President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has announced the allocation of Dh20 billion for funding social and economic projects in various emirates and decided to increase the housing assistance citizens get from the Zayed Housing Programme from Dh500,000 to Dh800,000.

Shaikh Khalifa congratulated the UAE leaders and people on the historic victory of Dubai to host the 2020 World Expo.
 In his address to the nation on the 42nd National Day, the President paid glowing tribute and thanks to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice- President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, for this magnificent national achievement.

“It emphasises the stature of the UAE as an international hub for attracting business and as an ideal platform for a meeting of creative ideas and minds. We also highly appreciate and value the national work teams for their tireless, faithful dedication over two years.”

“We and all the UAE people feel extreme joy and pleasure that this year’s National Day anniversary coincides with the selection of Dubai as host for the 2020 World Expo, the world’s largest and prestigious exhibition. It is a well-earned victory and a certificate of appreciation for our fathers who laid down the foundation of a strong State that can feel proud, in front of the nations of the world, of its achievements. It also represents a medal for every Emirati man and woman as well as for every resident living in the State,” Shaikh Khalifa said.

Shaikh Khalifa added: “December 2 is a day on which we recall the impressive and insightful life of the late founding father, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and also recall his fellow founding fathers, who devoted their energy and thought to establish a strong, viably structured Federal State, a prosperous nation, where people enjoy justice, safety and welfare, where people feel respected and dignified and live a glorious present with a bright future.”

“It is a day of expressing our gratitude to great men, who laid down the foundation of a successful state whose achievements have taken the world by surprise and for providing its citizens with sources of strength and welfare. These remarkable achievements have placed the UAE at the top rank of the world’s nations in prestigious indices of human development, happiness and satisfaction. This, in itself, represents a bumper harvest of what our founding forefathers nurtured. We will always be proud of their devotion and will stay on their course to preserve the nation and drive its development forward,” the President continued.

Shaikh Khalifa pledged to pursue the path of the founding fathers to further consolidate the Union’s institutions and protect its gains.

Towards that end, he asserted the government will adopt the quality of life, development, and the rule of law as standards to assess success and measure progress.

“Our government’s ambition does not only seek to leverage indices of economic growth, though these are important, but also to improve the living standards of citizens, to put the UAE on the map of the world’s most advanced nations, in terms of justice, security, education, culture, housing, sports, health, environment and smart cities.”

Looking forward, Shaikh Khalifa said, “The future to which we aspire will not be within our reach without a rich, influential society and cultural environment that strengthens self-confidence, makes us feel proud of our leaders, represents our heritage and promotes our adherence to Islam as a religion of mercy, tolerance, moderation and openness.”

“Furthermore, there will be no future for our development without local culture, and there will be no future for our national culture without integrating and incorporating the components of local culture into the school curricula, media policies, and social and family upbringing programmes.”

Development, the President noted, will also have no future if it is not based on an ever-developing education with an integrated system in which the teacher plays a pivotal role.

He called for the adoption of a national plan for the development of sports which will create a world-class infrastructure for both modern and traditional sports.

“We believe that engaging in sports serves as a school which deepens the spirit of belonging and fair competition and gives individuals a healthy physical and mental lifestyle that prompts them to work hard and become a productive force.”

These visions and targets, he said, will definitely evolve into initiatives, projects and programmes within the new strategic plan of the Federal Government and other strategic plans of the relevant ministries, institutions and councils. Sports and culture have, like education, a role in building the human being, in investment in the future and in protecting the Union.

Shaikh Khalifa expressed his appreciation of the value of the the Flag Day initiative, launched by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid, for its role in upholding the symbol of the Union, which serves as a headline for our identity, confirming our unity and vision, as well as instilling the meaning and connotations of patriotism into the nation’s sons and daughters.

“We pledge to Allah that we will keep the Union strong and majestic and its flag fluttering high. We also praise the institutions established under our Constitution and the federal and local authorities for shouldering their responsibilities towards the nation and the citizens, for their intelligent outlook for the future in adopting excellence, leadership and planning to address the current challenges by finding solutions that fit the nature of our society and its lifestyle.”

The President praised diverse government initiatives aimed at promoting the values of social solidarity and cohesion, of increasing participation of UAE nationals in the labour market, and in generating sustainable job opportunities in all emirates in a true partnership with the private sector.

“We also commend the continuing efforts to reform the local labour market by removing the obstacles hindering the progress of Emiratisation which limit the participation of national professionals in it.”

He also applauded plans that have been announced for diversifying sources of renewable and alternative energy and for the adoption of a unified and comprehensive national strategy on emergency, crisis and disaster management that enhances the resilience of the nation and community alike and builds on and increases their capacity to respond to risks and mitigate their impact.

“Our appreciation also goes to the federal government for earmarking over 50 per cent of the Union budget for the social sector in the fiscal year 2014, to develop and upgrade education, health, labour, social and Islamic affairs, culture, youth and community development, the Zayed Housing Programme, and other social benefits.”

On foreign policy, the President underscored that the UAE.will remain committed to an independent, flexible foreign policy whose ultimate goal is to serve national interests, to safeguard the sovereignty of the State, to strengthen the framework of the GCC as it moves towards fully-fledged integration and to consolidate cooperation with Arab countries and regional alliances for building a regional and international environment based on peace, stability and mutual trust.

“We will continue this policy, committing ourselves to combating terrorism and extremism, to seek to resolve conflicts through peaceful means, to engage in international efforts for conservation of the environment and to contribute to the forging of a more just and fair international order,” Shaikh Khalifa said in his landmark National Day address.

This policy, he noted, has enabled the State to maintain close ties with brotherly and friendly countries, to earn a prominent international stature and maintain a strong presence in international and regional organisations, to host international institutions, organisations, and conferences, and provide development and humanitarian aid, cherishing the legacy of the founding father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

On the issue of the UAE’s three islands occupied by Iran, the President said: “We will also continue to call for peace, development and cooperation, appreciating and valuing highly the GCC and Arab support for the UAE’s historic and legitimate right to its three occupied islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs, asserting that the only way to resolve this issue is through direct negotiations or international arbitration that strengthens the opportunities for security and stability in the region.”

At the same time, he said the UAE welcomed the initial agreement between Iran and the P5+1 world powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme and also expressed the hope that the agreement would represent a step that paves the way for a permanent agreement that preserves stability of the region and staves off tensions.

Internationally, Shaikh Khalifa expressed his deep concern about tensions in the region, which have promoted sedition and fuelled of extremism, terrorism and violence.
 In this respect, he highly appreciated and valued the positive presence and fruitful activity of UAE diplomacy in defending its national choices.

“Amongst these are the advancing of the progress of the GCC, advocacy of just Arab causes, of which the key one is the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state with the holy city of [occupied] Jerusalem as its capital.”

The President also expressed the UAE’s support for meaningful initiatives to enable Egypt to regain its leading Arab role, as well as the restoration of peace to Syria, calm to Tunisia, security to Libya, stability to Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and other countries, as well as advancing the efforts being made to make the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass destruction and increasing pressure on Israel to comply with international and legitimate resolutions on its withdrawal from all occupied territories.

Shaikh Khalifa described what has been accomplished over the past 42 years as an “exceptional and phenomenal achievement” in which all Emiratis have participated, while being consistent and united in the confidence that tomorrow will definitely be better than today as the present is better than the past.