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44th UAE National Day Report

UAE continues to make progress in every aspect of life

By NoelGRSr

The UAE celebrates its 44th National Day in the midst of significant political and economic developments, the national, regional and international levels. These have been tackled successfully as the country continues to display its determination to face all challenges and to make progress in every aspect of life.

The country's prudent government and its President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, have exhibited great wisdom in their approach to dealing with these events. This has been an integral part of the UAE's ability to overcome obstacles with regards to the crisis in Yemen, the greatest political challenge yet to have been faced by the country.

Over the last year, the developments in Yemen have posed a real test for the UAE's political leadership. It is an issue that threatens to compromise security and stability not only in the UAE, but also throughout the entire Gulf and the Arab World. It has, therefore, been necessary for the country's armed forces to become engaged in deterring aggression in the pursuit of victory.

The events in Yemen represented a coup against the legitimate authorities. Responding to that was a national and patriotic duty. As His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has noted, "Yemen is an integral part of the Gulf and Arab entity, and we must not allow any harm to befall it, as that would inevitably compromise the security of our nation." This is why the UAE's leadership took the decision to become involved in the fight against aggression in Yemen.

At the same time, the UAE’s participation in the fight in Yemen has not prevented it from remaining engaged with other developments in the Arab world and from addressing these wisely. Nor has it hindered the implementation of the UAE’s economic plans or its progress in various fields. This is evident from the comments and analyses from observers around the world in terms of the UAE's leading position with regards to economic progress at home and in relation to its contributions to humanitarian assistance globally.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has noted that the United Arab Emirates has never resorted to the use of force, except to confront oppression and tyranny and those powers with evil intent that wish the country harm, seeking to destroy its present and to prevent it future development.

In a speech on the occasion of the return home of the first UAE military contingent to have served in Yemen, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that the armed forces’ contribution to the victories achieved by the allied Arab forces in brotherly Yemen is the best proof that our courageous troops are ever-ready to defend and are well-trained to fight. This shows, he said, that we can be assured that there is a shield that protects our nation, and an army that maintains its security and the safety of its people.

He went on to say that the country will not change its policy towards Yemen, because we have faith in our deeply-rooted Arab nationalism and are fully dedicated to maintaining the security and stability of the region. We will proudly make any necessary sacrifices and consider them an honour that will enable us to hold our heads high with dignity and pride amongst other nations, he said.

Sheikh Mohammed also said that the UAE’s involvement in Yemen had not been motivated by any pursuit of selfish gain. The UAE, he said, has never attacked any other country. It has neither pursued war nor sought it. Instead, the engagement in the Yemen conflict was forced upon the Emirates after the failure of all attempts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner, meaning that Yemen, with its important strategic location and its close connection to the security of the entire Arab World, had fallen into the hands of armed militias who had a destructive sectarian agenda, both locally and regionally.

The participation by the courageous UAE armed forces in ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ and ‘Operation Restoring Hope’, led by Saudi Arabia, had added a new chapter of pride and glory to the history of the Emirati armed forces, he said, noting that the Emirates had always supported what was just and right and had never hesitated to support the causes of the Arab nation, to protect its sovereignty and identity and the fate of its peoples.

Sheikh Mohammed added that the armed forces are the pride of the nation, its invulnerable protectors and the symbol of its strength, who fight to defend righteousness against oppression and transgression.

"We salute them and are thankful for the sacrifices they have made to ensure the security of the UAE and defend its interests, to help and support our fellow nations, to fortify the security of the Arab World in the face of attempts to threaten or penetrate it, to fight off terrorist groups, and to actively contribute to maintaining the security and stability of the region and the world. The blood that our sons have shed in Yemen will not be in vain, and the rebellious militias in Yemen have recently paid a high price as a result of our armed forces’ air and land strikes. We will persevere toward Yemen’s full liberation and reconstruction, while ensuring the safety and stability of and serving the interest of the Yemeni people."

In response, members of the UAE Armed Forces have said that they have the same determination as their leaders.

