UAE commemorates 45th National Day

NNA - The United Arab Emirates commemorates its 45th National Day on December 2nd, a day that embodies the Spirit of the Union and celebrates 45 years of great achievements since the federation was established in 1971.
The path of celebration was first announced by the founding President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his fellow founding fathers of the UAE Federation. This path is now followed by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, who continues to lead the nation's march to progress and prosperity.
The incredible achievements of the UAE in recent years have been made possible due to the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, as well as His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and their fellow members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates, who have consistently contributed to promoting and developing the country through knowledge and innovation. The UAE today ranks among the world's leading destinations across several key indicators and has become a true role model for countries around the world.
The country enjoys a prestigious position in the Arab world, and beyond, due to its significant achievements in various fields and its strong presence in political, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian arenas at regional and international levels. The UAE has always been dynamic and proactive in communicating with other countries and building bridges of close cooperation and strategic partnerships to lead the way in political, economic, commercial, industrial, technological, scientific, educational, health and other sectors.

Sustained growth and prosperity
Despite the current situation in the region, in 2016, exceptional strides have been made in infrastructure, the fields of energy, space, information technology, telecommunications and other vital areas, in addition to the environment and sustainability, which have significantly contributed to modernising the UAE and enabling the country to achieve top international rankings.

The UAE has maintained its position as the leading Arab country for the fourth year in a row in the latest World Bank report on the Ease of Doing Business, and now ranks 26th globally in the same report.

The UAE is also ranked the top Arab country for well-being and life satisfaction according to the Legatum Prosperity Index. The report also revealed that the UAE is among the top countries for safety and security and economic quality, and ranks 41st worldwide.

The annual Prosperity Index ranks 142 countries across eight categories: the Economy, Entrepreneurship and Opportunity, Governance, Education, Health, Safety and Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.

Global Competitiveness
The country has been ranked high on many global competitiveness indicators. The 2016 report by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority reveals that the UAE ranked first regionally and 16th globally, maintaining its lead among the top 20 competitive economies in the world, according to the recent version of the Global Competitiveness Report 2016 issued by the World Economic Forum (Davos) in Switzerland.

The report monitors annual performance and competitiveness of the economies of countries in terms of strength, weakness, impact on quality of life, prosperity and the well-being of people.

Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimi, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Chairperson of the Board of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, said that the UAE positions itself on the world stage thanks to the efforts of the federal and local taskforces who are working as one team under one vision for 2021.

This year's report surveys the economies of 138 countries rated through 114 performance indexes and in 12 basic axis, including institutions, infrastructure, education, health, innovation, efficiency of the labour market and other topics. Evaluation is based on statistics and data from participating countries in the report in terms of opinion polls and surveys on executives and major investors in those countries.

The UAE was ranked in the top 10 positions globally in three basic themes in the report. It is also among the top 20 countries globally in half of these axes. The UAE came in third place globally in the list of efficient goods market, which is the sign of success of the diversification policy of the economy in the state, clarity of vision and strategic plans on the performance and efficiency of the business market.

It also came in fourth place globally in the infrastructure hub, an indication of activity in infrastructural projects across the country and its role in supporting the UAE economy in all areas and sectors, making it an attractive environment for investment and business at the regional and global level.

The UAE was ranked first globally in the absence of impact of crime and violence at work index, and second place globally in the people's trust in the leadership and lack of wasteful government spending indexes.

The UAE ranked in third place globally in the efficient government index. This reflects the success of the leadership strategy and steps taken toward achieving the high performance and efficiency in the government work at the federal and local levels to ensure the happiness of citizens and residents and well-being on the territory of the state.

On infrastructure, the UAE took first place globally in the road quality index and second place globally in the airport infrastructure and means of air transport quality index. It also came in the third place globally in the seaport infrastructure quality and rate of mobile phone subscriptions per 100 users indexes. The UAE ranked in fourth place in the global index of quality of infrastructure and fifth in the index of number of airline seats available for each million passengers a week.

This performance reflects the huge investments made by the state to develop and improve the infrastructure in terms of extending road networks, building new airports and the expansion of existing airports, and the development of seaports.

The UAE ranked first globally in the lack of impact of taxes on investment index, and second place globally on the lack of the tax impact on the labour market and the ability of the state to attract international skills indexes. The UAE also came in third place in the global index of lack of tariff barriers and the ability of the state to retain the World skills.

On the readiness of the technology sector, the maturity of the business sector, and higher education and training areas, the UAE achieved first position globally in the index of government spending on new technologies, second place globally in the index of provision of specialised trade zones (free zones), and third place in the global index of foreign direct investment and technology transfer to the state. The state was also ranked fourth globally in the index of Internet connection to schools and universities, and fifth place in the global index of availability of scientists and engineers in the state.

The Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum (Davos) in Switzerland, is one of the world's most important reports and aims to help countries around the world to identify obstacles to sustainable economic growth and development of strategies to reduce poverty and increase prosperity. It assesses the countries abilities to provide high levels of prosperity and well-being of their citizens. The report also provides a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and challenges facing the economies of countries.

