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Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | DIPLOMACY | REVIEW

With prudent leadership and a deep commitment to other Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah is a key cornerstone of diplomacy in the UAE.

Steeped in history, Ras Al Khaimah has come a long way to become one of the seven Emirates that now comprise the UAE. Following the historic Battle of Ras Al Khaimah in 1819, the British laid out and enacted the General Maritime Treaty of 1820, signed by HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi. The treaty spelled out the end to all piracy and slavery, and set the foundations for the British protectorate, which lasted until 1971. Ras Al Khaimah had become fully independent from neighboring Sharjah in 1869; however, it was reincorporated with Sharjah from 1900 until 1921. On February 10, 1972, Ras Al Khaimah, under the leadership of HH Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, became part of the UAE.

Ras Al Khaimah, which means “top of the tent” in Arabic, is located along the eastern side of the Arabian Gulf. The Emirate comprises approximately 3% of the total area of the UAE, with the city of Ras Al Khaimah also the capital of the Emirate itself. Geographically, the city is divided into two main parts: the Old Town in the west, and Muairid in the east, separated by a creek that runs between the two sections.

Like the other six Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah is governed by a Royal Family. HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi was born on February 10, 1956 in Dubai, the fourth son of HH Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qasimi. HH Sheikh Saud was named Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah on October 27, 2010, following the death of his father. HH Sheikh Saud's rule has led to a consistent continuation of pro-growth policies put in place by his predecessor, resulting in the significant growth in per capita GDP in recent years. Ras Al Khaimah's overall GDP rose by nearly 54% between 2010 and 2014, with hopes now high that overall revenues can be raised to AED2.4 billion. In terms of foreign trade, Ras Al Khaimah had a trade value of AED9 billion between 2011 and 2015, with imports reaching AED3 billion, exports AED3.6 billion, and re-exports AED2.4 billion, proving that the Emirate has made significant strides in the field of exports and re-exports. The Emirate's free zones are considered among the best in UAE, largely due to a wide variety of value-added services and state-of-the-art logistics. Thus, the current leadership has continued to make Ras Al Khaimah a robust and growing market with a diversified economic base, an attractive partner for international cooperation. As ruler of the Emirate, HH Sheikh Saud has also played an instrumental role in the founding and restructuring of some of the most successful corporate enterprises in Ras Al Khaimah, such as Julphar Pharmaceuticals and RAK Ceramics.
In his role as Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, HH Sheikh Saud is also a member of the Federal Supreme Council. His son, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, was named crown prince in 2010. The crown prince joined the Ruler's Court in 2009, and has since overseen a number of initiatives designed to streamline local government. As part of his commitment to the Emirate and as a tribute to his family legacy, HH Sheikh Mohammed carries out a housing rehabilitation program and prioritizes the expansion of industry and tourism in Ras Al Khaimah.

In each of the seven Emirates, Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language. Nevertheless, English is widely spoken as the main language of business and education.

CHARITABLE WORK

With a stable economy and sustainable wealth, Ras Al Khaimah is home to a number of charitable organizations. Established in 2009, the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research complements the social, cultural, and economic development of the Emirate. Founded with the support of an Emiri decree, the Al Qasimi Foundation is a non-profit, quasi-governmental organization that places great value on education and research for members of the public sector.

Born from HH Sheikh Saud's desire to ground policy decisions in relevant bodies of research, the Al Qasimi Foundation is educating a new generation of policymakers and young people interested in public service. The foundation also serves as a bridge between research and policy making communities, allowing scholars the space to dedicate attention to public policy questions crucial to the development of Ras Al Khaimah, and using the findings to promote innovative policy tools and models that will enact positive social change. Therefore, the foundation is one of the cornerstones for the Emirate when it comes to establishing relationships with internationally acclaimed scholars and world-class universities, as well as other public policy research centers, government institutions, and strategic partners in the private and non-governmental sectors.

One of the most successful foundations in Ras Al Khaimah is the Red Crescent, which offers domestic support, humanitarian assistance, health programs, and social work. Promoting the spirit of solidarity among the local community and abroad, the Ras Al Khaimah branch of the Red Crescent has seen a number of achievements since it was established, and contributes to the “soft power” of the Emirate in the UAE, and indeed, the wider region.

The branch currently provides more than AED17 million of assistance on a yearly basis, with medical assistance, humanitarian efforts, and student support among the top recipients of aid, at AED3.4 million, AED1 million, and AED2.2 million, respectively. Recently having expanded its programs and activities to include new strata of society, the Ras Al Khaimah branch of the Red Crescent has managed to increase the value of its programs by 92% since 2009. Along with humanitarian assistance, the Emirate distributes relief funds in the form of lump sums, sponsorship programs, rehabilitation sessions, support for local institutions, contributions to religious organizations and pilgrimages, and construction projects both at home and abroad. In terms of overseas charity, the Ras Al Khaimah branch of the Red Crescent has carried out more than 100 projects in Asia and Africa at a cost of AED3.2 million. The organization has built nearly 50 mosques, multiple schools, and dozens of wells to provide potable water in regions of the world that suffer from water shortage and drought. These efforts help promote the image of Ras Al Khaimah as a force for positive action in the international community.

BUILDING TIES

The year 2016 has opened up a number of new diplomatic doors for Ras Al Khaimah, as it seeks to strengthen its relationships with the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The Emirate intends to be a larger part of the economic, commercial, and tourism developments in the UAE, and has long stressed the importance of cooperation to achieve common interests and deepen ties.

As global economic players seek new business opportunities, Ras Al Khaimah has emerged as an attractive destination due to its advanced and geostrategic free trade zone. Its prime location at the strategic crossroads of economic powers, coupled with a historically peaceful atmosphere and reputation for safety and security, has led many to consider Ras Al Khaimah as a base for operations. Investors are drawn by RAK's ideal geographic location, which grants easy access to one-third of the global population. However, it is also the innovative free trade zones that are one of the main selling points for the Emirate when attracting international partners. In 2015 alone, 100 new warehouses were built in the free trade zone's technology park.

In April 2016, a delegation of Latin American Ambassadors and other senior diplomats arrived in Ras Al Khaimah to negotiate the establishment of a unique strategic economic partnership. The visit included an audience with HH Sheikh Saud and a tour of the Emirate's most important landmarks. Members of the local community were invited to contribute ideas for economic, cultural, and touristic opportunities, in addition to brainstorming potential projects that both Ras Al Khaimah and Latin America could collaborate on. The mission was headed by the Ambassador of the Republic of Chile to the UAE, HE Jean Paul Tarud, who met with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Kayed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Economic Development Department, HE Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, and Salah Abou Al Magd, Secretary General of the Arab-Latin America Business Council, as well as the various heads government entities in Ras Al Khaimah.

Overall, new initiatives combine the economies and cultures of different continents, paving the way toward a new era of cooperation and investments in an array of new sectors, benefitting everyone and taking steps toward integrated development between the Gulf region and Latin America. Participants can look forward to an open line of communication between Arab and Latin American countries, where cooperation is encouraged through providing information and communication, discussion forums, economic conferences, trade exhibitions, trade missions, and other activities. This in turn is expected to create new opportunities for the public and private sectors to reap economic, social, cultural, and touristic benefits.