Brigadier General Ali Seif Al Kaabi, commander of the allied forces that liberated the Marib Dam, said, "The Emirati people are historically known for their bravery and determination to help others during adversity. It is the nature of the people of this nation, as shown by the determination and honourable combat at the Marib Dam and elsewhere. Our soldiers and armed forces have been role models of strength, patience and honourable combat, dedicated to restore legitimacy in Yemen by fighting with the allied forces. The Emirati soldiers have met their leaders’ expectations. We are all prepared to sacrifice our lives for the sake of this great, generous nation, and we will follow our leadership until legitimacy is restored in Yemen. We promise, everyone that the heroes of the Emirates and the Gulf countries will tirelessly defend against those who conspire to tamper with the stability of the region."

Another member of the armed forces was quoted as saying: "Our land is precious and we will defend it with our blood. We are always ready to answer the call, and today we are more determined than ever. All the soldiers carry out their orders fully, so as to restore legitimacy in Yemen and destroy any attempts to create turbulence in the region. The allied forces have executed their operations fin a determined manner and have sent a clear message to those who want to harm the region. We want our children to inherit stable nations and we want to restore legitimacy in Yemen."

Yemen Crisis

The decision to go to war had an underlying humanitarian purpose: to save the Yemeni people from an oppressive group, then to reconstruct all the cities and towns in Yemen, once they have been liberated from the control of the Houthi militias. This has already been done by Emirati charities in Aden and neighbouring governorates that have been liberated.

The UAE has always known that helping the people is the first and foremost priority, and it has provided humanitarian aid and help to the Yemeni people for many decades. The Marib Dam, recently recaptured, in a good example of the aid that the UAE has provided to Yemen, it having been built on the instructions of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in recognition of the historical significance of the original dam over 2,000 years ago.

According to the UAE's Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, MICAD, total Emirati aid to Yemen up to the beginning of 2015 had reached around Dh430 million (around $117 million). By August this year, the amount had risen to Dh744m, with further sums having been spent since then.

Aid has been provided by a number of organisations, including the Emirates Red Crescent, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, the Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Humanitarian and Scientific Foundation, the UAE Suqia Initiative, the Al Rahmah Charity and the Sharjah Charity House.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, has noted that the UAE, in partnership and active co-ordination with Saudi Arabia, has been at the forefront of the provision of relief aid to the people of Yemen.

MICAD figures indicate that over 181,000 Yemeni families, or around 1.1 million people, have benefited from nearly 30,000 tons of food aid that has been sent by the UAE to the country.

Other aid, according to MICAD, has gone to the energy, power and infrastructure sector, worth around Dh314m with food aid accounting for a further Dh188m.

Other assistance has included the supply of medical assistance of around Dh122m, logistics support worth around Dh46m support for clean water and sanitation services of around Dh41m and oil supplies, help for the transport and other assistance being worth around Dh33m.

The Financial Tracking Service at the United Nations ranks the UAE as the top country in terms of the provision of relief and humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Syrian crisis

The UAE has also continued to supply humanitarian aid to other parts of the Arab World, in particular to Syrian refugees now living in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, who now number over four million, and to people who are displaced inside Syria. Since 2012, according to MICAD, UAE aid to those affected by the Syrian conflict has exceeded Dh1.34bn.

In 2014 alone, the UAE distributed more than Dh220m to refugees in neighbouring countries and displaced persons within Syria, through the UN’s humanitarian relief scheme in Syria and the UN’s regional response programme for Syrian refugees.

The UAE has also sponsored a number of other humanitarian initiatives, such as the Jordanian–Emirati camp for Syrian refugees, with a capacity of 10,000 people, and a Jordanian-Emirati field hospital at Mafraq, near the Syrian border, which handles over 800 patients daily.

The UAE Red Crescent has also built a camp for up to 4,000 people for displaced Syrians in the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq.

Foreign Policy

The UAE’s foreign policy is based on solid principles and rules, originally laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and now continued by Sheikh Khalifa.

The UAE supports humanitarian cooperation with countries facing terrorism and extremism wherever it is found and of whatever source.

The President reaffirmed these principles following the recent terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh in Paris, stressing the UAE's full support for France as one of its strategic partners. He added that the UAE condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as a phenomenon that targets the security and stability of the world, stressing that such criminal acts require cooperation and solidarity at all levels to eradicate them.

