x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

A cabinet remade for today and tomorrow

The UAE's reshuffled cabinet indicates the country's ambition while conveying its ironclad commitment to promoting equality

As Hessa Buhumaid (left) and Sara Al Amiri (right). There are more female decision makers in the UAE government than in India.
As Hessa Buhumaid (left) and Sara Al Amiri (right). There are more female decision makers in the UAE government than in India.

In February 2016, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, shared his thoughts on the role of government in shaping the future of the United Arab Emirates. Government, he said, “must be flexible” and responsive to “our youth’s aspirations”. To create such a government, it was essential to people it with “ministers capable of dealing with change”. With the approval of Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed supervised the most substantial restructuring of the UAE’s Government. Important old ministries were merged to improve and streamline their functioning, and new portfolios were created to address the evolving needs of a youthful, dynamic and pluralistic society.

The UAE established a Ministry of Tolerance and appointed 22-year-old woman to lead the Ministry of Youth. As Sheikh Mohammed explained at the time, “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”. The alertness and responsiveness to rapid change that animated the restructuring of the government in 2016 were again in evidence on Thursday, when Sheikh Mohammed reshuffled the UAE’s Cabinet. The final list revealed a cabinet that is well equipped not only to deal with the challenges of the present, but also to prepare us for (and lead us into) the future.

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Everyone seems to agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will be a dominant force in the not too distant future, giving rise to abundant benefits but also serious challenges that range from ethics and application to regulation. Yet there are hardly any governments that have taken concrete steps to grapple with AI and all its implications. The UAE has become a trailblazer, creating a new ministry in the reshuffle dedicated entirely to AI. It is not an exaggeration to say that if you want to get a glimpse of the future, the UAE is the place for it.

The UAE has also established a ministry for food security to ensure that, in our excitement about the future, the most basic needs of the population are not neglected. If newly formed ministries indicate the ambition of the UAE, the reshuffled cabinet’s composition conveys the country’s ironclad commitment to promoting gender equality. As The National reported on Friday, nine of the 31 ministerial positions - spanning culture, science, diplomacy and community diplomat - are now held by women. There are now more female decision-makers in the UAE Government than in India.

Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, had once said that no country could pursue development by leaving behind its women, who form “half the society”. That vision finds expression in the UAE’s reshuffled cabinet as this country marches proudly into the future.

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