FOREIGN POLICY
Since the Union was founded, the UAE political leadership has recognised that for the young and evolving Union to endure internal and external challenges to mature into a viable state, they needed a skillful, dynamic management of diplomatic relations with other countries.

With his wisdom and insight, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father and first president, was able to set out firm principles for a moderate, balanced foreign policy which still guides the UAE's energetic diplomacy today under the able leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The policy applies the principles of strengthening bonds of friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world on the tenets of justice, equality, dialogue, mutual respect and understanding and love for goodness for all without exception, good neighbourliness, respect of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. It also advocates settling all its disputes amicably as per UN Charter and international legitimacy and international laws and conventions, and the promotion of peace, stability, and security in regional and international arenas.

Under the stewardship of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, UAE diplomacy has built a wide network of strategic relationships and partnerships with countries around the world that has direct influence on the national economy, strengthening its presence and position.

The UAE's vital role in this regard is highly commended and appreciated by countries all over the world. It is seen both regionally and globally as an example of promoting the values of harmony and coexistence between different cultures and civilisations.

The UAE recognises that the challenges arising throughout the region and the world are partly due to the absence of the culture of coexistence, the spread of extremism and violence. Therefore, the UAE calls, in various regional and international fora, for the need to develop strategies for enhancing constructive dialogue between cultures, respecting beliefs and religions and spreading the culture of peace in order to challenge the attempts to distort the values of religions and provoke religious hatred.

In a statement at the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan set out the UAE's approach towards many pressing regional and international crises and challenges.

''In our region and beyond, several countries are facing multiple crises and conflicts that ignited after 2011. We have witnessed a number of Arab countries including Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Somalia that have descended into internal fighting. At the same time, the Palestinian people's plight continues under the Israeli occupation without a just solution on the horizon that returns to the Palestinian people the rights that were stripped of them, to establish their state on June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

His Highness noted that regional interference in Arab affairs, mainly perpetrated by Iran, the only country in the world with a constitution that explicitly calls for exporting its revolution, has aggravated conflicts in the region.

"The serious challenges facing our region and many other countries require us to reflect together on ways to address these crises and reach consensual, timely and effective solutions, without undermining the existing significant efforts made in this regard," His Highness said.

''The reality is that prominent powers in these crises, whether regional or international sides, have settled for managing the crises that have struck our region without overcoming them. As a result, the dangers have been exacerbated, rendering these crises difficult to solve without doubled efforts and tremendous financial and human cost.''

''The plight and suffering of the Palestinian people is nearing its seventh decade and has contributed to the increased waves of violence and counter violence due to the sub-par management of crises without seeking serious solutions by major actors and prominent powers, including those responsible for this tragedy,'' His Highness explained.

Similarly, Iraq has been suffering for more than a decade from sectarian acts and violence on an almost daily basis, in addition to the control of terrorist groups over a part of its territory, spreading fear and terror in the hearts of the Iraqi people and risking its regional integrity. "Moreover, the interference of Iran in its internal affairs has exacerbated the factors of division among its people. Yet, there is no comprehensive political solution that promotes consensus among the components of the Iraqi people, and puts an end to the marginalization of whole sections of Iraqi society," Sheikh Abdullah said.

On Libya, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE also welcomed the Skhirat Agreement reached by the concerned parties in Libya as well as the formation of the Government of National Accord. "We hope that it will lead to further commitment to Libyan constitution-building, and solidifies cooperation between the Presidential Council and the House of Representatives, which both represent legitimacy in Libya. We also look forward to a unified national position that protects Libya's territorial soil and maintains the unity of its people."

With regards to Syria, the minister said that the UAE sees no possibility of resolving the Syrian crisis through military force. "To date, this path has only intensified the suffering of the brotherly people of Syria and increased the flow of refugees to other countries. The situation is further complicated by the interference of Iran and its terrorist militias in Syria's affairs. This has distorted the vision for Syria and derailed it from the existing path, which is based on internationally agreed terms, which constitute the only salvation from this horrific tragedy," he said.

Speaking on the situation in Yemen, His Highness said there have been a number of initiatives, including an effective roadmap, presented by the legitimate government of Yemen in Kuwait, and at the quartet meeting held in Jeddah this past August, that could have saved the Yemeni people from their suffering. "We hope that these efforts result in a political solution if the intentions of these militias are sincere and if they live up to the standards of national interest and its responsibilities."

In 2016, the UAE reiterated its unwavering position on rejection of the continued Iranian occupation of the three islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, which constitute an integral part of the United Arab Emirates' territory.

The state demands restoration of full sovereignty over its three islands. It also stresses that all actions and measures carried out by the Iranian authorities are contrary to international law, norms and common values.

The international community, including the Arab League, GCC and OIC, also stressed its support for the UAE's sovereignty over the three islands, territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and the three Islands' economic zone.

