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UAE marks 38th Accession Day

posted on 05/08/2004: 2000 views

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) marks the 38th Accession Day on August 6, the day on which H.H. President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan assumed power in 1966 in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Today, the UAE has occupied a prominent position among countries of the world, thanks to unprecedented accomplishments, high standards of living, security and stability it enjoys.

Since taking over as ruler of Al Ain and the Eastern Region back in 1946 and then as ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate on August 6, 1966 before his election as President following the formation of the federal state on December 2, 1971, Sheikh Zayed has led the nation in all sincerity and devotion and has employed its resources for the welfare of the people.

Sheikh Zayed once said:" A ruler, any ruler, is there to serve his people and provide them with better standards of living, affluence and prosperity." Since God, the President said, has blessed us with wealth the first thing we ought to do is to do in appreciation of His grace is to direct this wealth towards reforming our country and the well-being of its people.

With such clear visions and strategies, the President has set out the style of rule and leadership and his early commitment to use his country's resources for the prosperity of its people.

When Sheikh Zayed took office on August 6, 1966, Abu Dhabi, like all other parts of the emirate, was a sandy, barren island with its scattered houses lacking the essential services such as water, electricity. There were no schools and hospitals and people used to get their daily needs from dhows, which were to deliver goods from ships anchoring in deep seas opposite the present-day Abu Dhabi Corniche.

Ever since laborious efforts were exerted to pull the emirate out of the state of economic and social deterioration. Oil revenues were then made use of to set up service and infrastructure projects.

Ambitious development programmes started to see the light of day. In a short span of time, the emirate of Abu Dhabi started to taste radical transformations in all walks of life and in a record time. Hundreds of construction and modernisation projects, such as modern housing complexes, hospitals, schools, universities, electricity, water, telecommunications, road and bridge networks and other service projects, were executed.

"Money will be of no use if it is not utilized for the benefit of the people," Sheikh Zayed once said. Such a philosophy has been translated into deeds in the Abu Dhabi emirate in particular and the UAE in general. Over Dh 217 billion has been spent on development and service projects in the emirate during the period from 1968 and 2003, a fact that shows the commitment of the political leadership in employing the country's resources and oil revenues to build a prosperous nation. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Abu Dhabi emirate amounted to more than Dh 166.5 billion in 2003.

The contribution of the non-oil sector as reached over Dh 88.8 billion and its balance of trade posted a surplus of more than Dh 70 billion in 2003 as the strategy of diversification of income sources proved to be successful. The utilisation of oil resources that Sheikh Zayed has vowed to make has never been a hollow promise. Great accomplishments and radical changes that have taken place over the past 38 years speak volumes for the President's sincerity.

Sheikh Zayed's style of leadership has involved maintaining close links with his people, regularly visiting them in cities and villages throughout the country, making himself available for their comments. During his inspection tours of development project, he meets with his citizens away from the office or palace, and listens to their concerns. Pursuing an open-door policy, Sheikh Zayed said: 'Our door is always open for our citizens and will remain so,'.

The President's tour is part of his keenness to inspect the progress of various projects in different areas through field visits. It also comes within the context of Sheikh Zayed's policy to extend prosperity to all UAE nationals.

Soon after the federation of the United Arab Emirates was declared on December 2, 1971, Sheikh Zayed ordered that all material resources and administrative and technical expertise of the government of Abu Dhabi be put at the disposal of the fledgling state. "The federation has always been my wish and the most sublime goal I have aspired to achieve for the people of the UAE," the President once said. We have realized from the very beginning, he remarked, that the federation is the path of strength and progress and the tool to make the people happy.

The formation of the federal state has given rise to one of the most ambitious development processes in the region. And in a few years the UAE has become a modern and prosperous state. "The wishes have come true with the set up of the federal state of the United Arab Emirates, which has contributed a lot to changing the pattern of life in this land," the President maintained.

In his address on the UAE's celebrations of its 32nd National Day on Dec.1, 2003, the President expressed satisfaction at the accomplishments made in various fields of development. "The United Arab Emirates, thanks to Almighty God, has become a country of whose place among the nations we can be proud. We can be proud, too, of what it has achieved in terms of the development of its basic infrastructure, and, over and above that, of what we enjoy in terms of stability, peace and an open society.

