Friday, July 31, 2015

Yemenis get a lot of help

A ship carrying humanitarian aid supplies arrived yesterday to the port of Aden, as part of the UAE's efforts to help people affected by the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

The UAE's latest humanitarian shipment to Yemen included a variety of foods and medical supplies to help alleviate the suffering of the brotherly people of Yemen, and comes within the framework of international humanitarian relief efforts implemented by the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.-End-

And the Smart Government award goes to...

The 2015 conference brought more than 15,000 international dignitaries and attendees to the Abu Dhabi Pavilion on the first day of the event Abu Dhabi - In recognition of its efforts in implementing Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and driving the cooperative use of geospatial information across a wide range of Government entities in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi e-Government was the inaugural recipient of the first-ever "2015 Smart Government Award" launched by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) User Conference, held in San Diego, California in the United States on 20th - 21st July.

The two-day knowledge sharing event set the stage for representatives from different government bodies to attend workshops, exchange insights and leverage experiences with GIS organizations and professionals.

Commenting on the award, HE Rashed Lahej Al Mansoori, Director General at ADSIC stated, "We are honored to receive the 2015 Smart Government Award, as it is a testament by the GIS community's finest experts of our pioneering efforts in leading the implementation of standards, processes and policies, all of which have eased and facilitated implementation of GIS systemsby our constituents."

Al Mansoori added , "It has also proved the technology'score ability to improve our end-users lives, with notable achievements made in areas such as natural disaster and health hazard detection, evaluation and action, emergency response, and the protection of Abu Dhabi's unique desert landscapes, coastal environments and historical sites, to name a few."

Al Mansoori went on to say that the Smart Government Award will assist in further motivating and inspiring Abu Dhabi-based GIS stakeholders to achieve even greater innovation, integration and adoption of the technology.

"Abu Dhabi's SDI Initiative is an example of what can be accomplished by a nation that recognizes the many benefits that can be derived through the cooperative use of geospatial information," said Jack Dangermond, Esri President. "I am very pleased to honor them with our first Smart Government award."

Commenting on the Abu Dhabi e-Government'sfifth participation in Esri's User Conference, Al Mansoori stated, "Our presence at Esri UC's annual meetingis a crucial way for us to study international best practice and operational excellence in the fields of Information Systems and Geo Spatial Data. It has inspired us as a regulator to better support ourgovernment counterpartsas they strive to comprehensively digitize Abu Dhabi Government's servicesin order torealize our vision of becoming a leading smart government, driven by innovation and inspired by society."

"The participation also comes at an important strategic planning phase following the recent announcement of the new and improved Abu Dhabi e-Government strategy, which aims to rapidly enable the digital transformation of Government services and shared ICT infrastructure in order to fully reach smart-government through a unified e-gateway, focusing on multiple m-Government services, and because of this Abu Dhabi e-Government today receives this prestigious award" Mr. Saeed Al Mansoori, Executive Director Shared Government Services at ADSIC and Ms. Khawla Al Fahim, Executive Manager - Spatial Data Center at ADSIC were on hand to receive the Award. In 2007 ADSIC launched the Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure (AD-SDI) project, which includes more than 70 government and semi-government entities covering more than 11 key sectors from urban planning to local government, utilities to infrastructure, safety to security, environmentto cultural heritage, public health, business, and education, among others.

The event also recognized a number of government entities including; the Department of Transport DoT, who won first place in the Esri user application fair, a forum to share apps that is voted on by the Esri Community on 24th of July. Whereas, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) finished second place in the fair. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) won a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award for their Tourism Dashboard on the 22nd of July. Finally, Al Hosn Gas also won the same award for their real-time gas monitoring dashboard.

The 2015 conference brought more than 15,000 international dignitaries and attendees to the Abu Dhabi Pavilion on the first day of the event AD-SDI provides several operational-level benefits by eliminating redundant data capture and streamlining business operations across government entities through better information access and sharing. – End-

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What should be the qualities of 21st century leaders?

A model to help promising young leaders achieve their potential has been launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Called “The Leader of the 21st Century Model”, it has been launched for the UAE Government Leaders Programme and is created by the UAE Government. Inspired by the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed, it aims to strengthen the competencies and leadership skills at the federal-Government level to build effective networking among Government leaders and strengthen private-sector relations.

It is also intended to provide leadership training and attract talent from the public and private sectors.