"The crises of our region should not distract us from our core national issue which is the sovereignty of the UAE over its three islands which are occupied by Iran against the provisions of international law and the Charter of the United Nations," Sheikh Abdullah said.

"My country has called, and continues to call on, our neighbour Iran, to return the occupied islands to their rightful owners either voluntarily or through peaceful means, particularly through international justice or arbitration, in order to maintain friendly relations and good neighborliness in the Arabian Gulf region. We also affirm that my country will never give up its sovereign right over these islands, and this approach emphasises the UAE's insistence on the principles of international law,'' H.H. Sheikh Abdullah affirmed.

The UAE condemned the 'Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act' that will allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia's government for damages.

"The 'Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act' is contrary to general liability rules and the principle of sovereignty enjoyed by states. It represents a clear violation, given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents," said H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

He stressed that the UAE is looking forward to US legislative authorities reviewing the law and not ratifying it in light of the serious consequences associated with implementing this law on the well-established international principles attached to sovereignty, which, he said, represents a cornerstone of international relations.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah warned of the negative effects of the law on all countries, including the United States, and the possible impact of chaos in the context of international relations.

The UAE continued to lead as the 'most powerful passport' in the MENA region with visa-free access to 122 countries, according to Henley & Partners' annual Visa Restrictions Index for 2016.

The Visa Restrictions Index provides a global ranking of 199 countries based on the freedom of travel for their citizens.

The UAE led the MENA region for the 2nd year in a row, increasing by two spots to 38, with visa-free access to 122 countries. This increase follows last year's agreement with the EU which gave the UAE citizens visa-free travel to 36 countries, including the 26 Schengen area states, making the UAE the first Arab country to be granted a European visa waiver.

The UAE leadership strives to make the UAE the promise of a new Middle East, a safe haven of peace, stability, opportunity, moderation and tolerance in the most rapidly changing and challenging world.

Looking to the future, the UAE leadership is committed to ensuring that its foreign policy will continue to be characterised by prudence, support, conciliation and consensus, as well as cooperation with international institutions, partners, friends and allies.

UAE and the fight against terrorism
As a responsible, committed member of the international community, the United Arab Emirates strongly condemns terrorism and extremism in all forms. By working closely with the United States of America, United Kingdom and other international partners and allies, the UAE is demonstrating its commitment to confront, degrade and eradicate terrorism and extremism across the Middle East and worldwide.

The UAE reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and underlines the need to bring perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.

The UAE reiterates that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

The UAE condemns the brutal methods used by terror groups and organisations in the name of Islam and affirms that they have no connection with the tolerant teachings of Islam, which calls for peaceful coexistence and acceptance of others.

In his statement at the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York in September, Foreign Minister H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said, ''We are all aware of the incidents of violence and terrorism which have taken unprecedented forms and used heinous methods, causing fear and terror not only in the Middle East but in many countries of the world, and which proved that violence and terrorism are no longer associated with a certain state or a region, but are global threats, with no borders. 'Countering terrorist groups is a right and duty of all states."

The Government of the United Arab Emirates continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and strengthened its international counterterrorism cooperation. The UAE government remains dedicated to providing strong support for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh. Prominent officials and religious leaders continue to publicly criticise violent extremist ideology and decry and criminalise terrorist acts taking place across the world.

Dr. Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in a speech at the Third Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, ADSD, in November 2016, said, ''The UAE is absolutely committed to combating and overcoming extremism and terrorism. The UAE argues that the link between extremist ideologies and terrorist acts is a clear one. We cannot face up to one without the other.

''Furthermore, we believe that confronting extremism and terrorism is a long drawn out and extended challenge. This understanding is essential in our efforts to confront extremism and terrorism. Various tools are required in this lengthy battle, including control of financial flows and deconstructing the extremist ideology,'' he said.

He added that the UAE is an active member of the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh and fully supports the international community's efforts to degrade and destroy Daesh. The ongoing battle to liberate Mosul is a critical turning point in this effort, he said.

UAE government leaders and senior Emirati officials publicly highlighted the dangers of Daesh and violent extremism, using media to counter Daesh messaging.

The UAE is leading efforts to promote tolerance and compassion through Islam, countering the root causes of extremism and disrupting online messages that lead to radicalisation.

The Sawab Centre, a joint collaboration between the UAE and US to counter extremist propaganda and terrorist messaging in the online space, was launched in July 2015 to contest Daesh's online presence by responding directly to its propaganda through immediate reactive messaging as well as proactive campaigns. It uses other content that exposes Daesh's true nature, highlights the successes of the Global Coalition, amplifies regional voices of moderation, and offers an alternative, positive vision that underscores the true values and diversity of Islam.

Under the UAE government's cybercrime law, the UAE criminalises the use of the internet by terrorist groups to promote their ideologies and finance their activities.

Another major UAE initiative is Hedayah, the International Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, CVE, which was created in response to the growing desire from members of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum and the wider international community for the establishment of an independent, multilateral centre devoted to Countering Violent Extremism in all of its forms and manifestations.

