Celebrating the UAE’s unique spirit 50 years on, and looking forward to the next 50

There is much to celebrate with the UAE’s golden jubilee approaching. What has been achieved since its formation has been nothing short of impressive and deserves much accolade.

Year after year, the UAE continues to move from strength to strength, boosting its global competitiveness, setting global standards for public policy, conceptualising transformative innovations, and elevating well-being levels for its citizens and residents.

It is the UAE’s distinctive spirit — a mix of imagination, agility, creativity, tolerance, solidarity, and positivity — that drives this journey, undeterred by any challenge and always aiming for world-class. Such qualities merit reflection as we draw valuable lessons that will propel our prosperous journey into the future.

When it comes to imagination, the UAE literally aims for the stars. This February, the UAE’s “Hope” probe successfully reached Mars’ orbit, making it the first space mission in Arab history and the fifth nation in history to reach Mars.

Launched last July to coincide with the golden jubilee this year, the probe delivered a number of heartfelt lessons in the importance of being aspirational, diligent, and perseverant.

A new Hope

UAE Hope Probe Image Credit: AFP

The probe’s name “Hope” is aptly named, as the UAE aspires to inspire the next generation of scientists in the Arab world and revive a renaissance of the sciences in this region.

The UAE has always embraced agility with astuteness. For example, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme was launched almost a decade ago to enrich students’ learning experiences through the use of technology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE has managed to successfully migrate students online overnight due to this wise, pre-emptive investment.

Employees were working successfully remotely, minimising disruptions. Furthermore, tele-health services were deployed across various health care facilities to continue to provide essential services for patients, such as follow-up and care plans.

A centre for creativity

The UAE has been reimagining itself as a hotspot for creative communities through the inauguration of a suite of outstanding art exhibitions, book fairs, cultural events, museums, live performances, film festivals, and public libraries. Indeed, the transformation into creative cities has infused the various emirates with juxtapositions of heritage and modernity, beautiful urban designs, and artistic movements.

For example, the Saadiyat Cultural District is a mesmerising space, home to phenomenal museums, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim, Manarat Al Saadiyat, and Zayed National Museum. Cultural aficionados await the Dubai art season, for its calendar boasts exciting events, such as Art Dubai, the Emirates Festival of Literature, and the Middle East Films and Comic Conference.

The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, which was recently announced, aspires to double the creative industries’ GDP contribution to 5 per cent by 2025 and attracting 140,000 creatives to the city.

Cultural Capital of the Arab World

Sharjah has been designated as the Unesco ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ Image Credit: GN Archives

Sharjah has been designated as a Unesco ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ and boasts many cultural offerings, such as an international book fair, art education programs, museums and live performances. As the UAE welcomes these creative communities, we will further share fascinating fusions of cultures and artistic expressions that will continue to elevate our human experience.

Golden visa for expats

To take this conversation further, in 2018, the UAE announced the Golden Visa scheme, which enables expats to live, work, and study in the country for a period of ten years without a local sponsor. Entrepreneurs are allowed to fully own their enterprises as well.

The programme targets high-net-worth individuals, entrepreneurs, skilled and specialised talents, and outstanding students in the sciences.

This year, the UAE Government issued directives to allow expats to acquire UAE citizenship, based on specific criteria. The program targets expat investors, doctors, inventors, scientists, intellectuals, and creatives.

Providing humanitarian aid

On the other hand, the UAE’s humanitarian face has always shone a beacon of light during dark times. Its authentic generosity with regards to humanitarian aid has resulted in the betterment of humankind.

The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee has praised the UAE’s remarkable humanitarian contributions, which amounted to over AED 28.5 billion to 42 countries in the year 2018. This figure constitutes 0.93 per cent of the Gross National Income, far exceeding the UN’s recommendations to nations of 0.7 per cent.

File image: In April, UAE sent an aid plane containing 46 metric tons of food and medical supplies to Ethiopia in support of the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region Image Credit: WAM

The COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred its philanthropic mission and the UAE has been hailed as the most generous Arab country in providing humanitarian aid in the year 2020, contributing $335 million to various endeavours, according to a report issued in April 2021 by the International Rescue Committee and Development Initiatives.

Since the pandemic’s onset, the UAE contributed medical supplies to several countries, such as Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Columbia, which benefited tens of thousands of health care professionals. It also converted an exhibition space in London into a short-term 4,000-bed hospital providing essential health care services to COVID-19 patients.

As we celebrate our golden jubilee this year, we are also looking forward to celebrating another milestone by 2071. That is, to make the UAE the best country in the world, 100 years after its formation.

Sara Al-Mulla

Positivity and well-being is of national priority to the UAE and policies, programs, and services have always been formulated on this basis. Since the launch of the National Programme for Happiness in 2016, the UAE has launched many important initiatives, such as appointing CEOs for happiness and well-being at all government bodies, implementing national well-being surveys, and organising well-being programs and activities.

In fact, the UAE is the first Arab country to run a national well-being survey, launched earlier this year. The survey captured data from over 10,000 respondents and will enable policymakers to understand the needs of various social segments and design targeted policies accordingly.

The UAE’s success story is one that is truly distinctive. As we celebrate our golden jubilee this year, we are also looking forward to celebrating another milestone by 2071. That is, to make the UAE the best country in the world, 100 years after its formation.

Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and literature



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