Organised by the Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs (MFNCA), in collaboration with United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), the 11th Building Political Awareness for University Students forum shed light on the achievements the UAE has made in its political empowerment journey, which began in 2005.
The forum highlighted how the UAE’s efforts towards political empowerment succeeded in motivating citizens to actively participate in the national decision-making process, inspiring all segments of the community – particularly, youth and women – and engaging them in the UAE’s parliamentary work, among other domains.
In a video message at the opening of the event, His Excellency Dr. Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser to H.H. the President of the UAE, and Chancellor of UAEU, said: “The legislative system in the UAE works in harmony with the executive authority and strives to support it in decision-making and in creating the necessary conditions to prepare young men and women to become more involved and contribute more to public life and address the country’s issues. We are in the process of preparing for the UAE’s Centennial, which compels us to ensure the continuity of these important activities, in order to highlight the UAE’s political efforts, raise political awareness among university students, and move forward towards a bright future for our country.”
“We must not forget that safeguarding the UAE’s achievements and advancing them forward is a responsibility for each and every one of us,” H.E. Nusseibeh added. “Protecting our accomplishments is essential for outlining our plans for the next 50 years, strengthening the development process, cementing the UAE’s global leadership, and assuming the top global ranks across all sectors by our Centennial.”
In her speech at the forum, H.E. Shamma bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, said: “The UAE has intensified its efforts to empower a generation of politically savvy youth, equipped with knowledge and awareness to be ‘partners in our success’ and contribute to shaping their country’s future and ensuring its prosperity.”
“The Building Political Awareness for University Students forum is a landmark initiative aimed at promoting a culture of political participation, especially among young people, whose aspirations can shape a better future, and whose skills and energy can drive the UAE’s sustainable development and assert the country’s leadership in all sectors. Our wise leadership puts its trust in and offers support to our youth as they work to make their mark across economic, social, and political sectors. We firmly believe that young people are our country’s true wealth and a guarantee for its continuous development, prosperity, and influential global position,” H.E. Al Mazrouei added.
For his part, MFNCA Undersecretary H.E. Tariq Hilal Lootah said: “This year’s Building Political Awareness for University Students forum is held under the title ‘Sheikh Khalifa and the Political Empowerment Process’, underlining the tremendous role that the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan played in that regard by launching the Political Empowerment Programme in his speech on the 34th UAE National Day in 2005, with the aim of creating the necessary conditions for empowering citizen to be more engaged and make greater contributions.”
“The youth played a notable and significant part in the empowerment process, as clearly demonstrated in the previous election cycles where many of the winners were young people with promising ideas and a thorough knowledge of the specificities of our Emirati society, which stem from its values and heritage,” H.E. Lootah noted. “This, in turn, had a noticeable impact on the discussions held in the Federal National Council over the past four Legislative Chapters.”
Meanwhile, H.E. Dr. Omar Al Nuaimi, Secretary-General of the FNC, said: “When establishing our country and its institutions, the Founding Fathers of the UAE set their sights on being an advanced modern state in terms of the organisation of its sovereign institutions and authorities. The Federal National Council represents the modern form of the ‘Shura’ and participation principles that were rooted in the Emirates’ governing practices before the Union.”
In his speech at the forum, H.E. Al Nuaimi explained how the FNC practices the principles of Shura and participation, and how this practice has evolved over the years, especially after the empowerment phase, where half of FNC members became elected.
Speaking on the topic of ‘Global Indicators for Political Empowerment Results’, H.E. Shamsa Saleh, CEO of the Dubai Women’s Establishment, Secretary-General of the UAE Gender Balance Council, noted that: “The UAE leadership’s commitment to supporting women and ensuring gender balance over the past decade has led to a notable increase in women’s participation in political life. The UAE made great progress in its ranking on global competitiveness indexes when it comes to gender balance, as well as on women’s representation in parliament, advancing to 11th place globally and the first in the Arab world on the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) in 2022, up from 49th place globally on the same indicator in 2015. This is an advancement of 38 places in just seven years on a critical global indicator.”
For her part, Prof. Ahlam Al Lamki, Head of the Research and Development Department at the General Women’s Union (GWU), discussed ‘The Political Empowerment of Women’, saying: “Political participation is essential for the success of the UAE’s efforts to promote the UAE’s political development, given that women are indispensable strategic partners. Furthermore, the presence of women in the Federal National Council is an affirmation of the complementary role they play alongside men in reviewing draft legislation, providing feedback, and providing an alternative point of view to complement men’s views on various societal issues.”
Speaking on ‘The Role of Higher Education Institutions in the Political Empowerment of Youth’, H.E. Dr Yousef Al Hassan, Emirati writer, thinker, diplomat, and retired ambassador, said: “Political awareness is a national necessity and one of the most important factors for social advancement and stability, considering the rapid developments and wide range of challenges facing the world today. Young people’s awareness and participation in the political process, their ability to analyse and think rationally and objectively, and make future projections based on political and social factors is crucial to the advancement of the nation and its prosperity.”
“Universities play an extremely important role here as the driving power behind promoting research, and developing the intellectual, educational, and creative abilities of students,” H.E. Al Hassan added. “Investing in youth, the largest group in our society, is investing in a sustainable future, and this requires efforts to be exerted in education, qualification, training, as well as in building public awareness to enable young people to participate, actively and responsibly, in the advancement of their country and in securing their own future.”
The agenda of activities for the Building Political Awareness for University Students forum included a panel discussion titled ‘The Role of the Family in Promoting Political Awareness’, featuring three members of the UAEU faculty: Dr. Maryem Lootah, and Dr. Mohammed Aljanahi, along with Dr. Moza Al Qubaisi from Abu Dhabi Police. The session focused on the distinguished role that Emirati families play in raising future generations with advanced awareness of the country’s issues and a sense of belonging to the UAE, inspiring them to work and use their skills to serve the country and advance all sectors. This is essentially what has enabled the UAE to make remarkable achievements over the past 50 years, and will be a pillar for continuing on the same path of success in the 50 years to come.
The forum also included a student discussion panel about the research competition that was announced during last year’s edition, as well as a ceremony to honour the winners of this competition, where Sarah Sorour Al Shamsi won first place, followed by Salama Khalfan Al Sheryani in second, and Al Yazia Abdullah Al Mazrouei in third.
Meanwhile, the forum saw the MFNCA showcase its digital and smart projects designed to raise political awareness, namely, the virtual reality glasses initiative – ‘You in the Federal National Council’; the interactive screens of the ‘Electoral Process Journey’; and the ‘Election Statistics Map’ initiative, which provides access to information on electoral centres, in addition to the electronic voting system. These initiatives help raise political awareness among students, motivating them to actively fulfil their national duty in the upcoming election.