He called on the international community to unite in the face of extremism in all its forms, whether ideological sympathy or support or criminal acts.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, commented that "the gruesome and bloody terrorism that targeted Paris targets all of us, and it is of utmost priority to unite our efforts against extremism and terrorism. The danger is shared, and we are all at risk."

Gargash added: "We are of this world; our religion and our humanity reject the targeting of innocent civilians, and terrorism and extremism is a cancer that is trying to conquer, and which we must combat firmly and strongly."

Dr. Gargash concluded by saying, "In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris, we realise that the UAE’s initial stand against extremism and terrorism is correct; this challenge threatens our religion, our humanity and our communities."

On the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which falls on November 29, Sheikh Khalifa called on the international community to rescue the peace process and take appropriate procedures to stop Israeli violations against the Al Aqsa Mosque, by obliging Israel to commit to serious negotiations towards a two-state solution.

In a message to Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Sheikh Khalifa called for these to end all Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, with the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, living alongside the state of Israel in permanent peace and security.

He reiterated the UAE's consistent and principled position in supporting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the need for full international recognition of an independent and sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. Condemning the repeated Israeli provocations as illegal, he said that they represented a flagrant violation of the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 as well as international resolutions, particularly UN Security Council Resolutions Nos. 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace.

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa said that the Israeli government is fully responsible for serious consequences that may result from its policies of escalation in the Palestinian territories, which are against all efforts to achieve a just settlement to the Palestinian issue.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, said that the Arab and Islamic identity of the UAE is the source of its progress and openness in the world, and that while the UAE might be small in its surface area, it is large in its influence on the course of world development.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the threats and dangers posed by terrorist organisations, particularly Daesh and others linked to Al Qaeda, are not confined within any geographical borders, but go beyond the entire region, posing a threat to all countries and communities.

He reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to cooperation and coordination with its regional and international partners to confront extremism and terrorism.

He also praised the role played by Egypt's Al Azhar University, in confronting extremist ideology and promoting the renewal of religious discourse. He went on to praise Egypt's government for its achievements and for the significant steps taken towards its recovery, as well as its contributions to stability in the region.

He also reiterated the UAE's long-standing position in its pursuit, together with the international community, of a political process in Yemen, in accordance with the Gulf initiative as well as its support for the efforts of the Arab coalition to restore the legitimate Yemeni authorities.

Commenting on the situation in Libya, Sheikh Abdullah expressed the UAE's concern about the instability in the country, stressing the importance of lifting the restrictions imposed on the elected Libyan government's capabilities, to allow it to fight terrorist organisations and confront cross-border threats.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, he called on the UN Security Council to perform its pivotal role in ensuring the process of a political transition of power. Urging the international community to continue providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, he reaffirmed the UAE's continuing commitment for the Syrian people and its commitment to efforts to alleviate their suffering.

He also expressed support for Iraq's efforts to confront Daesh and expressed the hope that the country's government would introduce reforms that were fair and equitable for all the various elements of the country's people.

In his speech to the General Assembly, he also reiterated the UAE's unwavering policy on the issue of the Iranian occupation of the three Emirati islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, calling for the issue to be resolved through international arbitration.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, he warned of the feelings of injustice and frustration that have resulted from the continued Israeli occupation and its violations of human rights. This, he noted, allowed extremist groups to exploit the critical humanitarian situation.

More generally, Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE is deeply concerned about the escalation of tension and violence in the Middle East due to terrorist acts carried out by elements deliberately seeking to destabilise the region and undermine its security. Terrorist crimes, he noted, have escalated in a manner not seen since the end of World War II, being carried out by a number of extremist organisations, particularly Daesh, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Yemen's Ansarullah and other groups that claim a religious cover for political gains. The UAE strongly condemns those crimes and the brutal methods adopted by such groups, he added. While they claim to be acting in the name of Islam, the truth of the matter is that they are as far as can be from Islam’s forgiving principles that call for peaceful coexistence and the acceptance of others, he said.

