In a span of less than 50 years, the UAE has emerged as an admirable example of a nation that is able to translate a vision of collective prosperity into reality, by successfully omitting the word “impossible” from its vocabulary. As the country celebrated its Golden Jubilee on December 2, it sent a reminder of how the founding fathers built the base of a modern nation that has excelled across the economic, social, political and diplomatic spectrums – overcoming a multitude of challenges.
Today, the UAE is renowned as a rising middle power, a term used to refer to a nation that can shape regional and global events. This aptly describes the UAE, a vibrant and diversified economy, and a key regional power, with a vast network of global partners and allies across the world. It is a nation that has evolved into a model of co-existence, tolerance and innovation that resonates globally.
The year 2021 has been a pivotal one for the young country – channelling the spirit and vision of its leaders, Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s Founding Father, in particular – in pursuing its ambitions of shared progress through global co-operation. The country’s pursuit of human progress is the reason for it to be chosen as the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency, as well as the host of World Expo 2020.
In July, the UAE added another feather to its cap when it was elected to the UN's Human Rights Council for the third time. The election serves as a testament to the country’s effort to not just promote and protect political, economic and social rights, but also to champion women’s empowerment, advocate religious and ethnic tolerance, harmony and co-existence, and lead by example. There is little wonder that the country – which hosts tens of nationalities and religious ethnicities – ranks among the top global destinations with regards to the quality of life, attracting people from all over the world to work and settle with their families for the long haul.
The country has championed the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights by signing multiple rights treaties and working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretariat to strengthen and protect human rights globally.
Reaffirming the UAE’s position on the global stage as an influence of peacekeeping and signifying its stance on human rights, equality and co-operation – it is perhaps the UAE’s election earlier this year to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member that marked a major victory of its diplomacy in support of global security, peace and co-existence. This moment indeed highlighted the world’s trust and confidence in the UAE’s policies and diplomatic system.
The achievement also underscores the UAE’s long commitment to the UN, and a shared vision to achieve peace and prosperity through foreign aid policy, as well as development and humanitarian programmes. Given what the UAE has accomplished in protecting the values and rights of its own people, as well as its immense success in environmental protection and economic progression, the scope of what the nation can achieve internationally is boundless. Not only that, but the election will be the UAE’s second stint on the Security Council, after serving from 1986 to 1987.
The world was a very different place back then. It was a time when the Cold War had just begun to thaw. There were numerous tragedies, however, including the explosion of the US Space Shuttle Challenger in January, 1986, which still haunts the American space industry, as well as the Chernobyl disaster in April of the same year – the worst nuclear disaster in history, both in cost and casualties, which led to unprecedented radiation issues that impacted Russia and its surrounding countries.
Of course, the Middle East was facing its own dilemmas – the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war was still ongoing. At the time, people were unaware that when that war was going to be over, another was about to begin – between Iraq and Kuwait – marking tremendous turbulence and uncertainty, for the Gulf region.
Global crises of all sorts are still ongoing today. We are facing critical challenges of our time. A two-year-long pandemic, tensions between the US and China (in which UAE can see itself as a mediator, given its friendly relations with both), as well as environmental disasters and humanitarian crises that spur inequality, mean that in January, 2022, the UAE will have a lot to cover and fight for.
The country’s values and principles can push progress to achieve the holistic goal of international peace and security. This is an important step for the UAE, and its global presence and power will be realised when it serves on the Security Council, especially given its diplomatic influence and future-focused foreign policy agenda.
Joining the 15-member council, the UAE marks its moment of shared responsibility in global action. Holding a seat is paramount because the council is the only UN body that can make legally binding resolutions.
Last month, the UAE said that it will use its tenure to strive for inclusion and building resilience, as well as tackling gaps of inequality, to put an end to global crises. According to the UN Charter, member states have a responsibility for maintaining global peace and security. This is the time that the UAE can demonstrate its significant role in pushing for multilateral responses in dealing with the current global challenges and tensions that we are witnessing before our eyes, especially due to its close relations with the West and its geopolitical position.
Its role in building bridges is unshakable. The UAE’s recent constructive dialogues with Israel, Turkey, Syria and Iran, which are underpinned by the desire for bilateral relations and the goal of overcoming regional security challenges and threats – is a good example of why.
The country’s fight against climate change will also be a focal point when it assumes its seat next week. It is no wonder that it has placed environmental protection at the forefront of its agenda. The UAE’s announcement of its pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and its successful the bid to host Cop 28 reflect this notion.
A future in which a climate meltdown is kept out of harm’s way. A future where there is no hunger and crisis of drinking water. For a hydrocarbon-producing country that sits in one of the most arid regions on Earth, embracing clean energy is, indeed, a daunting move. Then again, the UAE has proved that nothing is impossible when there is a clear vision and strong will.
The UAE’s positions on different regional and global issues make it an active and influential player while underscoring the commitment of the leadership to promoting peace, security and development. Such stands generate hopes for the country to add political and diplomatic impetus to the Security Council, in a way that is appropriate to address the various challenges facing the world at the political, security and developmental levels.
Assuming such high-ranking seats at the UN require diplomats with a firm stance, impeccable negotiating skills, and most of all – eyes that see what many choose not to see. The Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi has been playing an instrumental role in this regard, by prioritising diplomacy in its effort to groom future diplomats. Providing aspiring diplomats with analytical and theoretical context, as well as imparting cross-cultural skills and experience, is key to ensuring their future success, as well as that of the nation.
A popular proverb cautions that a bad messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing. Healing is precisely what the modern world needs. This is the task for modern diplomacy, which the UAE deftly carries while encouraging the future generation of diplomats to follow the path. The advantage of such a policy is that it leaves no room for failure.
Certainly, there is a great responsibility associated with sitting on the world’s highest chair in the coming days. But the UAE’s history as a trusted UN partner will allow it to make immense contributions for its two-year term. Using its influence to fight for our environment, push for equality and reduce tension and conflict, all while building bridges of peace is something we look forward to witnessing the UAE do at this noble table, at which it very much deserved to win a place.