The most promising young leaders will be provided thorough leadership training to hone their expertise and prepare them to evolve as distinguished leaders nationally, regionally and globally.
“The Leader of the 21st Century model which we have launched today marks a new phase in building distinct national capacities based on innovation and knowledge as we pursue efforts to serve our people and strengthen the position of our nation at the global level,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “I believe in modernisation and development across technological, scientific and economic fields, as well as other areas.

“This is imperative to keep pace with and anticipate rapid global changes, and to ensure that we continue to be at the forefront of the global economy.”

He pledged his faith in the young people of the country.

“I believe in the youth of the nation and their abilities,” he said. “They are our renewable wealth, and building their skills is a fundamental priority of our nation.”

“We must prepare our youth for the future and give them the tools that will enable them to proceed ahead in the march of success as well as build on them to create a better future for our citizens.”
He described the challenges that will face leaders in the current century.

The ideal leader of the 21st century is “extraordinary”, said Sheikh Mohammed, “keeping up and staying ahead of the rapid changes around, and developing effective and smart solutions to face the challenges”.

“The leader of the 21st century is flexible and creative, and supports innovation and creativity as well as encourages the team to embrace the new experiences apart from finding innovative solutions to overcome the challenges.”

The leaders of this generation should be able to work on entrepreneurial innovations, solve problems and apply a global view to a situation while navigating diversity, said Sheikh Mohammed.

Young leaders will be taught through the programme how to build global networks and access information and opportunities, with the goal of creating passionate leaders who speak the truth and do the right thing for their employees and stakeholders, a statement about the programme read. This is part of the Government’s effort to strengthen the country’s global position and achieve the UAE Vision 2021 goals.

The new model was launched in the presence of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, and representatives from the Dubai Department of Protocol and Hospitality, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet. The team of the UAE Government Leaders programme also attended. –End-

How should nations deal with violent extremism?

Hedayah, the International Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), has recently attended the International Meeting on Countering Violent Extremism and De-radicalisation in Algiers, which brought together representatives from more than 50 countries, international organisations, United Nations bodies, and international experts.

The goal of this meeting was to expand CVE initiatives that can be used to address not only immediate threats but also to build community resilience against the spread of violent extremism more broadly and prevent future threats.

The CVE and de-radicalisation meeting, hosted by the Government of Algeria, is the sixth in a series of regional, follow-on meetings to the February 2015 White House Summit in Washington. During the conference, the Algerians learnt more about successful de-radicalisation/CVE practices within different countries that can be captured as a valuable contribution to the United Nations General Assembly Meeting, in September, New York.

During the meeting, Maqsoud Kruse, the Executive Director of Hedayah delivered his remarks at the first session which was entitled, "Comprehensive Approach: Presentation on the importance of Counter Violent Extremism and De-radicalisation in Fighting Terrorism". He reiterated the importance of engaging all community groups at all levels in providing positive alternatives focusing on the content of counter-messaging to deconstruct the narratives of violent extremism through adopting an effective strategic communications plan. –End-

Like the Philippines, this Mideast country is cracking down on illegal trafficking in ivory

In line with the efforts to achieve its vision and ensure a sustainable living environment, the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water will commence an educational awareness campaign titled ‘Illegal Trading of Ivory' from August 2 to 13 at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. 

The drive organised in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Customs and the International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW), aims to educate the travellers about illegal trafficking of ivory and make them aware about the legal requirements of ivory trade.

The campaign is being held in response to the increasing seizures and confiscation of products, including animals, plants, ivory, leather, wood and sandalwood, among others. It will help the UAE to achieve its goals of providing vital security and protection from diseases and pests while fulfilling its commitment to international conventions. The country has impounded over 474 horns of Ivory, one of the largest amounts of ivory between 2012 and 2013.

The Ministry has destroyed in April 2015 more than 10 tonnes of raw and wrought ivory, which was confiscated over the years as part of the UAE's efforts to combat illicit trade of endangered wildlife species.

Aisha Al-Abdouli, Director of Awareness and Education Department in the Ministry of Environment and Water, said, "The Ministry is keen to launch a purposeful awareness campaigns to increase education on biodiversity, including the habitat of indigenous species and protected areas. This comes within the framework of the implementation of the national strategy to raise public environmental awareness and education, which has been certified this year and serve the strategic objective of strengthening the community's commitment to achieve sustainability and preserve the environment. Throughout the campaign, samples of ivory that were confiscated previously will be displayed to educate travellers about the importance of wildlife and the risks the elephants are facing. In addition, educational leaflets prepared by the Ministry in cooperation with the IFAW will be distributed." –End-

Improving governance is a work in progress

Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has stated that the process of improving government performance requires sustained efforts and daily assessment in line with the National Agenda and strategic plans of the government to achieve UAE Vision 2021. 