The UAE realises the importance of restoring security and stability in the region after five years of conflict and chaos, which is why the forces of the region have united their efforts to help the affected countries in facing these dangers and protecting their people, he added.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the peaceful and good-loving nature of the Emirati people has enabled the UAE to build friendships with various peoples of the world on the basis of mutual respect. He pointed out that the UAE now has with over 187 countries around the world today, with 105 diplomatic missions of its own.

The Federal National Council

Under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, opened the first ordinary session of the 16th legislative chapter of the Federal National Council, FNC, in November, following the election of a new Council in September.

Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi was elected as the Council's Speaker, representing another milestone in the empowerment of Emirati women, as promised by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The first woman to lead a parliamentary institution in the Arab world, Dr Al Qubaisi was also the first woman to be elected to the FNC, during the first Council elections in 2006. She is also the first woman from the Gulf to win a seat in parliamentary elections.

Since the founding of the state, Emirati women have been able to perform their natural role of participation in the building and development process, as the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan believed in the capabilities of women and the importance of their role as partners to men in building the country.

Today, women hold Ministerial posts, seats in the FNC, serve as ambassadors and judges and also serve in the country' s armed forces and police.

Their progress can be seen from their participation in the Federal National Council and the elections to that body.

For the first FNC elections, in 2006, there were nearly 7,000 electors. That number had risen to nearly 224,000 for the 2015 elections. Following the 2006 elections, in which Dr. Al Qubaisi won a seat, seven more women were nominated for Council seats, resulting in females constituting 22.2% of the Federal National Council. Following the 2011 elections, in which again one woman was elected, six more were nominated, while Dr. Al Qubaisi was elected as the Council's First Deputy Speaker. After the 2015 elections, the Council has nine female members, eight appointed and one elected.

Ever since its first session on February 12, 1972, the Federal National Council has promoted the empowerment of women within the community, working to guarantee their legal rights and to facilitate their participation in the process of development.

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi’s election as Speaker of the Federal National Council is just the latest step in what has been a continuing process of empowerment

It was initiated by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with the support and active involvement of his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and is now being continued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa.

National Economy

The UAE economy has grown dramatically since the country was established in 1971, now being 236 times larger than it was then. The process has seen the education and empowerment of its people, coupled with the building of a modern infrastructure that has helped strengthen the ability of the UAE to capitalise on its strategic geographical location between East and the West, thereby contributing to the building of economic ties and partnerships with the rest of the world.

This has been supported by economic policies that have facilitated the emergence of the country as a global economic hub. A major factor in this is the UAE's 'Open Skies' policy, that have seen the country become a global logistics hub. Dubai Airport is now, remarkably, the busiest airport in the world.

Benefiting from large-scale inflows of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, into tourism, industry, transport, renewable energy and other sectors, the UAE is now a regional base for more than 25% of the top 500 enterprises in the world. Its competitive environment is characterised by a high degree of transparency and an absence of corruption.

The country is now preparing to look forward to a day when its economy is no longer dependent on oil. Once asked what the UAE would do when it produced its last barrel of oil, Sheikh Mohamed, commented: "We will celebrate our investment in our youth."

In a speech to the Government Summit held in Dubai this year, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah said that "the UAE will also celebrate its investments in a diversified national economy and its success in building a sustainable knowledge-based economy," noting that oil today constitutes less than one-third of the GNP of the UAE, after having been the major source of its income in the early years of the state. Tourism, he noted, a sector that scarcely existed in 1971, has made great progress, particularly over the last decade, and now accounts for 8.1 per cent of GNP. This, he said, "has helped establish the UAE’s place on the world tourism map and made it one of the most popular and distinctive travel destinations in the world."

Non-oil industry now provides around 15 per cent of GNP, with locally-made products being exported throughout the world.

In pursuit of the UAE’s objective to create a competitive and sustainable knowledge-based economy, 2015 has been designated the 'Year of Innovation' while the country ranks highly on the Global Innovation Index. One recent important initiative has been the establishment of the Emirates Space Agency, which is expected to contribute to the support of advanced scientific research.

While investment of the traditional energy sectors of oil and gas continues, the UAE has also become a world leader in the field of renewable energy, as displayed by Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, and major solar energy projects such as "Shams 1" and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. It is also embarking on a peaceful nuclear power programme, with the first power plant at Barakah, west of Abu Dhabi, now under construction.

