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Report for the 44th United Arab Emirates National Day, 2nd December 2015

posted on 28/11/2015

The UAE celebrates its 44th National Day in the midst of significant political and economic developments, the national, regional and international levels. These have been tackled successfully as the country continues to display its determination to face all challenges and to make progress in every aspect of life.

The country's prudent government and its President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, have exhibited great wisdom in their approach to dealing with these events. This has been an integral part of the UAE's ability to overcome obstacles with regards to the crisis in Yemen, the greatest political challenge yet to have been faced by the country.

Over the last year, the developments in Yemen have posed a real test for the UAE's political leadership. It is an issue that threatens to compromise security and stability not only in the UAE, but also throughout the entire Gulf region and the Arab world. It has, therefore, been necessary for the country's armed forces to become engaged in deterring aggression in the pursuit of victory.

The events in Yemen represented a coup against the legitimate authorities. Responding to that was a national and patriotic duty. As His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has noted, " Yemen is an integral part of the Gulf and Arab entity, and we must not allow any harm to befall it, as that would inevitably compromise the security of our nation." This is why the UAE's leadership took the decision to become involved in the fight against aggression in Yemen.

At the same time, the UAE's participation in the fight in Yemen has not prevented it from remaining engaged with other developments in the Arab world and from addressing these wisely. Nor has it hindered the implementation of the UAE's economic plans or its progress in various fields. This is evident from the comments and analyses from observers around the world in terms of the UAE's leading position with regards to economic progress at home and in relation to its contributions to humanitarian assistance globally.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has noted that the United Arab Emirates has never resorted to the use of force, except to confront oppression and tyranny and those powers with evil intent that wish the country harm, seeking to destroy its present and to prevent it future development.

In a speech on the occasion of the return home of the first UAE military contingent to have served in Yemen, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that the armed forces' contribution to the victories achieved by the allied Arab forces in brotherly Yemen is the best proof that our courageous troops are ever-ready to defend and are well-trained to fight. This shows, he said, that we can be assured that there is a shield that protects our nation, and an army that maintains its security and the safety of its people.

He went on to say that the country will not change its policy towards Yemen, because we have faith in our deeply-rooted Arab nationalism and are fully dedicated to maintaining the security and stability of the region. We will proudly make any necessary sacrifices and consider them an honour that will enable us to hold our heads high with dignity and pride amongst other nations, he said.

Sheikh Mohammed also said that the UAE's involvement in Yemen had not been motivated by any pursuit of selfish gain. The UAE, he said, has never attacked any other country. It has neither pursued war nor sought it. Instead, the engagement in the Yemen conflict was forced upon the Emirates after the failure of all attempts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner, meaning that Yemen, with its important strategic location and its close connection to the security of the entire Arab world, had fallen into the hands of armed militias who had a destructive sectarian agenda, both locally and regionally.

The participation by the courageous UAE armed forces in Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope, led by Saudi Arabia, had added a new chapter of pride and glory to the history of the Emirati armed forces, he said, noting that the Emirates had always supported what was just and right and had never hesitated to support the causes of the Arab nation, to protect its sovereignty and identity and the fate of its peoples.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid added that the armed forces are the pride of the nation, its invulnerable protectors and the symbol of its strength, who fight to defend righteousness against oppression and transgression.

"We salute them and are thankful for the sacrifices they have made to ensure the security of the UAE and defend its interests, to help and support our fellow nations, to fortify the security of the Arab world in the face of attempts to threaten or penetrate it, to fight off terrorist groups, and to actively contribute to maintaining the security and stability of the region and the world. The blood that our sons have shed in Yemen will not be in vain, and the rebellious militias in Yemen have recently paid a high price as a result of our armed forces' air and land strikes. We will persevere toward Yemen's full liberation and reconstruction, while ensuring the safety and stability of and serving the interest of the Yemeni people."

In response, members of the UAE Armed Forces have said that they have the same determination as their leaders.

Brigadier General Ali Seif al-Kaabi, commander of the allied forces that liberated the Marib Dam, said, "The Emirati people are historically known for their bravery and determination to help others during adversity. It is the nature of the people of this nation, as shown by the determination and honourable combat at the Marib Dam and elsewhere. Our soldiers and armed forces have been role models of strength, patience and honourable combat, dedicated to restore legitimacy in Yemen by fighting with the allied forces. The Emirati soldiers have met their leaders' expectations. We are all prepared to sacrifice our lives for the sake of this great, generous nation, and we will follow our leadership until legitimacy is restored in Yemen. We promise, everyone that the heroes of the Emirates and the Gulf countries will tirelessly defend against those who conspire to tamper with the stability of the region."

Another member of the armed forces was quoted as saying: "Our land is precious and we will defend it with our blood. We are always ready to answer the call, and today we are more determined than ever. All the soldiers carry out their orders fully, so as to restore legitimacy in Yemen and destroy any attempts to create turbulence in the region. The allied forces have executed their operations fin a determined manner and have sent a clear message to those who want to harm the region. We want our children to inherit stable nations and we want to restore legitimacy in Yemen."

The Yemen Crisis:

The decision to go to war had an underlying humanitarian purpose: to save the Yemeni people from an oppressive group, then to reconstruct all the cities and towns in Yemen, once they have been liberated from the control of the Houthi militias. This has already been done by Emirati charities in Aden and neighbouring governorates that have been liberated.

The UAE has always known that helping the people is the first and foremost priority, and it has provided humanitarian aid and help to the Yemeni people for many decades. The Marib Dam, recently recaptured, in a good example of the aid that the UAE has provided to Yemen, it having been built on the instructions of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in recognition of the historical significance of the original dam over 2,000 years ago.

According to the UAE's Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, MICAD, total Emirati aid to Yemen up to the beginning of 2015 had reached around Dh 430 million (around US $ 117 million). By August this year, the amount had risen to Dh 744 million (US 202.4 million), with further sums having been spent since then.

Aid has been provided by a number of organisations, including the Emirates Red Crescent, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, the Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Humanitarian and Scientific Foundation, the UAE Suqia Initiative, the Al Rahmah Charity and the Sharjah Charity House.

H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, has noted that the UAE, in partnership and active co-ordination with Saudi Arabia, has been at the forefront of the provision of relief aid to the people of Yemen.

MICAD figures indicate that over 181,000 Yemeni families, or around 1.1 million people, have benefited from nearly 30,000 tons of food aid that has been sent by the UAE to the country.

Other aid, according to MICAD, has gone to the energy, power and infrastructure sector, worth around Dh 314 million (US $ 85 million), with food aid accounting for a further Dh 188 million (US$51 million).

