In this 2016 photo His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, welcomes Joe Biden, then Vice President and current President of the US to a dinner meeting at Emirates Palace Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Starting with their attendance at formative meetings of the nation in the early 1970s and standing alongside their fathers, the rulers of the seven emirates have been in close and continuous contact. They have worked hard to find the right balance between a centralised federal authority and devolved authorities. The fulsome state of the union and the contentment of its citizenry bear testament to 50 years of ongoing success.

They have since created a diverse, knowledge-based economy, making the country an admirable model of transformation. These efforts are claiming a prominent and popular position for the country within the international community.

The UAE has spent much of the past five decades positioning itself as an Islamic and Arab nation, but also as a truly multinational one. This twinned approach is founded on unity, justice, tolerance and equality for all and is based on good governance that follows the rule of law. In its outwardly approach, key principles include non-interference in the affairs of other states, just dealings between all states, the pursuit of peaceful resolutions, and strong support for international institutions and conventions.

Communication and engagement

Forging a solid network of regional friends and allies has long defined the Emirates’ foreign policy. Taking the lead in building alliances in the Middle East – especially after 2011 when some neighbouring states took a battering – the nation has remained peaceful and prosperous. The Abraham Accords of August 2020 consolidates and crowns various regional initiatives.

Greater geopolitical cooperation in addressing security concerns, settling disputes amicably, protecting the weak, and building a better future is steadily elevating the UAE’s position from regional leader to global player. The country is constantly engaging with other nations to promote strategic and beneficial partnerships at the social, economic, cultural, scientific and political levels – and it is winning fulsome praise in the process.

Kwon Yongwoo, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UAE, says the Korea-UAE partnership is so unique that it sets paramount standards and serves as an ideal model for international relationships. “I am proud to say that Korea and the UAE, which celebrated 40 years of diplomatic ties last year, have developed incredibly wide-ranging and in-depth cooperation in important areas including national defence and nuclear power plant projects, and by forging a Special Strategic Partnership in 2018.

“The policy direction being pursued by the UAE is exactly in line with Korea’s national vision to become a leading country in the post-pandemic era and to make significant contributions to solving global issues.”

The ambassador is confident that this course will continue to strengthen and run steady over the next 50 years.

“Over the past half century, Korea and the UAE have overcome countless adversities to achieve the Miracle on the Han River and the Miracle of the Desert respectively, helping each other as indispensable partners. We will become even more crucial partners and trusted friends, joining forces to pull off more miracles of the future together for common prosperity.”

Peace and prosperity

The UAE is hailed as a stable, moderate and prosperous nation in a region that has many flashpoints of conflict. It also enjoys a sterling reputation as a nation committed to international coordination and cooperation.

The ability to rise above regional strife and global hardship was on display when the UAE launched a probe on a seven-month journey to Mars as part of an ambitious space programme, mere months after the outbreak of the pandemic, as the first Arab country to launch a successful interplanetary mission. Thanks to its advanced, digital and healthcare infrastructures, the UAE has also flattened the Covid-19 curve.

In September 2017, the UAE Soft Power Council launched the UAE Soft Power Strategy during the government’s annual meetings. The strategy aims to strengthen the country’s global reputation by highlighting its identity, heritage, culture and contributions to the world and includes six pillars of diplomacy: economic, humanitarian, scientific, academic, national representation and people-led.

Subsequently, the diplomatic body met to focus on creative new ways of expanding the UAE’s messaging abroad. Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs, spoke volubly of a comprehensive framework for all sectors to stand united in improving global reputation. He also put the people first.

“The responsibility of the UAE’s reputation is also the responsibility of any person and group in the UAE,” he said. “Our goal is to build a strong reputation for the nation, through which we can achieve our developmental, economic and cultural goals and ambitions.”

Global collaboration

Built on the conviction that growth does not only involve development, the UAE always places its people first and at the forefront. Running concurrent to this domestic policy is an unwavering enthusiasm for international dialogue – about the people of the world and their problems, and about finding solutions to overcome various global crises.

Arguably, there is no better example than Expo 2020 Dubai, which brings together 192 nations under one gigantic open-air roof in the UAE, as a global family in pursuit of a better tomorrow for future generations, and the world they stand to inherit.

Robert Clark, the United States Commissioner General at Expo 2020 Dubai, also serves as the senior US government representative to the government of the UAE on issues related to the Expo.

“Hosting Expo 2020 is a remarkable achievement for the UAE, and it is wonderful that the world has come together to share in this momentous occasion,” he says.

“During Expo 2020 Dubai, the United States is proud to join our strong partner, the UAE, to share in the 50th National Day celebrations. The USA pavilion congratulates the leadership of the nation, and we wish them continued success in the years to come.”

Future preparedness

Focusing on the future, the UAE has started or is strengthening several initiatives that focus on diversity and gender balance, emerging technologies and new economies, and the creation of a paperless world and cashless societies.

Afzaal Mahmood, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE, attributes this progress and prowess to the nation’s leadership.

“The UAE stands proudly in the comity of nations as a hallmark of peace, progress and good governance,” he states. “The outstanding progress achieved by the UAE in the past five decades is testimony to the vision and commitment of Emirati leadership to transform the country into a modern state and a thriving economy.

“The country has made spectacular strides to emerge as a world-class hub for trade, financial services, tourism, transit and transport. This impressive growth has been made possible by fostering tolerance, inclusive economic development, and innovation.”

The ambassador says he considers himself lucky to be representing Pakistan here at a time when the UAE is celebrating 50 years of formation, and the two nations are also celebrating 50 years of fraternal bilateral ties.

“Under the current visionary leadership of Pakistan and the UAE, our bilateral ties continue to grow,” he observes.

“These mutually beneficial brotherly relations encompass multifaceted cooperation, including political, economic, commercial, cultural and defence cooperation. The UAE is second home to about 1.6 million Pakistanis who not only bring pride to our two nations but also work as an effective bridge between our two countries.”

The Arab world’s second-biggest economy is now a rising global middle power, with the aptitude and ability to shape regional and global events. A greater emphasis on soft power and peace-brokering gives it an over-the-horizon leadership role.

The UAE’s transformation from a small rentier state into a modern society running a highly diversified economy is based on dignity, decency and diplomacy in equal measure. This continues to win it admiration, appreciation and applause, from all corners of the world. ■