Women 'crucial' to diplomatic drive

More female Emirati staff are needed for embassies planned in eastern Africa and South America.

Hafsa al Ulama, who was recently appointed as the ambassador to Montenegro, said Sheikha Lubna Al Qassemi had paved the way for other women to succeed in politics.
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ABU DHABI // More women are needed to make up for a shortfall in diplomats, according to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash. Speaking yesterday at an annual gathering of Emirati ambassadors and heads of mission, Dr Gargash said the UAE was planning new embassies in East Africa and South America as part of an increasingly assertive diplomatic policy, but faced a challenge in finding enough Emiratis to staff them.

"We suffer from a deficiency in the number of diplomats which we try to solve with more training and we hope this network will express the ambition and desire of the UAE to become a central country in its trade relations and leadership in a number of issues in the region," he said. "What we see in the future is bigger participation for the Emirati woman." A network of 77 embassies currently serve the UAE's diplomatic interests, while a number of others are planned in eastern African countries such as Kenya and Uganda. An embassy is also planned in Chile to serve the country's interests in South America, where Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, recently concluded a tour.

"Our interest in economic issues and protecting the UAE's economic interests is strengthening," he said. "Our interest in the issues of nationals and taking care of them is improving. "I think we are seeing an institution that is improving but has not yet reached the limit of our ambitions." The UAE has a number of top female diplomats, including Noura Gomaa, the consul in Shanghai, Hissa al Otaiba, the ambassador to Spain, Najla al Qassimi, the ambassador to Sweden, and Hafsa al Ulama, who was recently appointed as the country's ambassador to Montenegro.

Mrs al Ulama, previously the managing director of a UAE-based consultancy called Global Ideas, said successful women in politics, such as Sheikha Lubna Al Qassemi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, had paved the way for others. "Sheikha Lubna launched that path and the rest followed as she opened the door," she said. "After years of work we are used to different types of work which are beneficial to the country."

The UAE's diplomatic position was strengthened by the flurry of overseas visits by Sheikh Abdullah who visited over 100 countries this year alone, said Dr Gargash. "His visits strengthen the diplomatic position of the UAE and we get to raise our issues," he said. The diplomats discussed the ministry's political strategy and the UAE's membership in a number of international organisations, in a series of closed sessions. They also covered the peace process in the region, and were briefed by a senior aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The talks conclude today. kshaheen@thenational.ae