Other assistance has included the supply of medical assistance of around Dh 122 million (US $ 33 million), logistics support worth around Dh 46 million (US $ 12.5 million), support for clean water and sanitation services of around Dh 41 million (US $ 11 million) and oil supplies, help for the transport and other assistance being worth around Dh 33 million (US $ 8.9 million).

The Financial Tracking Service at the United Nations ranks the UAE as the top country in terms of the provision of relief and humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The Syrian Crisis: The UAE has also continued to supply humanitarian aid to other parts of the Arab world, in particular to Syrian refugees now living in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, who now number over four million, and to people who are displaced inside Syria. Since 2012, according to MICAD, UAE aid to those affected by the Syrian conflict has exceeded Dh1.34 billion, equivalent to US$364 million.

In 2014 alone, the UAE distributed more than Dh 220 million (US $ 58 million) to refugees in neighbouring countries and displaced persons within Syria, through the UN's humanitarian relief scheme in Syria and the UN's regional response programme for Syrian refugees.

The UAE has also sponsored a number of other humanitarian initiatives, such as the Jordanian–Emirati camp for Syrian refugees, with a capacity of 10,000 people, and a Jordanian-Emirati field hospital at Mafraq, near the Syrian border, which handles over 800 patients daily.

The UAE Red Crescent has also built a camp for up to 4,000 people for displaced Syrians in the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq.

Foreign Policy:

The UAE's foreign policy is based on solid principles and rules, originally laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and now continued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE supports humanitarian cooperation with countries facing terrorism and extremism wherever it is found and of whatever source.

The President reaffirmed these principles following the recent terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh (ISIS) in Paris, stressing the UAE's full support for France as one of its strategic partners. He added that the UAE condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as a phenomenon that targets the security and stability of the world, stressing that such criminal acts require cooperation and solidarity at all levels to eradicate them.

He called on the international community to unite in the face of extremism in all its forms, whether ideological sympathy or support or criminal acts.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, commented that "the gruesome and bloody terrorism that targeted Paris targets all of us, and it is of utmost priority to unite our efforts against extremism and terrorism. The danger is shared, and we are all at risk."

Gargash added: "We are of this world; our religion and our humanity reject the targeting of innocent civilians, and terrorism and extremism is a cancer that is trying to conquer, and which we must combat firmly and strongly."

Dr. Gargash concluded by saying, "In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris, we realise that the UAE's initial stand against extremism and terrorism is correct; this challenge threatens our religion, our humanity and our communities."

On the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which falls on November 29th, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa called on the international community to rescue the peace process and take appropriate procedures to stop Israeli violations against the Al Aqsa Mosque, by obliging Israel to commit to serious negotiations towards a two-state solution.

In a message to Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Sheikh Khalifa called for these to end all Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, with the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, living alongside the state of Israel in permanent peace and security.

He reiterated the UAE's consistent and principled position in supporting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the need for full international recognition of an independent and sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. Condemning the repeated Israeli provocations as illegal, he said that they represented a flagrant violation of the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 as well as international resolutions, particularly UN Security Council Resolutions Nos. 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace.

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa said that the Israeli government is fully responsible for serious consequences that may result from its policies of escalation in the Palestinian territories, which are against all efforts to achieve a just settlement to the Palestinian issue.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, the UAE Foreign Minister, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the Arab and Islamic identity of the UAE is the source of its progress and openness in the world, and that while the UAE might be small in its surface area, it is large in its influence on the course of world development.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah said that the threats and dangers posed by terrorist organisations, particularly Daesh (ISIS) and others linked to Al-Qaeda, are not confined within any geographical borders, but go beyond the entire region, posing a threat to all countries and communities.

He reaffirmed the UAE's commitment to cooperation and coordination with its regional and international partners to confront extremism and terrorism.

He also praised the role played by Egypt's Al-Azhar University, in confronting extremist ideology and promoting the renewal of religious discourse. He went on to praise Egypt's government for its achievements and for the significant steps taken towards its recovery, as well as its contributions to stability in the region.

He also reiterated the UAE's long-standing position in its pursuit, together with the international community, of a political process in Yemen, in accordance with the Gulf initiative as well as its support for the efforts of the Arab coalition to restore the legitimate Yemeni authorities.

Commenting on the situation in Libya, Sheikh Abdullah expressed the UAE's concern about the instability in the country, stressing the importance of lifting the restrictions imposed on the elected Libyan government's capabilities, to allow it to fight terrorist organisations and confront cross-border threats.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, he called on the UN Security Council to perform its pivotal role in ensuring the process of a political transition of power. Urging the international community to continue providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, he reaffirmed the UAE's continuing commitment for the Syrian people and its commitment to efforts to alleviate their suffering.

He also expressed support for Iraq's efforts to confront Daesh (ISIS) and expressed the hope that the country's government would introduce reforms that were fair and equitable for all the various elements of the country's people.

In his speech to the General Assembly, he also reiterated the UAE's unwavering policy on the issue of the Iranian occupation of the three Emirati islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, calling for the issue to be resolved through international arbitration.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, he warned of the feelings of injustice and frustration that have resulted from the continued Israeli occupation and its violations of human rights. This, he noted, allowed extremist groups to exploit the critical humanitarian situation.

More generally, Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE is deeply concerned about the escalation of tension and violence in the Middle East region due to terrorist acts carried out by elements deliberately seeking to destabilise the region and undermine its security. Terrorist crimes, he noted, have escalated in a manner not seen since the end of World War II, being carried out by a number of extremist organisations, particularly Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Yemen's Ansarullah and other groups that claim a religious cover for political gains. The UAE strongly condemns those crimes and the brutal methods adopted by such groups, he added. While they claim to be acting in the name of Islam, the truth of the matter is that they are as far as can be from Islam's forgiving principles that call for peaceful coexistence and the acceptance of others, he said.

The UAE realises the importance of restoring security and stability in the region after five years of conflict and chaos, which is why the forces of the region have united their efforts to help the affected countries in facing these dangers and protecting their people, he added.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the peaceful and good-loving nature of the Emirati people has enabled the UAE to build friendships with various peoples of the world on the basis of mutual respect. He pointed out that the UAE now has with over 187 countries around the world today, with 105 diplomatic missions of its own.

The Federal National Council Under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, opened the first ordinary session of the 16th legislative chapter of the Federal National Council, FNC, in November, following the election of a new Council in September.

Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi was elected as the Council's Speaker, representing another milestone in the empowerment of Emirati women, as promised by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The first woman to lead a parliamentary institution in the Arab world, Dr Al Qubaisi was also the first woman to be elected to the FNC, during the first Council elections in 2006. She is also the first woman from the Gulf to win a seat in parliamentary elections.

