The coronavirus pandemic proved that the UAE is ready to face any challenge, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said on Sunday.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation made the comments in a keynote address to the nation’s young people during the Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations.
He said some events could shake the world, such as the spread of Covid-19, “whose global impact is equivalent to that of a world war”.
The majlis, an event held to inspire thousands of young students, was held on Sunday. Its organisers, the Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi, sought to focus on the post-pandemic world and how to "thrive in the next normal".
“[The pandemic] forced many countries to rethink and reshape their future plans due to the hit their economies took and the rapid rise in unemployment," Sheikh Abdullah said.
“A few countries took the blow and went forward with their plans because they had contingency plans in place that enabled them to deal with sudden shifts.
“It is one of the reasons why our country remained steadfast,” he said.
The crisis showed which nations were capable of responding to change, the minister said.
“Even changes that others found difficult were easy for us to handle. We have chosen to make sound decisions along the right path.”
Some have said the UAE is too ambitious, Sheikh Abdullah said.
"But if one looks at the UAE 50 years ago and looks at the development and progress it has achieved today, they would realise our goals are far from exaggerations,” he said.
"Within only 50 years, the UAE has succeeded in conquering the impossible. Therefore, when our leadership plans the next 50 years, it is because they realise nothing remains impossible when you have a feasible plan and the entire nation works together to achieve it.
"Our history involves several challenges where the UAE proved its ability in crisis management.”
Earlier, Sheikh Abdullah began the four-hour event by taking questions from students in a park in Abu Dhabi. Among the topics covered was stressing that there must be no stigma about mental health issues in UAE society.
"We also need to understand that anyone can experience mental health problems. There is no shame in having them. Actually, it is a shame to ignore them," he said.
"We need to put more effort into studying these problems and raising social awareness."
Turning to country’s young people, Sheikh Abdullah said they must invest in themselves and leverage the wealth and resources they have access to.
“Go into new professional fields that keep pace with the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future," he said.
“Seek to correct your mistakes, if needed. Nothing can stop you if you combine knowledge with a competitive spirit and the desire to progress and achieve.”
The UAE’s young people have been presented with an opportunity they “must not miss out on,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
Settling for mediocrity is a step towards failure, he said.
“Those who do not succeed are quick to waver when facing challenges.
“This is what happened in many countries around the world when the Covid-19 pandemic started,” he said.
Countries that had invested in their healthcare systems were more successful in tackling the pandemic.
“Success requires dedicated effort and is not handed to you on a platter,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
Young people will face fierce competition, and only those who put in 10 times the effort will win, he added.
“The world is filled with average achievers. It is easy to be an average person, and there is nothing wrong with that.
“But you live in a country which was never mediocre. A country whose contributions stretch from Mars’s orbit, to disaster and war-stricken countries the UAE has aided.
“A country that continued to grow and thrive for 50 years, despite all the problems, wars, epidemics and crises seen around the world.”
Those achievements did not occur by chance, he said.
“They were made by people who served our country, who have made and continue to make 10 times the effort.”
This is the UAE’s young people’s chance to step up and continue that success, Sheikh Abdullah said.
“With your efforts, the UAE will become even greater and will achieve a higher status in the next 50 years, and even after that,” he added.