The Abu Dhabi-based Centre's mandate focuses on three core areas: Dialogue and Communications; Capacity Building Programmes and Research and Analysis Cataloguing.

In late October, 2016, Hedayah launched the "Creative Minds for Social Good", a new public-private initiative to increase the capacity of credible private voices in the Middle East and North Africa to create and disseminate compelling online content that counters terrorist propaganda and promotes positive alternatives in the region. Hedayah conducted the programme in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and Facebook.

Through close coordination and cooperation, the UAE and the US are working together to stop the influx of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq. H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in September that, ''My country has built mechanisms and means to protect our youth from falling into the clutches of extremism and violence.

''We established the Hedayah Centre to combat extremism, and participated with the United States of America in creating the Sawab Centre. Additionally, the Muslim Council of Elders and the Forum for the Promotion of Peace in Muslim Communities were established to demonstrate the true face of Islam. These institutions aim to protect young people who have been polarised by extremist, sectarian and terrorist groups, and to counter the false claims of these groups,'' he added.

The UAE is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, GCTF, and chaired the Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism with the UK.

Through close monitoring and strict enforcement, the UAE has effectively prevented and disrupted the illicit financing of extremist groups through the UAE financial system and within UAE borders.

The Joint UAE-US Financial Counterterrorism Task Force enhances cooperation, coordination and information sharing to shut down terrorist financing networks and cut off the flow of funds to extremists.

The Task Force helps block funding to extremists from individuals and commercial activity such as black market sales of oil, and prevents access to the international banking system.

The UAE supports strict enforcement of counterterrorist financing laws and regulations, encouraging increased monitoring of charitable fundraising and further examination of money flows across the region.

Regionally, the UAE called upon the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, to adopt a collective and strategic approach that strengthens its role in international counterterrorism efforts.

"Extremism, terrorism and sectarianism have become an international menace that seeks to undermine the nation-state, dismember the social fabric and societal harmony, and threaten national and regional security as well as international peace and security," said Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, in a statement at the annual coordination meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the OIC, which was held on the margins of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Globally, the UAE has endorsed a United Nations plan to prevent terrorism and extremism.
The country welcomed the adoption of a UN draft resolution that aims to prevent violent extremism, saying it must also address factors that promote extremism, such as "foreign occupation and state terrorism.

The UAE said the plan must also hold states that compromise the principles of sovereignty and interfere in the internal affairs of other nations accountable for their actions.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's permanent representative to the UN, said that the initiative should be a blueprint for coordinating efforts to combat extremism.

Ms. Nusseibeh applauded a recommendation to create regional plans of action to prevent extremism, while stressing the need for international efforts to assist states in ending conflict.

She also pointed out UAE efforts to prevent extremism, which include youth involvement, female empowerment and participation and role of religious leaders "to promote the values of peace".

Foreign Diplomacy - Diplomatic Visits

The UAE Government in 2016 continued in its efforts to bolster its diplomatic relations with other friendly nations around the world. This year the state attracted high-profile visits from individuals and delegations from nations including the GCC, Europe, America and Asia

The UAE leadership has also made efforts to boost its relations by visiting a number of countries as part of its diplomatic and foreign policy missions abroad.

Speaking on the importance of mutual visits, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Force, said that under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE seeks to further develop ties with friendly countries.

In November 2016
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed made a working visit to Egypt and was welcomed by President el-Sisi. The two leaders exchanged cordial talks.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, and discussed ways to promote relations between the UAE and Armenia, and regional and international issues of common concern.

HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in the UAE for a three-day private visit. H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, received Prince Charles and his accompanying delegation at the airport.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, visited the UAE to inaugurate the European Union Delegation to the UAE.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was in the UAE for the first time in his capacity as the High Commissioner of the UN Refugees Agency, where he commended the humanitarian aid and logistics help given by the United Arab Emirates saying that it is vitally important to the UN refugee agency.

In October 2016
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, received President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Sheikh Mohamed applauded the UAE's progressive relations with Belarus, thanks to the keen interest of the leaderships of the two countries. The two sides exchanged views on a number of topics of mutual interest, as well as current regional and international developments.

Also, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed arrived in Riyadh on a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The visit reviewed relations and outstanding efforts of the two countries to strengthen their strategic co-operation on overall issues affecting the security and stability of the region, with emphasis on ensuring their common interests and enhancing the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States, and safeguarding Arab rights.

President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, visited the UAE during which he meet with the top officials including H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Ankara, Turkey, where he stressed the importance of coordinating with Turkey to resolve the crises in the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

In Paris, FNC Speaker Amal Al Qubaisi met French Minister of State for European Affairs, Harlem Desir, during an official visit to France.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea arrived in the UAE on an official visit, where he met with a number of the country's top officials.

In Rome, and in her capacity as UN Messenger of Peace and Chairperson of International Humanitarian City (IHC), HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop of Rome, at the Vatican, as part of a one-day official visit to Rome.