Since the founding of the state, Emirati women have been able to perform their natural role of participation in the building and development process, as the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan believed in the capabilities of women and the importance of their role as partners to men in building the country.

Today, women hold Ministerial posts, seats in the FNC, serve as ambassadors and judges and also serve in the country' s armed forces and police.

Their progress can be seen from their participation in the Federal National Council and the elections to that body.

For the first FNC elections, in 2006, there were nearly 7,000 electors. That number had risen to nearly 224,000 for the 2015 elections. Following the 2006 elections, in which Dr. Al Qubaisi won a seat, seven more women were nominated for Council seats, resulting in females constituting 22.2% of the Federal National Council. Following the 2011 elections, in which again one woman was elected, six more were nominated, while Dr. Al Qubaisi was elected as the Council's First Deputy Speaker. After the 2015 elections, the Council has nine female members, eight appointed and one elected.

Ever since its first session on February 12th, 1972, the Federal National Council has promoted the empowerment of women within the community, working to guarantee their legal rights and to facilitate their participation in the process of development.

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi's election as Speaker of the Federal National Council is just the latest step in what has been a continuing process of empowerment It was initiated by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with the support and active involvement of his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and is now being continued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa.

National Economy The UAE economy has grown dramatically since the country was established in 1971, now being 236 times larger than it was then. The process has seen the education and empowerment of its people, coupled with the building of a modern infrastructure that has helped strengthen the ability of the UAE to capitalise on its strategic geographical location between East and the West, thereby contributing to the building of economic ties and partnerships with the rest of the world.

This has been supported by economic policies that have facilitated the emergence of the country as a global economic hub. A major factor in this is the UAE's 'Open Skies' policy, that have seen the country become a global logistics hub. Dubai Airport is now, remarkably, the busiest airport in the world.

Benefiting from large-scale inflows of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, into tourism, industry, transport, renewable energy and other sectors, the UAE is now a regional base for more than 25% of the top 500 enterprises in the world. Its competitive environment is characterised by a high degree of transparency and an absence of corruption.

The country is now preparing to look forward to a day when its economy is no longer dependent on oil. Once asked what the UAE would do when it produced its last barrel of oil, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, commented: "We will celebrate our investment in our youth."

In a speech to the Government Summit held in Dubai this year, Foreign Minister H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said that "the UAE will also celebrate its investments in a diversified national economy and its success in building a sustainable knowledge-based economy," noting that oil today constitutes less than one-third of the GNP of the UAE, after having been the major source of its income in the early years of the state. Tourism, he noted, a sector that scarcely existed in 1971, has made great progress, particularly over the last decade, and now accounts for 8.1 per cent of GNP. This, he said, "has helped establish the UAE's place on the world tourism map and made it one of the most popular and distinctive travel destinations in the world."

Non-oil industry now provides around 15 per cent of GNP, with locally-made products being exported throughout the world.

In pursuit of the UAE's objective to create a competitive and sustainable knowledge-based economy, 2015 has been designated the 'Year of Innovation' while the country ranks highly on the Global Innovation Index. One recent important initiative has been the establishment of the Emirates Space Agency, which is expected to contribute to the support of advanced scientific research.

While investment of the traditional energy sectors of oil and gas continues, the UAE has also become a world leader in the field of renewable energy, as displayed by Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, and major solar energy projects such as "Shams 1" and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. It is also embarking on a peaceful nuclear power programme, with the first power plant at Barakah, west of Abu Dhabi, now under construction.

Meanwhile, through its sovereign wealth funds, the UAE continues to invest surplus revenues overseas, helping to diversify the sources of income and, at the same time, providing opportunities for Emiratis to learn new skills abroad.

When the UAE was established, only around half of the male population and a third of the female population were literate. Now, however, following decades of investment in education, over 90 per cent of both sexes are literate, with over 1,200 educational institutions, including universities, operational.

The provision of health care remains another high priority for Government, as it strives to provide all elements of health care as a right of every citizen and resident. Today, there are over than 2,200 hospitals, health centres and clinics, with the latest medical technology and employing world-class.

The Economy According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the GDP of the UAE - at current prices - was estimated at Dh1,467 billion (US $ 399 billion) in 2014, with a growth rate of 3.2% over the previous year. Gross capital invested had grown by 8.2% at the end of 2014, compared to 2013.

Imports in 2014 were some Dh 696 billion (US $ 189 billion) in 2014, compared to Dh685 billion (US $ 186 billion) during the same period in 2013, an increase of 1.66%. 2014 exports were valued at Dh132 billion (US $ 35.9 billion) and re-exports at Dh244 billion (US $ 66.4 billion), up 4.97 per cent over the previous year.

In terms of the contribution of individual sectors of the economy, oil and gas accounted for around 34.3 per cent while the wholesale and retail trade sector and the repair services sector each contributed 11.3 per cent. The real estate and business sectors each contributed some 10.3 per cent, while the construction and industrial sectors each contributed about 9%.

There were modest increases in prices for goods and services during 2014, including 4.33% increase in prices of educational services; 4.23% increase in prices of household furnishings and equipment; and 3.13% increase in housing, water, electricity and gas prices.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, has noted that between 2012 and 2014, the contribution of the non-oil sector to GDP at current prices was around 68.6 per cent, taking into account fluctuations caused by the recent decline in world oil prices. He has predicted a 3% to 3.5% growth in the UAE's GDP during 2015, stressing that inflation is under control and is expected to be around 2% to 2.5% this year.

The World Bank report on the "Ease of Doing Business for the year 2016", which measures the performance of 189 countries, ranks the UAE in 31st place globally, and first among Arab countries for the third successive year.

The UAE also ranked among the top five countries in the world in three key sub-indices, where it ranked first in the Paying Taxes sub-index, second in the Dealing with Construction Permits sub-index and fourth in the Getting Electricity sub-index.

At the regional level, the UAE ranked first in the region and among the top ten countries in the world in terms of the number of improvements documented by the World Bank in one year in the following sub-indices: Getting Electricity, Dealing with Construction Permits, Protecting Investors and Enforcing Contracts.

Additionally, the UAE ranked first in the region in the following sub-indices: Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Protecting Small Investors, Registering Property, Paying Taxes and Enforcing Contracts.

The report also documented the UAE's progress in a number of the key sub-indices, first of which is the Enforcing Contracts sub-index, wherein the UAE ranked first among Arab countries and 18th regionally, in the 2016 report.

