In forging its external relations, the UAE adopted the approach set by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in the light of which the country built its policies for dealing with other countries, peoples and regimes.
The approach was followed by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, in leading the nation to become a role model admired by many as it represents wisdom, balance and temperance, without compromising on the duty of supporting the rights and fulfilling justice through a most influential humane approach.
The foundations of UAE foreign policy comprise good neighborliness, understanding, and non-interference in internal affairs, as well as the amicable resolution of disputes. The fruits of this policy were mutual openness between the UAE and the world, and strategic partnerships on the political, economic, trade, cultural, scientific, educational and health levels with many countries in all continents, and asserting the prominent position the country has gained in the international community.
The UAE diplomacy has successfully led an intensive and effective efforts aiming at containing and resolving armed conflicts and emerging crises in many regions around the globe. It works relentlessly to strengthen its direct and indirect humanitarian aid programmes, especially those extended to the countries and regions ravaged by military conflicts or natural disasters. In addition, the UAE has made significant contributions in the fields of peacekeeping missions and reconstructions efforts in the post-conflicts regions, an efforts that reflect the country's keenness to maintain peace and security on the regional and international levels.
The most fundamental aspect of the UAE's foreign policy lies in its establishment of a regional and international network that binds the country with other states, either at a bilateral level or under the umbrella of a regional or international bloc. The UAE has successfully set up diplomatic relations with 189 countries around the globe. The number of UAE missions abroad has risen to 82 embassies, and four permanent missions, while the foreign embassies in the country has reached 110 embassies, 73 General -Consulates, in addition to 15 regional and international organizations that have physical presence in the country.
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, commended the role of UAE ambassadors abroad, praising their efforts in enhancing bilateral relations between the UAE and other countries in the world, and the progress such relations witness. He also expressed appreciation for their efforts in enriching the diplomatic performance, asserting the importance of continuing work on the same level, keeping the same approach and foundations of the UAE foreign policy.
“The UAE holds an influential position in several international and regional organizations, and have many friends all over the world. We look forward to bolstering our relations with the fast growing countries, such as India, Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa.”
Upon meeting the UAE's ambassadors and representatives in several regional and international organizations on September 9th, 2008, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “The success of our foreign policy is one of the major achievements of the UAE. A success based on the pillars laid by the late leader Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.”
While H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, said: “The UAE extends a hand of integrity, peace and giving to the countries and people of the world, building bridges of understanding between our people and others, especially in the poor countries which we, as a leadership, seek to provide with the essentials of good life through humanitarian initiatives that focus on health and education; the main factors of social stability and welfare."
Meanwhile, H.H. General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces asserted “the importance of diplomacy and its role in supporting connection and collaboration with other countries of the world.” His highness further called for “highlighting the UAE's leading position and its economic development, as well as its values of co-existence and tolerance and human interaction, to open the doors for more fruitful collaboration with all other countries in the world.” He also noted that “since its establishment, the UAE has adopted a well-balanced policy towards regional and international issues, which has earned utmost respect and appreciation, and made it an influential player on various international arenas.”
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and around the world. The foreign policy of the UAE is based on the principles of justice, equality, and human rights. The UAE is determined to make a positive difference at the global level by working constructively to support the implementation of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Domestically, the UAE places a high priority on respect for human rights in accordance with international human rights standards, and is committed to the continual improvement of its own laws and practices, based upon the country's cultural heritage and religious values, which enshrine justice, equality and tolerance.
Since its founding in 1971, the UAE has built a tolerant, multicultural society in which people from all over the world live harmoniously together. The UAE Constitution outlines the freedoms and rights of all citizens, prohibits torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and protects civil liberties, including freedom of speech and press, peaceful assembly and association, and the practice of religious beliefs. Significant investments have been made in education, healthcare, housing and sustainable economic development.
There are several efforts that reflect the image and approach of the UAE in dealing with oneself and the others. In its external and internal policies, the UAE shows commitment towards humanity and everything related to its future and present.
Among those commitments, for example, the interest the UAE has shown toward environmental issues, through ambitious strategic programs including the launch, in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature, of a sustainable development action plan to develop Masdar City, which will be the world's first carbon-free, waste-free city, wholly dependent on renewable and clean energy technologies, such as solar energy to generate power and desalinate water.
Foreign aid is one of the top priorities in the UAE's external relations approach. The philosophy behind this is two-fold: first, it is dictated by an Islamic belief that helping those in need is a primary duty; and second, that part of the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to assisting other countries and individuals that are less fortunate.
The country continuously extends its financial and humanitarian aid to several countries, whether through development programs, infrastructure projects, or offering aid to countries suffering from wars and natural disasters directly or indirectly, through the UAE's membership in the donor countries' group in the OCHA, as well as contributing to other UN programs and with other organizations in the fields.