Sheikh Mohammed made this remark while reviewing the results of the performance indicators of 45 federal government entities, including ministries and federal authorities, in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Ohood Al Roumi, Director General of the Prime Minister Office, Najla Al Awar, Secretary General of the UAE Cabinet and Mariam Al Hammadi, Executive Director of Government Performance Sector in the Prime Minister Office.

He said, "The performance evaluation is a consistent approach of the UAE government aimed at raising government work efficiency to meet people's expectations and provide them happiness. We have long-term strategic plans to advance the work of government. We believe that in order to achieve the best results that match our ambitious aims to achieve top ranks at the global level, we must keep evaluating and updating our action plans and prioritising them on a regular basis."

Sheikh Mohammed underscored that the performance evaluation is designed to help government entities raise their efficiency levels and improve the quality of services, noting that advanced level of performance has been achieved by entities in more than one level.

He was briefed on the results of the performance indicators of federal government entities and the implementation of a periodic follow-up programme, which covers the performance of the employees. Emphasis was placed on the performance levels achieved in the ministries of education, health and social affairs in view of their status as vital service entities.

The government is evaluating more than 3,000 indicators on the Federal Government Performance Management System ‘Adaa 2.0', an effective mechanism to manage institutional performance and accurately monitor the execution of strategic and operational plans across federal government entities.

In addition to the level of excellence of services provided, the system can monitor the competitiveness level of all ministries and federal agencies on a daily basis. –End-

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is this the busiest airport in the world?

Dubai International received 5.9 million passengers in June according to the monthly traffic report issued by operator Dubai Airports on Wednesday.

Passenger traffic during June increased 16.7 per cent to 5,914,671, compared to 5,067,726 during the same month in 2014. The year to date traffic surged 10.4 per cent to reach 38,299,291, compared to 34,676,090 during the first half of 2014.

The increase in traffic during June can be attributed to the runway refurbishment project between May and July last year during which the airport was reduced to a single runway operation. The surge in traffic was countered by a drop in number of passengers during the holy month of Ramadan which fell in June this year.

Regionally, traditional markets such as the Indian subcontinent (+281,393 passengers) and the GCC (+154,294 ) led the growth followed by Western Europe (+121,919), Africa (+71,065) and North America (+61,535 passengers).

Propelled by flydubai’s new services to Slovakia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Croatia, as well as Emirates to Hungary and Smart Wings to Czech Republic, Eastern Europe (+75.9 per cent) was the top region in terms of percentage growth. Russia and CIS (28.6per cent) also witnessed robust growth driven by flydubai’s new routes to many destinations in Moldova and Kazakhstan.

Dubai International Airport recorded total aircraft movements of 32,114, up 45.8 per cent compared to 22,031 recorded during June 2014 when the airport was reduced to a single runway operation due to the runway refurbishment project. Year to date aircraft movements totalled 199,624, rising 16.9 per cent from the 170,815 movements recorded during first half of 2014.

Freight volumes increased 17.2 per cent to 217,896 compared to 185,842 tonnes recorded in June 2014. Year to date cargo totalled 1,232,861, up 1.7 per cent compared to 1,212,444 during the first six months in 2014.

"The seasonal travel rush hit its first peak in late June and like every year we were ready with our annual summer campaign and additional resources to ease passenger journey through our airport. We are very satisfied with the growth numbers in the first half of the year and anticipate the growth trend to continue throughout the remainder of second half to help us reach our annual forecast of over 79 million passengers," said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. –End-

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Travel with kids a breeze in this airport

Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3, has announced the opening of a new facility for travelling families with kids.

Located between Gates B7 and B8, the Concourse B’s Zen Garden features a children’s area complete with creative play equipment, television screens featuring children’s programming, and baby changing rooms. The area also features conversational-style seating with a range of both individual and group seats, and is located close to various food and beverage outlets.

"We recognise that passengers waiting for a flight have valuable time that they would like to put to good use, be it catching up with work, sharing a meal with friends, shopping or spending time with family. These new facilities are the first of a series of changes we are making across the terminals at Dubai International to create welcoming spaces for the comfort and convenience of our customers," said Chris Garton, Executive Vice President – Operations at Dubai Airports. –End-

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Which is the lucky one?

Juma Mohammed Al Kit, Assistant Under-Secretary of UAE Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade, has discussed with a delegation from the Central Office of Japan External Trade Organisation, JETRO, in a meeting held at the Ministry's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, ways to enhance trade and investment relations and promote communication between the business community in the two countries.