Humanitarian Activity The UAE has been generous in extending its assistance to all corners of the globe, reaching out to people in need, those affected by natural disasters, as well as innocent victims of war. It also has stood by nations afflicted with poverty, financing their development projects and helping them to empower their people.

Perhaps the best proof of that is the aid that the UAE has provided to other countries. In February 2015, the UAE annual foreign aid report for 2013 was published, estimating the UAE's total foreign aid at over Dh21.5 billion (US$5.85 billion).

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has recently launched the largest humanitarian developmental societal organisation in the region, the "Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative Foundation". It includes 28 authorities and enterprises engaged in combating poverty and disease, spreading knowledge, culture, societal empowerment and innovation which are collectively carrying out more than 1,400 humanitarian and developmental programmes in 116 countries around the world.

The Foundation will target more than 130 million people in the coming years and will focus on programmes in the Arab region.

Initially, the main objectives of the new Foundation include four main sectors; combating poverty, spreading knowledge, societal empowerment and inventing the future. It will aim to provide support and education to 20 million children, as well as providing immunisation and treatment for eye disease to 30 million people by the year 2025. It will also invest two billion dirhams in the establishment of medical research centres and hospitals in the region, and will allocate 500 million dirhams for water research, one of the major issues the region has to face in the coming years.

The Foundation will also continue to provide relief aid, essential assistance and increased empowerment for populations over the next ten years, as well as providing support for up to 50,000 young entrepreneurs in order to provide more than half a million jobs in the years ahead.

In terms of spreading knowledge, the Foundation will aim to print and distribute more than 10 million books, and translate the top 25,000 books in all languages into Arabic, along with encouraging the reading of more than 500 million books in the Arab world over the next ten years. The Foundation's investments in educational and scientific initiatives will amount to Dh1.5 billion (US $ 408 million).

The Foundation will also seek to promote tolerance and cultural openness and has allocated more than Dh600 million (US $ 163 million) to achieving this goal and to promote civilised cultural discourse in order to enable communities to live in stability and without ethnic, religious or sectarian exclusion, extremism or discrimination. Furthermore, Dh150 million (US $ 40.8 million) will be allocated to encourage intellectuals, journalists and those in creative fields. Over the next 10 years, the Foundation aims to engage one million participants in a variety of awards and forums designed to empower communities and consolidate their unity, cohesion and stability, to honour their thinkers and explore their futures in these forums.

As part of its comprehensive vision for development in the region, the Foundation will also support innovation by supporting and embracing 5,000 innovators and researchers in the region and investing more than Dh5.5 billion (US $ 1.5 billion) in the construction of incubators for innovation, in line with Sheikh Mohammed's belief in the fundamental importance of innovation for the future of any nation.

The Foundation now incorporates also includes all past programmes, foundations and awards launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed and has an annual operating budget of over Dh 1 billion (US $ 272 million).

The organisations included in the foundation have already spent over Dh8 billion (US$2.17 billion) in the past few years on programmes in more than 100 countries, from which more than 54 million people have directly benefited. More than 2,000 schools and other educational institutions have been established or renovated, and over 10 million children have benefited from educational initiatives, with training being provided to more than 400,000 teachers.

Entities affiliated with the Foundation have recently organised programmes focusing on the prevention and treatment of blindness for 23 million people, in addition to providing more than 81 million vaccines and medication to combat blindness, as well as the prevention and treatment of intestinal diseases for 3.6 million children. More than 46 hospitals around the world have been built and provided with support. These entities have also provided support and relief aid to more than 1.5 million families in 40 countries.

The awards and forums organised within the new Foundation have engaged more than half a million participants. More than 23,000 entrepreneurs have been provided with support over the past years from institutions within the Foundation, as well as 3,000 companies providing more than 160,000 job opportunities.

Leadership training has been provided in more than 155 governmental entities around the world, and the new Foundation plans to double that number in the coming years.

In the view of Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of International Co-operation and Development, the UAE has become an international role model of relief and assistance of those affected by crises and disasters, implementing the best global practices in this field.

The UAE's approach to humanitarian and development issues is not confined simply to a response to crises, whether natural or man-made. It also supports investment in infrastructure and other aspects of development. This began with the formation of the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, in 1971, and has taken a new step forward this year with the launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation.

The UAE has recently been ranked as the largest donor of official developmental aid in the world, in terms of its population, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This ranking was the result of the UAE's surpassing of the UN's 0.7% ODA target for the year 2013, when the UAE committed 1.34% of its GNP, over US $ 5.2 billion, to official development assistance. This represented an increase of 375 per cent over the previous year, with the country rising from 19th to 1st place in the global rankings. The UAE provided US$2.11 billion in 2011, and more than US$1.59 billion in 2012.

Between the country's establishment on December 2nd, 1971 until the end of 2010, over US$163 billion in foreign aid had been granted in the forms of loans and non-refundable grants.

The aid in 2012, reaching more than 137 countries or geographical areas around the world, was provided by some 43 governmental and non-governmental authorities or charitable and humanitarian institutions, including 22 federal authorities, as well as generous initiatives carried out on the instructions of the country's leadership, Their Highnesses Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates.

Around 45 per cent came directly from Government institutions, and 22 per cent from the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, with the balance being supplied by other bodies.

The largest recipient, by continent, was Asia, with the majority going to countries in western Asia, like Jordan, Palestine, Yemen and Azerbaijan, the main recipients over the last few years. Africa received around 20 per cent of the aid disbursed in 2012.

At an event to mark the UAE's ranking as the world's most generous donor, the Chairman of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. Eric Solheim, congratulated the people of the UAE and its wise and giving leadership that provides relief, humanitarian and charitable aid to all peoples, without exception, as part of its prudent vision.

The Vice President and Prime Minister, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, noted: "The reason for our outranking of other countries of the world in terms of aid is that His Highness the President is the most charitable leader on the global scale, where Zayed established the approach and Khalifa and his brothers followed in his footsteps. Today, we have over 38 humanitarian institutions spreading charity in all corners of the world The UAE does not provide conditional assistance and does not serve its own interests through its aid. The UAE's true agenda is the interest and stability for all peoples The size of humanitarian aid documented in the report reflects the human values that have been enshrined by the founding fathers since the establishment of the UAE, and which Islam teaches, along with national and humanitarian principles."

The geographical distribution of UAE aid for the year 2013 showed a focus on Africa, where the sum of Dh18.1 billion (US$4.9 billion ) was donated, compared with Dh958 million (US$260 million) in 2011. Asian countries received Dh2.7 billion (US $ 735 million), while countries in Europe, the Americas, Oceania and elsewhere received Dh811 million (US$220.7 million).