Overall, during the last three-and-a-half decades, the UAE has contributed more than Dh255 billion (US$70 bn) in loans, grants and assistance for development projects in nearly 100 countries around the world. While much of the assistance is provided on a government-to-government basis, the country is also a major contributor to international agencies, having made Dh100 billion (US$27 bn) available through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The Government has established a new body to coordinate all the humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UAE. Called the UAE Foreign Aid Coordination Office (FACO) and set up in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the new forum is chaired by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. This will lead to the UAE becoming more involved at the multilateral level rather than focusing on support through traditional bilateral means.
The UAE has also set up various foundations to undertake this major humanitarian role, including the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, the Khalifa Charity Foundation, the Red Crescent Society, the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Foundation, Noor Dubai Initiative which was launched recently with the objective of treating one million people suffering from eye diseases in Africa and Asia.
The UAE believes that peoples and nations need to keep connecting, as a key requisite to ensure the stability and prosperity of the region; a principle that constitutes an important angle in its foreign relations policy on the external and internal levels, for the near and short terms.
Beginning with itself, the UAE set a development pattern that is seen as a live example of tolerance and coexistence, through an educational and cultural project that deepens those values in the youth and society. The UAE gave special attention to updating and modernizing educational systems to cope with the latest technologies and respond to the needs and requirements of development, driven by strong faith in the necessity of providing education to everyone. This drive requires dedicating all resources, since the educational process is the best and ultimate weapon against poverty and ignorance that represent fertile soil for extremism and terrorism.
Driven by the conception: the world is one global village, the UAE rolled out a series of initiatives, such as ‘Dubai, the City that Cares’, which cares mainly for providing educational services to more than four million children in 14 countries in Africa and Southern Asia and the Middle East, through partnerships wit several organizations around the world.
The Purpose of this initiative is to encourage efforts to apply the Millennium Development Goals and providing the opportunities and services of basic education by the year 2015 to all children in the world, regardless of their nationalities and races.
The UAE believes that safe living without being threatened is a sacred right for humans, whether groups or individuals, people and countries. This belief has been adopted by working towards spreading friendship, respecting others' right to safe living. This gives people an opportunity to build a good quality of life, not threatened by any party or country on the same planet. The UAE started this drive in the region first, reaching to other parts of the world.
To achieve this, the UAE asserted the importance of the Middle East, especially the Gulf region, being a region free of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which requires Israel to abide by the UN resolutions to have its nuclear facilities inspected and supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as unconditionally joining the regional and international pacts against the spread of such weapons. It also encouraged Iran to keep cooperating with the IEAE and the international community to eliminate concerns on its nuclear program and its objectives.
The UAE has achieved economic prosperity of the nation and its citizens, and has strengthened its position as a key player in the global economic map featuring a strong presence despite the crises, fluctuations and financial pressures taking place in the world. The UAE has implemented, since its unification, an effective economic strategy based on economic openness and diversification as well as attracting investments and employing all means and energies to achieve high growth development rates.
The UAE’s GDP at current prices has bounced from just 58.31 billion dirhams in 1975 to 1.47 trillion dirhams in 2014 achieving a significant growth rate of 2416%, distributed into 963.1 billion dirhams for non-oil sectors at an estimate contribution of 66%, and 503.8 billion dirhams for oil sector according to UAE’S Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA). The UAE’s Ministry of Economy is expecting GDP to reach 1.58 trillion dirhams in 2015 and up to 1.8 trillion dirhams in 2016. Recent report on economic indicators, published by FCSA, has confirmed that the UAE economy continues to positively adapt to the world economic conditions and achieve growth and improvement in terms of recovery from the effects of the global economic crisis.
The UAE aims to promote sustainable development of the national economy and increase GDP by stimulating the investment structure, attracting quality investments and transfer of technology to enhance the concepts of knowledge economy and reduce dependence on oil by diversifying the sources of income.
In 2014, the UAE was ranked number one in MENA region by attracting Foreign Direct Investments valued at 10.07 billion dollars. It was also ranked 22nd internationally as the most attractive for foreign capital according to World Investment Report 2015 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
United Arab Emirates came in second among Arab countries and 17th globally within The Global Competitiveness Index 2015 – 2016 Prepared by the World Economic Forum. The UAE also came in the first place in the world for both the quality of roads, low inflation rate and the lack of tax effect on work incentives. It also came in second in the world for each of the following sub-indices: quality of infrastructure in general, quality of infrastructure for air transport and the lack of impact of taxes on investment incentives. Furthermore, It was ranked third globally in port infrastructure quality.
