Legal milestones, humanitarian crises and climate action progress: A year of advocacy

As we prepare to bid farewell to 2023, Islamic Relief’s head of global advocacy, Shahin Ashraf, reflects on a year of legal milestones, humanitarian challenges, and much-needed progress in climate action. 

Universal rights under attack

The erosion of commitments to universal rights is a global challenge. In 2023 the struggle for fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, mirrored a broader challenge to protect the rights essential for peaceful protest. These encompass the right to life, freedom of association, privacy, and protection from arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and ill-treatment.  

Some welcome news came in November, when the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled against the government’s policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, affirming the Court of Appeal’s earlier judgment. Reinforcing a much-needed commitment to justice, the ground-breaking decision validated concerns raised by the Law Society of England and Wales about the policy’s compliance with international conventions on refugees and human rights.

Humanitarian crises competing for attention and action

Amid legal battles,  humanitarian crises across the globe cried out for the world’s attention. At Islamic Relief, we strained every sinew to respond to as many as possible. We provided vital aid when earthquakes shattered lives in Afghanistan, Morocco, Nepal, Türkiye, and Syria and not forgetting Gaza and the Occupied Palestine, a tragedy that we are all witness to. 

The tragedy in Gaza has dominated the news in 2023

We were a lifeline to flooded communities in Bangladesh and Libya, and to hungry families in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. Islamic Relief staff did all they could to ease the suffering of ordinary people when conflict flared in Sudan. Each crisis battled for attention and support from shared funding pools, emphasising the pressing need for collective action.

A new deal to help poorer countries facing climate change

After nearly 30 years of grappling with incremental steps forward and occasional setbacks, a pivotal climate conference, COP28, brought forward a historic agreement. This landmark deal establishes funding arrangements and a dedicated fund to address Loss and Damage, particularly benefiting poorer countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. 

These cautious steps signal a turning point in our global commitment to combating the climate crisis, but the human and economic costs of crises and disasters remain unevenly distributed.  

Facing the challenges of 2024

The emerging era of humanitarianism beckons with a renewed sense of urgency and responsibility.

Governments, having relished decades of impunity, now stand at a pivotal juncture in the evolving narrative of global responsibility. The prolonged periods of unchecked authority have often bred a sense of detachment from the urgent humanitarian crises that grip various regions. This has been evidenced by the heartbreaking and devastating tragic death toll of over 21,000 Palestinian lives and the stark humanitarian disaster denounced by the UN.  

The spectre of governmental inaction looms large, leaving populations vulnerable and underscoring the imperative for change. As we navigate the complex dynamics of international relations, it becomes crucial to challenge the status quo and hold governments accountable for their actions or lack thereof. This blog serves as a platform to amplify voices demanding accountability, urging a recalibration of priorities and policies. In the unfolding chapters of 2024, we find ourselves at a juncture where the call for responsible governance resonates louder than ever, seeking to usher in an era where the pursuit of justice and compassion eclipses the shadows of impunity. 

In the face of this crisis, Western leaders find themselves seemingly impotent, unable to intervene effectively. The once-sturdy guardrails that restrained crises from spiralling out of control — peace treaties, humanitarian aid, and accountability for violations of international law — now stand weakened or dismantled.  

As the global community anticipates the unfolding of events in 2024, there is a collective prayer and hope that leadership will transcend its perceived limitations. The new dawn on humanitarianism calls for decisive action, empathy, and a commitment to addressing the profound challenges that afflict communities in crisis. It is a moment that demands not only awareness but also a resolute demonstration of compassionate leadership to navigate the complexities of the humanitarian landscape and bring about positive change. 

The question we face is profound: How do we begin to reduce human suffering? It demands a collective commitment to address the root causes of conflicts, economic turmoil, and the climate crisis. Beyond legal frameworks and international agreements, it calls for empathy, cooperation, and innovative solutions to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources, opportunities, and protections. 

In light of the challenges posed by conflict and climate issues,  it is crucial to recognise that millions of people are and will be currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Despite commendable efforts and unprecedented responses to specific appeals, the funding gap has unfortunately expanded in volume.  

As we transition from 2023 to.2024. The call to action is clear: contribute, advocate, and be a catalyst for positive change in the year ahead. Let us stand united in addressing this critical gap. By supporting the humanitarian funding appeals, we can bridge divides, uplift communities, and bring hope to those facing adversity.  

We thank all of our incredible supporters and partners who have contributed to our efforts in 2023, and look forward to continuing to work with you in the year ahead. 

Continue supporting Islamic Relief in 2024 to enable us to reach more people in need. Please donate now.

new director

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Nadeem Azhar

General Counsel

Nadeem joined Islamic Relief Worldwide in September 2022. He has worked in the charitable sector for over a decade.

He studied Modern History and Politics at Manchester University, and at the University of Law in London before qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

Nadeem is an experienced corporate, commercial and governance lawyer, having worked with various faith-based and grant making charities as well those in health and education settings. He was a partner at a law firm in London before moving in-house where he focused on setting up and restructuring charities and social enterprises.

Most recently, Nadeem was Lead Counsel at Mind, a leading mental health charity, where he co-authored a new federation agreement, revamped legal processes, and played a major role in developing its strategic and fundraising partnerships.

Nadeem has been a charity trustee for the Seafarers Charity, as well as many grant-making bodies and theatre companies.

