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A lifetime of service by the President of the UAE

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan attending the opening ceremony of the Arab summit in Riyadh March 28, 2007. Arab leaders officially began a two-day summit in Saudi Arabia that relaunched an Arab initiative for peace with Israel Thomson/Reuters
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan attending the opening ceremony of the Arab summit in 2007 that relaunched an initiative for peace with Israel

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi, was elected President of the United Arab Emirates in November 2004, to succeed his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE President from 1971 to 2004.

Sheikh Khalifa presided over a major restructuring of both the Federal Government and the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

A modern visionary

The appointment of a new Cabinet in February 2006, with Vice-President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as prime minister, saw major changes in the government’s structure.

These included new ministries devoted to streamlining and modernising the government, a new focus on community development and an important step towards reforming the political process through introducing indirect elections for half of the Federal National Council’s membership.

Socially conscious

Early in his presidency, Sheikh Khalifa took extensive tours throughout the UAE to study the needs of the northern Emirates. Assessing the need, he commenced a number of projects to build housing and schools and provide other social services.

Sheikh Khalifa also implemented dramatic changes in the government of Abu Dhabi, including improving public services and opening up the economy to encourage investment and public-private partnerships. During the early years of the Federation, he believed it was right and appropriate for government to play the leading role, but now, with a burgeoning private sector and with a well-educated population, the time is right for both local and federal government to step back and concentrate on the core areas of government responsibility.

Global pioneer

While emphasising the need for a restructuring at home, not just in terms of government, but also in how the people of the UAE look at their own societal responsibilities Sheikh Khalifa continued to ensure that the country pursues an active foreign policy.

Sheikh Khalifa demonstrated his commitment to continuing to build relations with other countries. Under his leadership, the UAE provided emergency assistance at times of natural disaster, responding immediately in sending help after events such as Hurrican Irma, which battered the US and Caribbean in 2017, and the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2018. 

A unifier

During his tenure, the UAE became the world’s largest donor of humanitarian assistance relative to national income, as reported by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018.

Sheikh Khalifa was a strong supporter of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), believing that the success and achievements of this body reflect the depth of understanding reached among its leaders.