An Emphasis on Unity

Diplomacy & Politics


An Emphasis on Unity

REGION BY REGION At a local level, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is assisted with the day-to-day business of running Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council, which acts as a […]


At a local level, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is assisted with the day-to-day business of running Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council, which acts as a local government in the Emirate. Abu Dhabi, which comprises 87% of the UAE’s total territory, is split into three regions: Abu Dhabi City, where the Federal Council, Presidency Headquarters, Cabinet, Federal Ministries, and foreign embassies are located; the Western Region; and the Eastern Region. The main tasks of the Executive Council are to approve draft laws and decrees, develop and implement plans, and writepublic policies before they are passed to thePresident for final ratification and their subsequent promulgation. The Council also deals with the management of local departments, entities, and authorities while coordinating with His Highness with the aim of moving the Emirate forward in line with public interest. HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, chairs the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.


This long-established system of steady policy-making through balanced, representative councils, in tandem with the careful administration of its rulers, has led to a domestic status quo that is impressive. The overall level of stability and high quality of life are reflected in exceptionally low crime rates, with the UAE boasting one of the lowest homicide rates in the world, along with robust laws to counter drug trafficking and consumption. On a governmental level, and throughout the justice system, Abu Dhabi and the UAE hold their respect for human rights to high standards, and the country is a full member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a firm testament to its concern for its citizens and residents.


The tradition of hospitality extends to Abu Dhabi’s renowned openness to investment, and the country consistently ranks highly in World Bank and other reports for its ease of doing business. The inflow of FDI, and the welcome received by a myriad of investors from Asia, Europe, the US, and Africa, among others, simultaneously reinforces international links with its trading partners. Abu Dhabi has valuable trading agreements with many countries around the world. A robust regional free trade agreement (FTA) was approved in 2002, which allowed GCC nationals to conduct industrial or retail and wholesale trading. Beyond the MENA region, FTAs have been forthcoming with a wide range of nations following the UAE’s accession to the WTO in the mid-1990s. On December 13, 2013, an agreement between India and the UAE was signed with an eye on developing major projects in the infrastructure and energy sectors. The UAE currently has investments totaling AED12 billion in India, while bilateral trade totaled some $74 billion over 2012.


Relying on the practiced leadership of Abu Dhabi to steer the country in international waters has worked wonders for the Emirate and the UAE. In 2013, the UAE became the world’s largest donor of foreign aid as a percentage of gross national income (GNI), according to the OECD. This is on the back of AED5.83 billion ($1.59 billion) spent in 137 countries over 2012 on foreign aid. The Federal Government was the largest donor that year, allocating AED2.62 billion, while the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) was the next largest donor at AED1.28 billion. In third place, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation sent AED563 million in foreign aid. More recently, the UAE sent AED735 million to Egypt for SME development. The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development signed an important co-operation agreement at the Egypt-GCC Investment Forum in December, 2013. The investment will strengthen ties between the two countries with hopes for further bilateral investment.

Such aid and trade programs have further enhanced Abu Dhabi’s international reputation, and increased its diplomatic reach, both within the GCC and further afield. A long history of pragmatic international diplomatic decisions and an inclination toward non-interventionist and conciliatory stances has won it fulsome praise from other nations. Emirati foreign policy is based on the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and aims to perpetuate his ideals of negotiation and support for disadvantaged populations around the world. As an extension of its internal policy and impartial justice system, Abu Dhabi also seeks to encourage just dealings between states by assisting in conflict-resolution negotiations and supporting institutions that foster this mindset. HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is particularly enthusiastic about GCC relations, and the UAE has played a dynamic role in the council since its foundation. Abu Dhabi hosted a conference in mid-2013 to educate GCC governments on e-government and the benefits of social media use, and the concurrent dangers of cybercrime. With events such as this, Abu Dhabi is pursuing a policy of modernization, which it hopes to share with its neighbors. Crucially, it has sought the development of a stronger regional defense network, and has invested considerably in boosting the GCC Peninsula Shield Force since 1984. In general, the government stands firmly by its policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. However, UAE military units have been dispatched in the first Gulf War, the UNOSOM II force in Somalia, and most recently in Afghanistan in 2007 for peacekeeping purposes.

The government of Abu Dhabi has established itself, and the UAE at large, as a globally significant, peaceful entity with major investment potential. As stability and sensible domestic and international policies continue to offer major benefits for Abu Dhabi, its international standing can only grow. With modernization and diversification the watchwords, together with an emphasis on environmental, economic and social sustainability, the government of Abu Dhabi has laid the foundations for quality growth in the decades to come.