Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Omar Ghobash: UAE striving to attain a 'phase of stability' across region

The government minister and former diplomat hailed Emirati foreign policy efforts

Omar Saif Ghobash, the UAE’s Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Omar Saif Ghobash, the UAE’s Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

The UAE is moving into a fresh phase of bolstering regional stability against the backdrop of turbulence in the Middle East, according to Omar Ghobash, the UAE’s Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy.

Emiratis are actively sharing their experiences with neighbours and across the world “out of goodwill because we believe our economic, political and social experiment is something that has value for others,” he said.

In an interview with The National, Mr Ghobash said: “We’ve gone through a lot of financial and military activism because we believe and we continue to believe that we are defending our vital interests.

“I think now we’re moving into a phase where we have relative stability on a number of different fronts, allowing us to focus more on really taking our experience of growth and innovative government, to produce an open and broad economy,” he said.

Mr Ghobash, who was speaking on the sidelines of the One Young World forum in London, previously served as UAE Ambassador to France. Before that he was the Ambassador to Russia from 2009 to 2017.

“We would prefer to see relatively open societies that take the basic elements of Middle Eastern culture — tribe, family, sect, harsh environment, natural resources — and actually create something positive out of it. Our region is not condemned to war. I think that’s our message for the region.”

Mr Ghobash said UAE diplomats have worked hard to work across issues and reach successful resolutions with allies and other political actors.

One recent example is the agreement reported on Friday that resolves differences between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The outcome paves the way for wider peace talks to end the five-year conflict.

He said the agreement “made sense” and was a good example of the UAE overcoming obstacles using diplomacy.

“That gives me optimism that we continue to try and find solutions to what appear to be obstacles. And I think that’s very much the Emirati approach.”

The minister spoke at One Young World on Friday on the topic of young people’s curiosity to learn.

Addressing a crowd of students and young entrepreneurs, he said: “The reality is that you may not have years of study, but you do have a mind, you have a point of view and, in the present moment, you have every right to do what you think is right.”

One of the key messages from his speech was that young people should not seek validation from adults but should be confident to run with their ideas.

He described education as “a profound form of conditioning that is the product of vested interests, whether political, economic or religious interests” and said young people “are seen as an object to be managed, modified or manipulated.”

“It’s a harsh view but it’s the one I have held fairly consistently since I was 15 years old. Time has shown there is a lot of truth to it.”

Mr Ghobash took examples from books by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and heralded the “positive energy” of his messages.

“I think it goes against everything that we know in the region — this internal pessimism — our fate is determined for us by those outside. His continual message of ‘no we can do this’ is something I think is really beginning to filter down to Emiratis right across the country.”

He added that he expected it to influence other countries in the region to adopt a more positive mentality.

As a representative of the UAE Ministry of Culture, Mr Ghobash spoke of the importance of all the hubs for culture in the country.

“Dubai has recently revamped its cultural department and then they have done a map-making of the cultural producers in the emirate. They have provided new zoning regulations — and you can see the culture be protected [rather] than in a sense exploited for economic goals. I’m very excited about that,” he said.

Abu Dhabi had a government-focused push on culture, he said, with the major institutions such as the Louvre or the Guggenheim as the main attractors for all of the UAE.

Sharjah as the traditional hub was yet another asset, he said.

Updated: October 26, 2019 02:23 PM

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