Discussing the evolution of the UAE's overseas aid, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), has said that it has seen four stages: foundation, expansion, specialisation and leadership, in addition to the future stage.

There was rapid growth, she noted, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the UAE Red Crescent Authority was established, along with a number of charitable and humanitarian bodies, such as the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment and the Al Maktoum Foundation, among others. By 2015, there were over 40 organisations working inside and outside the UAE.

The specialisation stage has focused on granting aid for the establishment of renewable energy projects in countries that lack sufficient energy resources. Total aid provided to this sector reached Dh572.43 million (US $ 155.76 million), between 2009 and 2013. Solar energy projects accounted for about Dh239.7 million (US$65.2 million), followed by thermal energy at Dh222.6 million (US $ 60.6 million), in addition to projects aimed at protecting the environment and biodiversity of these countries.

Sheikha Lubna said that UAE foreign aid and related initiatives had now reached a total of 170 countries. These included programmes that targeted the environment and biodiversity, through the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD., in addition to a number of health projects supported by the "Dubai Cares" organisation and the International Humanitarian City, IHC, in Dubai.

Sheikha Lubna noted that Masdar had carried out many energy and renewable energy projects inside and outside the country in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, which provided grants to countries for the implementation of projects in the solar, thermal and wind energy sectors.

From 1983 to 2013, the value of humanitarian aid provided by Emirates Red Crescent programmes, inside and outside the country, exceeded Dh8 billion (US$2.18 billion), distributed in 100 countries. Since its inception in 1992, the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation has spent more than US$460 million on various programmes and humanitarian projects in 96 countries. The UAE has also provided over Dh2.6 billion (US$707 million) between 2009 and mid-2014 to refugees and internally displaced people in 71 countries.

The International Organisation for Migration , IOM, has praised the UAE for its support and contributions for the high level of relief for displaced people around the world.

Amongst other assistance have been contributions to the UNRWA, in Palestine, and to the Palestinian authorities, amounting to a total of Dh552 million (US$150 million) over the last couple of years. A significant proportion of this followed the summer 2014 Israeli aggression against Gaza, while the UAE also pledged to contribute US $ 200 million at the recent Reconstructing Gaza conference in Cairo.

The specially-created UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme, UAE-PAP, has provided significant amounts of assistance to Pakistan, building hospitals, schools and community centres which benefit millions of people and providing relief aid to those affected by natural disasters. With funds largely provided by the Abu Dhabi Development Fund and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the project has spent US$320 million in its first and second stages.

Recognising the need to contribute to development programmes that have an immediate and direct impact on the living standards of people, the UAE has paid special attention to issues relating to water, including the provision of supplies for drinking and irrigation, sanitation plants and preservation of water resources. These have an immediate impact in terms of health, social, educational and economic benefits. Between 2009 and 2013, over Dh 1 billion ( US $ 272 million) was spent on such projects in 61 countries.

The countries to benefit the most were Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan, with other projects in Africa covering Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and While some water-related projects are small in scale, others are much larger, such as the UAE-funded Meroe Dam in Sudan, which provides 1,250 megawatts of energy and irrigation for 300,000 hectares of agricultural land. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Abdullah bin Zayed chairs UAE-Russia joint committee meeting

posted on 28/11/2015

The UAE maintains historic, friendly and special relations with Russia, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, has said, noting that these ties are stable and based on the spirit of mutual understanding and respect and a common desire to take them to new heights.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah was addressing the fifth meeting of the UAE-Russia joint ministerial committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi yesterday, which discussed ways of enhancing economic, trade and investment cooperation.

Denis Manturov, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Russian Federation, chaired his country's delegation at the meeting, which was attended by Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, and a number of senior officials and representatives of companies in both countries.

'The UAE highly values these bilateral ties and the growth witnessed over the recent years in these ties. We believe that the fifth meeting of the UAE-Russia joint ministerial committee will provide tremendous and diverse opportunities to review these ties, explore new avenues for greater success and remove obstacles that may hamper the progress of these ties, whether between the governments or private sectors,' H.H. said.

'No doubt the relations between leaders of the two countries, which have grown strong over recent years, have had a positive impact on the progress of ties. There were reciprocal visits, closer contacts and exchange of views on a variety of challenges and issues in the region,' he said, citing recent contacts between His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who instructed for a further push in bilateral ties through this committee.

H.H. added that Sheikh Mohamed's visit to Moscow last October had seen the UAE and Russian leaders discussing broader cooperation and exchanging views on regional issues. The visit, he said, had underscored the keenness of the two countries' leaderships to boost ties, particularly in the economic field.

'Relations between the two countries are important and we believe that there should be continued efforts to advance them and explore the possibility of bolstering them, implementing the signed agreements and seeking opportunities for concluding those under-consideration.' H.H. welcomed the consistent support that each country showed for the other in international organisations and consultations between their respective ministries of foreign affairs.

'No doubt the size of Emirati and Russian delegations to these meetings demonstrates the scope of attention both countries paid to the enhancement of ties. Sectoral diversity in the formation of both delegations also underscores the true desire, not only from the government side but also from the private sector, to push ties forward,' H.H. emphasised.

Sheikh Abdullah expressed his interest to see more flights between the two countries, which would promote cooperation and investment in tourism and air transport.

The committee witnessed many constructive dialogues, he said, expressing his thanks to the chairman and members of the preparatory committee for their efforts to present recommendations.

For his part, the Russian minister thanked Sheikh Abdullah for the warm welcome and hospitality, praising the distinguished bilateral ties.

The two ministers signed the final minutes of the fifth meeting of the UAE-Russia joint ministerial committee.

They also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in sports which was sealed by Ibrahim Abdul Malek, Secretary General of General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare, and Alexander Efimov, Russian Ambassador to the UAE.

Mohammed Ahmed Al Shehi, Undersecretary of Ministry of Economy for Economic Affairs, and Efimov inked another MoU on intellectual property rights.

'I would like to express my profound gratitude and appreciation for the fifth meetings of the committee that have been very successful. The UAE-Russia ties are strategic. Russia is a strategic partner of the UAE and we are looking forward for broader bilateral cooperation in diverse areas,' Sheikh Abdullah stated after the signing of legal documents.

H.H. reiterated the UAE's condemnation of the series of terrorist acts that struck many countries recently, mainly the Russian plane that crashed over Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the recent shooting down of the Russian military plane in Syria.

He said, 'The two countries maintain close partnership that grew over the recent years and we believe that these bonds deserve even more effort to boost and diversify them.' He noted the increasing attention being paid to the flow of investment between the two countries. 'We believe that what Mubadala Development Co. and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) are doing is yet another proof of the strong trust and cooperation between the two countries. Definitely, the conclusion of the MoUs on cooperation in sports and intellectual property demonstrates the diversity of ties, not only in political, military and investment domains but also in sports and other economic aspects related to the protection of intellectual property rights.

