The UAE takes a seat at the Unesco table

The essence of the UAE is founded on diversity of cultural expressions

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2020.  The Corniche on the first day of the UAE cleaning campaign.  Emiratis and residents across the UAE must stay home this weekend while a nationwide cleaning and sterilisation drive is carried out.  . Victor Besa / The National
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The UAE is regularly identified as a country where communities from approximately 200 different nationalities live peacefully alongside each other and, more broadly, as a regional beacon of tolerance and diversity. This weekend the country was awarded a seat on Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, perhaps, in part, that decision recognised the cohesive and distinctive nature of society in the country.

The essence of the UAE’s success story is grounded in diversity of cultural expressions, as well as tolerance and openness. One of Unesco's missions, meanwhile, is to foster a culture of peace. Recognition from the UN body in the country’s 50th anniversary year serves to underline that the UAE is aligned with such universal values.

As Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said: "The UAE's nomination to the intergovernmental committee is a recognition of the important role it plays in protecting and promoting cultural diversity, which is a fundamental pillar of the UAE’s vision for economic growth and sustainable development."

The country can draw upon a host of examples of cultural diversity. But foremost is perhaps the simple fact that people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, living in the UAE, co-exist peacefully. The country has houses of worship for multiple religions, catering to people from across the world who call the UAE home.

The country can draw upon a host of examples of cultural diversity

There is, perhaps, no better illustration of upholding diversity than the under construction Abrahamic House, which – in recognition of Islam, Christianity and Judaism – will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue. Exemplifying such interfaith harmony can have a positive effect on a society. The very concept sends to citizens and residents the powerful message of inclusivity.

There are other examples, and not just in the country. The UAE's contribution in Mosul, in support of Unesco's work to rebuild historic treasures in Iraq – among them, the 800-year-old Al Nuri Mosque, which was destroyed by ISIS – shows the country's commitment to upholding values that extend beyond its own borders. The reconstruction of Al Tahira Church is also being funded by the UAE.

In the spirit of maintaining a cohesive society, the UAE's legal framework is in place to make sure no one is subject to discrimination, abuse or racist slurs.

The country's law against hate crimes and discrimination has ensured that people of all ethnicities feel safe and the UAE remains a place that champions tolerance and human dignity.

Ms Kaabi said: "Since its establishment, the UAE has put in place legal frameworks that enable all to live and thrive in an environment that fosters diversity, and has taken steps to instil these values in the fabric of society.”

Beyond the all-important legal framework, other acts frequently seen in the country – whether it is monuments being lit up in support of a cause or in solidarity with people of another nations, or it is the leadership sending good wishes to diverse communities on their festivals – the path that the UAE has made for itself in embracing diversity and expressing tolerance, is an achievement that can be emulated by others.