"The esteem that our country enjoys amongst the nations is the best proof of the success of our Federation. Our country is recognised internationally to be in the forefront of those who provide foreign aid and assistance, and in terms of its conservation of the environment and in taking care of its citizens and their welfare, and in providing them with a decent life," Sheikh Zayed opined. Sheikh Zayed believes in the Shura (or democracy) as a method of rule. He said: "My philosophy in life is that, I believe that all matters are in the hands of the Almighty God and that man, as he discharges his duty, should be inspired by Him."

Such a Shura method of governance has further been enhanced by the open-air "meet the people" tours of different areas around the country by Sheikh Zayed.

In February and July 2004, the President toured the Eastern and Western Regions of Abu Dhabi where he inspected various development projects. His tour included Al Ain city, Al Khatim, Al Salmiya, Dhahart Al Teeb, Mussaffah, Al Wafiya and other areas. On instructions of Sheikh Zayed and at his expense, the President's Private Department is building 10,000 housing units at the cost of Dh 10 billion all over the country, 50 per cent of which have been completed.

The Department has also constructed 67 dams costing Dh 700 million to hold back storm water, again at the expense of the President. The development of human resources in the UAE runs parallel with the building of the nation. We realized, from the outset, that man is the base of every development process and hub of every progress," Zayed said. Sheikh Zayed pays a special attention to the youth, exhorting them to contribute to the development of their country.

Addressing the youth in his 32nd National Day's speech, Zayed said: "What we have achieved, my dear young people of the Emirates, will not survive, unless you yourselves engage in further work and efforts, and sacrifices. You should work hard to protect our national achievements, to foster and support the continued march of our Federation, and to make more achievements that contribute to the dignity and prestige of our country and to the welfare of our people.

"This cannot be achieved without positive and effective participation from all of you. Today, we enjoy a prosperity the like of which we never even dreamed. I appeal to you all, young men and women of the Emirates, to do all that you can to preserve and to cherish it, so that you and your children may continue to enjoy its fruits.”

"Spare no effort to work with all of your powers. I warn you against idleness, and against taking things easy. What we enjoy today will not stay as it is without hard work, and without the continued blessings of Almighty God. Work for your country with devotion and sincerity. Engage in interaction with the world around you. Take from it what is useful to you and to your country, and leave aside those things that are harmful to your society, your traditions and your values."

On the role of women, the President said: "We are pleased to mention, with pride, that which our women have achieved in terms of strengthening the economic and social role that they play in society, in both the public and the private sectors. We reaffirm our commitment to provide all necessary support for our women, such that will ensure that their role in society can be further strengthened, and so that the scope of their participation in the comprehensive development of our country can be widened.

We are pleased, he added, to note that the women of the United Arab Emirates have displayed a strong commitment in this direction, for we now see them acquiring all kinds of specialist scientific skills and working effectively in the public and private sectors, while they remain, at the same time, committed to their fundamental and basic role of raising their children properly, in accordance with our spiritual and religious values and our heritage.

At the end of July 2003, Sheikh Zayed issued a federal decree forming the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood. The set up of the Council came in the wake of an initiative in 2002 by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the President's wife and Chairperson of the General Women's Union (GWU). The people with special needs have also enjoyed a special care from the President. In 2002 the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs received a modern centre for the rehabilitation of the disabled in Mafraq area in Abu Dhabi, which was built at the expense of Sheikh Zayed and cost Dh 80 million.

President Sheikh Zayed has also paid a special attention to environment issues. In his Dec., 2003 address he said:" While we have worked to achieve balanced and comprehensive development in all economic and social fields, we have, too, paid special attention to the environment and its conservation. Our interest in the environment derives from what we learned from our forefathers.

They learned to co-exist with the natural environment around them. They learned how to make the best use of the scant resources available to them, while, at the same time, ensuring that they did not over-exploit them, and that they left sufficient for the generations to come.

"That is why we have worked since the establishment of the Federation to protect our environment and its wildlife, and to formulate all necessary laws, regulations, programmes and projects for this purpose. These have placed the United Arab Emirates in the forefront of environmental conservation, and have made it a model for the world."

