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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Sheikh Zayed didn't just build a nation. He invested in and empowered its people. 

Next year will be the Year of Zayed. Khalid Al Ameri looks at some of his legacy

Next year has been declared the “Year of Zayed" by Sheikh Khalifa, the President. As a man, a leader and humanitarian, Sheikh Zayed was so dearly loved by his people.

Some readers, perhaps those from outside the country or those who were not living in the UAE when he was alive, may wonder why, so let me elaborate.

I remember finding a picture of Sheikh Zayed that included the words: “they said I could invest in anything, so I invested in people”. For me, those words speak louder than any, and they explain why the people of the UAE, and many in the region and around the world, held Sheikh Zayed in such high regard.

His leadership is not just remembered for all that he built, it is remembered for all he did for others.

My father went from being a young man working on a stall dreaming of speaking English, to being given an opportunity to study business and finance in the United Kingdom due to the educational support policies put in place by Sheikh Zayed. Upon returning to this country, my father went on to build a home for us through the national housing programme. In retirement, he has also benefited from the social programmes, including access to healthcare, that were put in place during the 1970s and 1980s.

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Sheikh Zayed also did plenty for those around the world. In 1971, under his directive, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development was established "to provide financial resources to help developing countries achieve sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty".

For me that shows a man who had a vision of humanity and development beyond his country's borders.

More than 80 of the world’s countries have had access to billions of dirhams of funding since its inception.

Sheikh Zayed wanted to empower people. He believed that people regardless of race, colour or religion deserved to live with dignity, that they deserved a chance to live a better life and that they deserved a chance to provide for their families, a chance to live free and be happy.

In today's world, where fear is being used as a source of power and influence, 2018 will be a great reminder that the love of people is the greatest source of power a country, a government and a leader can have.

So for me, 2018 is a celebration of what Sheikh Zayed loved and worked for most: the people. It’s a celebration of humanity, it’s a celebration that with kindness, love and tolerance, things can and will become better.

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