The Japanese delegation included Masayoshi Watanabe, the former Managing Director of JETRO Dubai & MENA, the Central Office of Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) for the Middle East and North Africa Region, and Masami, who will be the new Director of the Regional Office in Dubai.

Al Kit commended the distinguished efforts of Watanabe during his tenure in Dubai that contributed to the development of trade and investment relations between the UAE and Japan, which saw remarkable developments during the past period.

He stressed the UAE's keenness to strengthen the partnership with Japan by working to increase trade exchange and investment cooperation and focus on the importance of the role played by the private sector in promoting the trade exchange between them.

Al Kit said that the relationship between the UAE and Japan witnessed significant developments over the past few years, citing that Japan is among the top five trade partners of the UAE and the volume of the non-oil trade touched $14 billion dollars at the end of 2014. The figures reflect the depth and strong commercial relationship between the two countries.

He called on the Japanese side to intensify the presence of the Japanese private sector in various trade and investment events, which are held in the country. They provide an opportunity to meet with investors from around the world to discuss the areas of partnership, cooperation and investment.

For his part, the Japanese official praised the level of relations between the two friendly countries and the efforts of sustainable development in the UAE, noting the keenness of the Government of Japan to promote trade and investment cooperation with the UAE. He also underlined the importance of development of communication and cooperation between the public and private sectors of the two sides to enhance trade and investment relations. 

Can population grow with progress?

In an editorial this morning, the Abu Dhabi-based English-language daily newspaper, The National, said that the newly published data from Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (SCAD), reveals the dizzying pace of change in the emirate over the past few decades. "With the population now 133 times what it was in 1960, having grown at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent, and the number of citizens doubled 46 times - with the non-citizen population increased 243-fold - this dramatic change has affected almost every aspect of life," it said.

"Abu Dhabi society has changed and its citizens are open to many external influences. The influx of workers of more than 200 nationalities has brought different values and new norms, and created a highly diverse environment. The rapid evolution of the country has seen the development of important institutions, including schools and universities," added the editorial.

The paper said that while many changes have been widely welcomed, there are those among the older generation who worry that some young people may have lost touch with their roots and traditions. As the veteran Emirati tour guide Hamad Saeed Al Ketbi told the paper, he would like to see young people make more effort to preserve the past.

"The UAE of today is undoubtedly different from the one of generations past. But that doesn’t mean it is worse. Society is affected by many things: better health care means people live longer and more children survive. Cultural changes mean more women go into higher education and employment and therefore delay marriage. All of these changes have disrupted traditional family structures, but it’s not clear that the changes in themselves are bad. Rather, it is the way society has reacted to them that provokes mixed feelings," he said.

"It is vital to remember and respect the past, previous generations built the society we see around us," he added.

The editorial concluded by saying that at the same time, it is necessary to trust young people. "They were born at a set point in time, with the cultural norms and social expectations of that time. The society they create will similarly be forged by the requirements of the day and, in turn, will influence the succeeding generations – and all will look back to their youth as some kind of golden age while bemoaning most of what has happened since," it said. –End-

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How not to get lost in UAE?

Abu Dhabi Municipality has said that Street Route numbers will positively impact and greatly ease the process of finding any location that one may desire through the creation of a smart underground system aimed at making travel simpler and more convenient for the city’s residents and visitors alike.

Route numbers have also been added to overhead signs in both the city and its outskirts under the new addressing system ‘Onwani’ (My Address). Onwani is now being rolled out by the Abu Dhabi City Municipality (ADM), in coordination with the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA).

In the light of recent advancements, the new street names used in tandem with the route numbers, will contribute to navigating across the city in a much faster and smoother manner. The main streets of Abu Dhabi Island have been named after the Emirate’s visionary leaders and heroes. Notable examples are Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (Route No. 18); and Sultan Bin Zayed the First Street (Route No. 20).

The Abu Dhabi Municipality has said that in order to honour the visionaries’ wishes of making Abu Dhabi a world-class hub, the new system is in line with exemplary international standards while proudly upholding the local heritage.

"In addition to honouring our Emirati heritage through the new street names, overhead street name signs also clearly display the route numbers. This way our residents and visitors can easily navigate along different routes throughout the Island, and traveling from one location to another will become smoother and more convenient than ever before," according to ADM.