The UAE has boosted its position in the regional and international map of world trade through its trades and spread in 198 markets across the world. The Doing Business Report: 2016, issued by the World Bank, ranked the UAE in 1st place regionally and 31st globally in Ease of Doing Business.
The UAE topped the list of Middle East and North Africa and was ranked first regionally and 16th globally in The Global Enabling Trade Report 2014, published by the World Economic Forum.
The volume of foreign trade for 2015 reached nearly 1.56 trillion AED distributed over 1.06 trillion dirhams in direct trade and 497 billion dirhams trade in UAE free zones. National exports has contributed to 15.2% of the total direct foreign non-oil trade valued at 161.2 billion dirhams, while imports were valued at 676.4 billion dirhams acquiring about 63.9% of the total direct foreign non-oil trade. The value of re-exports reached 221.4 billion dirhams, accounted for 20.9 %.
The UAE is one of the founding countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which implies its commitment and determination towards enhancing this entity by ensuring the member countries enjoy excellent high-level relations.
Through the efforts of President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE plays a major role in the council towards enhancing common cooperation, and increasing the council's effectiveness by realizing the integrated political, economic, security and social goals through practical real steps.
Since its establishment, the UAE has been working along its sister nations in the GCC and the Arab League and other groups to support all efforts and diplomatic moves to contain conflicts in the Middle East and the Gulf Region, continuously emphasizing the importance of amicable disputes resolution.
The country also asserted its commitment towards supporting the GCC common work and developing mutual relations with member countries through creating bilateral agreements, communicating, and consulting through mutual visits on all levels, to enhance the strength of the Council and its countries.
The UAE, which has always called for wisdom and reason in international relations, and working towards a world of justice and equality, is still being tested in this aspect, as Iran occupies three of its islands, namely the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Mousa islands. With all the wisdom and reason the UAE is well-known for called on Iran for dialogue to solve the dilemma. The major call was the one by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, who urged Iran to respond to the peaceful efforts saying: “Driven by our beliefs in dispute solving among countries, we, again, call on Iran to show its good will and enter direct and peaceful negotiations to settle the issue of our occupied islands, or agree to relate the case as a whole to the International Court of Justice, expressing our readiness to accept the ruling regardless of the results.”
Calls from the UAE in this direction have never stopped. In his speech in front of the 63rd UN General Assembly on September 27th, 2008, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, asserted that “the continuing occupation by Iran to three of the UAE islands since 1971 is a central issue for our country.” He reiterated demands by the UAE to “regain full sovereignty over those islands, their regional waters, and air space as an integral part of the UAE's national sovereignty.”
To Emphasize the importance of dialogue to solve the issue, asserting that it does not mean compromising the rights, the UAE has always reiterated that "all the military and administrative measures still being taken by Iran since the occupation of the islands are illegal and non compliant with the UN Conventions and the International Law or good neighborliness, and they have no legal effects regardless of how long they last".
In order for the issue to be taken to the global stage, the UAE called on the international society to encourage Iran to respond with honest calls by the UAE and the GCC and the Arab League to accept settlement of the issue through serious direct negotiations, or by the International Court of Justice.
Ordeals pose opportunities to show generous and noble positions. In our Arab region, there are many ordeals that caused suffering of people and countries, paving the way for the UAE to show its noble and generous deeds, whether in support or financial aid. Iraqis still remember that the UAE was among the first countries that supported Iraq and its people. The UAE still supports the political process in Iraq as well as its rebuilding efforts, and looks hopefully towards the efforts that the Iraqi government exerts to achieve national unity and security in the country.
In this regard, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, President of the UAE, asserted while receiving Mr. Nouri Al Malki, Prime Minister of Iraq on July 7th, 2008, that “The UAE has decided to cancel all Iraqi debts, worth US$ four billion, offered over a period of time to the country, in addition to all its interests.”
H.H. Sheikh Khalifa further explained: “The decision of the UAE to waive all its debts of Iraq is an expression of the deep brotherly and solidarity between both countries, and a support to the Iraqi government to implement its restructuring and rebuilding plans and projects,” calling on other countries to help Iraq in all ways possible to achieve this goal, and adding that “The UAE is announcing the reopening of its embassy in Baghdad, driven by the importance of connecting Iraq with its Arab neighbors.”
The Palestinian issue
The UAE has always been supporting the Palestinian case and constantly asserted its strong belief that “the settlement of the Middle East issues can never be achieved with the occupation, settlement, and blockades that face the Palestinian people, who currently undergo the worst human crisis due to the killing and destruction and group arrests” and that “continuing the -Israeli- occupation will definitely lead to more violence and lack of security, not only in the lands occupied by -Israel-, but also in the entire region".
