UAE federation offers lessons to the world
Undoubtedly, the declaration of the establishment of the UAE on December 2, 1971 was a great historical event that changed many strategic calculations, whether it is considered from a GCC, Arab or global perspective.
At the GCC level, the establishment of the UAE filled the void left by the British withdrawal from the region. At the time, the Arab world had been weakened by the setback of the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict and by the decline of pan-Arabism after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The establishment of the UAE resulted in the creation of a strong Arab entity, despite all projections that its formation would be impossible. These projections were based on the prior attempts at achieving Arab unity, and on an awareness of the region's tribal nature.
In addition, different parties set up difficult obstacles to the formation of the union. In this context, theFounding Fathers’ sincere push towards unity demonstrated their great political awareness. They realised that the only way to preserve the interests, sovereignty and identity of their people after the British withdrawal was to unify in one self-reliant homeland that would remain steadfast in the face of challenges.
At the Arab level, the establishment of the UAE was an exceptional historical event, because those who worked towards it, led by the late Sheikh Zayed and the late Sheikh Rashid, were not put off by the many previous failed attempts at unification. They were not deterred even though the number of such failures was enough to cause despair and to discourage, hinder and frustrate most efforts at unity.
Thanks to the will and determination of the founding fathers, the UAE was the only Arab union that withstood the challenges and provided a unique model of unity and development to the whole world.
At the global level, the establishment of the UAE improved the security and stability of a region of great importance to the economy, security and stability of the world.
In addition to being a historically significant event, the establishment of the UAE provided important lessons for those working towards unity at any level, place or time.
The first of these lessons is that unity is achieved gradually.
Although the idea of unity preoccupied the mind of the Sheikh Zayed from the first day of his rule of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, on August 6, 1966, he transformed his dream to reality through gradual and calculated steps.
The first step on this path was the 1968 agreement on the integration of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in one union. Further steps followed, until the federation was forged in 1971.
The second lesson is that the UAE has provided the Arab world with a practical model for the creation of a successful union – one based on determination, will and hard work rather than slogans, ideologies, private interests or personal glories.
The UAE’s experience is proof that failure is not inevitable for Arab unity.
The third lesson is that obstacles should not cause frustration.
The years-long process of working towards federation was punctuated by disagreements and problems, but the work towards the ultimate goal never stopped. For example, the original aim was to create a federation of nine emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Fujairah, Qatar and Bahrain.
Although Bahrain and Qatar later chose to be independent and Ras Al Khaimah was late in joining the federation, these setbacks did not stop the efforts towards its creation.
When Ras Al Khaimah finally joined the federation in 1972, the UAE was complete. Its union and the experience of its development show what can be achieved through strong will, determination and the permanent aspiration to achieve first place.
The fourth lesson is that unity cannot be based on mere emotions and slogans. It requires constant and consistent effort to transform its components into a unified reality in which citizens live a proud and honourable life.
At the outset of the UAE’s unification process, there was some scepticism, both at home and abroad, that it would achieve its objectives.
With time, however, and with the dedication and commitment of the wise leadership to working for the welfare and development of every citizen in the UAE, faith in unity deepened in the hearts and minds of citizens.
The united homeland has become an umbrella that gives shade to everyone. The UAE has become a shining example of unity and cohesion on the international front, thus bringing to reality the well-known saying of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces: “Al Bayt Mitwahid” [Our Home is United].
Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is the director general of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research