x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

FNC role is to listen as well as speak

One of the important roles of the FNC members to listen to what Emiratis across the country are telling them about the impact of policy

Although the Federal National Council rarely uses its power to propose legislation, it has an important role in scrunitising policy, questioning ministers and in providing a mechanism for nationals to make their concerns heard.

It is this last aspect, that of representation, which is often overlooked, because it is, necessarily, conducted in the background. As The National reported yesterday, while there are some on the FNC who speak regularly, there are others who keep a lower profile. Judged by the number of questions asked, their work can be eclipsed by more prolific speakers. But talking in public is not the only way to be effective.

There is, generally, a lack of certainty within and without the FNC over how, precisely, to measure the performance of representatives. As with other countries, the attendance of members is measured, but beyond that it can be difficult for the public and for the members themselves to know exactly how they are performing.

One way, of course, is to speak during the sessions and ask questions of ministers. But there are others, which can be just as important. Representing a diverse community, from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah, takes different management styles. As this newspaper’s report pointed out, many of the representatives, and this especially applies to the elected representatives, spend time meeting Emiratis, listening to their concerns and understanding their issues.

Such dialogue is vital for proper representation. With so much of the business of government conducted in the capital Abu Dhabi, it is important that the Government can adequately assess the impact of its policies in the distant parts of the country. What works in the urban centres of Abu Dhabi and Dubai may have a different effect elsewhere.

At the same time, policy that is not required, or not required to the same extent, in the two biggest cities might be needed in the northern emirates, and the Government thus needs the representatives of the FNC to raise these concerns. For Emiratis living in the Northern Emirates, their FNC representatives are a way of making sure their needs are voiced to the people who make the decisions.

While it is necessary for FNC members to speak, it is also worth remembering that much of the most important work of the FNC is sometimes conducted far away from the corridors of power.