Read Lubna’s blog insights where she takes a fresh look at governance to create stronger countries and business
Our leaders had a vision: today it is our reality
As the UAE celebrates its 37th National Day, let us sit back and reflect on the last 37 years, appreciate our today and eagerly await our promising tomorrow. What is so special about our country? The UAE means opportunities, it means business. It is a place for forward thinking opportunists, and a place where you can dare to make your dream a reality. I say this with humility and a pinch of pride but definitely without any bias. I personally have not witnessed, and neither have I read in history books, of a nation that has achieved so much in just 37 years – a nation with world class infrastructure and a literacy rate above 90 per cent today.
It is impossible to list here the endless achievements of the UAE, its leaders and its people. What this country has accomplished since 1971 is more than impressive, it has much to teach the world – about growth, being an innovative model for the region and the world at large, and about how to construct a vibrant multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society.
Everyone wonders how a small country with a population of 6 million people can achieve so much. The credit for its success of course goes to the founding fathers: Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, the first president, and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai, the first vice-president, and all the other leaders of the UAE who united to create a nation built on vision and trust.
One cannot thank or appreciate enough, either, the admirable leadership under the current regime of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai. They have wisely and strategically brought us to the centre stage of the world, enabling the country to stand tall in the eyes of the international community.
The UAE’s success story is now relatively well known, despite the regular knocks it receives from some elements of the Western media. But because many of these knocks have been globally transmitted, there are those in the world beyond the Gulf who do not understand that behind the success lies an even more interesting story of innovative social and economic solutions. These solutions may be worth studying for those striving to bridge the growing divides of an increasingly troubled planet.
Societies should be judged ultimately on their ability to deliver to their people most of their human needs: food, shelter, health, education, security, a clean environment, a sense of community, and a sense of purpose in life. It is on these dimensions that the UAE could act as a role model for a crowded planet. What’s more, it does not provide these excellent facilities to its citizens only, but it also extends its generosity to the large expatriate community in the country.
UAE society emphasises the importance of the family. Government policies are skewed in favour of encouraging extended families to live comfortably. These policies also encourage families to care for their own elderly. The traditional Arab Islamic emphasis on clan and kinship still provides a valuable social glue, even as society modernises and develops.
An equally strong emphasis is placed on multi-racial and multi-cultural harmony. The UAE welcomes everyone warmly and is host to about 185 nationalities – almost as many as can be found in the United Nations – who live together in harmony. We have media houses which publish newspapers in five different languages to cater for the needs of different communities. We also have German, Indian, Japanese, French, British, American and Filipino schools with their own academic syllabuses to cater for the educational needs of their communities. These are just a few examples of what the world can learn from how the UAE creates a bridge between Arab society and elsewhere.
I have many friends who have moved to the UAE, and they usually sum up their reasons for doing so by saying: “This is great, we love it here. It’s a place where East is fused with West – you have best of both worlds here.” The UAE is generous and has given us all a platform on which to flourish and grow. As UAE nationals we should continue to build on the dreams of our leaders: for our leaders rely on the nation’s youth and its talent. They have invested in us and provided us with facilities that no other country offers so generously, and therefore we have a duty to make the most of what they have offered us and continue to build this great nation.
As Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum once said: “We believe that our youth are the backbone of the nation and the foundation on which to develop this noble civilisation, unaffected by the wind of change, no matter how hard it blows.” The greatest tool that our youth has been given is education. The UAE is putting all its efforts into creating a knowledge-based economy, so I would urge all my brothers and sisters – who are our promise of tomorrow – to study and to learn. It will be your education that will set you apart from your friends, not your wealth or social status.
And in realising your aspirations and your dreams, remember the wise words of our belated father, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan: “He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn.”
As published on 2 December 2008 in The National.