The story of the UAE is only just beginning

It’s been a challenging 12 months - but we have laid the foundation for a more vibrant, prosperous future, writes Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
TOPSHOT - Emirati Ali Mansouri trains a falcon in the Liwa desert, some 250 kilometres west of the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on January 9, 2021.  / AFP / Karim SAHIB

Fifty years ago, our founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may his soul rest in peace, laid down the core values for our new nation: peace, hope, equality, tolerance, openness and coexistence. It is these values that helped us endure the extraordinary year of 2020, and underpin the UAE’s commitment to making 2021 a year of recovery, growth and decade-defining ambitions.

This year marks the UAE’s Golden Jubilee – a period of celebration and a time to look ahead towards the success that we aspire to achieve in the country’s next 50 years. While preparing for this remarkable anniversary, we may also reflect on the astonishing firsts that our young nation has reached, as a global innovator, a super-hub for international trade and humanitarian logistics and a champion of the values of tolerance, generosity and dynamism on the world stage.

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Although Covid-19 defined the year 2020, it certainly did not define us as a nation

While the last 12 months have challenged the entire world as we have collectively fought Covid-19, the introduction of effective vaccines and breakthrough treatments has sparked hope for a recovery that will stimulate economic growth, facilitate international connectivity once more and boost the quality of life for all while improving global health outcomes.

Although Covid-19 defined the year 2020, it certainly did not define us as a nation. What defined the UAE was our reaction to the pandemic, which allowed us to demonstrate the UAE’s strong commitment to its proud values, a commitment that we feel will help make future years better, prosperous, and safer—not only for our own people, but for our region and beyond.

It is without doubt that our advanced technology, healthcare systems, governance model and leadership helped us combat the virus. So did the strength of our economy, the diversity and expertise of our people, and our foresight in ensuring food and financial security for those affected by the pandemic. Now, what stands out to me is not how we successfully managed to help ourselves, but how we helped others in this difficult time.

When the UAE secured the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for Phase 3 clinical trials, thousands of volunteers were among the first to take the vaccine and helped prove its safety and efficacy. This year, the UAE will continue to build upon its world-leading role as the top provider of humanitarian aid by continuing to develop its advanced logistical capabilities to store and distribute the vaccine worldwide, while ensuring equitable access through our agreement to distribute millions of vaccines globally through Abu Dhabi’s Hope Consortium.

This spirit of goodwill and faith in a post-Covid future was just as evident abroad as it was at home – from the UAE’s hundreds of repatriation flights, the thousands of tonnes of medical assistance and equipment provided to countries and frontline workers around the world, and our partnership with the World Food Programme for the global delivery of food and medicines. Therefore, the UAE will continue its efforts in the fight against Covid-19, and in making the world a better place.

epa08926921 The sun sets behind the skyline of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 08 January 2021. The state's Emirates New Agency (WAM) on 08 January 2021 announced that the UAE will reopen all land, sea and air borders with Qatar, following the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on 05 January to roll back the sanctions imposed on Qatar. Qatar had been imposed with a diplomatic, trade and travel boycott by Saudi Arabia and allies since June 2017.  EPA/ALI HAIDER

The UAE’s contribution to the global fight against the pandemic was not the only notable achievement during 2020. We are proud that we were the first Arab country to commission a peaceful civilian nuclear energy power plant in the region at Barakah, and also became the first Arab nation to send a space probe to Mars. This follows the UAE’s landmark success as a nation in sending the first Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station in 2019, a moment that inspired thousands of Arab youth to explore how they may contribute towards further strengthening global innovation and co-operation among nations to the benefit of humankind.

The signing of the historic Abraham Accords with the State of Israel stands out as another defining moment of 2020. The Accords delivered a genuine opportunity for lasting peace in the Middle East, and hope for achieving prosperity for future generations through unprecedented levels of co-operation in fields such as science, medicine, education, culture, tourism, artificial intelligence and investments. Ultimately, the Abraham Accords exemplify what can be achieved when nations set aside their differences and focus on what they have in common in the service of their peoples and the opportunities they deserve.

Peaceful coexistence and tolerance will always be at the heart of the UAE’s story and legacy. I am very much looking forward to the UAE advancing in its construction this year of the Abrahamic Family House, a multidenominational place of worship for people from all cultures and religions to come together in the spirit of tolerance and coexistence. On a much larger scale, we will welcome the world in October 2021 at Expo 2020 Dubai, which extends the hands of friendship to more than 190 participating countries and global organisations.

A decade ago, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced to the Cabinet his vision for 2021: “To make the UAE among the best countries in the world.” The four supporting pillars of this vision were prosperity, knowledge, destiny and responsibility. In overcoming the challenges we faced over the past 10 years, we have come a long way towards achieving this vision. We have a prosperous, growing, sustainable economy, world-class healthcare, a first-rate education system, a strong judiciary and a cohesive society that is now acknowledged globally as one of the safest in the world.

Finally, the stage is indeed set for our nation to achieve truly spectacular accomplishments before our centenary in 2071. The only limit is our imagination. The only challenge is our creativity. The only path forward for the UAE is illuminated by boundless enthusiasm and hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Head of the UAE Golden Jubilee Celebrations Committee