encouraging governmental and private organisations to launch volunteer initiatives;
  • Adopting a template volunteer agreement; and
  • Establishing a database to register volunteers in Dubai and issuing volunteer identity cards.

What are the requirements for approval under the new Law?

The Dubai Volunteering Law states that ‘No Volunteering Organisation or volunteers may carry out any volunteer activity or allow any volunteer activity to be carried out without obtaining a permit from the CDA’ (Article 6).  All volunteers must be registered with the CDA to practice voluntary activity (Article 14). 

A Volunteering Organisation may be either a government authority or a private entity, including a civil establishment licensed to practice voluntary activities in the Emirate (Article 2).  In other words, it applies to both public and private sector bodies which rely on volunteers as part of the activities.

A private sector company which arranges for its staff to take part in a volunteer initiative under the company's name and responsibility will be captured under the Law and will require CDA approval.  On the other hand, a private company which encourages its staff to volunteer to work at a third party charity or community initiative is unlikely to be required to be registered by itself (the activities themselves will be regulated under the Law).

Obligations of the Volunteering Organisation

The Dubai Volunteering Law places a number of obligations on Volunteering Organisations.  Essentially, these organisations must register and report to the CDA and ensure that standards in volunteering are met.  The key obligations include:

  • Setting appropriate standards for their voluntary activities and submitting these to the CDA;
  • Identifying the nature of activities volunteers working for them will perform divided up by categories of volunteers;
  • Ensuring safeguards on the qualifications and skills volunteers must possess in order to conduct specific voluntary activities;
  • Ensuring only registered volunteers are permitted to provide voluntary work;
  • Providing training to volunteers;
  • Registration of data with the CDA, including the volunteers’ names and personal data, nature of volunteer activity and number of volunteer hours;
  • Providing volunteers with insurance; and
  • Providing certificates of appreciation to volunteers.

It is important to note that the Volunteering Organisation shall be responsible for all costs and expenses incurred under the voluntary activity.  There is also responsibility on the Volunteering Organisation for loss or damage sustained by a volunteer during volunteering.  However, this liability appears to be conditional upon the loss or damage being a result of an "omission" (effectively negligence) by the Volunteering Organisation itself. 

Volunteering Agreement

The legal relationship between the Volunteering Organisation and the individual volunteers must be defined in a written agreement.  Details to be covered in this volunteering agreement include the subject matter of the volunteer activity, duration of the agreement, nature of the risks, the volunteer’s obligations and measures to be applied in the event of a breach of the agreement.  The form of volunteering agreement must be approved by the CDA. 

Are there any obligations on individual volunteers?

Whilst most of the obligations in the Dubai Volunteering Law are with the Volunteering Organisation, there are some obligations on individual volunteers.  These include complying with the volunteering agreement, maintaining confidentiality of information obtained during the course of the voluntary work and having respect for the customs and traditions of the local community and the objectives of the voluntary activities.

Types of Volunteer Activities

There are two sub-categories of voluntary activities which are subject to further regulation under the law:  Specialised Voluntary Activities and Institutional Voluntary Activities. 

Specialised Voluntary Activities are those which are offered by the Volunteering Organisation in conjunction with the CDA itself.  The volunteer offering specialised volunteer work must satisfy technical conditions and standards as required by the Volunteering Organisation and a permit will be issued by the CDA (Article 7). 

Institutional Voluntary Activity captures voluntary work carried out by government authorities or private entities, including NGOs (Article 2), as part of a corporate social responsibility initiative, in conjunction with a Volunteering Organisation, which is licensed by the CDA for that type of activity (Article 8).  The government or private sector body is liable for the contributions of their employees to take part in those activities. 

Sanctions for breach

There are no prescribed sanctions for non-compliance under the Law, reinforcing the CDA's view that it is intended to encourage voluntary activities and not to penalise those for non-compliance.

Community Development Authority Portal

The CDA has established a volunteering portal accessed via their website at www.cda.gov.ae.  The CDA is also due to launch a volunteer app for use on smart phones to enable ease of registration and recording of volunteer hours.  Registration via the portal can be completed by the Volunteering Organisation or the individual volunteer.  The portal will allow volunteer activities to be entered, volunteer criteria to be applied and will enable reports to be generated and appreciation certificates to be issued to individual volunteers.  Each individual volunteer will need to be registered through the portal. 

What should volunteers and Volunteering Organisations do next?

Individual volunteers should take steps to register with the CDA portal.  This will allow individual volunteers to access the different voluntary activities on offer, track and certify their volunteer hours and access the reports of the different volunteering initiatives.  As well as registration via the portal of volunteer activities being organised, Volunteering Organisations and private entities organising volunteer activities should consider the following:

  • Volunteering Organisations should be proactive in reviewing their internal processes for how to manage volunteers and ensure that appropriate inductions are given to volunteers;
  • A Volunteering Agreement should be entered into with individual volunteers.  The CDA has informed us that a template agreement will be shortly available and that this template agreement should be used; and
  • Volunteering Organisations should review their training standards and instructions to volunteers and make sure that insurance cover is in place for the volunteering activities.

Conclusion

The Dubai Volunteering Law intends to promote and regulate volunteering activities in the Emirate.  There is also support and encouragement from the CDA for these volunteering activities, with advice from the CDA available to both volunteers and to Volunteering Organisations as to how to register via the portal and how to best conduct volunteer activities.