Politics of the United Arab Emirates takes place in a framework of a federal, presidential,absolute monarchy. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven constituent monarchies: the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjahand Umm al-Qaiwain. According to convention, the ruler of Abu Dhabi is President of the United Arab Emirates, the head of state, and the ruler of Dubai is the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, the head of government.
H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
The Founding Leader
In 1918, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan , may God bless his Soul, was born into the Al Nahyan family, who had ruled the emirate of Abu Dhabi for hundreds of years. He was the youngest of the four sons of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, who ruled Abu Dhabi from 1922 – 1926. When Sheikh Sultan’s successor died in 1928, Sheikh Zayed’s eldest brother, Sheikh Shakhbut, was elected by the family to be ruler.
At that time, Abu Dhabi was a part of the Trucial States. When Sheikh Zayed was a child, education was scarce. He received instruction in the principles of Islam and memorized much of the Holy Qur’an, however, and always demonstrated a voracious appetite for knowledge. This led him to accompany the Bedouin tribesmen into the desert.
In 1946, Sheikh Zayed was elected as ruler of Al Ain. Immediately at that time, Al Ain began to be developed and to integrate into a township and Agricultural production began to flourish, as did the local economy.
On August 6th, 1966, Sheikh Zayed became Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and within weeks a massive development program was underway. Schools, hospitals, roads and housing were constructed. Zayed’s vision had always extended beyond the borders of Abu Dhabi.
In 1968, Britain announced that it would withdraw from the area before the end of 1971. Immediately Sheikh Zayed took the lead in calling for a federation of the emirates. The rulers of the emirates moved quickly and on the 2nd December, 1971, the United Arab Emirates formally emerged onto the international stage While Sheikh Zayed himself always attempts to share credit for the remarkable ensuing developments with his fellow members of the Supreme Council of Rulers (comprising the ruler of each of the seven emirates) no-one doubts that, without his wisdom and guidance, they would never have happened. The Supreme Council itself has recognized this by re-electing Sheikh Zayed to successive five-year terms as President.
Since its establishment, the UAE has confounded international expectations by developing successfully in all areas of life; social services, health and education, communications and technology, trade and finance, at a rate almost unmatched anywhere or at any time. More importantly, these material achievements have occurred against a backdrop of political and social stability.
Throughout history, few leaders can have experienced the amount of radical changes that Sheikh Zayed has witnessed. Fewer still could reflect on them in the knowledge that they chose and acted in accordance with their beliefs and for the betterment of humanity, regardless of personal cost, financial or otherwise. Sheikh Zayed has the love and admiration of his people and international recognition and respect, all of which he has earned many times over.
On the 2nd of November 2004 Sheikh Zayed, the nation leader had passed away, after a long journey of giving, achievements and development of people and land. In line of the his vision, the nation keeps going under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of united Arab Emirates and the members of the Supreme Council of Rulers and their crown princess.
HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was elected as the new President of the United Arab Emirates on 3 November 2004, to succeed his father, the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE President from 1971 to 2004, from whom, he has said, he learned “the need for patience and prudence in all things.”
Sine becoming UAE President, HH Sheikh Khalifa has presided over a major re-structuring of both the Federal Government and the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The appointment of a new Cabinet in February 2006, with Vice-President and Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as Prime Minister, saw major changes in the portfolios with, crucially, the creation of new ministries devoted to the streamlining and modernizing of the business of government, a new focus on community development and, through the new Ministry of Federal National Council (FNC) Affairs, an important step towards reform of the political process with the introduction of indirect elections for half of the FNC’s membership.
In his message to the nation on the occasion of the UAE’s National Day on 2 December 2005, he noted:
“The years ahead require a bigger role for the Federal National Council by empowering it to be an authority that would provide great support and guidance for the executive arm of the government. We shall work to make the Council more capable, more effective and more sensitive to the issues affecting the nation and the people. This would be done by ensuring a more participatory process and the entrenchment of the policy of “Shura” consultation. And through a gradual, organized course, we have decided to start activating the role of the FNC through electing half of its members through councils for each emirate and appointing the other half. By doing this, we will embark on a march that culminates in more participation and interaction from all the citizens of the country. . . . Today, we stand at a threshold of a new era, whose ultimate objective is to entrench the rule of law and due process, accountability, transparency and equal opportunity.”
