The UAE is preparing for the century ahead

This country, having made extraordinary strides in a short space of time, refuses to rest on its laurels

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Crown Prince Court Abu Dhabi
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The strides made by the United Arab Emirates in the past 45 years can sometimes make us forget that this country is still young. In a region characterised by seemingly interminable conflict, the UAE remains a bridgehead of stability, tolerance and progress. The principal source of the UAE's success in forging a cohesive and enterprising society is the inclusive vision of its founding father, Sheikh Zayed, whose birth centenary will be celebrated in 2018. He insisted that every individual, regardless of his or her "race or creed", is a "special soul" and declared that no nation could prosper by consigning women, "half of the society", to "poverty or illiteracy". Today, the UAE hosts residents from virtually country in the world and women are in the vanguard of the nation's energetic march through the 21st century.

Yet there can be no room for complacency. The UAE, after all, is located in a part of the world that is faced with numerous crises, some of which are discussed on these pages today by HA Hellyer. From climate change to the pressures brought on by rapidly altering demographics, the region's leaders confront existential trials that demand bold and imaginative long-term solutions. It is with such challenges in mind that more than 120 initiatives across 30 sectors at both federal and local level were launched at the UAE Government's annual meeting on Tuesday.


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The initiatives, upon execution, will improve almost every area of public life – from social services, economy and education to security, gender balance and financial policy. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, had announced in March that the government was working on a plan to enable "future generations in the UAE to live happier lives in a thriving environment with abundant opportunity, more connectivity and global influence". He was elaborating on the vision for the UAE's centennial year (2071) advanced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces, in an earlier lecture.

Collectively, the initiatives announced this week form an important first step in the plan to sustain the UAE's development into the 100th anniversary of its foundation and beyond. They are intended to prepare the UAE for a post-oil economy because, as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid put it, "natural resources are not everlasting". But the success of the plan will depend, as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed pointed out, "by acting together as a team". The UAE will create a comprehensive database to expedite the implementation of strategic plans. It will aim to lead the world in scientific research and space exploration.

In 2021, on the 50th anniversary of the country's founding, the UAE will send a probe to Mars; by 2071, the 100th anniversary of its creation, the UAE aims to establish a human colony on the red planet. Traditionally, countries restrict themselves to five-year plans. The UAE's preparation for the century ahead reflects the pioneering vision of its founder.

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