There are odd route numbers in one direction, and even numbers in the other. The odd route numbers are exactly the same as previous numbering; for instance Corniche Street remains as Route No. 1, while Route No. 3 remains Khalifa Bin Zayed the First Street. "However we have changed the even numbers to make them much easier to follow. Therefore Route No. 2 has been renamed Khalifa Al Mubarak Street (Al Bateen area); Route No. 4 is now King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (formerly Baynouna Street); with Route no. 6 now being Al Bateen Street. Meanwhile Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street (previously Salam Street) will now be Route No. 24, among other vital changes," the ADM added.

Under Vision 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to cement its rise as one of the world’s most advanced societies, and Onwani is a crucial component of that goal. The new overhead route numbers are part of an ambitious series of 17,000 new street name signs and 66,000 unique building number plates that ADM is installing throughout the year. Onwani will soon be implemented in Al Ain and in the Western Region as well. Onwani will serve the purpose of unifying the Emirate’s addressing system while empowering citizens, residents, tourists and service providers alike to find any location accurately and instantly.

The Department of Municipal Affairs in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Municipality has installed 11,488 internal street foundations and completed 95% of the installation. Over 59,848 address number has been installed in the buildings and villas whilst the process up to 91%has been completed in Abu Dhabi City. The address number panel includes the building number along with the QR Code. "To benefit this feature, you need to scan the QR code in your smart phone to receive your location instantly and any point of service close by. It can therefore, be safely assumed that this smart tool is 100 % ready for official use. This feature will make it much easier to share and receive location information on your smart phones via the Internet and will enable you to use it as a method of contact in emergency situations or to call for assistance should an ambulance be needed, among many other crucial uses," the ADM said.

The ADM has said that street signs installation has been completed in major districts such as Al Bahiya, Al Falah and Al Nahyan. The rest of the districts are in process of receiving unique street names as Onwani grows and develops itself as the smart wayfinding and navigation system of emirates of Abu Dhabi. 

Internal Interference?

Mohamed bin Hamad Saqer Al Moawda, Bahrain's Ambassador to the UAE, has strongly denounced the blatant Iranian interference in the Kingdom of Bahrain's internal affairs.

The move follows the recent statements made by the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the latest being the statement made by Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

In a statement issued today, the Bahraini ambassador said, "These statements represent a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain and violation of all international norms, laws and charters of the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation," adding that the intention clearly was to stir up sectarian strife in the Kingdom, ignite tension and unrest in the region.

He underscored that the Iranian intervention is not confined to making such statements, but also backs subversion, terrorism and incitement of violence, whether through the Iranian media, which covers the acts of violence and terrorism, or supply of arms and explosives, as well as training to carry out terrorist operations inside the Kingdom.

Bahrain's envoy pointed out that the Kingdom is keen to have normal relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in accordance with the principles of good neighbourliness and non-interference in internal affairs and respect for sovereignty and independence. "The Kingdom is also keen to follow the diplomatic and legal means to defend its interests and enhance the security and safety of its people."

Ambassador Al Moawda underlined that the Kingdom welcomed the recent nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the group "5 +1," adding that it has expressed the hope that "this agreement will be an important real step to stop Iran from interfering in the internal affairs of countries in the region and its rejected policies to destabilise the security and stability of our countries."

"But Iran has not changed its policy as it did not refrain from issuing statements and interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the region. Those policies still carry serious security, peace, regional and international threats that require a firm response from all, as they have reached unprecedented levels in violation of laws governing dealings among nations," he said.

The Bahrain envoy stressed that the current danger and the nature of the challenges require a unified and strong Arab stance regarding these interventions that could trigger serious sectarian war in the region. "Condemnation of these statements and all forms of Iranian interventions could isolate Iran, and reflect international community's rejection of its interventions and ambitions in the region."

He reiterated that rebuffing Iran's policies would reflect Arab solidarity and confirm the common destiny of all the Arab countries.
The Bahrain's ambassador said the Kingdom of Bahrain hopes the countries would take necessary steps to demonstrate their rejection of Iran's repeated interventions in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain. –End-

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Talk nuclear arms

The UAE is currently participating in the meetings of the Committee of Senior Arab officials concerned with nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, which kicked off today, at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the Arab League.

The meetings are headed by Jordan and with participation of representatives of Arab countries.

UAE delegation to the meeting is chaired by Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, while the delegation also included Hani Mohammed bin Huwaiden, second secretary of the UAE Embassy in Cairo.

Fadi Hanna Achaia, director of the department of arms control and regional security at the Arab League, said that the committee will discuss over two days two main items; first, special assessment of the results of a review of the conference on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons of 2015, which ended on 22 May, and there no had no been consensus reached on the final document of the Conference.

