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Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan: a historic leadership

posted on 30/06/2013: 4839 views



Since succeeding the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE's founding father, as President in November 2004, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa has brought his long experience at senior levels of leadership to bear in charting the modernisation of the seven-emirate Federation and ensuring its continued relevance both within the region and beyond. His presence on the Forbes list of the world's 50 most influential figures underlines how important the UAE now is on the global stage - and how important his personal efforts have been in consolidating the achievements of his father.

The election of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa as President by his fellow members of the Supreme Council of Rulers was the culmination of a career of leadership that began in 1966 when, aged just 18, he was appointed by Sheikh Zayed as his representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi and the head of the emirate's courts, - a mark of the confidence Sheikh Zayed had in his son early on. That confidence was repeatedly demonstrated in subsequent years, as Sheikh Khalifa was appointed to a series of high-level positions, becoming Crown Prince in 1969 and then in 1971 assuming the role of Deputy Prime Minister in the first federal UAE cabinet.

Further senior posts followed, as Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, as Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and then, in 1989, as chairman of Abu Dhabi's Supreme Petroleum Council, in which role he was responsible for steering the development of the oil and gas sector and the downstream industries that have successfully contributed to the country's economic diversification - always a strong personal interest of Sheikh Zayed.

Elected President of the UAE for a term of five years on the death of his father and re-elected in 2009, the assumption of the top job proved to be a seamless process for Sheikh Khalifa, even at a time of heightened regional tension and unprecedented turmoil in global financial markets. His steady stewardship at this time of crisis, ensuring that the integrity of the Federation remained intact as significant financial pressures made themselves felt in 2009, has proved a blessing.

Central to Sheikh Khalifa's leadership is his belief in the need to bolster the active participation of UAE citizens in the governance of the nation, to ensure that skills are passed down through the generations. In domestic terms, he has concentrated efforts on improving education, solidifying the social roots of the UAE with a strong emphasis on the integrity of the family unit, and increasing expenditure on the development of the infrastructure and on health and social affairs.

This means providing for the least fortunate in society. In January 2012, Sheikh Khalifa ordered the settlement of defaulting personal loans of 6,830 citizens, worth about Dh2 billion (US$545 million). Under a decree issued by the President, a Dh10 billion fund has been established to put an end to the phenomenon whereby citizens with low incomes take on the heavy burdens of personal loans which they struggle to repay. In December 2012 Sheikh Khalifa issued a new decree setting up the Abu Dhabi Housing Authority, whose mission is to deliver affordable homes to Emiratis, to complement the already extensive programme undertaken over decades by the federal and local governments.

Throughout, Sheikh Khalifa has reinforced the government's commitment to sustaining the economic diversification that has delivered to the UAE a large part of its wealth, providing strong support for the development of the private sector as the essential engine of the UAE economy.

Mirroring his domestic commitments to promoting development throughout the country, Sheikh Khalifa has also displayed a strong commitment to providing aid for those in need overseas, whether as a result of conflict and natural disasters or because of a lack of the essential elements of infrastructure. Extensive support has been supplied by the UAE, both through the Red Crescent Authority and through other bodies, to thousands of refugees from the conflict in Syria, for whom relief is provided with no strings attached. In northern Pakistan, where floods and other natural disasters have cut communications and have rendered thousands homeless, Sheikh Khalifa has initiated a major programme to deliver emergency support and to re-build roads, bridges and other facilities, while in neighbouring Afghanistan, an outreach programme by the UAE military contingent in the country has focused on a hearts and minds approach, delivering basic services and development assistance to communities ravaged by decades of conflict. Those in need in other countries have benefited too, from Palestine to Bangladesh and from Somalia to New Orleans in the United States.

Under Sheikh Khalifa's leadership, the UAE has also achieved considerable success internationally, one highlight being the decision in 2009 to locate the headquarters of the newly formed global green-energy body, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in Abu Dhabi, following a concerted diplomatic effort. The headquarters of the agency is located in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City complex.

Such moves underline the influence and respect that the UAE now enjoys on the global stage. But it also shows another facet of Sheikh Khalifa's presidency, namely an emphasis on renewable energies as the most sustainable solution to the world's energy requirements. This, in a sense, represents a continuation of Sheikh Zayed's well-known focus on the environment.

In that vein, Sheikh Khalifa's decree in December 2009 establishing the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) as the entity in charge of implementing the UAE's nuclear programme represents another significant milestone for the UAE. The focus on civilian nuclear energy is seen as a model in the region, and the UAE is the most advanced Middle Eastern country in developing that capacity, which is intended to produce 25 per cent of the UAE's electricity as early as 2020.

While the UAE is playing an increasingly active role on the global stage, the key focus, of course, remains on promoting development and security at home.

An essential part of that has been the series of steps launched by Sheikh Khalifa to ensure the delivery of better services and facilities to Emiratis throughout the country. Administered by the Follow-Up Committee on the President's Initiatives, these have included the building of thousands of houses throughout the northern and eastern parts of the UAE, investment in upgrading water and electricity supply networks and health care, all integral part of an overall plan to deliver high quality services to citizens wherever they may live.

Guided by the President, that plan, a continuation of a programme that first began even before the UAE federation was first established over 40 years ago, offers Emiratis, and other residents, the prospect of continued and steady progress in the years ahead. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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