#UAENationalDay45: WAM Report – The Federal National Council and new Ministries

ABU DHABI, 29th November, 2016 (WAM) — On the occasion of the 45th National Day celebrations of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, has issued a series of reports regarding the achievements of the state over the past year. In part six, the Federal National Council, FNC, and the introduction of new Federal Ministries are highlighted The FNC, formed under the Provisional Constitution of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, is the fourth federal authority in terms of order in the hierarchy of the five federal authorities named in the constitution, namely: the Supreme Council of the Federation, President and Vice-President, Federal Cabinet, the Federal National Council, and the Federal Judiciary.

The 40-members advisory council is a member of the International Parliamentary Union, IPU, as well as the Arab Parliamentary Union, APU, and its official mandate is to provide for public debate of legislation and discuss proposals and plans of various federal ministries, entities and public institutions.

In 2006, the UAE established an Electoral College system, wherein half of the FNC’s 40 seats were chosen by designated electors. In line with the UAE’s commitment to expand political participation among citizens in a measured and sustainable way, the size of the UAE’s Electoral College greatly increased for the 2015 election.

In the latest elections, the total number of registered voters was 224,281 and of them, 79,157 cast their votes, representing 35.29 percent of the general electorate.

According to a report of the Ministry of State for Federal National Council, FNC, Affairs released in November 2016, over 92.9 percent of voters and candidates were satisfied with the electoral process and procedures at all polling stations.

Along with the Federal National Council Elections 2015 Report, the Federal National Council Elections Committee published supplements about governance, election results, and statistics.

Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Federal National Council Affairs, said, “This is a highly important report, as it allows us to thoroughly look into the results and achievements registered during the elections, which were a milestone in the political empowerment programme launched by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It encourages us to learn from the results to further develop the programme.”

Al Kaabi added, “We are always looking to draw lessons from our experiences. This report allows us to look back on our processes and plans and build on them to keep improving our electoral process moving forward, adhering to the highest standards and best international electoral practices.”

A total of 1,378 votes were cast in the early voting stage at embassies and diplomatic missions of the UAE around the world, demonstrating that holding elections in the UAE’s embassies encouraged overseas Emiratis to exercise their voting rights.

The report also revealed that the Federal National Council Elections Committee allowed UAE-based public-interest organisations to assist in monitoring the elections by sending representatives to any polling station in the country, provided they follow the rules set by the Committee in this regard. The Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal Consultants sent 10 representatives and the Emirates Human Rights Association, EHRA, sent 13 representatives.

On another note, the study affirmed that Emirati women were adequately represented and received widespread support, adding that women’s participation in the Cabinet and the FNC reflects the political maturity of UAE society and leadership, and their confidence in the country’s women and their ability to play a vital role in building the future.

Meanwhile, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced on 8th February, 2016, the largest structural shake-up in the federal Government since the country was founded.

In an unprecedented social-media dialogue during the World Government Summit, Sheikh Mohammed consolidated some ministries and established new entities in health and education. “Governments must be flexible. We don’t need more ministries, but more ministers capable of dealing with change,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The announcement affected organisational structure and functions of key ministries, and included the support of several new ministers of state to meet the ongoing demands of an evolving economic and social landscape. “The new Cabinet focuses on the future, youth, happiness, developing education and combating climate change,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said.

Eight new ministers, five of them women, have joined the Federal Government in the biggest shake-up in its history.

The new government has seen the addition of portfolios for Tolerance (under Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi), the Future (Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi), Youth (Shamma bint Sohail Faris AlMazrui), Happiness (Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi) Climate Change and Environment (Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi) and Community Development (Najla Al Awar).

Supporting the education sector, two new state minsters were named in addition to the current minister, as well as the formation of the Supreme Council for Education to oversee their work, along with the formation of the Youth Council and the Council of UAE Scientists.

Among the major changes, a Minister of State for Happiness will have responsibility to “align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction”, and the Minister of State for Tolerance, will “instil tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society”.

The average age of the new ministers is 38, and the youngest is Shamma Al Mazrui, 22, the new Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who will also preside over the Youth National Council.

A greater focus on disease prevention is reflected in a renaming and restructuring of what has now become the Ministry of Health and Prevention, while an independent entity was created to oversee and manage public hospitals.

In foreign affairs, the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development was merged with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will now deal with UAE foreign aid. Two ministers of state were given the responsibility of overseeing foreign aid and improving international relations.

The Ministry of Labour was renamed the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, and will now incorporate Tanmia, the National Human Resources and Employment Authority.

The Government also now has a Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, whose purpose will be to develop and monitor programmes and legislation to preserve a clean environment for the next generation.

Sheikh Mohammed said that the past decade had been one of establishing strategies and systems, and “the next decade will be a confident leap into the future with all its challenges, competitiveness and variables”.

Explaining the logic behind the new appointments, Sheikh Mohammed addressed the situation in the Middle East related to the lack of opportunities for young people, the regional events which led to the creation of the tolerance portfolio, the importance of happiness for productivity and economic development, plus the country’s need to prepare for a post-oil future.

‘’Why, everyone seems to want to know, did we establish Ministries of Happiness, Tolerance, and the Future, and why did we appoint a 22-year-old Minister of Youth? The changes reflect what we have learned from events in our region over the past five years,’’ His Highness said.

“In particular, we have learned that failure to respond effectively to the aspirations of young people, who represent more than half of the population in Arab countries, is like swimming against the tide. Without the energy and optimism of youth, societies cannot develop and grow; indeed, they are doomed.

“We are proud that the UAE is a young country. And we are proud of our youth. We invest in them and empower them precisely because they are our future. We believe that they are faster than us in acquiring and processing knowledge, because they have grown up with tools and techniques that we lacked at their age. We entrust them with driving our country to new levels of growth and development, which is why we have now appointed a cabinet minister of their age and created a special council of youth.”