The UAE Adds Another Notch
14 March 2016
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Saudis and residents of this country often marvel at the progress made by the
UAE. At the heart of that country is the emirate of Dubai, a glistening city
of glass and glitz. But it is not simply the honor of hosting the tallest
building in the world or accommodating a ski slope with real snow smack in the
middle of a desert that continues to bring fame to the country. It is about
the ''can do'' spirit among its public servants, a spirit that somehow is
difficult to find among our bureaucrats here.
The UAE's uniqueness now includes something unheard of anywhere on this
planet. Under the direction of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, the
UAE has announced ministries for happiness, tolerance, youth and the future.
This is a dramatic break from the traditional ministries, departments and
prefectures found elsewhere in the world. As an example of further ''in your
face'' spirit, the country has appointed a 22-year-old woman to be the first
minister of youth, another woman to head the ministry of happiness and finally
another woman to be the minister of tolerance. This makes a total of eight
women in the UAE's 29-member cabinet.
Before we are too quick to dismiss such moves as frivolous, let us hear about
the logic behind them from the architect himself, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid.
Reflecting on the many news reports, stories and media interviews on the
reasons for the new changes in the government, Sheikh Mohammed says that ''the
changes reflect what we have learned from events in our region over the past
five years. In particular, we have learned that failure to respond effectively
to the aspirations of young people, who represent more than half of the
population in Arab countries, is like swimming against the tide. Without the
energy and optimism of youth, societies cannot develop and grow; indeed, such
societies are doomed.''
He continues: ''When governments spurn their youth and block their path to a
better life, they slam the door in the face of the entire society. We do not
forget that the genesis of the tension in our region, the events dubbed the
ĎArab Spring', was born as a result of the lack of opportunities for young
people to achieve their dreams and ambitions.''
Direct in acknowledging the role of the youth of his country, Sheikh Mohammed
justifies his government's decisions by adding that ''we are proud of our
youth. We invest in them and empower them precisely because they are our
future. We believe that they are faster than us in acquiring and processing
knowledge, because they have grown up with tools and techniques that we lacked
at their age. We entrust them with driving our country to new levels of growth
and development, which is why we have now appointed a cabinet minister of
their age and created a special council of youth.''
explaining the reasoning behind creating the post of the minister for
tolerance, Sheikh Mohammed said that lessons should be learned from ''the
hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees in our region that
sectarian, ideological, cultural and religious bigotry only fuel the fires of
rage. We cannot and will not allow this in our country. We need to study,
teach, and practice tolerance and to instill it in our children, both through
education and our own example.''
Sheikh Mohammed emphasizes that ''tolerance is not simply a slogan or a
buzzword, but an ideal we must cherish and put to use. It must be woven into
the fabric of our society to safeguard our future and maintain the progress we
have made. There can be no bright future for the Middle East without an
intellectual restoration that re-establishes the values of ideological
openness, diversity, and acceptance of others' viewpoints, whether
intellectual, cultural or religious.''
As for the happiness of his subjects, Sheikh Mohammed added that ''their
satisfaction with their lives and optimism for the future are crucial to our
work, which cuts across every sector of government. That is why there must be
a minister to guide and follow up with all government institutions. Ours is no
empty promise. We will seek to create a society where our people's happiness
is paramount, by sustaining an environment in which they can truly flourish.
And we hope our formula benefits others in the region.''
Sheikh Mohammed also used this forum to send a message to others in the region
that ''change happens by our hands only. Our region does not need a
super-strong external power to stop its decline; we need the power from within
each one of us that can overcome the hatred and intolerance that has shattered
life in many neighboring countries.''
He said that ''governments in our region and elsewhere need to revise their
roles. The role of government is to create an environment in which people can
achieve their dreams and ambitions, not to create an environment that
government can control. The point is to empower people, not hold power over
them. Government, in short, should encourage and promote an environment in
which people create and enjoy their own happiness.''
Wouldn't it be a better world if every ruler followed Sheikh Mohammed's
example and put those words into action?
The author can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena