ABU DHABI – The United Arab Emirates proudly celebrates its 52nd Union Day on 2nd December, 2023, a day that marks the unity of the emirates and commemorates the country’s founding in 1971 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his fellow founding fathers. This day serves as a reminder of the UAE’s journey from a young nation to a prominent global player.
As we reflect on the past year, we recognise the remarkable strides made in various fields, reinforcing the UAE’s status on the world stage. Our achievements are not only a testament to our leadership’s vision but also to the hard work and dedication of our people. This report aims to highlight the key accomplishments and developments in the UAE throughout 2023, underlining our commitment to growth, innovation, and prosperity.
Development Journey: Celebrating a Year of Achievements
The year 2023 has been significant for the UAE, with numerous achievements at the national, regional, and international levels. The “Projects of the Fifty” initiative, launched to celebrate the nation’s Golden Jubilee, continued to play a pivotal role in shaping our development strategy.
This initiative encompasses a series of ambitious projects aimed at enhancing the UAE’s economic and social landscape, fostering a knowledge-based economy, and ensuring long-term sustainable development.
Today’s Economy, for Tomorrow
In 2023, the UAE has further solidified its position as a leading global economy, characterised by resilience, diversity, and sustainability. The first half of the year witnessed a historic surge in external trade, with the total trade volume exceeding 1.239 trillion dirhams, marking a 14.4% increase compared to 2022. This remarkable growth reflects the country’s strategic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and conducive business environment.
Key sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism have seen substantial growth, contributing to the nation’s economic diversification efforts. The UAE’s commitment to innovation and digital transformation has also attracted significant international investments, further bolstering its economic stability and future growth prospects.
The UAE continues to focus on space and its sciences, striving for a pioneering role in this sector. In September, the country celebrated the return of Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi to Earth after a long mission in space, achieving a major milestone as the first Arab astronaut to spend an extended period at the International Space Station and perform a spacewalk.
This accomplishment follows the achievements of Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to reach the ISS, and the success of the Hope Probe mission two years prior. The UAE demonstrates strong determination to fulfill its vision of becoming a leader in space, science, and technology development, and building a sustainable space sector.
The UAE is also preparing to launch the “Mohammed Bin Zayed Sat” (MBZ-SAT) in 2024, which will be the largest and most advanced satellite, continuing to enhance its scientific contributions in space in collaboration with its partners.
Inaugurating 2023 as “The Year of Sustainability” with the slogan “Today for Tomorrow,” the UAE emphasises environmental sustainability and climate change challenges. The UAE is currently hosting the 28th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) at Expo City Dubai until December 12. The conference brings together world leaders and experts in an effort to mitigate the risks facing our planet.
Through this global conference, the UAE prioritises accelerating sustainable development goals and expanding the scope of energy transformations. The focus is on ensuring that the outcome of this global event consists of actionable mechanisms, not just promises, by translating agreements into tangible realities and achievements.
In the face of today’s global challenges, climate change stands as one of the most significant. The UAE remains a global leader in adopting effective policies to address these challenges. The country has undertaken a significant set of policies as part of these efforts, including economic diversification with a focus on a green economy, diversifying energy sources with an emphasis on clean and renewable energy, promoting energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and sustainable urban planning, among others.
The UAE has always viewed climate action as an opportunity to contribute practical solutions to a global issue that affects all countries. This is especially true given its economic diversification efforts and its commitment to creating knowledge, skills, and jobs for future generations.
In alignment with the visionary leadership of the UAE, the COP28 presidency aims through its plan based on four pillars: accelerating the transition to a more organised, responsible, and equitable energy sector, developing climate financing mechanisms, improving quality of life and livelihoods, and supporting the previous pillars by fully involving everyone in the conference’s work system.
The goal is to achieve significant reductions in emissions and build a sustainable future energy system. The COP28 presidency will support the increase of energy efficiency by 2030 through tripling the production capacity of renewable energy sources, doubling low-carbon hydrogen production, and providing sustainable cooling systems accessible to everyone.
The UAE reaffirms its commitment to climate and sustainability issues, not only at the local level but also on the international stage. This commitment is aimed at preserving the environment and ensuring a better future for generations to come. The UAE actively seeks to lend a helping hand to countries and communities worldwide in facing the challenges associated with climate change.
As part of its ongoing pursuit of sustainable development, the UAE places significant importance on supporting climate change mitigation programs. This enables communities to continue their economic and social progress without being adversely affected by climate challenges. To ensure the success of these efforts, the UAE shares its expertise and experiences with other countries, in addition to providing technical assistance to ensure the best outcomes.