To this end, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, renewed the call in his speech in front of the UN General Assembly to “making the Middle East, including the Gulf region, a region free of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which requires Israel to abide by the UN resolutions to have its nuclear facilities inspected and supervised by the IEAE , as well as unconditionally joining the regional and international pacts against the spread of such weapons. It also encouraged Iran to keep cooperating with the IEAE and the international community to eliminate concerns on its nuclear program and its objectives.” He also called on all parties to “continue the diplomatic and political efforts, avoiding irresponsible escalation to help reach an agreement that ensures security and stability for the region and its people.”
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah also reiterated the UAE's strong support to the Palestinian – "Israeli" peace negotiations, including the final settlement negotiations and the Annapolis meeting results, expressing at the same time his concerns over the “Israeli” carelessness in dealing with those negotiations and calling on the international community, especially the Security Council to exert more efforts to pressure “Israel” lift the blockade imposed on the Palestinians and to abide by all related international laws to end its occupation to the Palestinian and Arab lands that have been occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan and some Lebanese lands."
The UAE never hesitated to extend its aid to Sudan as well. In supporting the efforts to solve the Darfur issue, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah hailed the efforts of the UN and the African Union to solve the crisis and reach a peaceful settlement, within full commitment to respect the sovereignty of Sudan.
The UAE believes that the most environmentally friendly and most sustainable solution to its energy requirements is electricity generated by nuclear plants. Therefore, nuclear reactors are destined to become the UAE’s second most important source of energy in the UAE after natural gas, producing about 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity by 2020 and ensuring the continued economic development of the nation.
In 2009, highly important milestones were achieved in the country’s nascent civilian nuclear programme. Most significantly, UAE President, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued a decree on 23 December 2009 that formally established the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) as the entity in charge of implementing the UAE’s nuclear programme. ENEC will oversee the construction and operation of nuclear plants and coordinate the distribution of electricity across the country with federal authorities.
In an address on the occasion of the UAE’s thirty-eighth National Day, Sheikh Khalifa explained the UAE’s approach to nuclear energy:
“Our interest in renewable energy is inseparable from our project to develop a peaceful programme of nuclear energy to meet our growing energy requirements, based on the highest standards of transparency, safety and nuclear security, in accordance with international laws, and in full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency… The model we have adopted is consistent with our support of and conformity with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and our rejection in principle to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, calling on Israel to dismantle its military nuclear facilities and join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear facilities to international inspections. We also urge Iran to continue cooperation with the international community to allay fears and doubts about the nature of its nuclear programme. We call on the parties concerned to reach a peaceful agreement on this to ensure the security and stability in the region and its peoples.”
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs described the UAE's nuclear program as “an example of transparency in providing the energy needs by commitment towards non enrichment or recycling, with the help of some governments and institutions of other countries, and under the supervision of IAEA.”
In October 2009, the Federal Government had approved a law that formally set the nuclear programme in motion, with the creation of an independent nuclear safety regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which will be responsible for the oversight of the peaceful nuclear energy sector within the country and the enforcement of nuclear safety and radiological protection standards. FANR will also be responsible for the licensing of operators in the nuclear sector and the monitoring of radiological materials.
The world has been facing the sinister threat of terrorism. Concerting efforts to combat this evil and beforehand, taking a stand towards it, is most essential given the various definitions presented to the word.
A distinctive trait of UAE policy lies in its harmony with its essence in terms of identity, thoughts and beliefs that have helped the country in creating a balanced stance with regards to evolving global concerns. This enabled the UAE to highlight the humane sides of the Arabian and Islamic heritage, and presenting it to the world, as well as highlighting the levels of awareness and modernity that the region and the nation reached.
In this regard, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs asserted in his speech before of the 63rd UN General Assembly on September 27th, 2008, that the UAE is effectively cooperating with all efforts aiming at eradicating terrorism in all its forms, including money laundering, adding that “the UAE will continue its efforts in this regard to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and diminish all its resources, reiterating our commitment towards supporting all efforts made to enhance dialogue and tolerance among religions.”
The UAE is always present to support all activities for the good and justice in the world, and respecting the humanity of people and offering a helping hand. Taking this into consideration, the country has given special attention to women and their issues, especially in the developing countries by encouraging the international community on March 4th, 2008 to continue with global efforts to extend political and financial support to help millions of women in the developing countries. The call was to help women improve their quality of life, fight poverty & diseases, and armed conflicts in line with the UN Conventions and the human rights principles and the Declaration of the Millennium and the Beijing action plan.
The UAE has also demanded, during the 52nd meeting of the UN Women Committee, that support and aid to the Palestinian women and people continue, and that a peaceful comprehensive solution is set to end the suffering of those women and their people due to the violence of the “Israeli” occupation", adding that the ongoing violence and occupation is a major concern of the UAE.