The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven emirates that was established in 1971 after the withdrawal of the British from the region. Britain had assumed the control of affairs in the Trucial Coast, having signed several treaties with the region’s local leaders. The country was not colonized despite being a British residency. The rich history of the country revolves around the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. The principles of freedom and tolerance adopted by the leader in his governance remain to be a priority to the country. The government of the UAE borrows heavily from the traditional models of leadership and bases its undertakings on consensus. To this effect, the country’s constitution has instituted structures that enable people to take an active part in their governance. Despite the cultural and ethnic disparity among the communities that co-exist in the UAE, the country is peaceful as the government guarantees the recognition everyone’s rights and freedoms.
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The History of the Development of the UAE
In comparison to other countries in the Gulf, the UAE is one of the most liberal states despite its conservativeness in the issues of religion and traditions. The country’s suitable geographical location enticed Indian and Chinese traders, and it was highly valued by Europeans, especially the Dutch, British, and Portuguese travellers. Lying on the Arabian Peninsula, the UAE is a country that borders the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the southeastern and northwestern sides respectively. It is neighbored by Qatar to the North, Oman to the east, and Saudi Arabia to the south and west.
The country is a confederation of seven emirates. It was established December 2, 1971. On this date, six emirates, including Ajman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain, came together to form the federation. On February, 10 1972, the seventh emirate Ras Al Khaimah became part of the Federation. Because of the treaties established between Great Britain and the emirates in earlier years, the latter was in the past referred to as the Trucial States.
Relics discovered in the country point to the long history of human inhabitation and commerce. Some ethnic groups occupied the region along the inland and the shoreline. In the 7th century, the coming of heralds from Prophet Muhammad resulted in the conversion of the inhabitants of the area to Islam. For years, the region had been engaged in conflicts between locals on the inland, with pirates rummaging the seas and using the country’s coasts as their haven. Britain initiated attacks on the pirates to safeguard its trade with India. These occurrences led to the establishment of ties between the natives of the Trucial States and the British Empire.
Several invasions and bloody clashes occurred along the coastline upon the invasion of the area by the Portuguese Struggles between the nautical people of the Trucial Coast and the British resulted in the dismissal of Ras Al Khaimah by the British military. This led to a series of British accords with the local leaders. The pacts were made formal in 1820 as Britain offered fortification, and in return, the region pledged fidelity. The emirs, acquiescing to a treaty mediated by Britain, vouchsafed not to give away any land to other competing powers or create any truces with any state but Britain. They also resolved to calm subsequent rows in agreement with the British authorities. These pacts precipitated harmony and success along the coast that lasted until the 1930s.
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A decision taken by the British to end the participation in the Trucial States precipitated the need to institute a federation. The inception of this idea was a decision made by the two most significant leaders in the region – Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum. They requested other sheikhdoms to become a part of the federation. Presently, the UAE is a country with a substantially differentiated economy in addition to being a renowned center for tourism, trade, and investment. This essay discusses the UAE based on its colonization, foundation, principles, values, and system of its government.
Colonization of the UAE
The UAE was part of the British Residency that was an approved colonial part of the British domain in the Persian Gulf from 1763 to 1971. The United Kingdom exerted variable extents of administrative and commercial regulation over a number of states in the Persian Gulf, including the Trucial Coastal states, currently known as the United Arab Emirates. The involvement of the British in the Persian Gulf was majorly a profit-generating quest. Therefore, the British Raj was hesitant to accept the protection of the British and Indian consignments from incursions by the Qawasim marauders (“History of United Arab Emirates”, 2010).
The Qawasim extended their terrorist activities along the shoreline of India to a few miles within Bombay. This menace spawned a military offensive by the British in 1819. The expedition destroyed the Qawasim confederacy, and as a result, the General Treaty of Peace was ratified in 1820. This treaty was modified, becoming the foundation of the British rule in the Persian Gulf for over a century. The convention evidently worked in favour of the interests of the British Empire. It was rationally altruistic, targeting to safeguard the welfare of all the involved factions. As the result of the treaty, the activities of pirates in the Persian Gulf were successfully terminated (“History of United Arab Emirates”, 2010).