Meanwhile, through its sovereign wealth funds, the UAE continues to invest surplus revenues overseas, helping to diversify the sources of income and, at the same time, providing opportunities for Emiratis to learn new skills abroad.

When the UAE was established, only around half of the male population and a third of the female population were literate. Now, however, following decades of investment in education, over 90 per cent of both sexes are literate, with over 1,200 educational institutions, including universities, operational.

The provision of health care remains another high priority for Government, as it strives to provide all elements of health care as a right of every citizen and resident. Today, there are over than 2,200 hospitals, health centres and clinics, with the latest medical technology and employing world-class.

The Economy

According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the GDP of the UAE - at current prices - was estimated at Dh1,467bn in 2014, with a growth rate of 3.2 per cent over the previous year. Gross capital invested had grown by 8.2 per cent at the end of 2014, compared to 2013.

Imports in 2014 were some Dh696bn in 2014, compared to Dh685bn during the same period in 2013, an increase of 1.66 per cent. 2014 exports were valued at Dh132bn and re-exports at Dh244bn up 4.97 per cent over the previous year.

In terms of the contribution of individual sectors of the economy, oil and gas accounted for around 34.3 per cent while the wholesale and retail trade sector and the repair services sector each contributed 11.3 per cent. The real estate and business sectors each contributed some 10.3 per cent, while the construction and industrial sectors each contributed about 9 per cent.

There were modest increases in prices for goods and services during 2014, including 4.33 per cent increase in prices of educational services; 4.23 per cent increase in prices of household furnishings and equipment; and 3.13 per cent increase in housing, water, electricity and gas prices.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, has noted that between 2012 and 2014, the contribution of the non-oil sector to GDP at current prices was around 68.6 per cent, taking into account fluctuations caused by the recent decline in world oil prices. He has predicted a 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent growth in the UAE’s GDP during 2015, stressing that inflation is under control and is expected to be around 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent this year.

The World Bank report on the "Ease of Doing Business for the year 2016", which measures the performance of 189 countries, ranks the UAE in 31st place globally, and first among Arab countries for the third successive year.

The UAE also ranked among the top five countries in the world in three key sub-indices, where it ranked first in the Paying Taxes sub-index, second in the Dealing with Construction Permits sub-index and fourth in the Getting Electricity sub-index.

At the regional level, the UAE ranked first in the region and among the top ten countries in the world in terms of the number of improvements documented by the World Bank in one year in the following sub-indices: Getting Electricity, Dealing with Construction Permits, Protecting Investors and Enforcing Contracts.

Additionally, the UAE ranked first in the region in the following sub-indices: Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Protecting Small Investors, Registering Property, Paying Taxes and Enforcing Contracts.

The report also documented the UAE’s progress in a number of the key sub-indices, first of which is the Enforcing Contracts sub-index, wherein the UAE ranked first among Arab countries and 18th regionally, in the 2016 report.

Humanitarian Activity

The UAE has been generous in extending its assistance to all corners of the globe, reaching out to people in need, those affected by natural disasters, as well as innocent victims of war. It also has stood by nations afflicted with poverty, financing their development projects and helping them to empower their people.

Perhaps the best proof of that is the aid that the UAE has provided to other countries. In February 2015, the UAE annual foreign aid report for 2013 was published, estimating the UAE’s total foreign aid at over Dh21.5bn.

Sheikh Mohammed recently launched the largest humanitarian developmental societal organisation in the region, the "Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative Foundation". It includes 28 authorities and enterprises engaged in combating poverty and disease, spreading knowledge, culture, societal empowerment and innovation which are collectively carrying out more than 1,400 humanitarian and developmental programmes in 116 countries around the world.

The Foundation will target more than 130 million people in the coming years and will focus on programmes in the Arab region.

Initially, the main objectives of the new Foundation include four main sectors; combating poverty, spreading knowledge, societal empowerment and inventing the future. It will aim to provide support and education to 20 million children, as well as providing immunisation and treatment for eye disease to 30 million people by the year 2025. It will also invest two billion dirhams in the establishment of medical research centres and hospitals in the region, and will allocate 500 million dirhams for water research, one of the major issues the region has to face in the coming years.