HH Sheikh Khalifa has also undertaken extensive tours throughout the UAE to study the needs of the Northern Emirates, during which he has given instructions for the building of a number of projects related to housing, education and the social services.
HH Sheikh Khalifa has overseen dramatic changes too in the government of Abu Dhabi, where particular attention has been paid to two aspects – improvements in terms of efficiency and cost for services provided to the public and the opening up of much of the economy so that greater scope has been provided for direct private investment and for public-private partnerships. During the early years of the Federation, he believes, it was right and appropriate for government to play the leading role, but now, with a burgeoning private sector and with a well-educated population, the time is right for government, both local and federal, to step back and to concentrate on the core areas of government responsibility.
The re-structuring of government, he believes, will only be effective if the people of the UAE take upon themselves the task of contributing effectively. “We have already begun preparing for the new era by promulgating legislation [and] placing some regulatory measures on the existing departments, institutions, activities and relations,” he said in his December 2005 National Day message. “This is to tighten up the loose ends, to straighten the curves, put an end to wrongdoings [and] . . . to improve production and services.” He continued:
It is high time for our political, religious, cultural, information, educational and civil society institutions to take up their responsibilities to instill in our society the values of love of work, to change the negative perceptions about vocational work. It is high time to make them understand the true meaning of work – that it means responsibility and reflects human, civil and religious values. These institutions also need to work hard to diversify the skills of the national human resources, to raise productivity, encourage investment in human resources development, improve voluntary work and create awareness on this noble work and its significance to individuals and society in general.
While emphasizing the need for a re-structuring at home, not just in terms of government, but also in the way in which the UAE’s people look upon their own duties towards society, HH Sheikh Khalifa has, at the same time, continued to ensure that the country pursues an active foreign policy.
HH Sheikh Khalifa is a strong supporter of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), believing that the success and achievements of this body reflect the depth of understanding reached amongst its leaders. That support was re-affirmed at the 2005 GCC summit conference, held in Abu Dhabi, while he has exchanged numerous visits with the leaders of other GCC states, which have provided him with the opportunity to discuss both ways in which the GCC can continue to develop and other issues of regional and wider importance.
One of the wider issues, of course, has been the continuing turmoil in Iraq, and HH Sheikh Khalifa has pursued a consistent policy of supporting the efforts by Iraq’s elected representatives to restore peace and stability, both through offering diplomatic support and through a wide range of assistance for reconstruction of Iraq’s shattered economy. At the same time, he has urged the various communities in Iraq, whether regional or religious, to recognize that their future is best guaranteed by working together and by promoting the unity of both the country and its people.
Another issue seen by HH Sheikh Khalifa as being of crucial importance is that of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. As has been the case since the creation of the Federation in 1971, the UAE has continued to express its support for the Palestinian people, with HH Sheikh Khalifa demonstrating his own personal interest by funding a major housing program, Sheikh Khalifa City, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
At a political level, HH Sheikh Khalifa noted in a speech on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in November 2005 that the UAE remained committed to work for the restoration of security, peace and stability in the region, saying that this, as well as economic and development cooperation between countries of the region including Israel, “cannot be achieved while Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories continues, but only through compliance with obligations as provided in the Road Map and the Arab peace initiative that calls for justice, ending the Israeli occupation and establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
HH Sheikh Khalifa said: “We have rejoiced over the Israeli military pullout from Gaza Strip and have regarded it as a first legal step which must be followed by other comprehensive and serious withdrawals from all the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967.”
HH Sheikh Khalifa has demonstrated his commitment to continuing to build relations with other countries both by receiving visiting leaders, from countries in Asia and Europe, as well as from other Arab countries, and by paying visits to Central Asian states, with whom he has been an active proponent of closer ties ever since they emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He has also proved to be a generous donor of emergency assistance at times of natural disaster, responding immediately in sending help after events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the autumn 2005 earthquake that devastated much of northern Pakistan and neighboring parts of India.
