Sheikh Khalifa: the quotes that define his legacy

The late UAE President will be remembered for his beliefs that shaped the country

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Sheikh Khalifa who served as the UAE's second president from 2004 until his death last Friday, will be remembered for his vast contributions to the growth and empowerment of the country.

These will define the legacy of his leadership and can be best summed up in some of his best-known quotes.

Citizens lives

Understanding that UAE's citizens were the heart of the Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa said: “We shall spare no effort to realise the hopes and ambitions of our people, and we call upon everybody to work hard to develop our country.”

Local authorities fulfil this promise with the majority of citizens having stable jobs.

Young people were also recognised as being an integral part of the country's future, but they would have to work hard to bring growth and prosperity.

“The youth are the true wealth of the nation,” he said.

“Nations do not grow in stature by wishes, but by hard-won achievements.”

Foreign policy

Sheikh Khalifa believed it was important to be flexible in order to keep pace with the rest of the world. A recent example of putting this belief into practice occurred at the start of 2022, when the UAE aligned its working week with the western world.

“We don't live on an isolated island so it is only natural that, in many instances, we adapt our aspirations, ambitions and undertakings to various changes at the regional and international levels,” he said.

The UK's Queen Elizabeth II with Sheikh Khalifa in Windsor Castle in 2013. AFP

Equal rights

The UAE has come a long way in the advancement of equal rights. It is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap report. By implementing a number of public and private sector initiatives, women are playing a more visible and stronger role in both government and business.

“Women are half of society, and societies that fail to employ that complete half are doomed to failure.”

“Any developmental undertaking that excludes women shall be regarded as development manque,” he said.

“The UAE has transcended segregation between men and women. The major standards of evaluation are merit and competence, capability and excellence.”


Sheikh Khalifa was often quoted on his plans for the future of the UAE economy, with visions of the Emirates becoming a major player on the world stage.

“We are intending to transform the UAE into a regional hub for the global economy,” he said.

Sheikh Khalifa also saw the private and public sectors as partners in the development of citizens' lives.

“The private sector is a fundamental partner of the state in development plans that seek both to improve the standard of living of the average citizen and to face up to potential challenges.”


In the UAE, Emirati students can attend public universities free of charge, and three Emirati universities are among the top 500 universities globally.

Sheikh Khalifa expressed his support of the university experience, saying it was a period of “enlightenment” for students.

“University is not just a field of pure academic study; rather, it is a centre of glorious intellectual, civilisational and cultural enlightenment.”


In 2023, the UAE is scheduled to host environmental conference COP 28. World leaders and decision makers will convene to discuss tackling climate change but also to witness the UAE's commitment to protection and conservation, something Sheikh Khalifa reminded the public of often.

“Protection of the environment and achievement of sustainable development in the UAE is a national duty; it has its own institutional structures, integrated legislature and advanced systems,” he said.

“Protection and conservation of the environment remain part of the strategic objectives of the UAE.”

Respect for humanity

Finally, Sheikh Khalifa's respect for the human life was evident from his powerful words on war and destruction. The UAE has contributed large sums in humanitarian donations to countries struggling with war and natural disasters. It was also a major player during the Covid-19 pandemic in helping distribute vaccines across the globe.

“Wars of all types and forms are attempts at suicide,” he said.

“The spirit of Islam can never lead one to destruction.”

“History does not make heroes; rather, heroes are the true makers of history.”

Updated: May 17, 2022, 8:02 AM