Parliamentary life in the UAE started long before the formation of the Union through the councils of the Rulers of the Emirates. These councils acted as key meetings for the exchange of views and information between the Rulers and citizens to treat the latter’s concerns and to respond to their wants and needs.The subsequent establishment of the Union led to a Constitution that affirmed the desire of the UAE’s Rulers to lay the creation of a federal government built on solid foundations that would prepare the people for a free and dignified constitutional life, and a democratic parliamentary system with integrated components. As such, Article (45) of the Constitution stipulates that the Federal National Council (FNC) shall be the 4th (federal) authority in the hierarchy of the five federal authorities provided for in the Constitution.
Accordingly, the FNC was established in 1972 as the most prominent body for citizen participation in political decision-making in the country. This was confirmed by H.H Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in his speech delivered at the opening of the first ordinary session of the first legislative chapter of the Council on February 13, 1972, when he noted that: “This country is engaged in creating life on the soil of this good land, and building a brilliant, bright and prosperous future for us and for the coming generations”.
The FNC contributes to political decision-making in the State by discussing and approving federal laws, regulating society’s affairs, dealing with questions addressed from its members to concerned ministers, and exchanging opinions on general topics with the government for the interest of the country and its citizens.
The empowerment programme was launched by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his speech on the occasion of the 34th National Day in 2005, which activated the powers of the FNC and granted it full authority to support the executive leadership, making it the largest and most effective council to deal with UAE people’s issues and concerns, giving them full access to opportunities. It was established on the values of engagement and the consultative approach of Al Shura, thereby paving the way for better participation of the citizens in political life.
The process of activating the role of the FNC began through the election of half of its members through electoral bodies, and the appointment of the other half by the Rulers of the Emirates, as a start to a successful process of participation and interaction in political life from the people of the UAE. Accordingly, four elections have been held to date to select half of the members of the FNC. (2006, 2011, 2015 and 2019).
The most prominent initiative in the fourth cycle of the FNC elections was the issuance by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the State of Resolution No. (1) of 2019, which amended a number of provisions of the President of the UAE’s Decision No. (4) of 2006 concerning the manner of electing the emirates’ representatives in the FNC. The amendments focused on raising women’s representation in the council to 50 percent. The decision preceded the implementation of Federal Supreme Council Resolution No. (1) of 2019 amending some provisions of Federal Supreme Council Resolution No. (4) of 2006 regarding determining the method for selecting UAE representatives in the FNC (and its amendments).
This historic resolution marks a significant milestone for the UAE’s global leadership journey in the field of women’s empowerment which is strengthened in all fields, particularly in the field of parliamentary work. The country has established a firm framework of increasing the role of women in government through the policies and initiatives it has enacted at both the local and federal level.
Also, constitutional amendment No. (1) was Issued in 2009, which stipulated for the extension of the term of the FNC from two to four years, and the extension of term of the session from six to a period of not less than seven months. The Council was also granted greater independence in the drafting of its internal regulations in addition to expanding the Council’s specialties in relation to international treaties and conventions concluded by the Government.