HH Sheikh Khalifa assumed his posts as Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates in 2004 after many decades working closely with his father, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the Federation.
Born in the inland oasis-city of Al Ain in 1948, HH Sheikh Khalifa was educated in the local school. On 18 September 1966, following his father’s assumption of the post of Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Khalifa was appointed as Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi and as Head of the Courts Department in Al Ain.
On 1 February 1969, HH Sheikh Khalifa was nominated as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, this being followed on 2 February 1969 by his appointment as the Head of the Abu Dhabi Department of Defense, in which post he oversaw the building up of the Abu Dhabi Defense Force (ADDF), which later became the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.
On 1 July 1971, as part of the restructuring of the government of the emirate, HH Sheikh Khalifa was appointed Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defense and Finance. On 23 December 1973, HH Sheikh Khalifa assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the second UAE Federal Cabinet. Shortly afterwards, when the Cabinet of Abu Dhabi Emirate was dissolved, as part of the process of strengthening the institutions of the UAE Federation, HH Sheikh Khalifa was appointed, on 20 January 1974, as the first Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which replaced the Emirate’s Cabinet.
Under his direction, and in accordance with the instructions of HH Sheikh Khalifa, the Executive Council oversaw the realization of a wide-ranging development program in Abu Dhabi, including the construction of housing, water supplies and other essential services, roads and general infrastructure that led to the emergence of the city of Abu Dhabi as the modern city that it is today.
Of particular importance in terms of ensuring that citizens were able to benefit from the country’s increasing wealth was the establishment by HH Sheikh Khalifa in 1981 of the Abu Dhabi Department of Social Services and Commercial Buildings, charged with the provision of loans to citizens for construction.
The establishment of the department, popularly known as the “Khalifa Committee,” followed another decision taken by HH Sheikh Khalifa in 1979 to alleviate the burden on citizens of the repayment of loans from the commercial banks.
A further step to ensure that citizens were able to build the properties that they needed, both for residential and for investment purposes, came with the creation by HH Sheikh Khalifa of the Private Loans Authority, early in 1991.
HH Sheikh Khalifa has also been involved extensively in other areas of the country’s development. In May 1976, following the unification of the armed forces of the Emirates, HH Sheikh Khalifa was nominated as Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In this capacity, he devoted much attention to the building up of the country’s defensive capability, through the establishment of many military training institutions and through the procurement of the latest military equipment and training.
HH Sheikh Khalifa has held a number of other top posts in the Abu Dhabi government. Since the late 1980s, for example, he has been Chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council, responsible for oversight of Abu Dhabi’s upstream and downstream oil and gas industries, although he has also actively encouraged diversification of the country’s economy away from dependence on its depletable reserves of hydrocarbons.
He is also Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (which replaced the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in mid-2006 and manages the emirate’s financial reserves and investments) and Honorary Chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and was until 2006 the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), which oversees the country’s international development assistance program.
He has stated that his key objectives as President of the UAE will be to continue on the path laid down by his father, whose legacy, he says, “will continue to be the beacon guiding us into the future, a prosperous future where security and stability will reign.
On January 4th, 2006, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became the Ruler of Dubai following the death of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
On January 5th, the members of the Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed the Vice President of the UAE.
On February 11th, 2006 UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan nominated Sheikh Mohammed to become the Prime Minister of the UAE; the Council approved this nomination.
Sheikh Mohammed and the members of his Cabinet took their oaths in front of Sheikh Khalifa at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Mohammed embodies energetic and successful leadership. He is a man who has made promises and kept them; he has insisted on excellence and achieved nothing less; he has defined the role of leadership and fulfilled it.
Since becoming the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, groundbreaking initiatives have been rolled out at an astonishing rate.
On April 17th, 2007, Sheikh Mohammed unveiled the UAE Government Strategy Plan with the aim of achieving sustainable development throughout the country, investing federal resources more efficiently and ensuring due diligence, accountability and transparency across federal bodies.
Regionally, his most outstanding achievement was the launch of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, on May 19th, 2007, with an endowment of $10 billion.
