As the UAE prepares to host the Cop28 UN climate summit – arguably the most important international gathering of the year – for the past two days, hundreds of Emirati decision makers have been looking at how sustainability, prosperity and long-term planning can ensure the country is among the world's leading nations.
More than 500 senior figures – including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court and Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council – as well as ministers and senior officials in the federal and local governments met over two days in the capital to discuss and review strategies and initiatives on several burning topics. These include important areas such as the country’s investment environment, its legislative system, attracting and developing top talent, and co-ordination between different branches of government. Also on the agenda are topics such as education, health care, digital transformation, housing, climate change and food security.
What unites the work on these different topics is the central aim of improving governance, cutting bureaucracy, delivering for the people and improving the quality of life for citizens and residents alike. It is perhaps a reflection of the vision that characterises the UAE’s journey that many of the initiatives coming out of the Abu Dhabi meetings have timetables that are measured in decades, not just months. Far from adopting, adapting or abandoning initiatives to match a news cycle or changing events, the ability of the UAE to construct and implement programmes for the long term, while maintaining an agile and nimble approach is one of the country’s core strengths. The UAE’s centennial plan of 2071 continues to be a guiding force.
It has been a busy time for local decision makers. Before the Annual Government Meetings began on Tuesday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid set out three top priorities. These were a continued focus on economic growth and development; support for young people; and sustainability – a theme very much in keeping with the approaching Cop28 summit.
At a meeting of the Cabinet on October 30, Sheikh Mohammed unveiled a number of important decisions, such as new housing policies that will “allow UAE citizens to replace or resell their houses and transfer mortgages, in addition to approving flexible loan policies for citizens”. In addition, the Cabinet approved a decision organising the export of aquaculture, and a new policy on the integrated management of recyclable materials.
Another important branch of the UAE’s governance system, the Federal National Council, held its first session on Monday following recent elections. The 40-member group, half of whom are women, represent citizens from all seven emirates, and were addressed by re-elected Speaker Saqr Ghobash who echoed many of the goals at the heart of the Annual Government Meetings – “a strong nation that enjoys high levels of security and safety, and provides an exceptional quality of life for its people and residents".
Complementing the work of government meetings in the capital this week, was the release yesterday of a comprehensive strategy by the Adnec Group aimed at reaching the target of attaining climate neutrality by 2045, in line with the UAE’s national 2050 goal.
Taken as a whole, this flurry of domestic activity reveals the country’s priorities – prosperity, stability and the environment, not just now but years into the future. For those want to see what direction the UAE is travelling in, keeping a close eye on pivotal meetings such as these is to be advised.