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Arrival of Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori to the International Space Station (ISS) was celebrated in Abu Dhabi - Courtesy: Nasa Image Credit:

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has crossed many milestones with its rapid pace of development over the past five decades. But 2019 stands out as a watershed year for more reasons than one.

From making its Year of Tolerance a global phenomenon to sending its first man to space, the UAE catapulted itself into a different league on the world stage, even as several policies back home set fine precedents. A look at the country’s main feats in the year gone by:

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Pope Francis celebrates a Holy High Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium with 135,000 participants from the UAE and beyond, during Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
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One of the first projects the Higher Committee will help guide is the Abrahamic Family House, to be located on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. A reflection of the Document on Human Fraternity, a church, mosque and synagogue will share a collective space for the first time, serving as a community for inter-religious dialogue and exchange, and nurturing the values of peaceful co-existence and acceptance among different beliefs, nationalities and cultures. The design of the Abrahamic Family House, by the award-winning and globally-renowned architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE, was unveiled at the New York event. WAM

UAE a global centre of tolerance

The UAE enhanced its reputation as a global centre of tolerance, through the signing of the ‘Human Fraternity Document,’ the papal mass in Abu Dhabi, the establishment of the Abrahamic Family House, the hosting of the World Tolerance Summit and other initiatives..

The Human Fraternity Document initiated a joint declaration and a manual for future generations on how to achieve world peace and live together, with the blessings of Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church.

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People cast their votes at the Sharjah voting centre in Sharjah Chess Club for the FNC elections on 5th October 2019 Photo Clint Egbert/ Gulf News
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On behalf of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated the first regular session of the 17th legislative chapter of the Federal National Council, FNC, on Thursday.The session was attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council; Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah; Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman; H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah; Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain; and Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah. Also present were, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authortiy WAM

50pc women in FNC

The fourth Federal National Council elections held during the year raised the parliamentary participation of Emirati women to 50 per cent, reflecting the belief of the country’s leadership in their capabilities, as well as its keenness to involve them in the political decision-making process.

The election recorded an increase in the number of members of electoral bodies (people eligible to vote) reaching over 337,000, while the total number of votes around the country reached 117,592, or 34.81 per cent of the number of potential voters.

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Arrival of Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori to the International Space Station (ISS) was celebrated in Abu Dhabi - Courtesy: Nasa

First Emirati in space

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori made history for his country when he travelled to the International Space Station, ISS, becoming the first Arab astronaut to reach the station since its establishment in 1998.

Al Mansoori conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with international space agencies. He also conducted some ‘Science in Space’ experiments, which was organised by Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in coordination with schools from the UAE.

Strengthening diplomacy

The UAE strengthened its regional and international presence to reinforce the global efforts in countering terrorism and extremism, and maintain regional and international security and stability.

In March, it opened its embassy in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and in June, the new premises of the country’s embassy in Bulgarian capital, Sofia was inaugurated. The Emirati passport also preserved it ranking as the world’s most powerful passport, based on Global Passport Power Rank, Passport Index 2019’s rankings.

Rise in global competitiveness

The UAE continued its progress in the Global Competitiveness Report, as it occupied the 25th position internationally in 2019, advancing two places from last year in the prestigious report issued by the World Economic Forum.

The UAE ranked second globally in the rate of electricity contributions from the percentage of population index, the mobile subscription ratio index, the manpower diversity index and the third globally in the speed of government response to variables index.

The country was also ranked fourth in the world in the efficiency of legal frameworks index, the low burden of government procedures, the adaptation of legal frameworks to accommodate the digital business model, the long-term government vision index, fiber-optic Internet subscriptions, wages and productivity and availability of venture capital.

It was also ranked fifth globally in the internet users index, the low impact of taxes and subsidies on business competition and the innovative growth index.

Legislation

The UAE continued advancing its legislative infrastructure and issued many decrees, federal laws and ministerial decisions, with the aim of ensuring the community’s safety and security, and achieving economic and social stability for all citizens, as well as establishing the foundations of responsibility, transparency and efficiency among government authorities.

2019 witnessed the adoption of UAE President’s Resolution No. 01 for 2019 to raise the participation of women to 50 per cent in the FNC, Federal Law Decree No. 06 for 2019 on prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, Federal Law Decree No. 10 for 2019 on prevention of domestic violence in UAE, as well as Federal Decree-Law No. 19 on the Insolvency of Natural Persons Federal Law.

As for ministerial decisions, the UAE Cabinet has adopted in March a decision to amend provisions of the resolution on sponsoring of foreign workers to their families in the country, as well as the National Space Strategy 2030.

The UAE Cabinet adopted decisions to amend and waive fees for a number of federal services within the framework of government’s effort to enhance the national economy, reduce costs to business owners and increase the competitiveness of the UAE.

The decisions were aimed to boost economic growth in the UAE, including the amendment or cancellation of fees for more than 1,500 government services and allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of 122 economic activities across 13 sectors.

Economy

In 2019, the UAE’s economy proved its strength and ability to overcome global challenges and developments..

A report issued by the Ministry of Economy revealed that the country’s gross domestic product, GDP, rose to Dh1.65 trillion by the end of this year, compared to Dh1.59 trillion in 2018, an increase of Dh60 billion and a growth of 3.77 per cent..

The Central Bank of the UAE expected real GDP to grow by 2.3 per cent in 2019, driven by the growth of the non-oil sector, which was expected reach 1.4 per cent this year compared to 1.3 per cent in 2018. It also expected the oil sector to grow by 5 per cent in 2019, compared to 2.8 per cent in 2018.

The UAE approved its 2020 Federal Budget totalling Dh61.354 billion without deficit, which is the largest since its establishment, with a third being allocated to the social development sector, another third to government affairs, and the rest to infrastructure, economic resources and living benefits.

One of the major achievements of the country’s financial sector in 2019 was the significant increase in assets of the banking system, which jumped to more than Dh3 trillion. Private sector employment increased by 0.1 per cent per annum in the second quarter of 2019.

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Shaikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said as he delivered a moving speech on Tuesday evening at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah, at the official ceremony to inaugurate Sharjah’s yearlong journey to promote books and culture as the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019. before the 1001 nights - The Last Chapter show. 23rd April is 2019. Photo:Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Culture

This year, the UAE achieved two major events: Sharjah was named as the UNESCO World Book Capital, and UAE won the membership of the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO..

The UAE hosted many major cultural events in 2019, including the inauguration event of naming Sharjah the UNESCO World Book Capital title in 2019, and the confirmation of the UAE’s permanent seat in the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, ICCROM..

The 38th Sharjah International Book Fair, which continued to enhance its stature as one of the top three book fairs in the world, received around 2.52 million visitors in 2019, with the participation of 2,000 publishing houses from 81 countries..

The 29th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair attracted over 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries, showcasing over 500,000 books.

Sports

At the start of 2019, the UAE hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which witnessed the participation of 24 football teams for the first time in the history of the tournament. It also organised Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, attended by some 7,500 athletes from around the world. The UAE was the fifth most decorated team winning 182 medals, including 64 golds, 55 silvers and 63 bronzes.

In Jiu-Jitsu, UAE team won 22 medals at the World Youth Cup and the Balkan Open for Youth in Romania in September 2019, as well as 52 medals in Jiu-Jitsu World Championship 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club won the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship title, and the Abu Dhabi Maritime Sports team won the Formula 2 World Championship title while Paralympic champion Mohammed Al Qayed won three medals for the UAE at the World Athletics Championship in Dubai