Following the raids of the Qawasim by the Bani Yas community, the British enacted a treaty, marking the advent of the Trucial system. The Trucial system was formally made permanent in 1853 by the Treaty of Maritime Peace in Perpetuity. Upon the passage of the Exclusive Agreement in 1892, the British abandoned the initial policy that barred them from meddling in the internal activities of the Trucial leaders. The Trucial Sheikhs were proscribed from abandoning power and dominance without the accord of the British. In addition, the British became in charge of external affairs and the protection of the Trucial States. This was the point of shift of Britain’s priorities from merely being commercial to being strategic. The Executive Agreement became the foundation of the British rule over the Trucial Coastal states. Thus, they protected the sheikhdoms but they did not officially govern them as a colony (Tristam, n.d.).
Founders of the UAE
Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan played a pivotal role in the conception of the establishment of the Federation (The Cultural Division of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, 2011). Moreover, he is regarded as the founder of the UAE. Sheikh Zayed was born in 1918 to a younger brother of the Abu Dhabi leader during those times. In 1918, like the other Emirates along the Trucial Coast, Abu Dhabi signed an accord with the British. The Emirate’s economy markedly depended on small-scale agriculture in the sparsely distributed oases, pearl-diving, and fishing. Upon the collapse of the world pearl market, the economy of the already financially-crippled Emirate significantly deteriorated (“H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan”, n.d.). Moreover, Sheikh Zayed’s household, among other families, was affected by these events.
During the childhood of Sheikh Zayed, the education system of the Emirate had not been modernized, and no proper schools had been established. Like his mates, the Sheikh acquired original teachings on fundamental Islam doctrines from the resident Islamic Imam (United Arab Emirates University, 2003). Being zealous about learning, he accompanied the Bedouin people to the desert and collected information about the people’s way of life, their skills, and their tactics for enduring rough climatic conditions.
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Not only did Sheikh Zayed learn about his country in his early years but he also came into contact and interacted with the locals. By the time of his teenage years, the Sheikh had won the trust of many individuals. In fact, when foreign petroleum companies visited the region to conduct surveys on the deserts, Sheikh Zayed was tasked with the duty of taking and showing them around. He performed all the duties bestowed upon him impeccably, becaming the most eligible person to assume the role of the Sheikh’s representative in Al Ain. Sheikh Zayed’s responsibility as Ruler’s Representative entailed governing Al Ain in addition to other administrative duties (“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan aL Nayhan”, 2008). Therefore, young Zayed received the prospects of learning the principles of governance and exposure to the larger world.
With time, Ethnic groups from the desert and the interior parts of Oman revered Sheikh Zayed as a prolific arbitrator and peacemaker and an administrator who served justice (“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan aL Nayhan”, 2008). Sheikh Zayed was also tasked with the duty of overseeing the growth of Al Ain. Mobilizing the meager resources availed to him, he made sure that the ‘falajes’ were abandoned, but he offered a newer alternative that would facilitate the development of crop production in the locale. The Sheikh worked with limited assets to spur the expansion of Al Ain and to engender fresh positivity among the residents of the region.
During his first visit to Europe, Sheikh Zayed went to Paris to attend the proceedings on an oil disagreement. The Sheikh was impressed by the social amenities, such as hospitals and schools, that were at the disposal of the people of Europe. He resolved to establish such facilities for his constituents once Abu Dhabi had gained financial stability. With the incoming revenues from the petroleum industry, the Abu Dhabi people became enthusiastic about participating in the development that was already evident in other oil-rich countries in the region (Heard-Bey, 2004). His proven and outstanding performance record of accomplishment as the Ruler’s representative made him the best choice for the succession of the Ruler of the Abu Dhabi Emirate. He ascended to power in August 1966.
Returns from the oil kept increasing through the years with the discovery of new fields. In a bid to hasten the establishment of an official government system for Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed initiated an extensive construction project that encompassed road construction, the establishment of schools, hospitals, and housing throughout the Emirate (Wilson, 2013). Sheikh Zayed envisioned that the British would not keep their residency in the region permanent. He saw the necessity of the region’s Emirates coming together in partnership and co-operation to guarantee stability and prosperity.