The Foundation will also continue to provide relief aid, essential assistance and increased empowerment for populations over the next ten years, as well as providing support for up to 50,000 young entrepreneurs in order to provide more than half a million jobs in the years ahead.

In terms of spreading knowledge, the Foundation will aim to print and distribute more than 10 million books, and translate the top 25,000 books in all languages into Arabic, along with encouraging the reading of more than 500 million books in the Arab World over the next ten years. The Foundation’s investments in educational and scientific initiatives will amount to Dh1.5bn.

The Foundation will also seek to promote tolerance and cultural openness and has allocated more than Dh600 m to achieving this goal and to promote civilised cultural discourse in order to enable communities to live in stability and without ethnic, religious or sectarian exclusion, extremism or discrimination. Furthermore, Dh150 m will be allocated to encourage intellectuals, journalists and those in creative fields. Over the next 10 years, the Foundation aims to engage one million participants in a variety of awards and forums designed to empower communities and consolidate their unity, cohesion and stability, to honour their thinkers and explore their futures in these forums.

As part of its comprehensive vision for development in the region, the Foundation will also support innovation by supporting and embracing 5,000 innovators and researchers in the region and investing more than Dh5.5 bn in the construction of incubators for innovation, in line with Sheikh Mohammed’s belief in the fundamental importance of innovation for the future of any nation.

The Foundation now incorporates also includes all past programmes, foundations and awards launched by Sheikh Mohammed and has an annual operating budget of over Dh1 bn.

The organisations included in the foundation have already spent over Dh8 bn in the past few years on programmes in more than 100 countries, from which more than 54 million people have directly benefited. More than 2,000 schools and other educational institutions have been established or renovated, and over 10 million children have benefited from educational initiatives, with training being provided to more than 400,000 teachers.

Entities affiliated with the Foundation have recently organised programmes focusing on the prevention and treatment of blindness for 23 million people, in addition to providing more than 81 million vaccines and medication to combat blindness, as well as the prevention and treatment of intestinal diseases for 3.6 million children. More than 46 hospitals around the world have been built and provided with support. These entities have also provided support and relief aid to more than 1.5 million families in 40 countries.

The awards and forums organised within the new Foundation have engaged more than half a million participants. More than 23,000 entrepreneurs have been provided with support over the past years from institutions within the Foundation, as well as 3,000 companies providing more than 160,000 job opportunities.

Leadership training has been provided in more than 155 governmental entities around the world, and the new Foundation plans to double that number in the coming years.

In the view of Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of International Co-operation and Development, the UAE has become an international role model of relief and assistance of those affected by crises and disasters, implementing the best global practices in this field.

The UAE’s approach to humanitarian and development issues is not confined simply to a response to crises, whether natural or man-made. It also supports investment in infrastructure and other aspects of development. This began with the formation of the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, in 1971, and has taken a new step forward this year with the launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation.

The UAE has recently been ranked as the largest donor of official developmental aid in the world, in terms of its population, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This ranking was the result of the UAE’s surpassing of the UN’s 0.7 per cent ODA target for the year 2013, when the UAE committed 1.34% of its GNP, over US $ 5.2 billion, to official development assistance. This represented an increase of 375 per cent over the previous year, with the country rising from 19th to 1st place in the global rankings. The UAE provided $2.11 billion in 2011, and more than $1.59 billion in 2012.

Between the country’s establishment on December 2nd, 1971 until the end of 2010, over $163 billion in foreign aid had been granted in the forms of loans and non-refundable grants.

The aid in 2012, reaching more than 137 countries or geographical areas around the world, was provided by some 43 governmental and non-governmental authorities or charitable and humanitarian institutions, including 22 federal authorities, as well as generous initiatives carried out on the instructions of the country's leadership, Their Highnesses Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates.

Around 45 per cent came directly from Government institutions, and 22 per cent from the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, with the balance being supplied by other bodies.

The largest recipient, by continent, was Asia, with the majority going to countries in western Asia, like Jordan, Palestine, Yemen and Azerbaijan, the main recipients over the last few years. Africa received around 20 per cent of the aid disbursed in 2012.