These achievements, he added, provide an incentive for us to continue with this approach of caring for the environment, and to keep it clean and safe. "For, if we fail to do this, we will destroy the resources that we have been given by Almighty God has given us. These resources are not only for us to use, but also for our children and our children's children."

In an inaugural address at the second Asian Ministerial Conference on UN Convention to combat Desertification, which convened in Abu Dhabi in June 2003, the President reiterated that UAE had been very keen on taking into account environmental considerations in carrying out planning and implementing overall development in the country.

'We in the UAE, where desert forms 75% of the total area, have been able to cohabit with this environment and to adapt ourselves with the limited resources for many years,' he noted, adding that ' although numerous experts have assured us of the impossible task of establishing successful agricultural projects in these circumstances, but we are determined to accept this challenge and go through this experience as we confident that God will crown our efforts with success.'

In his keynote address to the conference, Mr. Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said the selection of Abu Dhabi as the venue of the conference had not come by surprise, when considering the major achievements in combating desertification in the UAE.

"For more than three decades, Sheikh Zayed, President of this flourishing country, has been advocate and supporter of the concept of sustainable development-the very same concept that lies at the heart of our activities and discussions here at the meeting," Diallo said.

One of Sheikh Zayed's most remarkable achievements, he added, was undoubtedly the planting of 100 million trees in the UAE-all in an effort to stop the encroachment of sand onto agricultural land and urban areas. Addressing the Environment and Energy Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on February 2, 2003, the President called for unified Arab work in the field of environmental protection.

He also called for support for the cooperation and coordination efforts among Arabs in that field. The UAE President, who urged Arabs to increase their contributions to the global dialogue on development and environmental issues, which are of great concern to the world in general, reiterated that the UAE had been able to draw a comprehensive national strategy which clearly identifies the country's objectives, areas of work and priorities in the field of environmental protection.

In September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which was hosted by Johannesburg, South Africa, has adopted the Abu Dhabi Global Initiative on Environmental Data. On June 2, 2001, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) awarded Sheikh Zayed the World Food Day's medal in appreciation of his great efforts in serving the whole mankind. FAO's Director General Jacques Dhiouf lauded in July 2003 the UAE's efforts, spearheaded by its President, in combating desertification and protecting endangered flora and fauna species.

Zayed's initiative, to set aside US$150,000 every two years in a move to encourage creativity in safeguarding heritage and immaterial heritage works in danger, was commended by UNESCO's director general Kuchiro Matsura in his address to a Ministerial meeting in Istanbul on September 16, 2002. In a special ceremony held at its premises in Paris on April 23, 2004, UNESCO distributed the 150,000-dollar Sheikh Zayed Award for the Protection of Oral Heritage to the winners.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: - Over the past three decades President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has striven to iron out differences between Arab countries in a spirit of understanding and tolerance. He has kept warning against division in the Arab ranks. In this connection he said: "I haven't spent a single night happily ever because of disputes between Arab brothers." He put up extensive efforts to have Arabs reconciled and close Arab-Muslim ranks.

The Arab nation, he said, is big in size and possesses huge resources. "We must therefore bear responsibility and change the course that led us to weakness and loss," he added. Sheikh Zayed's approach to regional and international issues is one of far-sightedness, sagacity and courage. He has always been supportive of the fair struggle of the Palestinian people in their quest of freedom and independence.

The initiative he launched on May 22, 2004 to rebuild over 400 houses in Sultan and Zeitouna neighbourhoods in Rafah and Gaza respectively as well as hospitals, health centres, schools, mosques and other public utilities Israeli occupation forces had demolished, was well received by Palestinians, Arabs and the world at both official and popular levels.

The President instructed the UAE Red Crescent Society (RCS) to finance such a humanitarian drive. The fund-raising campaign the RCS organized on May 28, 2004 in association with the Emirates Media Inc. collected Dh 100 million for this purpose. The President further instructed Zayed Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works to donate Dh 20 million to the fund-raising drive.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for his part, donated Dh 15 million, H.H Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the President's wife and Chairwoman of the GWU, Dh 5 million, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dh 10 million and Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah Dh 2 million.