A few months after Sheikh Zayed had come to power, a British minister contacted him to notify him and the other Rulers of the Trucial Coast that the British intended to withdraw their military and administrative influence over the region at the end of 1971. Sheikh Zayed readily began implementing his plan. Thus, he met with the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum. The two Sheikhs decided to institute a collaboration between their two Sheikhdoms and requested the other Trucial States, including Bahrain and Qatar, to join the federation. The astuteness of the move was acknowledged everywhere (Heard-Bey, 2004). However, it took some time, and before the seven Emirates finally agreed to form a federation, Bahrain and Qatar opted to continue with the pursuit of independence separately. Nevertheless, they are still in close ties with the UAE as they are all members of the Gulf Co-Operation Council.
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The determination of Sheikh Zayed, his proficiency in pacification, and readiness to find common ground for all parties were requisite for the accomplishment and success of the dialogues. Sheikh Zayed was the preferred candidate for the presidency once the United Arab Emirates federation had been successfully formed. Several years after the Emirates had existed separately, they finally formed a new state, with the flag of the newly born state raised on the second day of December 1971 (“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan aL Nayhan”, 2008). Sheikh Zayed did not relent in overseeing the well-being of his people in the entire country. He was highly regarded by his fellow rulers and citizens for his unwavering enthusiasm in transforming an emerging country to a fast-developing one.
The other Sheiks who took part in founding the United Arab Emirates federation included Sheikh Rashid Al Nuaimi of Ajman, Sheikh Khalid Al Qasim of Sharjah Sheikh Mohammed Al Sharqi of Fujairah, Sheikh Ahmed Al Mualla of Umm al Qaiwain, and Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi of Ras al-Khaimah. The successful formation of the UAE was also a fruition of the efforts of Ahmed al Suwaidi, Adnan Pachachi, Mohammed Habroush al Suwaidi, Dr. Mana Saeed al Otaiba, Sheikh M aktoum bin Rashid, and Mahdi al Tajir who served as key advisers to Sheikh Zayed during the negotiations. A Palestinian attorney and justice, Adi Bitar, contributed immensely to drafting and writing the constitution of the UAE (Wilson, 2013). Sir Geoffrey Arthur, the official British Resident in the Gulf from 1970 to 1971, mediated the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the future UAE federation and brokered an accord of friendship between the two countries. The foundation of the United Arab Emirates was clearly fruition of the efforts of many players, with Sheikh Zayed at the centre of the entire process.
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Principles and Values of the UAE
The foundation of the United Arab Emirates was based on the fundamental principles of acceptance and liberalism towards people and their various beliefs and cultures. These principles originated from the need to establish productive economic, international, social, and political associations. The comprehension of the fact that social morals and standards form the basis of stability, a viable growth, and harmonious co-existence is the key to the development of such a healthy relationship. This attitude forms an integral part of the country’s foreign policy that reflects the readiness of the local people to accept and respect the cultures and beliefs of other communities (“History”, 2008). In addition, it is a culture that is also portrayed in the philosophy formulated by the founding father of the UAE. Sheikh Zayed built stable and long-lasting relations in many parts of the world and provided unparalleled sustenance to the growth and development of his own country and the larger Gulf region.
As a statesman, Sheikh Zayed believed that the resources of the county were meant to be used for the good of all regardless of their position or status. He viewed the resources as an avenue to the attainment of real wealth, which in his perspective was the development of the people, especially the youth (Wilson, 2013). In his outline for development, Sheikh Zayed strongly believed that every citizen had a part to play in the task of nation-building. Believing that the privation of education and progress had hindered women from actively taking part in societal development, he took to ensuring that this problem was resolved promptly. During his tenure, the UAE women became empowered to take an active part in administrative and commercial activities.
The founding father of the UAE facilitated programs intended to preserve the customs and culture of the people. He deemed the familiarization of the youth with the traditions of their ancestors important as it guaranteed continuity. In his opinion, it was vital that the teachings and traditions be passed to future generations (“H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan”, n.d.). Not only was Sheikh Zayed interested in the preservation of cultures but also in the conservation of the country’s natural environment. He made environmental protection a fundamental part of his administration policy. Thus, Sheikh Zayed emphasized that conservation was not just the charge of government alone, but instead, it was also a duty of all citizens.
In his younger days, Sheikh Zayed internalized the teachings of Islam, and they continued to be the pillar of his creeds and principles all through his lifetime. He was a strict and devoted adversary of those who aimed to misrepresent the message of religion to perpetuate punitive beliefs, prejudice, and extremism. From his point of view, Islam was a religion that respected humans and upheld civilization. A Muslim was not expected to cause any harm to humankind. Sheikh Zayed saw Islam as the religion of forbearance, compassion, conciliation and understanding, not one of war (Wilson, 2013). He proclaimed Islamic social justice that required Muslims to respect one other and to treat everyone as special despite their beliefs or race as this was the mark of Islam.