Cultural and Natural Heritage Protection
The UAE diplomatic efforts are grounded in culture, education, and innovation, seeking to adopt innovative and effective diplomatic strategies that align with challenges and opportunities. This has contributed to enhancing its position in the Soft Power Index, reflecting the increasing influence of the UAE on the international stage.
The efforts and commitments made by the UAE regarding the protection of human heritage, such as its recent partnership with the African World Heritage Fund to support the preservation of cultural and natural heritage of exceptional global value in Africa, highlight the country’s dedication. This partnership focuses on sites affected by climate change and capacity-building programs for community members.
The UAE has demonstrated its readiness to make effective contributions to the international community through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It has become an integral part of the international dialogue on heritage, education, and culture. This affirms the UAE’s deep commitment to global cultural heritage issues, positioning it at the forefront of efforts to protect and preserve these cultural and natural treasures that are part of human heritage.
The UAE’s unwavering commitment to make effective contributions to the international community through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) enhances global dialogue on the importance of protecting cultural and natural heritage worldwide.
The UAE and Human Rights
The UAE has achieved significant milestones in the field of human rights and continues to forge ahead for the next fifty years to enhance its efforts to maintain its position as one of the best countries in the world for living and working. This is in line with its forward-looking vision and its focus on social and cultural diversity. The UAE government invests in its capabilities to modernise laws and practices that reflect this diversity while respecting its heritage and traditions. The country has made remarkable progress in several areas.
On 4th October, 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the UAE’s fourth human rights report during the 54th session of the Council held in Geneva. The UAE won membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 period for the third time in its history. The country’s election to this seat was a recognition of its ongoing efforts to enhance and protect human rights at the national, regional, and international levels.
The UAE continuously evaluates all international treaties and agreements to ensure their alignment with its national legislation and policies, contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights. In this context, the country is currently working on developing the National Human Rights Plan, which will operationalise recommendations from its fourth periodic review, further promoting human rights.
Membership in the UN Security Council
The UAE’s membership in the UN Security Council emphasised its commitment to mediation efforts, diplomatic solutions to conflicts, and achieving the Council’s goals of protecting international peace and security.
The UAE recognises the importance of maintaining an international system founded on state sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The UAE seeks to enhance international relations in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions.
During its UN Security Council tenure, including two presidencies, the UAE tack played a prominent role in addressing crucial challenges of our time. This included promoting peaceful conflict resolution, prioritising humanitarian relief, safeguarding peace, addressing global health crises, harnessing innovation, developing the international framework to combat terrorism, supporting gender equality, empowering women, and enhancing their meaningful and equal participation in conflict resolution and peace processes. The UAE also emphasised the use of technology to promote peace, counter-terrorism, and respond to and recover from terrorist acts, among other issues.
The UAE co-authored the historical Resolution No. 2686 on Tolerance, Peace, and International Security during its second presidency of the Council in June 2023 along with the United Kingdom. The resolution acknowledges for the first time the direct link between hate speech and extremist actions with the proliferation of conflicts their exacerbation and recurrence.
On the sidelines of the general debate of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a discussion paper aimed at issuing an open global invitation to all members of the international community to work together with new methods and approaches to address the escalating global water scarcity challenge. The aim is to mobilise a coordinated global response to confront this issue, propose a new formula for effective collaboration, and launch a response capable of dealing with this multi-faceted problem, which threatens the security, stability, and prosperity of the world.
The UAE’s Membership in International Organisations
Since the founding of the Federation, the UAE has been committed to enhancing and expanding its international relations through close cooperation with international organisations. Being a member of over 150 organisations worldwide reflects its firm commitment to multilateral cooperation and achieving international priorities across various sectors.
Within the context of international cooperation and building partnerships that benefit the international community and future generations, in addition to the keenness to participate effectively in international forums and organisations, the UAE attended as a guest country for the second year in a row at the group’s meetings and summits, following its successful participation in the Indonesia summit last year.
The UAE is dedicated to working with its international partners through the G20 Framework for Action to promote economic growth and equitable development around the world for the fourth time after its successful participation in the G20 in France in 2011.
During the recent summit, the country’s participation in launching the Global Biofuels Alliance and establishing the economic corridor reflects its role in supporting and enhancing global trade due to its possession of one of the strongest networks of connections with seaports and decades of investment in building massive ports that allow it to serve global trade movement in a way that ensures flow. Smooth commerce shows its efforts to establish international connections and contribute to a more sustainable future.