In Rome, Paolo Gentiloni, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, received Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi and discussed cooperation and the strategic partnership between the UAE and the Republic of Italy.

In September 2016
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, received Ajit Doval, Indian National Security Advisor. Discussions during the visit touched on means of deepening bilateral relations and examined a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Rome to begin an official visit to the Vatican City. The visit touched on bilateral ties between the UAE and the Vatican and ways of developing them, as well as reviewing joint cooperation efforts in promoting tolerance, dialogue and coexistence.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and a number of other officials at the Vatican.

In July 2016
H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Doha and was received by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

In June 2016
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. Talks during the visit covered ties of cooperation between the UAE and Afghanistan as well as UAE's support of the reconstruction efforts in several areas of Afghanistan.

Alexander Govorunov, Vice-Governor of the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, received Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council, who was on a visit to Russia at the invitation of the Chairperson of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko.

Govorunov and Al Qubaisi discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance co-operation between the UAE and Russia in investment, economic, tourism and cultural fields.

In May 2016
H.H. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum arrived in Jeddah, leading the UAE delegation to the 16th Consultative Meeting of Their Majesties and Highnesses Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania made an official visit to the UAE and met His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, where they discussed ways of promoting cooperation as well as coordination about the crises in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and acts of violence and terrorism threatening security and stability in the countries of the region.
H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed made a friendly visit to Egypt and was welcomed at Cairo International Airport by Egyptian President el-Sisi.
Chadian President, Idriss Deby, arrived in the UAE on a working visit.

In April 2016
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received King Mohammed VI of Morocco, where they held talks on ways to enhance fraternal relations and bilateral cooperation, as well as current regional and international developments.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed paid an official visit to Egypt during which he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and discussed bilateral relations, regional and international issues.

In Brussels, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, received visiting Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

In Vienna, Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi held talks with a number of Austrian officials, including the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer.

In Abu Dhabi, the President of Tajikistan, Emomalii Rahmon, made an official visit to the UAE, where he held talks with H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Riyadh to participate in the summit between GCC leaders and Morocco, with the attendance of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, GCC leaders, and President Barack Obama of the United States.

In Abu Dhabi, the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defence, arrived in the country on a fraternal visit to the UAE.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, Qatari Foreign Minister, and discussed with him ways to strengthen fraternal ties between the two countries and the latest regional and international developments.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received Denis Manturov, Russian Minister of Industry and Trade, and discussed with him ways to strengthen ties of friendship and bilateral co-operation.

In Abu Dhabi, Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, and Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, held a round of official talks on means to boost bilateral relations and the need for international cooperation to counter terrorism and extremism.

In March 2016
H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation, and Head of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, received the former Spanish Queen, Sofia. Ways of bolstering cooperation between the UAE and Spain in women's empowerment were discussed.

The President of Tajikistan, Emomalii Rahmon, made an official visit to the UAE, where he held talks with H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the UAE on a two-day official visit, during which he held talks with H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on bilateral relations and ways to enhance them.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed arrived in Hafar Al-Batin City, eastern Saudi Arabia, to attend a military parade at the conclusion of the Northern Thunder military exercises.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan led the UAE delegation at the 138th session of the GCC Ministerial Council in Riyadh.

H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, arrived in Tunisia leading a UAE delegation participating in the 33rd session of the Arab Interior Ministers' Council.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Manama on a fraternal visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan arrived in the UAE for a working visit. H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed the King at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

In February 2016
H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan began a three-day visit to India where he was welcomed by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, ministers, and top military officials.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Costa Rica and met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, and discussed bilateral relations.

In Panama, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and the Vice President and Foreign Minister of Panama, Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, discussed the latest regional and international developments.

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, received Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and her accompanying delegation. Lagarde came to the UAE to participate as a keynote speaker at the Global Women's Forum, held in Dubai.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, visited Khartoum and met with Sudanese President, Omar al Bashir.

In January 2016
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, arrived in Abu Dhabi for a visit during which he attended the World Future Energy Summit, an event of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

UAE Economy
The year 2016 saw a sudden drop in oil prices that took many producing and consuming countries by surprise. The UAE, a key crude producer, however, remained resilient to the drop, thanks to the country's diversification policy.

As it celebrates its 45th National Day anniversary, the UAE has begun to reap the fruits of its economic diversification policy which has been successful in moving the economy from its full dependence on a single sector, the oil sector, to depending on multiple sectors and resources.

The national economy has grown exponentially over the past few years. The economy today is driven by its own factors, while its productivity foundation is stronger, resilient and diversified.

This comes as a result of the country's diversification policy which has been implemented in line with the guidance of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, and under the supervision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Their Highnesses, the Members of the Federal Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates.

For Sultan Saeed Al Mansouri, Economy Minister, the diversification policy under which the country's dependence on oil steadily decreases year after year, has helped the UAE neutralise the oil price decline.

"Oil has so far had limited impact on the economy and major infrastructure projects in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other emirates will continue," he said.

