Government ministers outlined an ambitious vision for the UAE's next 50 years of achievement as the country prepares to unite to mark its Golden Jubilee.
Key decision-makers who are set to drive development for decades to come reflected on the remarkable successes of the Emirates since its formation in 1971, and looked forward to further cementing its status on the global stage through advanced technology, economic growth and taking part in the international space race.
They came together for an in-person World Economic Forum panel, The Next 50 Years: Dialogue with UAE Officials, before an audience in Dubai on Thursday.
Ohoud Al Roumi, Minister of State for Governmental Development and Future, spoke of her pride at helping to shape the march to 2071.
“We want to live up to the spirit of our founding father's inspiration and vision. Working on two fronts; to preserve the soul, the essence of the nation and strengthening our union,” she said.
“At the same time, keep evolving, building new foundations for the future to unlock the potential of the future.'
She spoke of the UAE's 10 principles for the next 50 years, and underlined the importance of forming “the best and most dynamic economy” with the aim of “building the best quality of life” for the people of the UAE.
This goal, she said, should be central to the strategies of all government departments, as the UAE strides forward.
The minister said the country aspired to be a “digital and scientific power".
The discussion was moderated by Mina Al-Oraibi, editor-in-chief of The National.
UAE must focus on its strengths
Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Digital Economy, AI and Remote Working System, said it was vital the UAE focused on its strength to 'find its place' in the modern world, rather than comparing itself directly with powerhouses such as the US and China with far greater populations.
“Our main strength is the diversity of people … We have a plethora of nationalities which allows us to create global systems,” he said.
“The second [strength] is the centralised location of the UAE allows for us to attract the best talent from the markets that are talent exporters.
“There are opportunities for central hubs like the UAE to attract the top percentile of these markets to come and thrive in the UAE and we are seeing that with digital economy start-ups.”
Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, spoke of how the next generation view their opportunities in the years ahead.
She highlighted the recent Arab Youth Survey in which young people in the UAE were optimistic about their prospects.
“We noticed a new kind of narrative that, to me, was optimistic and positive and exciting,” she said.
“The survey showed that 100 per cent of Emirati youth believe that their voice matters to government, compared to 72 per cent of Arab youth.
“Arab youth are hungry for governments that will invest in them.
“In the UAE, we really make it a point to ensure that young people are empowered. Not only that their voices are important, but we take action on that voice.”
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and chairperson of the UAE Space Agency, said it was crucial that rapid developments in technology were able to be used practically for the betterment of industry and society.
She stressed the need to ensure youth were central to the rise of the fourth Industrial Revolution and said it was key to be agile to meet the continued advances in technology.
The panel discussed the importance of being “future-ready'” and ensuring strong infrastructure was in place to allow all sectors to embrace change and thrive.
Ministers agreed that young people will help to steer the UAE on its path, with sustainability and inclusivity being at the forefront of the minds of future leaders.
Youth can reach for the stars
Ms Al Amiri emphasised that aspirations which may have previously seemed like a distant dream — such as the UAE's Mars mission, in which she was instrumental — must be “normalised” to allow people to unlock their full potential.
“First it is with inclusion and ensuring you have access to these opportunities. What that does, inadvertently, is allows you to normalise it.
“Growing up I never would have imagined or aspired to or even thought possible for me to work on a mission to Mars. It was something that was not plausible and no amount of education and aspiration would have made that possible for me.
“A child's mind is shaped by the world around them and that realm of opportunity is what you emulate in the world around you.
“Creating that window of opportunity for an entire region to make what is referred to as the hardest thing to do — going into space, sending a spacecraft to another planet, exploring the greatest unknown — through this window of opportunity we get dialogue and the necessary opportunities.”