This year marks the 70th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, when in 1948; the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the UAE celebrates this momentous occasion on 10th December, here’s a look at some of the nation’s achievements in the human rights arena.
Throughout its young history, the UAE has followed the principles of justice and equality, respect for human rights, humanitarian aid and relief action in line with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Since its inception, the nation has ensured the founding of a tolerant and multi-cultural community in which individuals from across the world live in harmony, guaranteeing via its Constitution, their civil liberties.
The UAE has accorded the values of respect for human rights a high priority and is committed to continuous improvements in its laws and practices, deriving from its cultural heritage and religious values, which enshrines the principles of justice, equality and tolerance.
The UAE’s efforts in the human rights sector are reflected in the nation’s global recognition and position in international arenas. In 2012, it was elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term from 2013 to 2015 and was re-elected by the UNGA for a second time from 2016 to 2018, in which the UAE actively participated in the council’s work to advance human rights globally.
As a member of the UN-Women Executive Board – made up of representatives from 41 Member States elected to three-year terms by the UN Economic and Social Council – the UAE works in close partnership with member nations to help accelerate progress towards achieving and sustaining gender equality and the empowerment of women. The UAE has, since 2012, supported the UN Women Fund with over US$12 million.
In the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the UAE has contributed to the creation and support of many intellectual strategies that aim to refute radical thought and spread religious tolerance globally.
In addition to its co-chairmanship of the Countering Violent Extremism, CVE, Working Group as part of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the UAE also hosts ‘Hedayah’, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi, considered as a key operational delivery arm for the Forum’s CVE efforts.
In 2015, the UAE in partnership with the United States launched the ‘Sawab Centre’, as part of its efforts to counter extremist propaganda and terrorist messaging in the online space, contesting Daesh’s online presence by responding directly to its propaganda via immediate reactive messaging and proactive campaigns. The UAE strongly condemns terrorism and extremism in all forms and by collaborating with international partners have demonstrated its commitment to confront and eradicate terrorism and extremism, and offer an alternative, positive vision that underscores the true values of Islam.
Along with its role in the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, the UAE also plays a pivotal role in the Saudi-led Arab Coalition to combat terrorism practised by Houthi militias against the Yemeni people. Between April 2015 and March 2017, the UAE has provided aid relief to Yemen totalling AED7.3 billion, distributed across medical, food, education, and infrastructure development sectors.
The UAE is also one of the first countries to respond to the global refugee crisis arising as a result of turmoil and violence in a number of regions. It ensured a quick response and provision of various forms of material and moral support to alleviate the suffering of refugees.
Recently, the UAE announced that it would contribute US$200,000 annually to the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, re-affirming its commitment to continue supporting the UNHCR’s programmes and initiatives to ensure safety and security for all refugees.
These efforts also encompass the nation’s support to Syrian refugees, whereby the UAE has contributed over $700 million in humanitarian aid from 2015 to 2016. It also financed the establishment of the Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, which currently accommodates 4,000 Syrian refugees, providing them with the highest quality of health and education services. The UAE has also contributed $72 million in Syrian refugee camps across Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Also, the UAE also announced that it would welcome 15,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
The UAE's humanitarian contributions are not limited to a particular country or continent but are spread everywhere in the world where people face difficult humanitarian conditions regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation. This is evidenced by OECD findings that show the UAE’s Official Development Assistance, ODA, reached US$4.1 billion in 2016, representing 1.12 percent of its Gross Nation Income, GNI.
On a local level, the UAE has ensured that it provides for its citizens and residents alike a safe, secure, and tolerant environment, emphasising the rights of women and children, via various legislative acts and implementation of strategies. These include the launch of Wadeema’s Law on child rights in 2016 by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the 2017-2021 National Strategy for Motherhood and Childhood, launched by H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.
The UAE’s aid policy has only humanitarian objects, and is not governed by politics nor is it limited to geography, race, gender or religion. These foundations of giving and care were laid down by the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who emphasised that humanitarian aid and relief are a core pillar of the UAE’s policies both locally and abroad.