Oil revenues currently contribute 30 percent to the UAE's GDP, a drop from 90 percent in the 1970s.

The International Monetary Fund said that the UAE has continued to benefit from diversification and innovation policies that have helped limit negative spillovers from lower oil prices, sluggish global growth, and volatility in emerging market economies.

Al Mansouri said the zero-deficit 2016 budget reflected the limited impact of the low oil prices.

"The UAE is the country least affected by low oil prices as non-oil sectors contributed nearly 69 percent of the Gross Domestic Product ," Al Mansouri said.

Despite the steep drop in oil prices, the UAE economy is expected to grow between 3 and 3.5 percent in 2016. For 2015, the UAE projected a similar 3 to 3.5 percent growth in GDP.

"We have faced similar circumstances and challenges before. We were optimistic and we dealt with those challenges professionally at the level of the government, at the level of leadership, local government and the private sector and we managed the situation to continue our growth," noted Al Mansouri.

The government has issued new rules and regulations to further improve the business environment. The industrial sector, which contributes 14 percent to GDP, is forecast to expand and contribute 20 percent in 2021. Big growth will come from non-traditional industries and the knowledge-based economy, which will see huge activity in the coming years.

The oil-dominated economy is fast diversifying and in 2021 only a 30 percent contribution will come from the oil and gas sector, as the non-oil economy is progressively growing due to the opening up of new businesses.

The key to diversification drive is the growth of the industrial sector. The UAE seeks to attract more than US$70 billion in industrial investments by 2025, which will help increase the share of the industrial sector in the country's GDP to 25 percent, up from the current 16 percent, thus ensuring that the sector will become the driving force in the country's economic growth in the future.

Another sector that is expected to bolster diversification is Small and Medium Enterprises, or SMEs.

The Government is giving big priority to small and medium enterprises across policies and initiatives with an aim to boost the share of the segment in national economy to 70 percent from 60 percent by 2021.

According to official reports, SMEs account for 86 percent of the total workforce in the country, and are the chief enablers of economic diversification, innovation and the shift to a knowledge-based economy.

SMEs make up more than 94 percent of the companies operating in the UAE, totaling 350,000.

As many as 73 percent of companies in the wholesale and retail trade and 16 percent in the services sector are SMEs. The manufacturing sector also has an 11 percent share for SMEs.

Open economic policies helped enhance the UAE's attractiveness to Foreign Direct Investment, FDI.

The Ministry of Economy announced in 2016 that it aims to increase the contribution of FDI to five percent of the country's gross domestic product over the next five years. This is in line with the goals of the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021.

The UAE is the second largest FDI recipient in the West Asia region, according to the 2015 UNCTAD World Investment Report.

Increased FDI pushed the UAE to 1st rank regionally and 22nd globally in the World Investment Report 2015.

The drive for diversification does not come at the expense of the oil sector. With the world's seventh largest proven crude oil reserves, the UAE is a responsible producer and critical partner in global energy markets.

The country has always believed that the long-term demand for oil outstripped supply, and that for companies with strong balance sheets and a long-term view, now was the time to invest, not to withdraw.

"The oil industry is inherently cyclical - this is a basic point that often gets overlooked in the short-term noise - and finding equilibrium between supply and demand is almost impossible," Minister of Energy, Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, said on the sidelines of the VIP Programme on the UAE's Future Energy Vision in November.

In 2016, the UAE Government launched a six-pillar plan, which was set in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, WEF, and seeks to transform the Fourth Industrial Revolution into a global movement spearheaded by the UAE.

First Pillar: The UAE Government will establish the Fourth Industrial Revolution Council, the first of its kind in the world. The council will report directly to the cabinet and will be supervised by the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. Council members will include representatives from government, private-sector, and academic organisations.

Second Pillar: Working closely with the World Economic Forum and through the Global Future Councils to formulate a global governance framework that regulates legislative and executive efforts to implement Fourth-Industrial-Revolution technologies, and to create global markets for them in collaboration with governments and relevant private-sector organisations.

Third Pillar: In collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the UAE Government will work to establish Fourth Industrial Revolution Councils, which aim to provide advisory support to decision makers around the world.

These councils will be tasked with studying the effects of Fourth-Industrial-Revolution technologies on economic and social systems, determining economic and investment opportunities within key sectors where these technologies can be implemented, and providing advisory support for governments looking to set legislative and executive frameworks - along the lines of the governance framework formulated through the plan's second pillar - in order to implement these technologies.

Fourth Pillar: Launching a programme that seeks to include governments from around the region in the network of experts that take part in the Global Future Councils and, consequently, enhancing the event's role in supporting economic development in those economies.

The network includes more than 5,000 members and experts from governments, international organisations, private companies, and academic research institutions. The programme will come out with several plans, events, and initiatives that will be announced at a later date.