He pointed out that the committee assesses the results and considers the next Arab move, especially if there is no agreement on any plan of action to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Achaia added that the second item is to prepare and develop Arab position to participate at the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will be held in Vienna. The meetings will also deal with different topics and developments. –End-

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Religious freedom amid turbulence

In a speech given last week in the UK, Lord David Alton argued that the issue of religious freedom be “given greater political and diplomatic priority, to insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence, to discuss the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability and to reflect on the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.”

He referred to current examples of appalling abuses of religious freedom, several of which were in Middle Eastern countries.

This region is characterised in much of the western media as a hotbed of religious persecution and violence, although the UAE stands out for the opposite reason. Christians and people of other faiths can worship here without fear of intimidation. So, what makes this country different?

The answer does not seem to be due to any distinctive beliefs (though the UAE is proudly and authentically Islamic). Dubai and Abu Dhabi, for instance, subscribe to the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, whereas Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah are historically Wahhabi.

A part of the answer must lie in the encounters between the founding leaders of the UAE and the extraordinary pioneers who came to live in the Trucial States before the discovery of oil. Perhaps the best known example is the late Sheikh Zayed inviting Dr Pat Kennedy to start a hospital in Al Ain.

Although Dr Kennedy wore his Christian faith on his sleeve, Sheikh Zayed was not troubled by this. Indeed, Dr Kennedy’s faith was often a topic of conversation between the two men. Others who worked there also inspired a deep respect and affection including Gertrude Dyke, who is remembered as “Dr Latifa” by Emiratis.
Less known is the Sarah Hosman Hospital in Sharjah, which opened in 1951.

Dr. Hosman would go and visit the tribes in the desert on medical tours riding on a mule. Her story was even more inspiring when one discovers she had a wooden leg. Many members of the present day ruling family of Sharjah were born in her hospital.

Again, she had a vibrant Christian faith in which she and her staff openly shared their religious convictions with the local patients, a privilege that rarely seemed to cause offence.

An equally formidable and inspiring Christian pioneer is Wilhelmina van de Weg who also earned the respect and affection of the local people in Fujairah for serving the people selflessly through the maternity clinic.

The shared attributes of all these pioneer Christian workers were a deep understanding of the local people, fluency in Arabic and a heart to serve with equity all sectors of Arab society – and to do so without seeking personal financial gain. They were also all overt in the expression of their Christian faith.

The significance of these workers is that they gave the visionary founding sheikhs of the UAE a concrete example of the mutual benefits of interfaith tolerance. This mutual benefit is not a small matter. For example, one benefit in allowing Christians to establish the Oasis hospital in Al Ain was the plummeting of the infant mortality rate from more than 50 per cent to 1 per cent.

Schools also benefited. Some of the earliest and most effective providers of mass education in this country include the Roman Catholic Church, with teachers coming from monastic orders and the religious sisterhoods.

The huge Gems organisation traces its roots to the educational vision of the Varkey family, who are devout members of the Marthoma Church from South India.

In return, the open mindedness and hospitality of the Emirati people has benefited those of other faiths.

They have created a calm environment in a turbulent global economy, in which people from all over the world can find a spiritual refuge, as well as economic security.

More importantly, expatriates encounter an Islam that is confident, secure and embraces diversity of faiths and peoples in an atmosphere of acceptance.

All this was highlighted in the new anti-discrimination law passed last week. This is unique in the Islamic world.

The UAE continues a proud and distinctive commitment to religious freedom and tolerance. It is a tradition that can be firmly traced back to the vision and values of the country’s founding fathers.

Reverend Canon Andrew Thompson MBE is senior Anglican chaplain of St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi and author of Christianity in the UAE and Jesus of Arabia. – End-

Sky's the limit

The UAE Space Agency has received an official delegation from the Bahraini National Space Science Agency, at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, who paid a visit to review avenues of cooperation with their UAE counterparts.

The meeting is an effort to strengthen partnership and work between both agencies within the space sector, and is in line with the UAE Space Agency's efforts to build strategic partnerships and achieve its goals through regional and international cooperation.

The delegation was led by Dr. Mohammed Al Amer, Chairman of National Space Science Agency of Bahrain, and was welcomed by UAE Space Agency Chairman, Dr. Khalifa Al Rumaithi, and the agency's Director-General, Dr. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, as well as a number of senior officials from the nation’s space sector. The Bahraini delegation was also met by Yahsat Chairman, Jassem Al Zaabi, and company's CEO, Masood Sharif Mahmoud.

