ABU DHABI // As he starts work in his new job as Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the country's longest-serving minister, says he will make developing the human resources of the nation his key priority.
He sees many parallels between his new role and his previous work in the education sector. "The future of the UAE will depend on how we develop human resources and I will continue to work diligently in the interest of our future generations," he said.
"Culture and heritage always take a very prominent place in our strategy as a Government. Human resources is the most prominent component of this strategy and takes priority, so my responsibility as a minister for youth emphasises the importance of youth for the future prosperity and vitality of the UAE."
During his 21 years as the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research - and during his a two-year stint as Minister of Education - Sheikh Nahyan actively and passionately worked to get as many Emiratis into higher education as possible, while pushing to achieve ever-higher standards across the country's schools and universities.
He says this attitude will continue into his work with young people, ensuring that the values and high standards set by educational institutions are upheld.
"My greatest achievement - and a source of pride and satisfaction - is when every day I hear how well our graduates have been doing and participating in the country," he said. "You see how good people are and how multicultural and global they are. It is an asset to our country and there is no greater reward for any civil servant.
"We have the confidence in our young people that they can reach the highest standard of achievement, no matter how high the bar is, and they have proved that our people, given the chance, can reach the highest level."
One of his most notable moves as Higher Education Minister was to actively push the UAE's federal universities to teach in English.
"I believe in it, without any disregard or less importance to our own language. Our institutions are built to be bilingual - our graduates are expected to be fluent and articulate in both languages.
"We are proud of our language, and the English language opens doors for us and allows us to keep up with developments in innovation and technology - the language of knowledge is English whether I like it or not."
And while the UAE should look outward, Sheikh Nahyan also wants to build on the work already being done to bring UAE culture to an international audience.
"We are not starting from scratch, we have a wealth of achievements. We have a great number of museums now, both local and international. We have been holding art fairs that are world-renowned.
"The UAE is a crossroads between the east and west, a crossroads of cultures and people trading and exchanging culture and ideas."
Cultural values are dear to Sheikh Nahyan. He holds a majlis every day, hosting local and foreign guests of all backgrounds, and inviting them to discuss any matters of importance or concerns.
Describing the UAE as an "international hub" he says "we [the Government] take our position as a responsibility and not as an authority."
Sheikh Nahyan remains optimistic for the future of the UAE, but says there is still a great deal of work to be done. "Our challenge is to keep our heads while others about us are losing theirs - to try to concentrate on the development of our own institutions and society and, most importantly, build and sustain good living standards for our people."