In appreciation of the initiative, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei said his people had received Sheikh Zayed's gesture with gratitude. He hailed the UAE Red Crescent Society (RCS) for its support for the Palestinian people. Peter Hansen, UNRWA Commissioner-General, said in a statement in Rafah on May 25,2004 that Sheikh Zayed's recent initiative would have a great impact on thousands of Palestinians "who look forward with great hope to seeing their homes reconstructed". He said UNRWA had "a wonderful experience" with the RCS in the Jenin reconstruction project, which will be completed in a few weeks.

The RCS is involved in a similar project worth US US$28 million for the reconstruction of 454 houses completely demolished and repair of over other 3,000 houses in Jenin camp. Another senior official at UNRWA also paid rich tribute to Sheikh Zayed's gesture. "UNRWA is highly appreciative of the UAE's recent decision to reconstruct more than 400 houses in Rafah", said Carney Abu Zeid, UNRWA's Deputy Commissioner-General. The United Arab Emirates has reiterated solidarity with the Iraqi people in the ordeal they have undergoing since the end of war.

The urgent relief operations carried out by the RCS alone cost the UAE Dh100 million. A total of 22 planes, 48 trucks and two ships were used to deliver the relief materials. Sheikh Zayed called on politicians, dignitaries and religious clerics in Iraq to close ranks bury the hatchet and look forward to reaching a better future for their country. The UAE went even further in supporting Iraq. In the donor countries' conference in Madrid in October 2003, the UAE announced it would contribute 215 million for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Sheikh Khalifa, later, said his country would continue standing by the people of Iraq and would spare no effort to rehabilitate their country, adding that the UAE would consider writing off most of its debts to Iraq. In a statement last December, President H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan voiced the hope that stability and security would be restored in Iraq and that the UAE would stand side by side the Iraqi people with all its resources.

He called on the people of Iraq to join hands for the future and unity of their land. On June 28, 2004 the United Arab Emirates has welcomed transfer of power to the interim Government of Iraq as another important step towards achieving stability in the country.

At its regular weekly meeting that day, the UAE Cabinet reaffirmed its continued support for the Iraqi government, issuing a statement after the meeting to wish the Government success in governing the country. In the statement, the Cabinet expressed its confidence that the fraternal people of Iraq, a country known for its glorious history and civilisation, would be able to surpass the present situation and to rally behind their Government, so as to consolidate national unity and to ensure the success of the current experiment.

"This will enable Iraq to reassume the role to which it aspires at a regional and international level," the statement said. The Cabinet also appealed to regional and international parties to provide support to the Iraqi Government and to facilitate its mission to maintain stability and security and to rebuild the country.

UAE'S AID & GRANTS: - By the end of 2002, the UAE offered over Dh 106 billion in aid, grants and development loans to third world countries. The UAE's external aid is tantamount to over 3.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually that is 0.07 per cent more than the amount the UN fixed for developed countries. Since its establishment in 1992 and up too 2003, Zayed Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works has disbursed US$ 148.3 million in relief and medical assistance as well as other humanitarian grants.

From 1983, the year of its formation, until the end of August 2003, the RCS has spent Dh 1 billion in charity programmes and urgent relief operations, with more than 95 countries benefiting from these assistance. Established in 1971, the Abu Dhabi Development Fund has, up to end of October 2003, offered 56 developing countries around the world a total of Dh 19.2 billion in loans and grants, which have been used in executing as many as 245 projects.

ON TERRORISM: - Sheikh Zayed renounces intolerance, hatred and terrorism in all forms and manifestation, yet rejects connecting them with Islam. In his December 1, 2003 National Day address, he said: - "We emphasise that neither religion, nor international law, nor any conventions on the Rights of Man can provide any justification whatsoever for the practice of terrorism.”

"We reject strongly, and forthrightly, any voices that seek to spread hatred, violence and divisions between the peoples of the world. In the United Arab Emirates, we shall continue with our approach that seeks to preserve in the country a society that adheres to its fundamental values and traditions, and that is open to the world and to interaction with its many other cultures." (The Emirates News AGency, WAM)


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