Fifth Pillar: The UAE will be the first country in the world to experiment with and implement the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, creating new markets for them. This builds on the steps the government has already implemented through initiatives and strategies promoting technologies such as blockchain, smart transportation, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Sixth Pillar: The UAE Government will be the first in the world to design and build a framework within its national agenda that aims to prepare governments for the future, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The framework focuses on measuring the readiness of governments in the next ten years against six main criteria: technology and innovation, economy, society, natural resources and the environment, security, and governance.

"The UAE Government realises the importance of planning for the future," explained Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. "With that in mind, it set off to proactively turn the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution into reality," he added.

In a major boost to the ongoing economic development drive, the year 2016 also saw Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, launching the world's first government accelerators.

According to Sheikh Mohammed, the accelerators have multiple tasks and responsibilities to boost the pace for achieving the goals of the National Agenda and projects.

Directives have been issued for all government bodies under the umbrella of the accelerators programme to develop initiatives, laws, policies and services that support national indexes and programmes. The government bodies will also be tasked with implementing joint projects in record time in order to shift government services into advanced standards by 2021.

The first group of government accelerators will focus on five ministries: the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, and Ministry of Education. He directed officials to intensify efforts to achieve a 100 percent completion rate for the National Agenda goals.

The UAE's Vision 2021 names Innovation, research, science and technology as pillars of a knowledge-based, highly productive and competitive economy, driven by entrepreneurs in a business-friendly environment where public and private sectors form effective partnerships. Based on that, the country has given great importance to the concept of green economy, to go side by side with the endeavours for sustainability.

According to Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, in order to transform the national economy to a green, sustainable and low-carbon economy, the responsibility must rest not only upon the government, but also on the various segments of society, as well as public and private sectors.

"Our government institutions have been working to co-ordinate efforts in leading development and progress, and laying the foundations for their successful implementation. With that in mind, we have adopted a series of strategies and policies and begun implementing them, all working towards raising awareness of the importance of green economy at all levels, in addition to capacity building, and the encouragement of sustainable production and consumption," Dr. Al Zeyoudi added.

The establishment of a green economy is a critical element to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, and the Paris Climate Agreement, COP 21." Ensuring a coordinated international effort is key to facilitating this transition to a green economy on a global scale, and we are confident that the World Green Economy Summit will enable this," he said.

The UAE also started to lend attention to an Islamic economic system. For Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, adopting the Islamic economic system presents a real opportunity to develop management methods, economic growth and trade by specialists in these areas.

Islamic financing, based upon values of justice and inclusiveness, offers global investment opportunities estimated to reach US$3 trillion by 2020.

Leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of comprehensive and sustainable economic development, the UAE is now looking at innovation to be the next economic breakthrough.

Comfortable with economic diversification level, the Government is planning for innovation to contribute 5 percent to national GDP by 2021.

The 2021 strategy focuses on fostering innovation in health, transport, renewable energy, education, technology, water and space.

The Federal National Council
The Federal National Council, FNC, formed under the Provisional Constitution of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, is the fourth federal authority in terms of order in the hierarchy of the five federal authorities stated in the constitution, namely: the Supreme Council of the Federation, President and Vice-President, Federal Cabinet, the Federal National Council, and the Federal Judiciary.

The 40-members advisory council is a member of the International Parliamentary Union, IPU, as well as the Arab Parliamentary Union (APU).

The FNC's official mandate is to provide for public debate of legislation and discuss proposals and plans of various federal ministries, entities and public institutions.

The term of membership in the FNC's Legislative Chapter is four years, commencing as of the date of its first meeting. The FNC is summoned into sessions and sessions are terminated by Decree issued by the President of the UAE.

The Council holds an annual regular session for a period of not less than 7 months from the third week of October every year in Abu Dhabi.

In 2006, the UAE established an Electoral College system, wherein half of the FNC's 40 seats were chosen by designated electors. In line with the UAE's commitment to expand political participation among citizens in a measured and sustainable way, the size of the UAE's Electoral College greatly increased for the 2015 election.
In the latest elections, the total number of registered voters reached 224,281 and of them 79,157 cast their votes, which represents 35.29 percent of the general electorate.

The largest turnout by percentage points was seen in Umm Al Qaiwain, where 70.05 percent of registered voters took part in the elections, followed by Ajman with 49.79 percent and Fujairah with a 48.80 percent turnout.

In Ras al-Khaimah the turnout was 41.85 percent, in Abu Dhabi 38.72 percent, in Sharjah and Dubai 29.69 percent and 22.16 percent, respectively, according to a report of the Ministry of State for Federal National Council, FNC, Affairs released in November 2016.
The report highlighted the fourth-generation government excellence standards adopted by the Federal National Council Elections Committee, and underlined the committee's role in promoting the efficient use of innovation, future forecasting systems, and smart applications to improve the quality of work and achieve tangible results in addition to pre-planning, a clear vision, and the efficient allocation of resources.

The study canvassed 1,411 voters, candidates, and other community members of all ages about the quality of services provided at polling stations during early and official voting, in order to measure customer satisfaction. Over 92.9 percent of voters and candidates were satisfied with the electoral process and procedures at all polling stations.

