x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sheikh Zayed's vision lives on all around us

The founder of the UAE's great vision is reflected in the nation he built.

The late Sheikh Zayed was a remarkable leader with great vision. That vision has created what the UAE is today: a country that numbers among the top 10 most competitive nations in the world - just 41 years after its formation.

Since the union of the seven emirates on December 2, 1971, the country has developed at a rapid pace. Simply by looking around, one can see Sheikh Zayed's tangible legacy across the country. Within a few decades, the UAE has been transformed from a desert to a thriving modern state.

But his vision of development has gone beyond infrastructure and landscaping. The late Sheikh Zayed always emphasised the importance of building human capital, saying: "Wealth is not money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies." And so he focused on education as a top priority for the UAE, putting all efforts into raising new generations of educated Emiratis who could work hard to serve their country.

Sheikh Zayed also believed strongly in the role of women in the development of the nation. He stood in the frontline in support of women's rights and empowerment. During his time, women were given the opportunity to hold key positions in government institutions and had integral roles in decision making. Today, the UAE has four female cabinet ministers, nine Federal National Council members and many more women working in various leadership positions across the nation.

Sheikh Zayed cared not only for his own people. His universal respect and tolerance has encouraged people from all over the world to come to the UAE and participate in the process of development. The UAE is now a model for tolerance in the region and one of the most welcoming nations in the world. It hosts more than 200 nationalities of various backgrounds and different faiths.

Sheikh Zayed played a vital role in regional issues; stressing the importance of cooperation and Arab unity; and he established good relations with other countries. He supported the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel and stood by other Arab countries in need. The Arab world will always remember his famous statement: "Arab oil can never be dearer than Arab blood."

In a fitting memorial to the nation's founder, the UAE is marking the day by launching Emirati Humanitarian Work Day. His humanitarian legacy lives on and he'll always be remembered not just by Emiratis but by everyone in this land and many others beyond its borders.