Adnan Hafiz

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Board of Directors
Javed Akhtar

Director of Finance

Javed Akhtar has more than a decade of experience at Islamic Relief, having worked in a similar role between 2003-2014. In that role he strove to implement wide-ranging financial and accounting processes which aided in the transparent nature in which Islamic Relief now operates.

Javed also has diverse experience across the private sector, having worked at American chemicals and pharmaceutical giant DuPont, shipping firm FedEX and technology consultancy company Accenture. In all his roles, he prioritises using the latest technologies to improve monitoring and reporting at every level. Javed’s commitment to embracing digital end-to-end technology, enhancing accountability to our stakeholders and promoting financial transparency is ensuring that we remain at the forefront of financial developments in the sector.

By training, Javed is a chartered accountant with a Master’s degree in NGO Management with Charity Accounting and Financial Management from Cass Business School.
Board of Directors
Affan Cheema  

Director of International Programmes

Affan Cheema is an experienced leader who has spent 25 years working in the international aid sector on poverty eradication in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked in fast onset emergencies, protracted crisis and development environments whilst working for Islamic Relief Worldwide and Care International. He is also a trustee of South West International Development Network (SWIDN).

Through his career Affan has held numerous roles including institutional fundraising, programme and grant management, and programme quality assurance.  Affan’s leadership has helped Islamic Relief Worldwide secure the highly coveted Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), seen as the sector’s premier benchmark for operational excellence.

Affan completed his BA in Economics and Geography from University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and his MSc in Development Administration and Planning from the University of Bristol. He is PRINCE2 qualified, is a keen sportsman and recently co-edited a book entitled -Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities-.
Board of Directors
Dr Hossam Said

Managing Director, Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD)

For nearly three decades Dr Hossam has provided the strategic vision to manage, lead and develop a range of international humanitarian interventions around the world.

At the start of his career, Dr Hossam served on the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, before moving to Islamic Relief Worldwide to manage the core global business activities as International Programmes Director.

During this time the organisation increased its global reach, gaining both domestic and international repute and credibility. Dr Hossam has also served on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Management and Executive Committee for the past 15 years; sharing responsibility for strategic organisational development and the change management process, whilst forging strong relationships with many other charities.

Dr Hossam gained an MBA from Aston Business School in 2004 and graduated as a Medical Doctor from Cairo University in 1981.
Board of Directors
Martin Cottingham  

Director of External Relations and Advocacy

Martin Cottingham joined Islamic Relief in 2012 as IRUK Media Relations Manager, and was appointed Head of Communications in 2015 before taking up his current position as Director of External Relations and Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Martin has helped Islamic Relief to increase its mainstream media profile and expand its campaigning work, producing hard-hitting advocacy reports on floods in Pakistan (2011) famine in Somalia (2012) disaster risk reduction (2013) and aid to Afghanistan (2014). He has over 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and marketing roles for international development and environmental charities.

Martin graduated from the University of London with a degree in English and Drama (1982-85) then trained as a journalist with a postgraduate diploma at City University (1986-87). He has previously worked for Christian Aid as Editor of Christian Aid News and Media Relations Manager (1988-97) for Oxfam as Regional Campaigns Manager (1997-2000) and at the Soil Association as Marketing Director (2001-2006), as well as working for a wide range of organisations as a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant.

Tufail Hussain

Director of Islamic Relief UK

Tufail Hussain has 17 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector, leading on marketing and fundraising campaigns for several organisations before joining Islamic Relief UK in 2016 as Deputy Director. Tufail was appointed Director of Islamic Relief UK in 2019 and in 2021 provided valuable leadership as interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Tufail is driven by a passion for empowering disadvantaged youth and mentors a number of young people. He also works to strengthen engagement between British Muslims and wider society. Under his leadership, Islamic Relief UK has significantly increased its income and developed successful partnerships with communities across the country. He has travelled around the world to raise awareness of major emergencies such as the Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan crises and the floods in Pakistan and Sudan.

A father to 5 daughters and a son, Tufail is also a sports enthusiast and passionate Liverpool FC supporter. Tufail has run the London Marathon twice, raising over £35,000 for humanitarian causes.

Before joining Islamic Relief he was CEO of Orphans in Need, where he oversaw a new strategy that increased income from £2 million to £9 million in 3 years and opened up new UK and international offices. Tufail is also a trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum and a Director of TIC International (Islamic Relief Worldwide’s clothes recycling and trading arm).
Waseem Ahmad

Chief Executive Officer

Waseem Ahmad joined the Islamic Relief family over 24 years ago, serving as Programme Officer in the Balochistan province of south-western Pakistan before becoming Head of Programmes in Pakistan. Waseem then moved to Oxfam and Tearfund before returning to Islamic Relief to establish our mission in Malawi. Later serving as Head of Programme Funding and Partnerships, Waseem led the response to major crises across the globe, including the East Africa drought, Pakistan earthquake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Waseem then served for nearly 6 years as our Director of International Programmes, during which time the charity secured and retained the coveted Core Humanitarian Standard certification in recognition of the quality of our programming. He was appointed CEO of Islamic Relief in May 2021.

With a special interest in community mobilisation and infrastructure, Waseem received an MSc in Project Planning and Management from the University of Bradford, as well as an MSc in Economics from Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Waseem has also worked for Lepra Health in Action and is a member of the International Civil Society Centre’s Board of Trustees. The father-of-3 enjoys walking and playing football, and is a keen birdwatcher.