The UAE’s political leadership operates within the broad foreign policy framework that was established by the founding President of the Federation, H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. This approach emphasizes diplomacy, negotiation and compassion. The UAE is mindful of its commitment to its neighbours and the international community with regard to regional peace, stability and security for all. To achieve these goals, it has purposefully promoted bridges, partnerships and dialogue. Relying on these tools of engagement has allowed the Government to pursue effective, balanced and wide-ranging ties with the international community.
A guiding principle of UAE foreign policy is the belief in the need for justice in international dealings between states, including the necessity of respecting the principle of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of other nations. The UAE is also committed to peaceful resolution of disputes, and backs international institutions to reinforce the rule of international law and implementation of conventions and treaties.
One of the central features of the UAE’s foreign policy has been the development of closer ties with its neighbours in the Arabian Peninsula through the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). During 2009, developments in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the initiatives required to deal with them formed the core of UAE dialogue with world leaders.
The UAE is dedicated to peace, security and stability in the Arab region, as well as normalization of relations among all countries, and a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. It believes that peace cannot be achieved while the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories continues. It supports an end to Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the context of an agreement based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
The UAE has repeatedly urged international action to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem in a bid to revive the Middle East peace process. Meanwhile, it has condemned Israeli aggression in Gaza and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians affected by the war. The UAE has provided over Dh11 billion (US$3bn) in aid to the Palestinians, including development funds for infrastructure, housing, hospital and school projects. In addition, the country donated Dh638.5 million (US$174mn) towards reconstruction in Gaza.
The UAE has been an active supporter of the Iraqi Government and has urged respect for the territorial integrity of Iraq, its sovereignty and independence. The Federation has one of the few functioning Arab embassies and resident ambassador in Baghdad, and has cancelled debts worth about Dh25.69 billion (US$7bn) to support Iraq’s reconstruction efforts. Despite a long-running dispute with Iran on the question of three occupied UAE islands and concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, the UAE has kept open all channels of constructive engagement that could result in a mechanism for confidence-building measures and a peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues. The Federation continues to contribute constructively to international efforts aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan and supporting its bid to restore security. It provided US$550 million in humanitarian and development assistance between 2002 and 2008 and is the only Arab country performing humanitarian activities on the ground in Afghanistan.
Beyond the region itself, the UAE’s foreign policy continues to adapt to accommodate evolving changes in the global community. As part of its pragmatic approach, it is building bilateral and multilateral relations with both industrialized and developing countries while strengthening ties with its traditional allies in the West.
An important aspect of the UAE’s foreign policy places great emphasis on nurturing an expansion of commercial and investment links with other countries and institutions worldwide. The Federation’s fast-developing position as a financial hub for the Middle East region has further solidified and strengthened its position as a member of the global community.
Because Asia weathered the recent economic crisis more successfully than other parts of the world, there were ample indications that some of the major Asian countries would play a more influential role in world politics. Absorbing this shift, and reflecting the desire to further consolidate ties, the UAE leadership continued to develop its relations with a number of Asia countries, including China and India. One major diplomatic success during 2009, which also reflected its growing international status, came when Abu Dhabi was chosen to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The UAE has published a policy document on nuclear energy for civilian, use emphasizing its transparent policies and readiness to abide by all related safety and security measures. Meanwhile, the international Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors approved the UAE’s ratification of the additional nuclear-inspection measures known as the Additional Protocol, which ensures commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Another key area of UAE cooperation has been in the global fight against terrorism, including state-sponsored terror.
In spite of the impact of the financial and economic crisis on the region’s economics and development projects, the UAE continued its humanitarian, relief and development assistance programmes in many countries. Its efforts in this respect were acknowledged by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who praised its humanitarian stance and work in alleviating the sufferings of people in various parts of the world during natural disasters and human conflicts.
Aids is channeled through a number of key organizations, such as the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development which, during 2009, supported projects in Morocco, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Palestine, Benin, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and others; the Red Crescent Authority (one of the top ten member organizations of the International Committee of the Red Cross), whose most effective activities include providing drinking water in the countries hit by drought and desertification, equipping hospitals in remote areas of underprivileged countries, and is focused mainly on the education of children in poor countries. In addition, Noor Dubai, an international charitable initiative for the prevention and treatment of blindness and low vision, cooperates with the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. In recent years, the emphasis has been on humanitarian assistance for those affected by natural disaster or conflict and poverty.
Overall, during the last three-and-a-half decades the UAE has contributed more than Dh255 billion (US$69.4 bn), in loans, grants and assistance is provided on a government-to-government basis, the Federation is also a major contributor to international agencies, having made Dh100 billion (US$27 bn) available through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The UAE Foreign Aid Coordination Office, set up in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is a recently established forum that will lead to the Federation becoming more involved in aid a multilateral level, rather than focusing on support through traditional bilateral means.