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UAE will stay on democratic course: Khalifa

posted on 02/12/2007: 2076 views

President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan affirmed on Saturday the United Arab Emirates would stay on the course of democracy to ensure greater participation and empowerment in the Federal National Council (FNC).

'The last year witnessed an important development with regard to political empowerment and the practice of democracy, as the FNC's 14th legislative session has had half of its members elected, with women representing 22% of the total number of FNC members, 'the President said in a statement to the nation on the occasion of the 36th Anniversary of the UAE National Day.

'We remain committed to continuing our democratic change until we achieve all planned goals through paving the way for and offering the chance for more participation, and through enhancing the role of the FNC as a legislative and monitoring power, Sheikh Khalifa stressed.

To keep in line with this trend and to support it, Sheikh Khalifa maintained 'We call for the implementation of a national programme that aims at strengthening our identity and deepening the values of belonging and of citizenship, as well as providing the required conditions in society that reflect our country as an example of an open modern society whose values are consistent with our beliefs and our heritage.

Sheikh Khalifa also called for a clear programme that sets out a clear vision for the objectives of the UAE's experiment in elections and the associated mechanisms, and for an expansion of the authority of the FNC.

The President made it clear that shedding light on future strategies and visions does not mean that 'we should overlook the present with its challenges and problems.

Though notable achievements have been made in the health services, educational feedback, the labour market, the policies of Emiratisation, Sheikh Khalifa admitted that 'Our population policies, the effectiveness of our media and support for our young people, yet they are still below our expectations and our UAE standards.

That is to say: the achievements do not match the money that has been spent, or our aspirations.

'What we are facing is not a lack of resources because these are abundant, or a lack of vision because this exists, but, rather, some negative points of weakness, which have been recognised by the federal and local governments.

'Hence, integrated follow-up systems have been put in place to monitor performance and to spread a culture of quality and excellence in conformity with our efforts to boost the efficiency of our social welfare and health and to promote the empowerment of women and of employees in the cultural and social sectors, the civil organisations and media, he signalled.

Turning to national values and identity, Sheikh Khalifa said :'We are looking forward to a comprehensive civilised approach that takes on board modernity without eclipsing the original features, so that we may preserve the country's values and identity.

He emphasised there will be no compromise with whatever threatens values, traditions and language, which are the heart of the UAE's national identity and the soul of the nation and its heritage.

Sheikh Khalifa stressed the need for confronting the negative effects of globalisation and the defects in the make-up of UAE population, underlining that 'Any infringement of our identity is an infringement of the country itself. Simply, it is a violation of the country's sanctity.

'In this connection, we have instructed that new year that lies ahead for the federation shall be the year of National Identity, to strengthen the national elements and components of our society and to specify the threats to them.

Anyone lacking understanding of their identity is destined to remain in obscurity, whether now or in the future.

Speaking about achievements, the President noted :'Our people have been able, within a space of thirty six years, to achieve what is beyond imagination - a model of federal government, stimulating human development, a modern infrastructure, high-quality basic services, a good economy, an educated people, welfare and security.

'Our country is at the top, both at a regional level and at the level of the Arab world, with regards to welfare, social development, economic competitiveness, tourism promotion, attractiveness for investment, the use of IT technology and other fields.

The government, he explained, had also succeeded in adopting modern labour legislation, in implementing a free-market policy, in improving the investment environment and in maintaining an open mind towards experiments in a global economy, as well as managing to support partnership between the public and private sectors and in introducing regulation of public joint companies.

In regard to economy, the President said 'All of these factors have worked together towards reviving our economy, and our Gross Domestic Product GDP, according to economic indicators, will increase by the end of this year to reach a record level.

'This is testimony to the prudent economic policy adopted by the government, especially in expanding and diversifying our production base. Now, although the oil sector makes a major contribution to our GDP, its contribution does not exceed 34%of the total.

Maintaining our economic growth in the light of the population reality that we all know requires prudent investment policies, serious follow-up by the government, and the enacting of laws and their mechanisms for implementation in a way that preserves the sovereignty of the country and the identity of its citizens and their security.

To achieve these objectives, he added, the government has established a permanent national population committee and has planned for the providing of more jobs for nationals, particularly women.

Sheikh Khalifa noted that the nation was on the threshold of a new era, an era in which the UAE's human capital would take the centre stage. Other hallmarks of this new era also include, amongst others, enhancing cooperation between local and federal institutions; improving the decision- making process; upgrading the performance of government institutions; harnessing human resources; and improving the quality of services. All these elements constitute an integrated future strategy for our nation.

The key to the success of this strategy, he underscored, lies not in the ideas or financial resources that will be used but rather in the degree of commitment and dedication of those who will implement it. Ideas in themselves can never be realised if we lack competent and committed human resources.

'The objectives of the strategy will not be achieved without the introduction of true programmes for the development of young national leaders who are capable of shouldering the responsibilities and its ends will also not be reached unless the private sector works pro-actively as a true, full partner in national development.

'We in the institutions of the State aspire for a clearer and more effective role to be played by the private sector. A role whose framework is responsibility towards the community, and whose final goal is the creation of more attractive and encouraging job opportunities for our young people, the introduction of modern technology, the creation of a safe, healthy working environment, the guarantee of workers' rights and the improvement of the quality of products and services.

'We - whether in the public sector, private sector or public interest organisations - are partners in preserving this homeland, pushing forward its march of progress, maintaining its identity and protecting its gains.

As for the UAE islands occupied by Iran, the President said :'The islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa and their continental shelves and regional waters are a dear part and parcel of our country. We will spare no effort to have them restored to us and demand their return to our national sovereignty.

'We have conveyed to the international community and to the leadership of Iran our grave concern over its continued occupation of these islands and we renew our invitation to Iran to enter into direct, bilateral negotiations or to refer the case to the International Court of Justice. We also commit ourselves to accept the results of such arbitration, whatever they may be, he added.

On Iran's nuclear programme, the President said:'We support the right of any country to seek access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. We call on our neighbour, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to operate its nuclear programme in accordance with the needs of international peace and security.

He also called on the international community to be fair on this issue by bringing the Israeli nuclear installations under international supervision and control.

In his address, Sheikha Khalifa also handled a wide-range of issues concerning Arab and Islamic World including Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Sudan.

In special reference to Iraq, Sheikh Khalifa described what is taking place in Iraq is a real tragedy and appealed to all parties - whether inside or outside the country, to seek for a way out of this dark and bloody tunnel.

'We appeal to all Iraqis to assume a more responsible role in tackling this calamity so as to spare the country a conflagration whose devastating consequences could pose threats to the region at large. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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