On Friday the world lost a great man. A leader with a vision who led his young nation in the past 18 years to become a global hub for business and trade, an attractive destination for talent and investment and an empowered society that looks to the next 50 years with confidence.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, passed away on Friday, at the age of 73.
Sheikh Khalifa was elected president by the Supreme Council on November 3, 2004 to succeed his father and UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Following on the steps his father, Sheikh Khalifa was able to steer the country’s ship during challenging times with wisdom, humility and innovative leadership.
Not only did he guide the nation, Sheikh Khalifa also helped steer the Gulf to prosperity and stability during the turbulent years of the global financial crisis, and the so-called Arab Spring. He also oversaw unprecedented changes that made the UAE what it is today, a success story of unrivalled pace and scope of development.
Today, the UAE mourns “its righteous son, the leader of the ‘empowerment stage’ and the trustee of its blessed journey,” as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said on Twitter, paying tribute to his “brother and teacher.”
A unique personality
History books will always remember a unique personality, whose impact on the destiny of this nation, on the affairs of the entire Arab world and globally can never be underestimated.
From the day he assumed the presidency, Sheikh Khalifa led major projects and initiatives that transformed the UAE politically, socially and economically. With the appointment of a new Cabinet in February 2006, led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minster of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Khalifa presided over major structural changes in the government and the economy.
A staunch believer in the Union and the role of citizens, he announced his historic “political empowerment programme,” on the occasion of the UAE’s 34th National Day in 2005. The programmepaved the way for the country’s first election for the Federal National Council (FNC), held in October 2006. His aim was to increase the participation of the citizens in the development process of their nation.
He was also keen on government efficiency, on both the federal and local levels, while encouraging of the development of a robust private sector.
Since 2004, the UAE has witnessed an accelerated rise in the quality of life, which led the country to top almost every global development index. In all of his leadership years, the empowerment of women and youth was a top priority.
Guiding a nation
Economically, he paid special attention to the development of the energy sector, the oil and gas and the downstream industries to help speed up the economic diversification. The sector, under his guidance, also saw the successful operation of the Arab region’s first multi-unit nuclear plant that turned the UAE into a regional hub for renewable and clean energy.
He will also be remembered as a president, under whose leadership our astronauts soared in space and our spaceship orbited Mars, making this young nation a member of an elite league of nations.
Sheikh Khalifa leaves an extraordinarily rich legacy. A leader, father of the nation and a pioneer. The world will always remember his active foreign policy that promoted peace and moderation in the region and internationally.
The world will remember him most as a great philanthropist who probably contributed more than most global figures to the relief of the less fortunate worldwide — donating to fighting hunger, poverty, disease and illiteracy. His humanitarian foundation was a key donor to the United Nations’ agencies that help refugees, the displaced and victims of calamities across the world.
More than 80 countries have received help from the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, since its establishment in 2007. In 2016, Sheikh Khalifa declared 2017 as the Year of Giving, a nation- wide initiative under which business and people donated and volunteered time towards philanthropic causes inside the UAE and abroad.
And under his directives, the Emirates Polio Campaign for polio eradication has helped bring the epidemic under control in Pakistan and other countries.