In the authority of the state’s foreign policy, Sheikh Zayed’s strong belief in abstaining from the rules of ancient times in the exploration of possible resolutions led to the adoption of a special approach. It was based on trying to find the middle ground, and to circumvent, if possible, the adoption of any forceful options in the resolution of disputes. Since its inception, the UAE government has held that open-mindedness, dialogue, and readiness to negotiate among various nations would promote the development of good rapports, which would consequently support a peaceful environment and a worldwide co-operation. Conversely, segregation and exclusion would precipitate strife, discord, and negative typecast among communities (“History, 2008”). Therefore, the UAE works towards establishing healthy interactions and candidness towards all people and nations throughout the world by formulating appropriate national and foreign policies.
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Currently, the UAE engages in productive diplomatic interactions with over 182 nations. ? It takes significant steps to ease the misery of people in disaster-stricken countries. Its implementation of sensible political policies permits it to enjoy constructive and long-lasting links all around the world. Locally, the UAE has an exemplary history of coexistence, in addition to its citizens portraying utmost cultural and religious tolerance. Today, people from different ethnic backgrounds are reported reside in the country (“History”, 2008). All these people are under a government that respects and defends their beliefs, customs, and civilizations, and grants them the liberty to practice their religion in an open setting that prevents sectarian intolerance from emerging. The country is a typical example of how positive relations between people with different backgrounds can lead to harmonious coexistence despite the large disparity. It serves as a prototype for supporting the prospect of a viable coexistence between different countries and ethnic groups. ?
System of Government of the UAE
The traditional governments were small. The people held participation and unanimity highly. Traditionally, the council, known as Majlis, was the symbol of the communities’ value for consensus. In this structure, matters pertinent to the community were debated and discussed. Various factions would express their opinions, after which the Sheikh would plan based on the issues raised by the factions. In the traditional setting, one qualified to rule over the emirate if he led the most powerful community. The leaders maintained their legitimacy only if the support of their people remained unshaken. In as much as the legislation was not documented, the people had a strong claim to accessing their ruler openly (UAEPedia, 2016). The ruler was expected to convene an open and regular Majlis, in which members of the community could air their concerns and opinions.
With modernization, the traditional Majlis councils are still quite relevant in the UAE. Moreover, these institutions are an important aspect in the understanding of the system of government of the federation. Even today, rulers of the Emirates and a few members of the senior families continue to organize Majlis to enable the emirs to raise their concerns. This arrangement augments the participation of civilians in political matters in the cultural context (UAEPedia, 2016). Evidently, these aspects of governance have played a major role in maintaining the country’s independent identity in a world of speedy social and economic changes.
As it has been mentioned, organizationally, the UAE is a confederacy of seven sheikdoms. Each of these Sheikdoms has its leader. The local ruler principally determines the steps of modifications in the local government. From this setting, the federal powers have emerged gradually since every Emirate already had already established its own bodies of administration prior to the foundation of the Federation (The Information and eGovernment sector, 2016). The current constitution of the UAE divides powers into legislative, judicial, and executive arms. Further, the executive and legislative powers are subdivided into federal and local emirate powers.
The Constitution institutes the positions of the President and Vice President. The two are elected by the leaders of each of the emirates as they collectively form the Federal Supreme Council. This council also has a Chair and a Vice-Chair, both of whom are elected by the Council. The Constitution also provides for the existence of a Cabinet, under the headship of a Prime Minister who also performs the duty of the head of the government. The UAE government system also includes the Federal National Council that serves as the country’s advisory body. The judicial arm of the government comprises the Federal Supreme Court (UAEPedia, 2016). Responsibilities of the federal authority include education, communication services, transport, security and defence, international relations, banking and currency regulation, labour management, public health, immigration and nationality issues, the deportation of criminals, demarcation of the territorial waters, licensure of air crafts and air traffic control. Items left out by the Articles 120 and 121 of the UAE Constitution fall under the authority of the individual Emirates.
