x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Minister says UAE needs better PR on world stage

Human rights and renewable energy are key areas for improvement; charity and ports among UAE's strengths.

ABU DHABI // The UAE needs to better present its position on issues such as human rights, labour, renewable energy and climate change in order to improve its image on the international stage, according to the minister of state for foreign affairs. A new human rights department will be created within the foreign ministry to carry out the recommendations stemming from a review of the UAE's human rights report in Geneva last year, Dr Anwar Gargash told reporters outside a seminar for the ministry's diplomats. "[In] international relations these issues are becoming very relevant and the foreign ministry as one of the players of the Government needs to play an important role in this," said Dr Gargash.

That role would be to "explain our position and represent our position better", he said, adding that it would involve better cooperation with local and international organisations and developing human capital. Dr Gargash's comments came as a report on the ministry's strategy identified a number of challenges. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Strategic Plan for 2011 to 2013 said that bad publicity over labour conditions in the country was hurting its image. It also said the country's low ranking on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, where it ranked 152nd, and on the World Bank's ease of commerce scale, where it was 33rd, were areas for concern.

Internally, the ministry suffered from difficulties in identifying goals and strategies, a lack of technological development and the loss of personnel to other government departments. But there were other factors that provided opportunities for the country to strengthen its position on the international stage. Chief among these, the report says, is the UAE's geographic position and its ports system which is geared towards facilitating trade.

Another was the high level of international humanitarian and charitable donations made by the country, as well as the UAE's efforts to improve its human rights record, for instance by improving conditions in labour camps. The presence of the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) in Abu Dhabi was also a positive factor. To improve the country's image as a "regional leader in human rights, labour, humanitarian aid, energy, climate and protecting the environment", the report said work needs to be done in a number of key areas.

These included providing information to international organisations in a timely manner, more effectively applying the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council, and better articulating the nation's stance on renewable energy and climate change. The ministry should also promote national investments abroad and provide more aid to national companies entering foreign marketplaces. A three day seminar for the ministry's diplomats finished yesterday. The gathering discussed a number of issues including the impact of UN Security Council resolutions on Iran, the ministry's commercial role, how to promote national airline carriers, border issues, and the Middle East peace process.