At an event to mark the UAE's ranking as the world's most generous donor, the Chairman of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. Eric Solheim, congratulated the people of the UAE and its wise and giving leadership that provides relief, humanitarian and charitable aid to all peoples, without exception, as part of its prudent vision.

Sheikh Mohammed, noted: "The reason for our outranking of other countries of the world in terms of aid is that His Highness the President is the most charitable leader on the global scale, where Zayed established the approach and Khalifa and his brothers followed in his footsteps. Today, we have over 38 humanitarian institutions spreading charity in all corners of the world. The UAE does not provide conditional assistance and does not serve its own interests through its aid. The UAE’s true agenda is the interest and stability for all people. The size of humanitarian aid documented in the report reflects the human values that have been enshrined by the founding fathers since the establishment of the UAE, and which Islam teaches, along with national and humanitarian principles."

The geographical distribution of UAE aid for the year 2013 showed a focus on Africa, where the sum of Dh18.1 bn was donated, compared with Dh958m in 2011. Asian countries received Dh2.7bn, while countries in Europe, the Americas, Oceania and elsewhere received Dh811m.

Discussing the evolution of the UAE's overseas aid, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), has said that it has seen four stages: foundation, expansion, specialisation and leadership, in addition to the future stage.

There was rapid growth, she noted, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the UAE Red Crescent Authority was established, along with a number of charitable and humanitarian bodies, such as the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment and the Al Maktoum Foundation, among others. By 2015, there were over 40 organisations working inside and outside the UAE.

The specialisation stage has focused on granting aid for the establishment of renewable energy projects in countries that lack sufficient energy resources. Total aid provided to this sector reached Dh572.43m between 2009 and 2013. Solar energy projects accounted for about Dh239.7m followed by thermal energy at Dh222.6m in addition to projects aimed at protecting the environment and biodiversity of these countries.

Sheikha Lubna said that UAE foreign aid and related initiatives had now reached a total of 170 countries. These included programmes that targeted the environment and biodiversity, through the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD., in addition to a number of health projects supported by the ‘Dubai Cares’ organisation and the International Humanitarian City, IHC, in Dubai.

Sheikha Lubna noted that Masdar had carried out many energy and renewable energy projects inside and outside the country in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, which provided grants to countries for the implementation of projects in the solar, thermal and wind energy sectors.

From 1983 to 2013, the value of humanitarian aid provided by Emirates Red Crescent programmes, inside and outside the country, exceeded Dh8bn distributed in 100 countries. Since its inception in 1992, the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation has spent more than $460 million on various programmes and humanitarian projects in 96 countries. The UAE has also provided over Dh2.6bn between 2009 and mid-2014 to refugees and internally displaced people in 71 countries.

The International Organisation for Migration, IOM, has praised the UAE for its support and contributions for the high level of relief for displaced people around the world.

Amongst other assistance have been contributions to the UNRWA, in Palestine, and to the Palestinian authorities, amounting to a total of Dh552m over the last couple of years. A significant proportion of this followed the summer 2014 Israeli aggression against Gaza, while the UAE also pledged to contribute $200 million at the recent Reconstructing Gaza conference in Cairo.

The specially-created UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme, UAE-PAP, has provided significant amounts of assistance to Pakistan, building hospitals, schools and community centres which benefit millions of people and providing relief aid to those affected by natural disasters. With funds largely provided by the Abu Dhabi Development Fund and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the project has spent $320 million in its first and second stages.

Recognising the need to contribute to development programmes that have an immediate and direct impact on the living standards of people, the UAE has paid special attention to issues relating to water, including the provision of supplies for drinking and irrigation, sanitation plants and preservation of water resources. These have an immediate impact in terms of health, social, educational and economic benefits. Between 2009 and 2013, over Dh1bn was spent on such projects in 61 countries.

The countries to benefit the most were Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan, with other projects in Africa covering Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and While some water-related projects are small in scale, others are much larger, such as the UAE-funded Meroe Dam in Sudan, which provides 1,250 megawatts of energy and irrigation for 300,000 hectares of agricultural land.

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