The Supreme Council
The Federal Supreme Council is the most powerful legal entity in the United Arab Emirates. It is charged with the formulation of policies and the approval of other statutes. The Federal Supreme Council comprises the rulers of the seven emirates or their deputies in case they are absent. Every Emirate has one vote in the discussions and resolutions of the Council. The Supreme Council assembles every five years to elect a new president or to endorse the existing one. In case a ruler is not able to attend Supreme Council conventions, he can delegate his Crown Prince to attend the meeting on his behalf (UAEPedia, 2016). However, Crown Princes and Deputy Rulers who attend Supreme Council assemblies on behalf of their rulers do not have formal duties in the council.
The Council of Ministers or the Cabinet
The Council of Ministers is the government’s executive branch. Under the supreme control of the President and the Supreme Council, it oversees all national and international matters in line with the federal laws and the Constitution of the UAE (UAEPedia, 2016). The Council of Ministers is led by the Prime Minister who is appointed by the President after consultation with the Supreme Council. The Prime Minister convenes Cabinet meetings, manages its deliberations, and oversees the ministers’ work. He also controls the synchronization of work among various ministries and other executive bodies in the central government.
The Federal National Council
The Federal National Council plays both an oversight and a lawmaking role. It is composed of 40 members from each of the emirates. Initially, the rulers of the Emirates appointed these members. Currently, each leader picks an electoral college that elects half of the Federal National Council members for their emirate, leaving the remaining half to be appointed by the ruler. Constitutionally, draft laws must go through the Federal National Council for evaluation and approval (UAEPedia, 2016). Most of the amendments and recommendations made by this Council have been accepted and adopted by the government.
The Federal Judiciary
The federal judiciary is composed of the Courts of First Instance, the courts of appeal, and the Federal Supreme Court (UAEPedia, 2016). The Supreme Council appoints the five judges who make up the Federal Supreme Court. These judges determine the legality of federal laws as per the Constitution. They mediate the resolution of disputes between the Emirates and those between individual Emirates and the Federal Government.
After its formation, the UAE set a provisional constitution. This constitution explained the cardinal rules of the legislative and administrative organization of the state. It indicated the central purpose of formation of the Federation, its aims, and constituents at various levels. The Constitution also expounded on the important socio-economic mainstays of the Federation and highlighted public rights, freedoms, and responsibilities (Ministry of Cabinet Affairs & the Future, n.d.b). The Constitution also addressed matters of finance, security, military, and the international, executive, and legislative prerogatives between the Federation and its members.
The provisional Constitution was made permanent in 1996 (Ministry of Cabinet Affairs & the Future, n.d.a). The Constitution of the UAE institutes the basics of the central organization of the UAE. Certainly, the Constitution is a representation of the greatest form of Arab unanimity in current times, and it stipulates the functionality and mandate of the nation’s political bodies. Thus, it provides an authentic voice, through which the government speaks. ?
The United Arab Emirates has developed tremendously since it was formed. Even though it was not colonized, several things in the country were under British control. The withdrawal of Britain from the Trucial States culminated in the establishment of a federation that stands strong till date. The UAE is a classic example of a nation that has transitioned from a phase of underdevelopment to that of unparalleled prosperity as a result of exemplary leadership. Its success and prosperity are the fruition of the efforts of many players under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.
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Hailed as one of the steadiest in the region, the current system of government of the UAE is a product of the determination of several extraordinary leaders. Hungry to establish a long-lasting political system, these leaders worked to ensure that the UAE was self-sustaining. The nation’s prosperity is attributable to its stable political structures and the continued support and contribution of the member Emirates.
The UAE reached major economic milestones under the able leadership of Sheikh Zayed who was an ardent supporter of tolerance and equality. During his tenure, the living standards of the citizens, particularly women, improved tremendously. The government of the UAE encouraged and still focuses on the empowerment of the people by providing equal opportunities for education and employment to males and females. Sheikh Zayed embraced ethical ideals of administration. Now, the country enjoys peace despite the different ethnic groups that inhabit it.
The stability of the country can be attributed to the strength of its system of government that bases its operations upon consensus. With the adoption of a permanent constitution, the UAE has clearly defined structures and institutions with clearly differentiated roles in the management of affairs in the country. The country’s foreign policy emphasizes compromise and avoidance of violent means of conflict resolution. This policy has led to the development of productive diplomatic relations with other nations. The UAE continues to be at the forefront of international pacification and offers humanitarian aid to the countries marred with strife and suffering.