COLOMBO : Today the UAE celebrates the 51st Anniversary of the union of the Seven Emirates. This occasion marks a sincere reflection of the federation’s journey rich in monumental events and achievements, building on the foundation that was first laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his brothers, the fellow founding fathers.
On this occasion, I would like to hail the bilateral relations between our two friendly countries. These relations found their roots in the principles of cooperation and mutual respect, and evolved into a deeper partnership between the two countries and its people over the years. The continuous cooperation between our two countries in the international arena is also noteworthy.
The UAE is a leading source of foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka, and is one of the largest trading partners in the Middle East with a trade exchange representing more than half of Sri Lanka’s trade with the Middle East. Despite the challenging economic conditions, the UAE direct investments in Sri Lanka exceeded 19 million US dollars during the years 2020 and 2021, while bilateral trade amounted to 2.7 billion US dollars during the same period.
A number of joint venture trade projects are being implemented in both countries, helping to link the two countries together even more closely. Charitable and welfare institutions in the UAE continue to provide a lot of aid and humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka in order to uplift the life of the underprivileged in different parts of the island nation. This year alone a total number of 6,867 underprivileged families, and 659 orphans and elderly persons have benefited from the distribution of dry rations, food packs, clothing and other humanitarian assistance in different parts of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has a lot of potential and resources to be a buzzing economic hub in the region, and to enhance its trade and investment opportunities with the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries. Sri Lanka should also explore new avenues for promoting tourism in the region. Exchange of mutual visits and the signing of business and investment agreements would no doubt open wider horizons for strengthening relations between our two countries. Currently both countries are exploring means of cooperation in the fields of energy, especially renewable energy, that could bring long term benefits to the country.
Since its foundation on December 2, 1971, the UAE has followed the principle of promoting security, peace and sustainable development in various parts of the region and the world. Under the wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, our country continues the path of national development and economic growth as an extension of the legacy of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God rest their souls, and the future model of the UAE inspired by the policies, thoughts, etiquette, and values of the Rulers of the Emirates.
On the occasion of the UAE entering the second phase of its centennial journey and a new era in its development process an ambitious plan was unveiled for the next 50 years. The “Principles of the 50” document sets the strategic roadmap for the UAE’s new era of economic, political, developmental, and social growth to strengthen the union, build a sustainable economy, and harness all possible resources to create a more prosperous society.
The UAE adopts economic strategies that stimulate economic diversification away from oil, and the country is working to build an economy based on knowledge and diversity, reinforced by scientific and technological progress. The UAE has launched a package of strategic projects and initiatives within the “Projects of the 50”, which aim to establish an advanced stage of internal and external growth. The projects provide impetus for investment in digital and circular economies, as well as sectors based on artificial intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The UAE has begun to conclude comprehensive economic partnership agreements with strategic partners, as part of a long-term strategy in its path of economic diversification and the development of strong international partnerships through trade, industry and investment. Three agreements have been concluded with India, Indonesia and Israel, and will be signed with a number of others countries.
The UAE believes that the future of regional security depends on strong multilateral partnerships and a common commitment to achieving stability and prosperity through peaceful political and economic means. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements will continue to pave the way for more opportunities for the people of the region and open the way for the vital economic development of the Middle East, accelerating and enhancing trade across nations and increasing the ease of doing business throughout the region, and in other markets such as Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The UAE seeks to become a global capital of investment and economic innovation, and in this regard, the UAE has undertaken major reforms to prevent financial crimes in recent years and will continue to strengthen its approach in line with international standards and the global agenda to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The UAE has made remarkable progress in all areas of combating money laundering and terrorist financing, and this includes the priorities of the Financial Action Task Force such as risk assessment, international cooperation and confiscation of proceeds of crime.
Over the past few years UAE has been able to accomplish many remarkable achievements against a very difficult international backdrop and global challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the deepening polarization between great powers. As the world nations navigate their way through such turbulent times, it is vital that they take a measured approach, abide by international law, and invest seriously in seeking diplomatic solutions to political crises.
The UAE is at the forefront of adopting this approach. In recent years it has stepped up its focus on building bridges and strengthening economic and people-to-people ties with other countries in the region, including countries that it has serious political disagreements with. By doing this, UAE hopes to build platforms for dialogue and progress on more difficult issues.
UAE has adopted a similar approach at the UN Security Council. It has promoted dialogue on issues where members disagree, encouraged cooperation in areas where members have shared interests, and when necessary, taken a firm stand to reinforce the principles of the UN Charter. After being elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2022-2023, UAE assumed a prominent role in addressing some of the critical challenges of our time, such as encouraging peaceful conflict resolution, prioritizing humanitarian relief, maintaining peace, addressing global health crises, and harnessing the potential of innovation, as well as developing the international system to combat terrorism, supporting gender equality, empowering women and promoting their equal and meaningful participation in conflict resolution and peace processes.
