UAE remarkable story of achievement founded on successful historical leadership: Zaki Nusseibeh

GOA, INDIA, 17th December, 2017 (WAM) — The UAE participated in the 4th India Ideas Conclave in Goa, India, on December 15-17.

As part of an annual series of seminars and conferences, the India Foundation organised the event that brought together a luminary gathering of policy makers and public intellectuals from India and abroad. Over 350 invited intellectuals including government leaders, corporate leaders, scholars, journalists, politicians and social activists participate in this important conclave where ideas and opinions were exchanged in a candid and scholarly atmosphere.

Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Minister of State, was a keynote speaker in the function, the central theme of which was “Leadership in the Twenty First Century”.

The minister shed extensive light on the unique leadership model provided by late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who managed to establish a country that now embraces more than 200 nationalities living in peaceful co-existence, prosperity and cultural pluralism.

“The UAE’s remarkable story of achievement is largely founded on a successful historical leadership that was able to harness the creative energies of it people to surmount all obstacles on its path. What has perpetuated this success story was that the founding fathers recognised the imperative of building a strong generation of successors, who continue their legacy today and steer the nation’s destiny into its future,” said Nusseibeh in his address before the seminar which was held in the presence of Vice – President of India Venkaiah Naidu, Former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Minister of State for External Affairs of India Syed Akbaruddin and Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa. Dr. Ahmed Al Banna, UAE Ambassador to India, along with a number of Indian and foreign diplomats, intellectuals, and academics, also attended the function.

“In looking back on our recent history, I think it appropriate to draw on Max Weber’s typology of leadership or authority when analysing the leadership style that allowed the founding fathers of the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of the late Sheikh Zayed to have such success. Weber distinguishes between three types of leadership: the “traditional” authority of a hereditary rule, the “charismatic” authority of an inspiring political leader, and the “legal or formal” authority of the head of an institution,” the minister added.

The minister noted that the legacy of the founding fathers of the UAE is carried forward by “today’s generation of UAE leaders, in a way that is reminiscent of Henry Kissinger’s description of a national leader as someone who formulates a powerful vision for the future of country, and who then leads them towards that vision. In that process, the leader pushes the outer boundaries of what is possible in the political, social, and economic context of the society.”

“In other words, leadership does happen from the front, but the leader never gets too far ahead of the people. The leader challenges old assumptions and fosters change, but the leader does so in a way that brings society as a whole along on the journey”, the minister continued to say.

“I have seen this brand of transformative leadership in action for five decades now, across a broad spectrum of issues. The empowerment of women, for instance, was an issue of paramount importance to Sheikh Zayed, and – perhaps contrary to popular belief – this was nothing unusual for his generation of leaders who would consult closely with women about all aspects of government business. Today’s government of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has 9 women serving in the Cabinet. One of them, as Minister of Youth, was appointed when 22 years old.

“Another example is the transformation of the UAE from a hydrocarbon economy to a post-oil economy. Given the UAE’s rich endowment with natural resources, that may seem counter-intuitive, but several decades ago our leadership recognised that a purely oil-based economy would be unsustainable, and drove an ambitious diversification agenda. This was neither cheap nor convenient, but it provided for a much more resilient economy. Today’s leaders are taking bold steps in reducing petrol subsidies and introducing low levels of taxation – all of which broadens the economic base and reduces dependence on hydrocarbon exports, which soon will account for less than 20 percent of UAE GDP.”

The minister noted that achieving sustainable development depends not only on geographic location, abundance of natural and financial resources and demographic factors, but “also depends on an environment conducive to development, which primarily consists of an effective government, a creative and smart administration, mechanisms that promote investment and entrepreneurship, and an advanced and sophisticated system of services covering all fields.

“The UAE has been aware of these prerequisites since the time of the late Sheikh Zayed. Under the leadership of his successor, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the country has become a pioneer in government reform in the Arab world and in the region.”

While the United Arab Emirates has adopted a development vision based on a free-market economy and the promotion of the private sector, it also recognised the Government’s fundamental role in ensuring the well-being, happiness and self-improvement of citizens and residents, he added, noting “that means that the Government continues in providing the highest levels of social services such as healthcare, education and housing.

“To ensure that these services are delivered in an optimal fashion, the Smart Government initiative was launched in 2013. The Prime Minister described Smart Government as one that never sleeps, provides fast delivery and strong procedures, is innovative and adaptive, serves the citizens at any time and everywhere inside and outside the country, improves lives and responds to expectations.”

To help achieve these goals, the minister continued to say, “the Government of the Future was announced in 2017. The Prime Minister, introducing new ministry portfolios to consolidate the ways of dealing with future challenges, nominated a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, a Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and a Minister of State for Food Security, saying that this reform would focus on “future skills, future sciences and future technology as we prepare for the [UAE] centenary to ensure a better future for our generations.”

Launching the UAE Centennial 2071 programme, “the Prime Minster said that its target is to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. However, this vision for our country, and for the region, is not without opponents.

“Our Government is aware of the scourge of extremism and terrorism that threaten world stability and is taking a clear line in the fight against global extremism. When the founding fathers discovered in the early days of our country’s existence that parts of the UAE education system were at risk of being undermined by proponents of political Islam, they did not hesitate to take decisive action and revamp the system. We are a Muslim country, and this an important part of our identity in the 21st century. But we cannot allow our religion to become an instrument in the hands of those who would twist the meaning of Islam and abuse it for their political goals. Today, our government is leading the fight for the hearts and minds of those who are at risk of being misled by extremist messages online. Through a number of institutions such as the Sawab Center, we are systematically countering radical propaganda in the digital space by producing targeted counter-narratives to de-bunk extremist messages and propaganda, rather than ceding the field to the extremists.”

Not all of these policies have always been popular across the region – not in the days of the founding fathers, and not in the present day. Our leadership has taken risks in implementing these policies. But as Nehru famously observed, “the policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.”

The minister stressed that while the “UAE government has been focused on the sustainable development of its economy and the provision of the conditions that ensure the happiness and well-being of its citizens and residents, it has always taken it as its central duty to extend a hand of help and assistance to all those countries and individuals it could reach out to. This was the humanitarian dimension of Sheikh Zayed’s unique leadership, one that is fully reflected in today’s policies. According to OECD reports the UAE, for the past three years, has been the biggest donor country in the world, relative to the size of its economy.

“The UAE’s aid has only humanitarian objectives. It is neither governed by politics nor is it limited by geography, race, colour or religion of the beneficiary. This policy was laid down by the founder President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who stressed that foreign aid and assistance is one of the basic pillars of UAE foreign policy.

“So, to come back to the opening, I believe that the 20th century holds important lessons for the 21st century. Because the 21st century, after all, has not witnessed an “End of History”. The international rules based system – which the UAE supports and depends on – is still in gridlock over some of the most pressing issues on the global agenda, from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to disorderly mass migration, to the degradation of the environment, or the challenges posed by the uncontrolled rise of artificial intelligence.

My lesson for political leadership in the 21st century is that we have to be aware of the consequences of failure: these consequences are staring us in the face from the ruins and missed opportunities of the 20th century. We cannot afford to be complacent, or resign our fate to greater powers. This will require political and moral leadership.”

The minister concluded by affirming that the UAE is “prepared to defend the achievements of the founding fathers of our country. Our region is facing an existential crisis, stoked by outside powers intent on weakening national governments and establishing pliant proxies in their stead. The UAE will continue to confront those outside powers, within the limits of international law and in close cooperation with our allies inside the region. And we have to pro-actively shape the future of our societies, like we do in the UAE by setting challenging visions for the future development of our country.”

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