'We think these aspects will further boost the investment climate as well as the economic cooperation and exchange and the people-to-people bonds."

Expressing his thanks to the Russian minister for his efforts in advancing the bilateral ties, Sheikh Abdullah said, 'Your desire and keenness have played a vital and strong role in solidifying these ties. No doubt, the directives of Emirati and Russian leaderships aim to expand cooperation in all spheres.' The Russian minister thanked Sheikh Abdullah for hosting the fifth meeting of the committee, noting that bilateral ties were based on direct cooperation between the leaders.

He said, 'In addition to our keenness to bolster these ties, we are also interested in building tripartite cooperation, particularly in our joint projects in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, including Cuba, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Egypt. We hope such cooperation would generate opportunities and potentials for furthering our ties and increasing the flow of investments and trade exchange between us.' He expressed the hope for maintaining the current dynamism for further consolidating these ties in all fields, including economy, trade, investment and culture, referring to the two MoUs signed yesterday, along with a recent one in the area of judicial cooperation.

He thanked Sheikh Abdullah for his efforts to enhance bilateral diplomatic ties and for his sincere desire to develop economic cooperation, wishing success for the projects aimed at expanding the joint cooperation as discussed by the committee.

Earlier, Sheikh Abdullah and the Russian minister discussed bilateral friendly relations in areas of economy, trade and industry. They also exchanged views about a host of latest developments in the region that were of mutual concern.

Khaled Ghanem Al Ghaith, Assistant Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs and International Cooperation, and Omar Saif Gobash, UAE Ambassador to Russia, attended both meetings. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


UAE envoy inaugurates Khalifa Centre for Vocational Education in Dakar

posted on 28/11/2015

UAE Ambassador to Senegal, Mohammed Salem Al Rashdi, has inaugurated the Khalifa bin Zayed Centre for Vocational Education and Development for Persons with Special Needs in the Hann neighbourhood of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The project has been funded by the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.

The governor and mayor of Hann Bel-Air municipal department, city notables and a crowd of people with special needs attended the event.

The Centre houses three classes for computer literacy, sewing and cosmetics.

Senegalese officials thanked the government and the people of the UAE for extending humanitarian assistance to the people of Senegal, mainly the most vulnerable segments.

Handicapped affairs' official at the municipality expressed gratitude to the Khalifa Foundation for building and funding the Centre which will qualify disabled persons to take up jobs that will help them earn their living and contribute to the development of their local community. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -

UAE: Any agreement between IRENA and Israel does not represent any change in UAE position

ABU DHABI, 28th November 2015 (WAM): Maryam Al Falasi, the Director of Communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, is an international, independent agency that works according to the laws, regulations and norms that govern the work of such organisations.

Accordingly, she stressed, any agreement between IRENA and Israel does not represent any change in the position of the UAE or its relations with Israel.

The functions of missions accredited to IRENA, she concluded, are limited to affairs related to their communications and dealings with the Agency. They do not, under any circumstances, cover any other activities and do not involve any obligation upon the host country with regards to its diplomatic relations or any other relations.

The IRENA Council held its 10th meeting in Abu Dhabi on 24th and 25th November. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Sheikha Fatima sponsors UAE pavilion at UN International Bazaar in Geneva

posted on 28/11/2015

GENEVA: H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, GWU, Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation, FDF, and Head of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, has sponsored the UAE participation in the international bazaar, organised by the United Nations to raise funds for underprivileged women and children across the world.

She stressed that the efforts of the United Nations continue to alleviate the suffering of women and children in poor countries suffering from wars and conflicts. Any contribution toward these efforts is important to enable the achievement of humanitarian goals.

Sheikha Fatima's sponsorship of the UAE participation in the annual charity bazaar is based on her strong belief in the importance of joining hands with the United Nations to expand the organisation's humanitarian outreach for women and children.

Sheikha Fatima's directives are aimed at ensuring that the UAE participation in the UN effort is excellent and effective.

Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations in Geneva, stressed that the UAE mission is interested in partaking in the annual event. He praised Sheikha Fatima for making humanitarian efforts in alleviating the suffering of disadvantaged women and children.

Wife of Ambassador Al Zaabi, who supervised the UAE participation in the bazaar, stressed that Sheikha Fatima's support enables the country's effective participation in international efforts. She added that the support also projects the bright image of the country in international circles.

The UAE pavilion at the bazaar, which showcased Emirati traditional foods, attires and a selection of handicrafts, attracted a large turnout of Geneva-based diplomats and officials.

The 2014 UN international bazaar raised funds for 60 projects for women and children in 38 countries. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Mohamed bin Zayed offers condolences to family of martyr Nasser Al Blooshi

posted on 28/11/2015

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, yesterday offered condolences to the family of martyr Nasser Ali Al Blooshi, who fell in the line of duty while participating in 'Operation Restoring Hope' conducted by the Saudi-led Arab coalition to back legitimacy in Yemen.

During a visit to the condolence gathering, Sheikh Mohamed expressed sympathy to the family of the martyr and prayed to Allah Almighty to bless the soul of the martyr with mercy in Paradise and to bestow patience and solace upon his family.

"We are proud of our youth who demonstrated the highest levels of patriotism, loyalty, bravery and sacrifices in reflection to the values upheld by our forefathers," he said.

Sheikh Mohamed was accompanied by Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Under-secretary of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court and Juma Ahmed Al Bowardi, Military Advisor to the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Yemeni President orders military commission to speed up enlisting of popular resistance fighters in the army

posted on 28/11/2015

ADEN: Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has directed the special military commission of Yemen's national army to announce the conditions and centres of recruitments to quickly enable the popular resistance fighters to join the national army officially, the official Yemen News Agency reported.

This came during the commission's meeting chaired by the commander of the fourth governorate in Aden, major general Ahmed Saif Al Yafei.

Brigadier Nasser Mishabbab Al Otaibi, Commander of the UAE Taskforce in the Arab Coalition Forces in Aden, attended the meeting.

During the meeting, President Hadi urged the commission members to exert more efforts in cooperation with the Yemeni military and field commanders to identify those fit for serving in the national army and the security service charged with protecting the security and stability of Yemen's liberated governorates.

