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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Innovation is not just central to government policy, it is closely tied to the UAE's success and its future

Young thought leaders can change lives for the better, writes Bernardino Leon

Bernardino Leon. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Bernardino Leon. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

With Innovation Month nearing its end, events have taken place across the UAE to encourage government and the private sectors to unite in creating new ideas for a sustainable future. Innovation startups, both local and international, have had the opportunity to present their ideas, products and technologies that encourage the optimal use of environmental resources and increase productivity to an audience of policy makers, scientists, investors and government. The month-long event was designed to help strengthen the UAE’s position on the global stage as an innovation leader in sustainable development and renewable energy.

Innovation has long been central to the UAE government policies, and has been tied closely to the country’s success in creating a sustainable future. As I read about the huge progress being made due to innovation in the energy and sustainability sectors I come away with three main threads of thought.

One, there is much ground to be covered in the energy and sustainability sectors, with nearly 1.2 billion people around the world yet to have any access to modern energy services. Two, the current geopolitical conflicts pose a serious threat to the growing success of the sectors and three, which to me is the most significant, is the fact that today’s youth – tomorrow’s leaders – will play a critical role in building a sustainable future for all.

As Director General of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, I have a responsibility to demonstrate to our students what a sustainable future looks like and what they, as the UAE’s future diplomats and government leaders, can do to achieve this horizon. The EDA students attended several events throughout Innovation Month.

Such exposure is important for our leaders of tomorrow to recognise what is at stake should they fail to prioritise and advance sustainable development, not just in the UAE but across the world.

I find it interesting that with the global focus on energy and sustainability, we see a new type of energy diplomacy emerging. Foreign ministries around the world are becoming more involved in leading strategic international energy cooperation and balancing the ever-increasing demand for energy with protecting the environment.

Indeed, diplomacy is instrumental in the widespread adoption of renewable energy through gaining uptake from governments, businesses and communities. We have witnessed growing cross-border trade in electricity in the EU, resulting in substantial savings for consumers. We have also seen clean energy corridors materialising across Africa and Central America. Now, it is up to diplomats to ensure such initiatives flourish through developing the necessary relationships, frameworks and regulations.

Closer to home, the UAE with its ambitious energy strategy works relentlessly to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is essential that future leaders, both at home and abroad, acknowledge the importance of these efforts. It is also the responsibility of today’s youth to continue this legacy, and build on it through finding new pathways for international cooperation and identifying innovative solutions to ongoing challenges.

Through building synergies that transcend borders, we can make a real impact and change lives for the better. This is the message that I would like the young people of today – the future leaders, policy makers and diplomats – to take away. If you set your mind on working together for the greater good, you can make the world a better place for all.

Bernardino Leon is Director General of Emirates Diplomatic Academy