The two sides discussed opportunities of cooperation with various institutions in the space sector and ways of making the most of their expertise in the fields of technology and space science. Both organisations focus on developing the space industry including implementing programmes and scientific missions which offer specialised space science training to national cadres.

During the meeting, the UAE Space Agency provided a detailed presentation on the UAE's space sector strategy, its objectives, initiatives and programmes. The agency also outlined its strategic priorities for the next phase of development, and its plans for running educational programmes that will be launched in cooperation with a number of universities and specialised institutions.

The Bahraini delegation congratulated the UAE on its inception of the Space Agency and on its missions to Mars. The delegation praised these developments as proactive steps for the Arab and Islamic world, displaying desire to expand the horizons of joint cooperation and coordination for future space projects.

The UAE Space Agency commended Bahrain for its efforts in the space sector, its quest towards scientific development, as well as its contribution to the field. The agency noted the close relationship between the UAE and Bahrain, as well as the close economic partnership that creates many opportunities for both countries, especially in the space industry.

During the visit, the agency organised a tour for the Bahraini delegation to the headquarters of Yahsat to introduce them to the company's operations and management in the satellite control room. The tour also featured a presentation about the company's global projects and the services it provides for developing communication solutions via satellite to governments and businesses.

Yahsat also displayed its Space Masters Cube Sat programme, which was launched recently in partnership with Orbital ATK and in participation of 12 Emirati students.

The Cube Sat programme specialises in technology and space engineering, as well as developing skills associated with designing, building and the testing of mini satellites. The programme, which is classified as a Master of Space Technology and Systems Engineering, has been established in collaboration with a number of partners such as Khalifa University, the Higher Colleges of Technology, as well as global partners including Boeing and Airbus. –End-

Most advanced?

Dubai Tram, which was launched in November 2014, has some unique characteristics, making it highly competitive with other tram systems that have been around for much longer in advanced cities of the world, its operator, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), says.

The network, which mainly covers Al Sufouh, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence areas, is clearly different even at first glance: There are no overhead suspended electrical wires that characterise tram systems worldwide. If fact, its power is “ground fed”, sourced from the very tracks it runs on.

And it is the world’s only network whose stations have gates that open and close automatically, raising the safety standard and convenience to users.

No other tram system would have been practical in Dubai because only Dubai Tram is designed to operate in the emirate’s blistering climate of up to 50 degrees Celsius, the RTA says. Little wonder then its stations and footbridges are fully air-conditioned, which is also a world-first, adds the RTA.

Behind the scenes, unknown to many riders, there are some clever measures built into the system to keep the journey as safe as possible. For example, every tram driver has to take an alcohol test through a handy machine that detects even the smallest traces of alcohol. The driver is only allowed control of the tram once the test is passed.

There is also the “dead man’s switch” on the lever that the driver has to press every three to five seconds, ensuring that the tram driver is paying attention. If the driver loses control or forgets to press the button, the tram will automatically come to a complete halt immediately.

And with a series of high-tech communications and control systems — for users and operators — Dubai Tram is ensuring it stays ahead of its time.

The 10.6km tramway is served by 11 stations and 11 trams, which are driven by more than 80 certified drivers.
It only costs Dh3 to hop on board, making Dubai Tram one of the most affordable networks in the world.

Around a million people have already vouched for its popularity, with 943,982 riders using the tram during the first three months of this year alone, the RTA says. –End-

Hearts for the homeless and hungry

The Big Heart Foundation, TBHF, has pledged to donate Dh7 million towards three projects run by the UN Office for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, which will go towards helping refugees in crisis. 

Dh5 million will go towards healthcare services for Syrian refugees in Zaatari Camp in Jordan, one million will be dispensed to Syrian refugees in vulnerable situations as assessed by the UNHCR and another one million will go to support the work of the UNHCR in Indonesia where thousands of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing persecution and risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels or at the hands of human traffickers.

TBHF health clinic in Zaatari Camp was set up in 2014 to help the hundreds and thousands of Syrian refugees left homeless in Jordan. The clinic offers primary healthcare services and facilities to approximately 46,080 Syrian refugees from a population of over 80,000 living in Zaatari Camp.

Mariam al Hammadi, Director of Salam Ya Seghar, a TBHF initiative to improve the welfare of refugee children, said, "Ensuring sufficient healthcare is available for refugees living in Zaatari Camp is of critical importance to their health, emotional and mental state and to the general welfare of camp residents. Under the guidance and inspirational leadership of Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the Big Heart Foundation seeks to alleviate the suffering of those affected by wars and disaster and to enable them to look forward with hope. It is to that goal that we make this donation in order that essential medical care can be given to those in need. The clinic now provides comprehensive primary, mental, and reproductive healthcare services to camp residents on a 24-hour basis."

