UAE National Day flag 50 years
The leaders and the people have turned the UAE into a leading economic and commercial hub in the region Image Credit: Mohammed Nahas/Gulf News

On the second of December 1971, the rulers of the Emirates stood side by side, each representing the will and dream of their people for a unified, stronger nation. On the sidelines, at age 11, I stood and witnessed the historic moment of raising the flag of the United Arab Emirates.

Fortunate to have witnessed the creation of the UAE and attending the ceremony with my late father on Dec. 2, 1971, I was 11 years old. I was not aware at the time, of why my father took me to that event, but I do remember that Dubai (50 years ago) was a very small town, limited in its size, services and infrastructure.

I also remember how big and bold the dreams of the people and leadership of this nation were; and how determined they were, despite their modest surroundings and beginnings, to create a lasting union and an inspiring vision for generations to come, to turn this country to one of the most advanced countries not only in the region, but in the world, and a model country others strive to emulate.

There are many aspects to this transformation, which was led by Sheikh Zayed, Sheikh Rashid and the rulers of the other emirates, chief among them is the unwavering belief of the leaders and the people that there can be no progress without a sustainable and strong union.

The 2nd of December is therefore not only a celebration of the creation of the country, but of the establishment of the only lasting union in the region; a union without which the strides and achievements of the UAE over the past five decades would not have been possible.

The leaders of this nation recognised the importance of unity in the face of the threats and challenges both outside and within the country’s borders but worked tirelessly to ensure its strength and durability. Despite the challenges, the country’s founding fathers, and current leaders continue to combat the threats to this union and make immense sacrifices to ensure it grows from strength to strength.

Living in harmony

The second aspect to the UAE’s success in breaking world records in every industry, is the common vision that the leaders of this country successfully transferred to their people, and in doing so created well-established institutions on a strong foundation, a world-class infrastructure, education, and health care.

Together, the leaders and the people were able to turn the UAE to the leading economic and commercial hub in the region, and a model followed by many around the world.

Today, the UAE ranks 3rd in government efficiency, 4th in economic performance, 7th in business efficiency and 28th in infrastructure according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020, issued by the World Competitiveness Centre of the World Institute for Management Development.

History will record and document the efforts, determination and hard work of the UAE’s leaders and people who created a country which has a great reputation worldwide as one of the best places to live in and visit, not only in the region, but in the world.

The UAE’s diverse community, with more than 200 nationalities living in harmony, has also been a significant contributing factor to the country’s progress.

The expatriate population of the UAE has historically been an important segment of the UAE society, owing to its strategic location and the welcoming nature of the Emirati people. Together, the Emiratis and residents of the UAE built a country ripe with opportunities for anyone in the world wishing to create a better life.

Attract the greatest minds

From doctors and nurses who served the country and its people during the pandemic, to investors who created ventures that cemented the country’s position globally as a business and investment hub, the UAE continues to attract the greatest minds.

For the past decade, the UAE has been voted as the country that most Arab youth would like to live in, choosing it over other countries such as the US, Canada and other Western nations, according to the 13th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey.

I was lucky to witness the great day when the country was founded, and to participate and play a small role in the development of this nation through my different responsibilities during my career, be it in public service or the private sector.

I believe that this country has a bright and promising future, and that the first 50 years of its existence are merely setting the scene for greater achievements in its next phase, solely because of the vision of its leaders and the commitment of its people, citizens, and residents, young and old, and their loyalty to the country and their belief in its potential.

Dr Hanif Hassan Al Qassim is an Emirati writer and Author of Under The Union’s Flag