The legitimate Yemeni government forces are fighting the rebel Houthi militia and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in various areas of the country. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Yemeni Vice-President holds extraordinary meeting to discuss UN-brokered peace talks with Houthis

posted on 28/11/2015

RIYADH: Vice President and Prime Minister of Yemen Khaled Bahah has chaired an extraordinary meeting with presidential advisors and members of the legitimate government delegation to the UN-brokered talks with the rebel Houthi militia and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Mr. Bahah reiterated the Yemeni government's interest in putting an end to the war and welcomed any "serious talks" to put an end to the killing and destruction and the suffering inflicted on the Yemeni people.

During the meeting, the Yemeni government officials discussed ways of reaching a permanent and lasting peace in Yemen based on the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which stipulates an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of a peaceful political process in Yemen, and calls on the Houthis to vacate government buildings and withdraw their forces from occupied areas.

They stressed the need for the rebels to accept, unconditionally, the implementation of international resolutions on Yemen, namely UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

They expressed appreciation of the positive stance taken by Saudi-led Arab Coalition in support of Yemen as well as its members' efforts to restore security and stability to all of Yemen.

The Yemeni officials also expressed appreciation of the Coalition members' humanitarian and developmental aid to the Yemeni liberated governorates where the "brutal war" being waged by the rebel militias wreaked havoc. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Rebel Houthi and Saleh militias killed 196 women in Aden in five month, say Voices of Women of Aden

posted on 28/11/2015

ADEN: The Voices of Women of Aden, a Yemeni non-governmental coalition, yesterday said 196 women were killed in five months during the war waged by the rebel Houthi militia and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the governorate.

Some of the women victims were killed in their houses by the rebel militia's random bombing, while others were targeted in the streets by the rebel snipers or succumbed to their wounds in hospitals, said Warda Bin Sumait Chairwoman of the Al-Adala Foundation for Rights and Freedoms, one of the seven women societies making up the non-governmental coalition.

The Yemeni woman advocate, who was speaking in a press conference held to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, confirmed that 121 other women in Aden were wounded by the rebel militias in the same period.

"The Houthi and Saleh militias committed ignominious violations against women in Aden between 26 March-17 July," she said.

In addition, the war being waged by the rebels has inflicted multiple physical and psychological trauma on Yemeni women, Bin Sumait added. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Al Azhar will be right at home in Al Ain

posted on 28/11/2015

The announcement that Egypt's Al Azhar University will open its first branch campus in Al Ain next September should be widely welcomed in the UAE and beyond, a United Arab Emirates newspaper has urged.

"It will boost the portfolio of higher learning institutions already in place here, including home-grown universities with growing reputations and branch campuses of New York University and Paris- Sorbonne," added the English language daily in a commentary yesterday.

Founded in the 10th century AD, Al Azhar is the Oxford of the Islamic world. But it is not just a place of academic excellence – its curriculum has long included logic, grammar and science subjects – it is at the very heart of Sunni religious teaching. Its authority in spiritual matters is based on centuries of scholarship and study by some of the world's leading thinkers of the Quran and related texts and traditions. The scholars at Al Azhar, 15 of whom gave lectures in the UAE during Ramadan this year, are renowned for championing the true nature of Islam as a religion of peace. The university in Cairo has been described as "a lighthouse of moderation", and it has played a pivotal role in clarifying misinterpreted aspects of religion.

"The role of Al Azhar, which oversees a large network of schools in Egypt, has never been more important. We live in an age where groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIL, and their many offshoots and imitators, have twisted the true meaning of Islam for their own evil ends," the paper said.

Impressionable youngsters are paying attention to firebrand outliers – radical clerics and websites and online videos that promote perversions – rather than seeking the truth from those who have undertaken a lifetime of study and can draw from the collected wisdom of thousands of scholars who came before them. Thankfully, the UAE, along with other countries in this region, is pushing back.

"We hope that Al Azhar's Al Ain campus will become not just a magnet for scholars, but an important element of the broader UAE fabric. Ideally, it will attract students and faculty from across the Islamic world, including those in eastern nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and provide outreach programmes such as lecture series for the general public. The UAE has always been a shining example of what can be achieved by people of great faith. This new partnership is a perfect fit," the paper concluded. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


A Festive feast of activities organised by Sharjah for the UAE’s 44th National Day

posted on 28/11/2015

To mark the UAE's 44th National Day Celebrations, 22 activities have been approved by the Higher Committee of National Day celebrations in Sharjah and will take place over a five day period starting with an opening ceremony and operetta on the 29th of November at Sharjah National Park.

The operetta narrates the story of the creation of the Union through to its success as among the most developed countries in the region. Other events include theatrical and musical shows as well as several workshops, and cultural and heritage exhibitions. Selected episodes of "Freej", the first Emirati animated television series, will also be broadcasted as part of the festivities.

As National Day celebrations coincide with the Commemoration Day of Martyrs, the events will include a theatrical show about martyrs performed by students from the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services and there will be sculptured sand models that reflect the heroism of UAE fallen soldiers and recognises their sacrifice and dedication to their country.

A group of students will also take part in the celebrations by submitting a project based on the recruitment and application of knowledge in the physics and mathematics fields, with an aim to invent new technologies in these areas.

Khalid Jassim Al Midfa, Head of the Higher Committee extended congratulations and gratitude to UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and their brothers Their Highness Rulers of the Emirates for their support and effort to achieve prosperity and stability in the country and ensure the wellbeing of Emirati citizens and residents in the country.

Al Midfa said: "The celebration of the 44th National Day reflects the pride and glory we all have for this great country and reminds us of the sacrifices of our founding fathers who created the UAE with special tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who laid down the foundations of the UAE. As well as to the dedicate leaders of the UAE who have, with their wise vision, established a country that has strengthened its position in many areas."

Al Midfa said that the National Day events taking place in Sharjah this year will present an overall image of the UAE; past, present and future. "The celebrations will see huge official and public participation by local and federal departments and authorities as well as by private companies, Emirati nationals and residents. I call on the heads and officials in charge of all public and private organisations in Sharjah to take part by organising event programmes and activities that will present this occasion in a manner that reflects its importance," he said.

Al Midfa praised the efforts of the emirate's committee members and stressed that the activities must live up to the important occasion, particularly as it coincides with the Commemoration Day of Martyrs. He added that events have been in organised in remote areas, far from the centre of Sharjah city, in order to reach all sectors of the community and this was achieved through collaboration with sub committees in these areas. The National Day programme concludes on December 3rd and will be filled with activities, performance and shows as well as various activities taking place across the emirate's tourist and heritage attractions. All visitors and residents can take part in the festivities which reflect the rich heritage of the UAE, its present and its bright future. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Etihad Airways wins Ultratravel award

posted on 28/11/2015

Etihad Airways has received the coveted award for Best First Class at the annual Ultratravel Middle East Awards (Ultras) ceremony, which was held yesterday, Wednesday, at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.

