A section of the participants during the National Service Act and the promotion of identity seminar at the Armed force officers club on Monday. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The national service will reinforce patriotism and national identity among young Emiratis amid growing challenges regionally and internationally, Mohammad Ahmad Al Murr, Speaker of the Federal National Council, told a symposium on the National Service Law on Monday.

Al Murr said the guiding policy behind the law is to strengthen the national identity and the sense of belonging to the nation among citizens and instil discipline and the spirit of sacrifice, stressing that defending the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty.

Al Murr said military service will instil loyalty and a sense of belonging in the country’s youth and cultivate a spirit of discipline and sacrifice to enable them to serve their country in all areas in the best possible way.

Some 7,000 citizens, comprising the first batch of Emirati recruits, will be called up for national service by the beginning of September.

President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has approved a law introducing mandatory military service for all Emiratis aged between 18 and 30.

Under the law, Emirati men who have finished secondary school will have to undergo military training for nine months, while those who have not will serve two years. The service will be optional for women, who may be trained for nine months after permission from their guardians, regardless of their education.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, First Deputy Speaker of the Federal National Council, told the symposium UAE citizens should undertake defending the country and maintaining its independence and sovereignty while taking part in its development, as a sacred duty. Citizens should do this in a manner that preserves the gains of the homeland and its integrity.

The decision comes in line with the leadership’s recognition of the importance of citizens’ participation in defending the country and the community’s need for such a law.

The national service training includes periods of military and security exercises for recruits in one of the armed forces units.

Dr Amal said the national service will not only further improve the military capacity of the UAE Armed Forces and increase the reserve forces, but will also protect the country’s social, economic and cultural achievements.

The law states that citizens working in the federal government, local and private sectors who meet the law’s provisions will enrol in the national service. For recruits who are appointed in federal departments, local departments, and the private sector, their national service will be counted as service in these departments and sectors.

Staff Major General Pilot Shaikh Ahmad Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of the National Service, said the national service will mould Emirati youth into responsible citizens, reiterating that protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty for every citizen.

In a message to Emirati youth, Shaikh Ahmad said patriotism and loyalty to the nation is their first and foremost duty. “You will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. Through military discipline, our youth will gain physical strength, endurance, knowledge, and spirit,” Shaikh Ahmad said.

Part of the military service will require military training and exercises, as well as lectures on patriotism.

Shaikh Ahmad called upon young Emiratis to be ready to lead by example as discipline becomes a major part of their life, carries them through their time of military service and helps tremendously in their civilian life.

Shaikh Ahmad said with determination and spirit that recruits will acquire through the military service, they will approach tasks in the civilian world with the same self-discipline and contribute to the progress and prosperity of their nation.

Dr Ali Al Khoury, director-general of the Emirates Identity Authority, said the armed forces are a federal institution that answer to the entire country, drawing their recruits from all over the UAE.

“The new batch of conscripts who will join the national service at the beginning of September, will be drawn from across the emirates in line with the criteria set by the Armed Forces,” Dr Al Khoury said, stressing that the new responsibility of national service is not about responding to some external threat, but about building a sophisticated sense of national duty.

Dr Al Khoury said compulsory military service will help introduce a complete cross section of Emiratis into the Armed Forces.

Dr Mariam Lootah, professor of political science at UAE University, said the economic, political and cultural challenges of globalisation require collective efforts on the part of the government and society to address these.

Six memoranda of understandings were signed on the sidelines of the symposium between the National Service Authority and the Emirates Identity Authority, the Federal Human Resources Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, among other authorities.