Published — Saturday 8 December 2012
Last update 8 December 2012 12:12 am
The United Arab Emirates ended its protection treaty with Britain on Dec. 1, 1971, and so its national day is marked on Dec. 2 every year. The national day was celebrated last week. In terms of history of a state, UAE is a young country that achieved remarkable success, which transformed it into one of the most developed societies in the world. Its achievements can be described as marvelous.
Not very long ago, an Emirati friend and I were attending a student function at one of US Ivey League higher education institutions (Marquette University), when we were approached by two American students (Michael and Timothy) who later became our close friends. The two asked us about the country we belonged to. When we replied, they knew the location of Saudi Arabia but didn’t know where the UAE was located.
In 2003, when I was doing my graduate studies at the University of Memphis in the south of the US, I once had to take my car to a maintenance shop. The maintenance person spoke admirably about the progress the UAE made in various fields that gave the country an international exposure. The comparison between the UAE of the past and the present shows the phenomenal development made by the country that placed it at a high pedestal among the nations of the world.
It is true that the UAE is rich in natural resources. It possesses the seventh largest oil reserves in the world and occupies the same position in terms of natural gas reserves. However, the international status that the UAE has gained has been due to the political wisdom of its leaders, which they have shown since the beginning of the country’s independence by utilizing the revenues of oil and gas sensibly and with responsibility.
Oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the beginning of the 1960s, and the first cargo of crude oil was shipped in 1962, while Dubai exported its oil for the first time in 1969. Soon after the protection treaty ended with Britain, the rulers of the seven emirates voluntarily joined into a political union forming one state called the United Arab Emirates.
This union is the most significant political initiative in the history of the Middle East region and probably the world that paved the way for the tremendous achievement made by the UAE. The form of government of each of the seven emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Qaiwain) is absolute heredity monarchy, but this new form of government maintained the independence of each emirate at the same time entering into a federal-like government, and the result was that every ruler was and is still content and eager to preserve this union headed by one president.
The UAE form of government comprises three branches of government found in almost any state. These are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The UAE's executive branch consists of the president, vice president, prime minister, Federal Supreme Council, and Council of Ministers. The Federal Supreme Council is composed of the emirs of the seven emirates and it elects the president, vice president, members of the Council of Ministers and judges of Federal Supreme Court.
The legislature is the Federal National Council and it is composed of 40 members drawn from all emirates. This council has both a legislative and a supervisory role as stated in the constitution and also carries out the country's main consultative duties. Nonetheless, all emirates have their own secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal and high courts. In other words, each emirate has its own judicial system.
This is a unique union that shows the possibility of different political entities with shared history and culture put together into a functional and satisfactory form of government. This success of the UAE's new form of government is evident by its phenomenal advancement.
The UAE is considered one of the most developed economies and one of the largest in western Asia ranked at No. 13. Also its per capita income is the seventh highest in the world. In addition, it ranks 13th on the Human Development Index.
As per reports, the education system applies modern designs in building schools and colleges and uses updated pedagogical methods. Private schools account for almost 50 percent of the total number of schools and the majority of them are accredited by the European and US organizations. Moreover, international standard is maintained in health care services as well.
Probably, the most challenging issue that may surface any time is the demographic make-up of the population as Emirati citizens only constitute 16.6 percent of the entire population and it is expected to decline to 10 percent in 2020.
The UAE's model for political union demonstrates that it can be adopted by GCC countries to forge a union among its member states, which would ensure continuous progress and prosperity for the Gulf region.