Thursday, April 30, 2015

10M tourists by 2021 is UAE's target

Dubai--Sharjah aims to attract up to 10 million tourists by 2021 and expand tourism’s contribution to the emirate’s economy, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) said on Wednesday.

Sharjah expects to nearly double the number of tourists in the next six years from 5,605,000 in 2014. And, to cater to the anticipated increase in demand, boost hotel room numbers from 10,000 today to 15,000 by 2021.

Last year, two million guests stayed in the emirate’s 50 hotels and 56 hotel apartments.

“This is a goal that cannot be achieved by any particular sector alone. To achieve this, we need the active partnership of all public and private sector companies and institutions in the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors,” Mohammad Ali Al Noman, chairman of SCTDA, said at a press conference in Sharjah.

Al Noman did not say the expected tourism revenue and tourism’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021. However, tourism accounted for 8.5 per cent of the emirate’s GDP in 2012, which touched Dh83 billion, according to data from SCTDA.

Areas of focus

To attract more tourists, SCTDA has listed four key areas of focus:
First is to promote Sharjah as an ideal family tourism destination by offering packages and offers for families.
Second is to improve tourists experience by offering innovative solutions.

Third is to provide tourism facilities and to enhance efficiencies in the tourism sector through partnership and collaboration with other entities.

And fourth is to position the emirate as an international cultural hub by promoting cultural and heritage elements among families. This year, Sharjah is the “Arab Tourism Capital” and last year was named the “Islamic Cultural Capital.”

Al Noman said that Sharjah is likely to face challenges as it achieves its tourism vision.

“We can mention some challenges … to increase the number of hotel rooms. Now at the moment, we have around 10,000 hotel rooms and we are working on some licences for new hotels to join the hospitality sector in Sharjah. This is definitely a challenge that we are working on in the authority in collaboration with the government of Sharjah under the support of the consultative council,” he said.

The government plans to launch incentives in the short term to boost the development of hotels in the three- to five-star hotel segment, according to Al Noman.

“We hope by doing that, we will bring down the cost of investing in this sector,” he said.

“We will be announcing an incentives package. Maybe part of the incentives is the hotel room tax. The 10- 20 per cent tax could be exempted for three to four years … we may provide land, either with reduced prices or through partnerships. The government will allocate these lands,” he added. -end-

Emiratis enjoy high standards of living

DUBAI ---The progress report on the UAE National Agenda reviewed by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid at his office at the Cabinet reveals the following results for 2014:

- Percentage of Emirati children in preschools rose to 88%. The target is 95% by 2021.

- Percentage of students with high skills in Arabic, according to national tests - UAE NAP. Females beat males. Private schools applying the Ministry of Education curriculum beat public schools.

- Prevalence of obesity amongst children (12-17 years old) went down to 13%. Lowest rate in Umm Al Qaiwain. Target is to take rate down to 12%.

- Healthcare Quality Index. UAE remained the best performing among Arab countries.

- National Identity Index. Performance rate went up from 82% to 91% in 2014. 25 initiatives are in place to achieve 100%.

- Happiness Index. UAE remained the happiest Arab country, and third happiest globally.

- Sense of security. 92% in 2014.

- Road Traffic Death Rate per 100 thousand population went down 24% in the four past years.

- Reliability of Police Services. From 12th place in 2013 to 7th place globally in 2014.

- Global Competitiveness Index. Now in 12th place globally up from 24th place in 2012.

- Percentage of UAE Nationals in the workforce. 275,000 Emiratis in 2014. Target is 460,000 by 2021.

- Global Innovation Index. Remarkable progress. UAE is first Arab country on this indicator.

- Percentage of Emiratis in the private sector is 22%. The target is 50% by 2021. Female account for 52%.

- Air Quality Index. Quality improved by 20% in one year. Environmental initiatives are in place to increase improvement.

- Time to obtain a loan/house from the Government for UAE nationals decreased from 10 years in the previous years to four years. Target is two years by 2021.

- Share of "Knowledge Workers" in the labour force is 22% now. Target is 40% by 2021.

- Networked Readiness Index (Telecommunication & IT sectors): From 20th place globally in the past four years to 23th place. UAE is now the first Arab country on this indicator and is ahead of advanced countries such as Belgium, Ireland and France.

