x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE founding President’s deep concern for the environment

Countless universities, mosques, infrastructure and institutions have been named after Sheikh Zayed since his death in 2004.

During his 33-year reign, the UAE’s founding President, Sheikh Zayed, built a formidable humanitarian and environmental legacy.

Sheikh Zayed believed human beings were the core of any civilisation. He said no matter how many buildings the country constructed, “human beings make up the true spirit of everything, as they are able with their arts and skills to maintain and upgrade these constructions, improve them, and prosper with them”.

In 1983, he oversaw the creation of the UAE’s independent Red Crescent Authority. Since then it has carried out humanitarian projects in more than 100 countries, responding to emergencies and implementing health programmes.

In 1998, the UAE was the only Muslim country to join Nato’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Sheikh Zayed organised a humanitarian relief effort carried out by the Red Crescent Authority to rebuild the country’s war-torn infrastructure.

In 1992 he set up the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, which works in both the UAE and abroad to provide disaster relief and to fund mosques, schools, Islamic cultural centres and scientific research centres.

Foreign aid was a pillar of Sheikh Zayed’s foreign policy, because he believed that there was “no true benefit for us from the wealth that we have unless it does not also reach those in need, wherever they may be, and regardless of their nationality or beliefs. That is why we have ensured that our brothers and our friends have shared in our wealth.”

While Sheikh Zayed was passionate about social and economic development and sustainability, he was equally considerate of the environment. He was the first head of state to receive the WWF’s highest conservation award, the Golden Panda.

On the UAE’s first Environment Day in 1998, he said: “We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations.

“With God’s will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.”

Sheikh Zayed founded the Federal Environment Agency and Abu Dhabi’s Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency – both devoted to environmental conservation and regulation. Although the former was dissolved, it survives in spirit as the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

It was this vision that inspired initiatives such as the Zayed Future Energy Prize – itself a testament to the longevity of his policies and leadership.

Sheikh Zayed said: “He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn.”

Since the founding father’s death in 2004 countless universities, mosques, infrastructure and institutions have been named after him.