UAE’s success story is not just a reflection of soft power

The United Arab Emirates has conducted pioneering outreach programmes allowing others to discover its culture, heritage and way of life.
Sunday 14/10/2018
A model for success. A 2017 file picture shows visitors attending the Cityscape Global exhibition in Dubai. (AFP)
A model for success. A 2017 file picture shows visitors attending the Cityscape Global exhibition in Dubai. (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates enjoys an outstanding global reputation. It is the most attractive tourist destination in the MENA region and one of the most desirable in the world. Most international brand surveys testify to the UAE’s allure for travel and business.

Another clear illustration of the UAE’s reputation is that its citizens may visit 75% of all the countries of the world with no need for an entry visa. This is not short of amazing in an age unfortunately determined by Western wariness of all things Middle Eastern.

The United Arab Emirates has conducted pioneering outreach programmes allowing others to discover its culture, heritage and way of life. Its daring openness to the world eventually paid off but its outstanding reputation is not just due to creative “soft power” efforts that have helped the UAE tell a unique success story.

The country’s success is more than just image projection. It is the result of pioneering policies by the Arab Gulf nation since its establishment on December 2, 1971, at a time when foreigners thought of the place as just a godforsaken desert.

When the UAE tops most countries in about 50 development indices, it is reaping the fruits of enlightened policies imagined and implemented by the Emirates late founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, and by leaders who succeeded him.

Sheikh Zayed was a visionary. He used the state’s wealth to invest in preparing the generations that will build the country and the generations that will carry on their work.

The Emirates has, ever since, enjoyed an unrivalled climate of stability under such forward-looking leaders.

The place has come a long way since Sheikh Zayed’s decision to form a unified state above and beyond the tribal fabric of the time. Decades of stability allowed the UAE to achieve smooth and unhindered progress.

It is able, today, to offer its human and management expertise to countries that received their independence well before the UAE did and initiate and finance international programmes devoted to the future of humanity, from the environment to space.

The Emirati leadership has laid out a strategic vision for ensuring a durable future for generations to come. It has established a road map for achieving qualitative leaps in all economic and social sectors towards durable development, without following for the usually slow and stuttering pace of change in the region.

The engine behind these plans has been UAE Vision 2021. The aim of that vision is nothing short of making the United Arab Emirates one of the best countries of the world in terms of economic and social development. Vision 2021 includes four axes: United in responsibility, United in destiny, United in knowledge and United in prosperity. The axes are ambitious work programmes, not just slogans.

To implement its vision, the government introduced the Smart Government Initiative aimed at making government formalities accessible 24 hours a day through smart applications. The next step was the UAE’s strategy for artificial intelligence, the first of its kind. Artificial intelligence is going to underlie all future services, production sectors and infrastructure installations in the country.

The UAE strives to become the first open global laboratory for applying digital technology in all sectors. The UAE was invited to join the UN secretary-general’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, established to help the world’s government face the fast-evolving challenges of the digital revolution.

To decrease the country’s dependence on oil production, the government has taken strategic steps regarding clean energy production and balancing between energy consumption and environmental considerations. The UAE has become one of the leading countries in clean and renewable energies, so much so that the International Renewable Energy Agency has chosen Abu Dhabi for its headquarters.

The UAE has been soberly vigilant as winds of instability swept through the Gulf and Middle East regions through Iranian expansionism, jihadist terrorism and Islamist attempts at regional destabilisation.

If the UAE preserved its stability and continued its progress, it is because it has assumed its regional and global responsibility in meeting the challenges and facing their threats.

Its highly professional and well-equipped troops are part of Arab and international coalitions that are maintaining regional peace and security. They are a demonstration of the willingness of a small progressive Arab country to stand up for world peace. The UAE armed forces, which were present in Lebanon, Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, are defending legitimacy in Yemen.

Facing challenges with vision and courage, becoming a model for success and taking the lead on many fronts, are among the characteristics of the United Arab Emirates, their leaders and their people.

To buttress its success story and ensure the progress and stability of the Gulf region and the Arab world, the UAE is shouldering the responsibility for the promotion of peace and security.