- Quality of air transport infrastructure. From 3rd place to 2nd place globally. Target is the first spot globally.
- Quality of port infrastructure. From 5th place to 3rd place globally.
- Quality of overall infrastructure (such as transportation, electricity and telephone lines). Progress from 8th spot to 3rd spot globally. Target is the first spot globally. -end-

Seized illegal ivory destroyed by UAE

DUBAI -- The UAE became the first Arab country to destroy its ivory stock when it destroyed over 10 tonnes of raw and crafted confiscated elephant ivory this morning in a powerful symbol that these pieces have no value and are driving the current slaughter of elephants.

The event was hosted by UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and organised in conjunction with Dubai Municipality, Dubai Airports, Dubai Customs and International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The stockpile, confiscated over the years as part of the country’s efforts to control the illegal trafficking of wildlife species, was destroyed during a special ceremony in Al Qusais, Dubai, attended by Dr. Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, as well as representatives from various government agencies involved in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, delegates from regional non-governmental organisations and deputies from embassies who participated in the London and Botswana conferences on the illegal trade of wildlife species.

The Minister praised all parties and associations involved in this national initiative, commending competent environmental authorities, the Ministry of Interior, customs authorities and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for their efforts in combating the illegal trafficking of wildlife.

He also emphasised the importance of consistency and cooperation between the involved parties, the country’s progressive technical and human capacities, as well as the development of efficient communication channels at the national and international levels. The last point is particularly crucial in relation to UAE, as the country represents an important link in the movement of international trade due to its geographical location.
Bin Fahad said, "The destruction of the confiscated ivory stockpiles in the state is in compliance with the values of the UAE and multilateral international conventions, particularly CITES, and the commitment to actively contribute to international efforts to conserve biodiversity and protect endangered species."

He also noted the strict standards for the trade of endangered species, as stated in the Federal Law No. 11 of 2002, on the regulation and control of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and its executive regulations.
The Minister added that efforts to control the illegal trafficking of wildlife species are not limited to elephants, but include all Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which are listed by the convention.

He also explained that the amount of ivory confiscated in UAE and other countries is indicative of the life-threatening reality that elephants face and the prevalence of illegal hunting which has overtaken natural birth rates in recent years, according to international research. The international community has responded through the establishment of conferences tackling the illegal trafficking of wildlife species held in London and Botswana in 2014 and 2015, respectively, where the UAE played active roles.

In a special statement on the occasion, John E. Scanlon, the Secretary-General of CITES praised the efforts of the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, which serves as the Management Authority of CITES.
"I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government of the United Arab Emirates, and to the Dubai Municipality, for inviting me to witness the destruction of more than 10 tonnes of confiscated elephant ivory and I regret that I am unable to make it to Dubai in person," said Scanlon.

He added that despite considerable efforts to combat wildlife crime, it continues to be a major problem worldwide. The poaching of African elephants and the illegal trade in their ivory is one of the most noticeable and destructive forms of wildlife crime.

"Over the past 24 months we have seen a number of countries, including Belgium, Chad, China, France, Gabon, Hong Kong SAR of China, Kenya, Philippines, and the United States, destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated," he said, adding, "Today’s important event in Dubai serves to raise public awareness about the impacts of illegal elephant ivory trade and the determination of the United Arab Emirates and the global community to put an end to it.

"However, when coupled with the seizure of ivory and prosecution of offenders, it sends a powerful message that the United Arab Emirates does not accept and will not tolerate this illegal trade or the devastating impact it is having on the African elephant, on the livelihoods of rural communities, and sometimes on national and regional security.

"This recognition of wildlife crime as a serious crime gained further momentum thought the recently adopted Doha Declaration at the 2015 UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
"The guidance provided by CITES Resolutions is that the illegally traded and confiscated elephant ivory should be restricted to four uses only, namely, ‘bona fide scientific, educational, enforcement or identification purposes’. Where this is not practicable, two options are provided by the Resolution, namely to save the specimens in storage or to destroy them.

"However, when a country, such as the United Arab Emirates, takes a decision to publicly destroy its confiscated stockpiles of elephant ivory, I do believe it presents a unique opportunity to draw public attention to the scale, nature and impacts of the serious crimes that lie behind these confiscations and to act as a deterrent to illegal trade.

"I congratulate all concerned for their vigilance and encourage the relevant Authorities to investigate the source and destination of the ivory to enable follow-up enforcement actions," the Secretary-General concluded his statement.

In a similar message, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, also lauded the UAE's decision to destroy the confiscated ivory.

"IFAW strongly encourages governments to destroy all their stocks of ivory. Each year, between 25,000 and 50,000 elephants are killed for ivory, which means 1 elephant killed every 15 minutes," said Dr. Elsayed Mohamed, Regional Director IFAW, Middle East and North Africa.