During its participation in the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, the UAE explained its vision to promote stability and comprehensive political solutions in the Middle East and around the world, combat threats posed by the cross-border activities of terrorist groups, spread tolerance and a culture of peace, support relief and humanitarian assistance, and achieve political stability and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, strengthen energy security, and encourage the implementation of the sustainable development goals.
Several months ago, the UAE succeeded in presenting a distinguished model of planning, preparation and organization for Expo 2020 Dubai – the most prominent event in the world – with the participation of more than 190 countries and 24 million visitors. Held under the slogan, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, the world exhibition reflected our firm conviction that innovation and progress were the fruit of exchanging ideas and meeting people in new and inspiring ways.
There is no doubt that climate change has become a priority for all nations, as it has become an existential threat. It is important that all countries work quickly towards a carbon-neutral future. In this regard, the UAE announced its goal to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 as part of its vision to support the use of clean energy. The UAE is also preparing to host COP28 in 2023 to enhance climate diplomacy and achieve the aspirations of the country as well as the international community in addressing climate change. It has become clear that investing in renewable energy means investing in the economy, international peace and security and the best for future generations.
UAE’s commitment to creating a diversified mix of energy sources and capacity building in the field of clean energy is manifested in UAE hosting the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), operating three of the largest and less expensive solar energy projects in the world, and investing in renewable energy projects in more than 70 countries. Further, the UAE provides aid, financing and soft loans for clean energy projects in developing countries and small island states, which have contributed to making a qualitative change in the lives of many communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
As home to more than 200 nationalities from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, the UAE is deeply committed to safeguarding human rights and building upon its steady progress in this field. Over the years, the UAE has enacted a series of laws and regulations that enshrine certain fundamental rights, providing for the fair treatment of all its citizens and residents, especially women, children, workers, and persons with special needs, as stipulated in the UAE Constitution.
The UAE has also signed several treaties to protect human rights. It works closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretariat to strengthen and protect human rights globally. On October 14, 2021, the UAE became a member in the UN Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term for the third time in its history. The State’s election to this seat was a tribute to its continued efforts to promote and protect human rights at the national, regional, and international levels.
The UAE strongly supports the use of information technology and artificial intelligence, and is investing significant resources in building capacity among young people as part of its future vision for scientific and human advancement. This has enabled the country to achieve remarkable progress in this field.
In the space sector, the UAE is continuing its passion and interest in space and its sciences. The country is preparing to launch a spacecraft to the moon next November, while Emirati Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will join a space mission as part of a NASA crew, to become the first Arab astronaut to spend six months in space. This comes after the UAE fulfilled a historic achievement, with the arrival of the UAE’s Mars Exploration Project, Hope Probe, to the orbit of Mars in February 2021.
It is with great pleasure that I wish to mention that the UAE will enhance its position and active role on the regional and international arenas, as it has succeeded in weaving strong relations with the countries of the world on the basis of mutual respect, and its commitment to resolving disputes between countries through dialogue and peaceful means, and contributing to supporting international stability and peace and promoting human coexistence.
The UAE has worked over the past five decades to strengthen international partnerships and is moving at a steady pace to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of its economy and to explore new opportunities. The UAE’s foreign policy focuses on supporting long-term economic prosperity, and the state adopts strategies that stimulate economic diversification, away from oil. The country is working to build an economy based on knowledge and diversity, enhanced by scientific and technological progress.
The UAE’s relations with all countries are characterized by continuity, moderation, diplomacy and wisdom, despite the changes on the global political, security, economic and health scene, and this is harnessed to find common ground to find solutions to regional and international challenges and conflicts.
The UAE supports diplomacy over conflict, partnership over unilateralism, and dialogue over confrontation. It urges respect for the principles of good neighborliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, while seeking to develop existing alliances and strengthen foreign relations to support its domestic development and international engagement. The UAE affirms that we must promote a culture of tolerance, openness, women empowerment, modernity and rationality, which is basically in line with the tolerant values of Islam. The UAE will continue to stand up to extremist ideologies and those who use violence to achieve their political goals.
Externally, the UAE maintains its humanitarian assistance for those affected by natural disasters. Our country is a pioneering model of global human solidarity, by spreading the message of tolerance, unity, and generosity, and extending a helping hand to alleviate the suffering of societies. The state will continue to work to help those affected, whether through direct support or cooperation with specialized international organizations and partners, to ensure that everyone lives in security and dignity.
I take this opportunity to convey my sincere and heartfelt greetings to the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka His Excellency Ranil Wickremesinghe, and to the government and people of Sri Lanka, wishing them progress and prosperity in the years ahead.