Along with the Federal National Council Elections 2015 Report, the Federal National Council Elections Committee published supplements about governance, election results, and statistics.

Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Federal National Council Affairs, said, "This is a highly important report, as it allows us to thoroughly look into the results and achievements registered during the elections, which were a milestone in the political empowerment programme launched by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It encourages us to learn from the results to further develop the programme."

Al Kaabi added, "We are always looking to draw lessons from our experiences. This report allows us to look back on our processes and plans and build on them to keep improving our electoral process moving forward, adhering to the highest standards and best international electoral practices."

A total of 1,378 votes were cast in the early voting stage at embassies and diplomatic missions of the UAE around the world, revealing that holding elections in the UAE's embassies encouraged overseas Emiratis to exercise their voting rights.

The report also disclosed that the Federal National Council Elections Committee allowed UAE-based public-interest organisations to assist in monitoring the elections by sending representatives to any polling station in the country, provided they follow the rules set by the Committee in this regard. The Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal Consultants sent 10 representatives and the Emirates Human Rights Association, EHRA, sent 13 representatives.

On another note, the study affirmed that Emirati women were adequately represented and received widespread support, adding that women's participation in the Cabinet and the FNC reflects the political maturity of the UAE society and leadership, and their confidence in the country's women and their ability to play a vital role in building the future.

New ministries
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced on 8th February, 2016, the largest structural shake-up in the federal Government since the country was founded.

In an unprecedented social-media dialogue during the World Government Summit, Sheikh Mohammed consolidated some ministries and established new entities in health and education.

"Governments must be flexible. We don't need more ministries, but more ministers capable of dealing with change," said Sheikh Mohammed.

The announcement affected organisational structure and functions of key ministries, and included the support of several new ministers of state to meet the ongoing demands of an evolving economic and social landscape.

"The new Cabinet focuses on the future, youth, happiness, developing education and combating climate change," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said.

Eight new ministers, five of them women, have joined the Federal Government in the biggest shake-up in its history.

In the 12th Cabinet, there are now 29 ministers and fewer ministries, which have been consolidated in areas such as foreign affairs and education.

The new government has seen the addition of portfolios for Tolerance (Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi), the Future (Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi), Youth (Shamma bint Sohail Faris AlMazrui), Happiness (Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi) Climate Change, Environment (Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi) and Community Development (Najla Al Awar).

Supporting the education sector, two new state minsters were named in addition to the current minister, as well as the formation of the Supreme Council for Education to oversee their work, along with the formation of the Youth Council and the Council of UAE Scientists.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, "The new corporations and councils will be a vital contribution to the government to achieve our national aspirations."

Among the major changes, a Minister of State for Happiness will have responsibility to "align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction", and the Minister of State for Tolerance, will "instil tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society".

The average age of the new ministers is 38, and the youngest is Shamma Al Mazrui, 22, the new Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who will also preside over the Youth National Council.

"We need a government whose essence is human and family, education and aspirations to build their future.

A greater focus on disease prevention is reflected in a renaming and restructuring wat has now become the Ministry of Health and Prevention, while an independent entity was created to oversee and manage public hospitals.

In foreign affairs, the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development was merged with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will now deal with UAE foreign aid.

Two ministers of state were given the responsibility of overseeing foreign aid and improving international relations.

The Ministry of Labour was renamed the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, and will now incorporate Tanmia, the National Human Resources and Employment Authority.

The Government also has a Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, whose purpose will be to develop and monitor programmes and legislation to preserve a clean environment for the next generation.

Sheikh Mohammed said that the past decade had been one of establishing strategies and systems, and "the next decade will be a confident leap into the future with all its challenges, competitiveness and variables".

In his letter explaining the logic behind new appointments, Sheikh Mohammed addressed unrest in the Middle East related to lack of opportunities for young people, the regional events which led to the creation of the tolerance portfolio, the importance of happiness for productivity and economic development, plus the country's need to prepare for a post-oil future.

''Why, everyone seems to want to know, did we establish Ministries of Happiness, Tolerance, and the Future, and why did we appoint a 22-year-old Minister of Youth? The changes reflect what we have learned from events in our region over the past five years,'' H.H. said.

"In particular, we have learned that failure to respond effectively to the aspirations of young people, who represent more than half of the population in Arab countries, is like swimming against the tide. Without the energy and optimism of youth, societies cannot develop and grow; indeed, they are doomed.

"We are proud that the UAE is a young country. And we are proud of our youth. We invest in them and empower them precisely because they are our future. We believe that they are faster than us in acquiring and processing knowledge, because they have grown up with tools and techniques that we lacked at their age. We entrust them with driving our country to new levels of growth and development, which is why we have now appointed a cabinet minister of their age and created a special council of youth."

UAE at the UN
The UAE, in collaboration with the UN Women, launched a UN Women Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi, to enhance and strengthen collaboration to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The office was opened in recognition of the key role that UN Women plays in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment.

H.H. Sheikha Fat

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