"IFAW is applauding the UAE decision and we are encouragingother Middle East countries to join the UAE in taking a stand against the ivory trade." He added.
UAE is the first Arabian country to crush its ivory stocks, following the recent footsteps of the United States, China, UK, France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, Gabon and Kenya, which burned or crushed its ivory stockpiles.

The demand on ivory is fueling illegal ivory trade. Seizures of illegal ivory in the world continue to increase: 24.3 tonnes in 2011, 30 tonnes in 2012, and 41.5 tonnes in 2013. Just last week, Security officials at Dubai International Airport have handed over 84 African elephant pieces in transit from the Ivory Coast to Vietnam. The amount was seized last month.

In 2012 and 2013, Dubai Customs seized shipments contain 474 tusks of illegal ivory at Jabel Ali port. In 2014, authorities seized 301 pieces of ivory at Dubai International Airport, which also saw the seizure of 1,500 ivory products and tusks during the years 2011-2014.

IFAW applauded UAE authorities for their continued success of efforts to combat illegal ivory trade and to address the challenges that threaten elephant conservation.

Starting on 15th May 2015, transit passengers at Dubai International Airport will learn that ivory smuggling leads to prosecution. The advertising campaign will be launched by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai Police, and Dubai International Airport.The campaign will run until 3rd June.

The advertising campaign will be also displayed at Abu Dhabi International Airport in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Water, Abu Dhabi Police, and Abu Dhabi International Airport.
As part of an international initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity to fight this trafficking, IFAW trains law enforcement officials on the prevention of illicit trafficking of wildlife species in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. IFAW recently signed a memorandum of understanding with INTERPOL, the first ever signed with an NGO by the INTERPOL programme on environmental crime. IFAW and INTERPOL have collaborated on many projects since 2005, including last year’s largest ever international operation to fight against ivory trafficking. -end-

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

                  UAE ready to deal with bioterrorism threats

Abu Dhabi: Infectious diseases such as Ebola could be used as a “biological weapon” but the UAE is prepared to deal with such acts of bioterrorism, a conference in the capital heard on Tuesday.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 10,000 lives as of last week and biosecurity measures should be in place to stop the misuse of such viruses by bioterrorists, experts said.

“We understand the possible misuse of biological agents, which could easily be transported across the borders as part of trade. But the UAE has strict procedures and controls to deal with such threats,” said Dr Rashid Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water.

He was delivering the keynote speech at the second Biosecurity Conference organised by the Ministry of Environment and Water in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE has criminalised such activities and strict legislations are in place to tackle them.
A proper mechanism is in place to address any biosecurity threat and emergencies as part of ensuring national security, the minister said.

Martien Broekhuijsen, a biosecurity consultant from the Netherlands, differentiated between biosafety and biosecurity, saying “biosafety is keeping bad bugs away from people whereas biosecurity is keeping bad people away from bugs”.

He said people who see bioterorism as a growing threat think that its sources are available everywhere and a small quanity is enough to cause damage.
However, some others believe that biological weapons are danagerous and difficult to handle, and hence not a major threat, and it is easy to kill bio-agents.

But the nations have to be prepared against such threats, Broekhuijsen said.

Dr David R. Franz, Former Commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, said lack of proper legislations is a major problem in maintaining biosecurity. When the US authorities apprehended a scientist in the 1990s for misusing a biological agent, he was punished with 200 hours of community service. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that there was no legislation to punish such crimes, he said. Since then the US has been taking adequate measures to check such crimes. The US has allocated around $6 billion (Dh22.02 billion ) since 2002 for research in biosecurity, he said.

Dr Fiona Thompson Carter, a biosecurity expert from New Zealand, explained the steps her country has taken to check this menace.

Nasser Mohammad Humaid Al Yammahi, Director of Media and Public Information at the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, said the media has a major role in maintaining biosecurity. The UAE’s biosecurity strategy has clearly defined the media’s role and guidelines in this regard, he said.
Dr Rashid Hamdan Al Ghafiri, an Emirati expert on biosecurity, said anthrax letter attacks by terrorists in the US in 2001 were a good example of the potential of biological weapons.

Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in US mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in US history, according to the FBI.
The ensuing investigation by the FBI and its partners — code-named “Amerithrax” — has been one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.

In August 2008, the Department of Justice and FBI officials announced a breakthrough in the case and released documents and information showing that charges were about to be brought against Dr Bruce Ivins, who took his own life before those charges could be filed. On February 19, 2010, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the US Postal Inspection Service formally concluded the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks and issued an Investigative Summary, according to FBI. -end-