DUBAI // A new government authority has been created to strengthen national identity and develop social services, it was announced yesterday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The Social Development Authority will start providing services by the beginning of next year. In line with objectives laid out in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, which Sheikh Mohammed unveiled last February, the authority is also charged with helping to foster good relations between the city's ethnic communities, the official news agency WAM reported.
The formation of the body is among the most significant steps to help reinforce the national identity since the introduction of the Government's Emiratisation policy, which aims at increasing the number of Emiratis employed in key businesses and industries. A conference on national identity held earlier this year in Abu Dhabi drew more than 500 delegates from across the seven emirates to the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The efforts to preserve the national identity come amid fears that Emirati traditions may disappear as the country continues its rapid development. Nationals are outnumbered by almost six to one and many citizens are concerned the country's identity could be jeopardised by demographics and influences from abroad, particularly the West. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, named 2008 as the "year of national identity", sparking a flurry of official activity aimed at resolving the question of how to maintain the country's Arab identity in an age of globalisation.
Ahmed bin Bayat, the secretary of the Executive Board of Dubai, said the new authority would help the leaders of Dubai to achieve their vision of a harmonious city, which is characterised by cultural and racial diversity. Mr Bayat added the authority would work to develop good relations among the different cultures while also ensuring that the national identity remained preserved. The new body, which would work with the Ministry of Social Affairs, would be responsible for supporting sustainable social development and economic growth in Dubai by providing high-quality social services, he said.