The foundation’s aim is to promote human development by investing in education and the development of knowledge in the region by cultivating future leaders in both the private and public sectors, promoting scientific research, spreading knowledge, encouraging business leadership, empowering youth, renewing the concept of culture, preserving heritage and promoting platforms of understanding among various cultures.
UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was born in 1949. He is the third of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s four sons. Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Ahmed are his brothers.
Sheikh Mohammed enjoyed a happy and carefree early childhood in the Al Maktoum family’s home located in Al Shindagha. His parents and his grandfather, Sheikh Saeed, the Ruler of Dubai, doted on him and close family surrounded him. Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers found their natural playmates among their cousins and the children of Dubai’s major trading families, the sheikhdom’s equivalent of an aristocracy. He was an athletic and energetic child; an enthusiastic participant in traditional children’s games such as Luhol and Huwaim, better known as tag and hopscotch. Even as a toddler he liked nothing better than to kick a ball around the enclosed sandy courtyard of the house.
Family friend Hamad bin Sukat remembers Sheikh Mohammed as an active youngster. “He was forever on the move, playing games and exploring. He was inquisitive and wanted to know what was going on around him.”
Sheikh Saeed held his daily Majlis on wooden benches near the entrance to their Shindagha home. It was an informal affair, but a good learning environment and Sheikh Mohammed who was very close to his grandfather could often be found sitting alongside Sheikh Saeed.
From an early age he was taught about hunting, especially the noble Arabian sport of falconry. Sheikh Mohammed has always found the intensity of the sport and the opportunity to return to his Arab roots and distance himself from the modern world a most attractive combination.
In addition to hunting, the Maktoum brothers were taught the rudiments of horsemanship by their father. Sheikh Mohammed took to the saddle immediately. He and his close friends soon rode nearly every day.
From the age of four, Sheikh Mohammed was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies. In 1955, he began his formal education at Al Ahmadiya School, a small primary school in Deira. It taught Arabic grammar, English, mathematics, geography and history. Thanks to his earlier tutoring, Sheikh Mohammed excelled. At the age of 10 he moved to Al Shaab School and two years later he went to Dubai Secondary School.
On September 9, 1958, Sheikh Mohammed’s grandfather, Sheikh Saeed, passed away and his father became Ruler. From October 1958, Sheikh Rashid began serious preparations for his sons’ future in government.
During the 1950s Sheikh Rashid had drawn the most talented individuals in the community into his immediate circle. There were bankers, builders, merchants and intellectuals. Sheikh Mohammed grew up as part of this unique group. He grew into a valuable participant, despite his relative youth.
Thanks to an almost photographic memory, Sheikh Mohammed progressed quickly through Dubai Secondary School. At the end of the 1964/1965 academic year he easily passed exams in the main strands of the school’s curriculum.
Already, Sheikh Rashid believed that, as Dubai developed, a man with a character such as Sheikh Mohammed’s would be best suited to managing the increasing external and internal security demands.
With this in mind, Sheikh Rashid started looking at military training options for his third son. But first, the young prince needed a complete grounding in the English language. In August 1966, Sheikh Mohammed flew to London. He was accompanied by his cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. They enrolled in the Bell School of Languages, in Cambridge, one of Europe’s best-regarded language schools.
Because of its international reputation, the Bell School of Languages attracted a wide range of nationalities. In Sheikh Mohammed’s classes there were many Chinese and Japanese students, a large number of Spanish and a smattering of others from North and South America, Australia and Africa. It was an intriguing melting pot of nationalities and cultures and Sheikh Mohammed used the opportunity to learn about many of his classmates and their countries.
Sheikh Mohammed threw himself into the vibrant Cambridge student literature scene and integrated himself fully into the student life. Besides poetry, sports held great interest for him, particularly rowing. On Saturday May 5, 1967, he and Sheikh Hamdan attended their first horse race, and saw Royal Palace win the 2000 Guineas under Gary Moore.
As Sheikh Mohammed entered his twenties, he had a good understanding of all the areas that would be of importance in his adult life: literature, sport, the military, and politics.
HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi
Ruler of Sharjah
HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi
Ruler of Ras al Khaimah
HH Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi
Ruler of Fujairah
HH Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla
Ruler of Umm al Qaiwain
HH Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi
Ruler of Ajman