The UAE’s accession to the BRICS group in 2024 will reflect its keenness on multilateralism in supporting peace and development to achieve the well-being and prosperity of peoples and nations around the world, within the framework of its commitment to multilateral action and constructive dialogue that is supported by effective platforms representing developing and emerging economies at the international level.
Foreign Assistance and Development
The UAE’s efforts in the international community reflect its balanced and responsible approach to dealing with global issues, as it continues to support people affected by crises and disasters without discrimination and works with international partners to build the capabilities of governments and people worldwide.
In terms of national wealth, the UAE remains one of the top donors of international assistance.
The UAE’s relief and humanitarian work is distinguished and leading for several reasons, the most notable of which is that it is an institutional work based on the advancement of many official and private bodies, the number of which exceeds 43 institutions and bodies, and its comprehensiveness, as it extends beyond providing material aid to movement to areas of humanitarian crisis, and direct interaction with their problems.
The UAE has a unique experience in the field of relief and humanitarian work, based on continuity of influence by replacing typical relief operations with the implementation of development projects in the interest of the people of the beneficiary countries, such as building housing and hospitals, power plants, and drilling wells, which has ensured the sustainability of basic resource availability and contributed to improving living conditions in the beneficiary countries.
The UAE’s positions are distinguished by its support of development issues and humanitarian cooperation at the global level, which has earned it a position among the top ten donor countries in the world.
MoFA and the Year of Sustainability
Achieving sustainability has become a fundamental goal for countries around the world. With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a powerful tool to help governments and organisations achieve these goals, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aims to provide seamless and comprehensive services to its clients in line with the “We the Emirates 2031” vision and the UAE’s strategy for government services 2021-2025.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been diligently employing AI and advanced technology in consular services to achieve sustainability. The potential benefits of these innovative initiatives are implemented in line with the wise leadership’s vision in the United Arab Emirates and in pursuit of the “Emirates Centennial 2071” goals, in harmony with the principles of the fifty.
The Electronic Document Attestation System (eDAS), launched in February 2023, is an advanced digital platform that facilitates the attestation process for various types of personal and commercial documents in the United Arab Emirates. The system allows users to submit their documents and applications electronically without the need to present paper documents in person. It uses AI algorithms to verify the authenticity of submitted documents, thereby speeding up the processing time and improving the accuracy of information.
Through the use of AI and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, eDAS helps ensure corporate compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, creating a more transparent and secure environment for all stakeholders.
Additionally, the system features a centralised database that allows for better coordination among various government entities, enhancing collaboration, data collection, exchange, analysis, and increasing opportunities for the private sector in the UAE to achieve sustainability targets.
More importantly, it aligns with the goals set by the United Arab Emirates for the Year of Sustainability, by executing attestation procedures that reduce paper usage and the carbon footprint.
Since the launch of the system, over a million digital attestations have been issued, eliminating the need for stickers and stamps on documents. This has significantly saved time for clients and reduced paper consumption, thereby having a major impact on the service’s carbon footprint and contributing to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability, supporting the UAE’s commitment to reduce emissions and meet its climate change mitigation obligations.
Regarding sustainability, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE has adopted sustainability across all its services. The Ministry is firmly committed to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing energy efficiency practices through a three-dimensional approach that encompasses the environmental, social, and economic pillars of sustainability.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows a comprehensive approach to institutional sustainability. In this context, the Ministry has developed 12 sustainable buildings in several UAE missions abroad, in addition to some Ministry buildings within the UAE. The Ministry is also currently working on adding 10 more green buildings under development, designed to achieve energy efficiency, conserve resources, and reduce the carbon footprint.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the Smart Mission, aiming to improve the efficiency and quality of consular services provided by UAE missions abroad and their accessibility through the use of advanced technology.
Through this project, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also seeks to contribute to the government’s efforts to enhance digital readiness, by ensuring that clients have access to AI-based consular services for virtual consular assistance to citizens and residents, thereby reducing the need for personal visits and saving time, energy, and resources.
The United Arab Emirates’ reliance on AI in consular services demonstrates the country’s commitment to harnessing technology in the path of sustainable development. By streamlining processes, optimising resource use, enhancing security, and providing virtual assistance, the UAE is taking significant steps towards achieving sustainability goals.
This report gives merely a glimpse of what the United Arab Emirates has achieved during this year as it strides firmly towards the future. The nation continues its journey on the path of development, accomplishment, excellence, and leadership, while promoting values of peace, cooperation, tolerance, coexistence, solidarity, and generosity.