Call to correct demographic imbalance



Globalisation poses a threat to national identity and the best defence is careful strategic development, officials were told on the first day of a conference held to preserve the UAE’s cultural identity.


President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has declared 2008 the Year of UAE National Identity.


And he has encouraged new strategies to protect it from the negative impact of globalisation, while at the same time engaging with the world to promote sustainable national progress.


To observe and celebrate a year of awareness, the Ministry of Culture launched a two-day forum on Tuesday called the UAE National Identity Conference.


“The forum is an important and key event in the calendar of the country, heralding a new era of discussing mechanisms and developing strategies and policies that will ensure preservation of our national identity in this era of globalisation,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs.
We have preserved and pledged to further safeguard our cultural and traditional values, but that does not mean we are isolated or intend to be isolated within the international community and the changes taking place.

The forum is meant to draw strategies that keep us abreast with the rest of the world at the same time preserving our identity,” he said. He added the UAE faces a distinctive demographic challenge, as it is one of the few countries in the world that welcomes such a proportionally large number of expatriates from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. He said this could prove to be risky if strategic plans are not put in place to protect national identity.


Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan addressed the conference about the country’s foreign policy. Other speakers called for immediate action.
Lieutenant-General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, said more attention needed to be paid to the threats posed to national security. He said there is more investment going into building skyscrapers than into encouraging a constructive population that will preserve national traditions.


He urged the government to open the door for naturalisation of GCC citizens so that the gap between nationals and expats is narrowed.

 “We have many challenges. Look at this picture [he said, pointing to a photograph of a square flooded with hundreds of expatriate workers]. Does it show it is the UAE?


“We need to narrow this demographic gap, we need to balance it.

 “This needs measures and initiatives to preserve our language, draw a new demographic strategy, educate the expat labour force and allow other GCC citizens to get citizenship and vice versa.”


He also called for initiatives to encourage a higher birth rate among nationals.