The Federal National Council resumed its 16th chapter yesterday – and there will be a lot on its plate. This newspaper has long been a strong supporter of the FNC and its role in the government structure. While the body does not have legislative powers, the FNC has an important role in scrutinising laws as they pass through the chamber and if necessary proposing amendments.
To some extent, the FNC acts as the voice of the people. The logic of the council is that members, drawn from every emirate, hear what the people are saying and relay those concerns to the Government. That way, what people in Ras Al Khaimah or the Western Region need or want can be put forward in the chamber.
The FNC in that way acts as an early-warning system, identifying problems that may have been overlooked, or bringing up unintended consequences of particular policies. It can also act as a megaphone, raising questions that citizens may have with companies or institutions. When, in the past, there were questions about Emiratisation at Zayed University or Etisalat, these were raised in the chamber.
The FNC also acts to question ministers and over the short life of the council, it has become increasingly assertive in demanding ministers appear and seeking explanations when they don’t. This is all to the good: the more ministers feel they must explain themselves to the council, the more careful they will be in their policies. And the FNC can raise crucial issues that affect the entire country: it was in the chamber last year that the issue of statistics about the UAE was first raised, leading the FNC to call for a centralised database.
Yet for the FNC to work at its best, it relies on the involvement of ministers, members and the public. For ministers, a request to appear to be questioned by the FNC must be taken seriously – indeed, it ought to be a norm that a minister must appear unless there are justifiable reasons not to. Similarly with members – it is an honour to serve in the chamber and so those elected must attend regularly.
Lastly the public must engage with the FNC more: both via elections and throughout the year. After all, acting as the citizens’ eyes and ears only works if FNC members see and hear them.