In 2014, 175,968 consultations were carried out to residents of Zaatari and over 15,000 patients were referred for secondary or tertiary care. Jordan Health Aid Society (JHAS) implements the healthcare, backed by donations from TBHF and provides health services all day, every day of the week. The clinic is equipped with general practitioners, nurses, referral officers, and has a central laboratory, an emergency department, postpartum services department, mental health department, special medical needs facilities, a pharmacy and a medical store. JHAS treats both acute and chronic conditions and provides reproductive health services, including ante-natal and post-natal care.

A further Dh 1 million has been pledged by TBHF to help over 2000 vulnerable Syrian refugee families living in urban areas in Jordan. Cash assistance will be given to them to help with urgent needs such as paying their rent, buying food, fuel or clothes. The UNHCR currently supports 21,000 families with cash allowances and aims to increase this number to 25,000 families by the end of 2015. Beneficiaries are wide spread throughout the country, with one third living in the Amman Governorate (33%), over one quarter in Irbid (28%), 15% in Mafraq, and 10% in Zarqa.

Mariam al Hammadi said, "These are essential funds, enabling refugees to live a humanitarian and dignified life. Cash will go towards enabling vulnerable Syrian refugee families to cover essential costs of living such as rent, utilities, large household appliances, medical care for children, clothing, school fees and food. It also enables them to purchase essential items such as stoves and fuel to overcome the harsh winter in Jordan."

"Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi strongly believes in the necessity of preserving the dignity of the refugee families, even though they are in need of help, and said it should be provided to them in a way that preserves their dignity and their humanity. Therefore Sheikha Jawaher launched the Big Heart Foundation out of great concern for the Syrian refugee crisis, with the aim of providing urgent relief and sustainable support to refugee children and their families," Al Hammadi said.

Those in need of financial help are identified through a predetermined criteria agreed by the inter-agency Cash Working Group, and those identified as vulnerable are assessed through home visits. Once approved as eligible for cash assistance, families receive cash on a monthly basis in a secure manner and the UNHCR continues to follow up with the families through home-visits.

Furthermore, following an appeal by the UNHCR, the TBHF has pledged Dh1 million to help Rohingya Muslim refugees in Indonesia. Earlier this year the UNHCR said that the plight of Rohingya people could lead to a humanitarian crisis and appealed for help with a campaign to improve the situation.

Al Hammadi explained the TBHF's role, "Rohingya people are considered ‘stateless' and are unrecognised by their government, and often face hostility in their home countries. For this reason many have fled by boat, and fallen prey to unscrupulous human traffickers risking all for a better life overseas. It is a horrendous tragedy that so many Rohingya have already lost their lives at the hands of traffickers and so the TBHF has pledged its support to the UNHCR who will undertake a number of vital interventions under its international mandate for the protection of refugees and stateless people."

On 1 May 2015 over thirty shallow graves were discovered in Thailand, at a waiting area for migrants and later that month the Myanmar navy rescued 208 migrants at sea. It is believed that a further 139 suspected graves have been found by Malaysian police on the Thai border where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma were believed to have been held by human traffickers.

The UNHCR appeal is structured in three parts: Meeting the international protection needs of people who have been rescued at sea and disembarked in this situation; enhancing the information available both to people who are considering travel by sea and to those responding to them and lastly, finding solutions for addressing the root causes of these movements in source countries.

In May 2013, the UNHCR appointed Sheikha Jawaher as UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, one of the most distinguished positions in international humanitarianism. Her commitment to alleviating the suffering of women and children affected by war, persecution and disaster and her eagerness to launch life-saving and life-changing initiatives, mobilise humanitarian support and secure financial resources for refugees, led to this appointment.

On the second anniversary of this appointment the UNHCR, Antonio Guterres praised the efforts of Sheikha Jawaher and said her enormous effort highlighted the significant role played by the UAE and the Emirate of Sharjah in strengthening international response to the humanitarian crisis worldwide. The UN High Commissioner said the generous donations of the Big Heart Foundation have enabled the UNHCR to significantly expand its scope and has speeded up the delivery of aid to millions of refugees.

Since its inception the Big Heart Foundation has provided life-saving medical services to over 365,000 Syrian refugees and gave more than 400,000 others vital food and financial aid. During the colder winter months in Syria and its neighbouring countries of Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon the foundation provided basic essentials to children and their families such as warm shelters, blankets and clothing. –End-