The award is another major accolade for the UAE national airline's First Class experience, which has repeatedly been voted best in the world.

The Ultras are voted for by the readers of Ultratravel Middle East, the regional edition of the UK's exclusive Ultratravel magazine, a high-end luxury travel publication which was launched in the UK in 2004 in partnership with the Daily Telegraph. Ultratravel Middle East is distributed in English and Arabic within The National and Al Ittihad newspapers.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways' chief commercial officer, said: "This award further validates and recognises the tremendous efforts which have gone in to creating the most innovative, stylish and luxurious First Class service in the air. We are incredibly proud to receive it.

"This year has been a momentous one for Etihad Airways. The revolutionary cabin concepts we launched in 2014 are now a reality, already flying on our new fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Nick Perry, chairman of Ultratravel, said, "With the introduction of revolutionary inflight innovations such as The Residence, with its three rooms, and the airline's new First Apartments and First Suites, Etihad Airways is redefining what world-class hospitality and First Class travel can be for its guests." – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Formula One making tracks on the circuit and on stage in Abu Dhabi

posted on 28/11/2015

The talking and anticipation ended and the action began on Friday as the Formula One cars made their first appearance of the weekend at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The action did not disappoint as the spectators at Yas Marina Circuit were treated to the first glimpses of what promises to be a weekend-long duel for honours between the Mercedes-GP drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton has clinched his third drivers' world title ahead of the final round of the 2015 season but he is eager to honour the UAE's impending 44th National Day celebrations next week by winning his 44th race to coincide with the festivities.

The Briton started well by setting the fastest time in first practice but it was Rosberg, who has won the past two races, who topped the times under the lights in the evening practice session, with a best time of one minute, 41.983 seconds.

The Mercedes pair will be the favourites on Saturday when the excitement is further ratcheted up with qualifying, which takes place at 5pm, and will decide the starting order for Sunday's 55-lap race.

One driver who was enjoying the Abu Dhabi experience was Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo.

"Yeah, it is always a good time here. Good climate, good atmosphere and fans are great and looking forward to the weekend,” said the Australian.

Away from the track, F1 entertainment was well under way, with Latin pop sensation Enrique Iglesias wowing crowds at the du Arena on Friday night.

The 39-year-old Spanish heartthrob served up a high-adrenaline set packed with popular tunes drawn from his two-decade career.

Kicking off with up-tempo banger I'm A Freak, the party atmosphere was soon in full swing.

"Abu Dhabi, raise your hands up in the air,” he cried. And we did.

Next came stomping anthem I Like How it Feels. For the post-race crowd, turns out it felt pretty good.

Iglesias marked a smart booking by promoters Flash. His songbook of evergreen international hits proved a good fit with this casual crowd of petrol heads, families and generally curious ears.

Performing backed by eight-piece band, Iglesias enthusiastically bounced around the stage clad in a red t-shirt and baseball cap.

The after-race concerts continue on Saturday with Florence and The Machine, and the festivities wrap up on Sunday with a performance from reformed Britpop icons Blur.

Elsewhere, Beats on The Beach boasted its own star power on Friday night. The Lagoon Beach at the Corniche was packed with hip-hop fans to see the genre's star of the moment, J Cole. The American made his return to the capital after appearing in the same event back in 2012.

He was joined on the bill by Lebanese crooner Wael Kfoury, Emirati singer Omar Marzouqi and Trey "Ace” Smith - the DJ son of actor Will Smith.

Beats on The Beach is set to conclude on Saturday with performances by UK dance stalwarts Faithless, Emirati songtress Arwa, American hip-hop group Far East Movement and Lebanese rapper Malika.

For details on the after-race concerts and Beats on The Beach go – The National -


Flugtag enthusiasts attempt to cross Dubai Creek without a paddle

posted on 28/11/2015

Daredevils and designers brought their madcap creations to Dubai Creek on Friday to take part in the Red Bull Flugtag flying competition.

It is the second time Dubai has staged the event, in which teams of designers are challenged to build a flying machine that is launched from a ramp across water.

It is nine years since the city last staged flugtag but, going by the thousands flocked to Creek Park to enjoy the display, the event has not lost any popularity in the interim.

Teams and their flying machines gained points for design creativity, performance on stage and distance travelled.

It was all the incentive required for the fun seekers who pushed their flying machines along a 10-metre-high ramp and out over the creek – for however far it would take them.

Jordanian Nijoud Al Qadi, 27, took to the ramp with state-of-the art flying experiment designed and built by Abu Dhabi-based international design firm Gensler.

"We wanted to explore a new area of design by using 3D models and studying aerodynamics,” the thrill-seeker said.

"It was a fun thing to do and good team building – the whole office got on board with the competition,” she said.

"Some designed costumes, others came up with ideas on how it would look.

"We chose the James Bond theme as the new film was coming out. I was the lightest, so was nominated to be the pilot. I guess I was Jane Bond.”

The craft was made out of polyisocyanurate (PIR) panels as they are strong, yet light. It weighed 90kg but was large enough to fit four people, with Ms Al Qadi on the roof.

Terry Winarta, 26, who lives near Emirates Towers in Dubai, was part of the Egg and Spoon team from Atkins engineering.

"We spent extra time after work and at weekends coming up with ideas,” she said. "The egg and spoon race reminded us of our childhood school sports day, so we chose that.

"I'm scared of heights so I was the last one to jump off but I did not want to be the chicken in the office.”

Other entrants included a Spanish team with a bull fighting-inspired design and a team from South Africa whose creation – a rhino made from Red Bull cans – was inspired by a desire to highlight poaching and conservation issues.

"It is a cause close to all of our hearts,” said South African James Newdigate, 28, who works with law firm Al Tamimi and Company.

"Our design was made predominantly from plywood, so we were surprised that it actually floated.

"A flying rhino was ambitious but at least it didn't sink.”

Thirty teams took part, with names including Cool Runnings, Skyfall, 2020, Nut a Good Idea, Wacky Creek Flyers, The Millennial Falcon from SkyDive Dubai, The Hoop and The Sacrifice.

The event's five-man judging panel included Red Bull athlete and motocross rider Mohammed Al Balooshi.

The teams, with eye-catching designs inspired by cartoon characters such as The Minions, struggled to threaten any records.

Those with designs based on a hang-glider proved the most effective.

The Premier Falcons team came agonisingly close to breaking the world record distance of 78.6 metres – recorded by the Chicken Whisperers in 2013 at Long Beach California.

However, their impressive design and effort dipped into the creek at a mere 71 metres. – The National -