What the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Thinks About Globalization
What the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Thinks About Globalization


Dubai Skyline

The United Arab Emirates is composed of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Each of the seven states is ruled by an Emir. This federation of states joined together to become the United Arab Emirates (UAE)  in 1971-72. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the President of the UAE, as well as ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the Prime Minister of the UAE, as well as ruler of Dubai.

With the second largest economy in the region, the United Arab Emirates struggles with its demographics. Native UAE citizens account for only ten percent of the population. Foreign nationals make up the rest. Unemployment is a major problem because, since the formation of the country, UAE citizens were only one percent of the private sector workforce.

An article from The National, a UAE newspaper, highlights UAE’s strengths in the global marketplace.

The UAE has certain fundamental strengths. It’s historic role as a hub for trade is one of them. While some say globalisation has made the world flat, geography still matters: the UAE’s location between major markets in Europe and Asia will serve it well if it continues to build the infrastructure that allows it to serve as a link between them.

Globalisation isn’t going anywhere.” The National. September 1, 2010.

Dr. Abdullah Al-wadhi of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, analyzes the concept o Emirization or nationalization of the UAE economy.

Nationalization of the UAE society is a strategic pillar that enables citizens to harness the resources and fortunes of the country in their interest and the interest of all who contribute to the development of society. The UAE society has always sought the good of humanity and not just its own interests. Since human resources are a major force behind development of a safe society, which has allowed the UAE to reach levels enjoyed by advanced countries in all aspects of life, whether in economic or social spheres, the time is now right for it to promote its national human resources. Those opposed to this view level the charge of ‘racism,’ which is an accusation that has no place in this country. There are also those who raise the issue of discrimination between citizens and expatriates in matters that affect state sovereignty with respect to the employment of its citizens. These detractors seem oblivious of the fact that this country has embraced around five million people and that this place has never shunned foreigners.

In early 1970s, the percentage of nationals in the total population stood at 68%, while today it is not in excess of 10%. The demographic composition of society is asymmetrical to the extent that situation cannot be tolerated any longer and has to be corrected in favor of citizens without removing the other side from the equation. The low number of UAE’s native citizenry in the demographic structure has left the country in a unique and unnatural historical and political phenomenon. No society has faced a similar problem on this highly sensitive issue, i.e. the demographic imbalance that the population in the country is afflicted with.

…The total workforce of nationals in the private sector, which is the primary supporter of the country’s economy, has not exceeded one percent since the formation of the country. To date, this crisis persists and has not been resolved in favor of citizens, despite decisions for nationalization of jobs in several sectors of the economy, as part of a gradual policy of nationalization. This wise and moderate policy aims to ensure the safety of the entire development process…

Despite the huge size of the UAE economy and despite it being one of the fastest growing economies in the region, which is capable of creating thousands of jobs annually in the private sector alone, it has not been able to find suitable employment for its citizens who want to work but cannot find jobs.

The country has an honorable and bright political history of implementing policies for enabling citizens to get a suitable job in their homeland because it knows well that its citizens have never worked and will not work outside the country…In the past, officials responsible for nationalization and employment have said that jobs are available…However, this employment generation does not adequately benefit the national citizen whose proportion to the expatriate labor force is very less and the current flaw in the labor market is not better than the demographic anomalies in the UAE society. The result is that the finding jobs for nationals—whose numbers have increased with expansion in education—is becoming increasingly difficult. This is despite government efforts to enhance nationalization policies and employment in the country through administrative channels…

…Politically, nationalization of jobs has not been successful though the government has made it mandatory for some sectors to reserve a specific percentage of jobs to nationals…
For example, it is obligatory for the banking sector to have 4%of its annual recruits to be citizens. Although there some citizens are part of this important sector, the aforementioned mandatory quota far nationalization has hardly been met. This is confirmed by the fact that nine thousand citizens are leaving this sector, as they are finding better alternatives or are forced to leave due to poor working conditions or lack of incentives.

…If the state of nationalization remains as is then fresh graduates would be left with no option but to first learn a lot of essential skills for the job market even if they specialize in engineering, medicine or administration… Promoting nationalization would save national job-seekers from marginalization. This is happening at a time when our wise government is seeking to exert national energies towards advancement, progress and success.

Al-wadhi, Abdullah. “Empowering Emiratization.” Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. April 20, 2010.

This Al Jazeera videos covers the story of a jailed Brit, who defaulted on his bank account, a criminal offense in the UAE. Many are pushing for a repeal of this law.

Domluke Da Silva, chief operating officer of Arabia-Asia Capital Alliance based in the DIFC, writes about the UAE initiatives for economic development and the current state of crisis in the banking sector.

The UAE has embarked on an ambitious and massive push for economic development. Abu Dhabi’s 2030 plan alone is forecast to require infrastructure spending of $200 to $300bn over the coming several years.

This large development programme – while undoubtedly giving a boost to the UAE’s GDP – could also result in major ramifications for the country’s banking and financial system.

The scale and pace of this development will be unparalleled in the UAE’s already rapid economic emergence over the past few decades. The effect of this large fiscal stimulus will be to continue propelling the UAE economy to even greater heights, stimulating the private sector and creating opportunities for investment, employment and wealth creation.

But an unavoidable facet of this growth will be the unprecedented demand for access to capital and funding, by both the public and private sectors. This will put pressure on the local financial system as already over-extended local banks struggle to meet the funding requirements that will be needed to fuel the development projects and growth in the economy.

During the boom years most, if not all, UAE banks were on steroids. Common sins they committed in the chase for ever-higher margins and profitability included a short-sighted strategy of lending long and borrowing short, as well as overstretching their loan books. In many cases, advance- to-deposit ratios exceeded the Central Bank-mandated 100 percent. In other words, to make more loans they had to scavenge even more competitively for deposits.

A few years back the UAE banking system was flush with liquidity. External funds looked to play a highly-anticipated revaluation of the UAE dirham and banks were flooded with inflows. However, once it become apparent the status quo on the exchange rate would remain for the time being, the money just as quickly flowed out, leaving hapless bankers with no option but to pay out higher interest rates to their customers. This has led to the decoupling of local rates from US rates – despite the currency peg – and a resulting higher cost of capital in the country due to the higher interbank rates.

Small, open economies such as the UAE, typically find themselves faced with a trilemma or the impossible trinity, where only two out of three possible outcomes can exist simultaneously. The Mundell-Fleming economic model espoused the notion that between three choices; open capital markets, monetary independence, and pegged or fixed exchange rates, a nation can have only two of the options. All three can’t exist at the same time.

In the UAE, monetary policy has effectively been outsourced to the USA’s Federal Reserve. The loss of monetary policy independence sometimes causes headaches for local policy makers, as seen in recent years when interest rates fell in step with US rates. Paradoxically, they should have been rising in an overheated and inflationary environment. On the other hand the UAE also enjoys the benefits of open and free flow of capital, as well as the added stability arising from a pegged exchange rate.

With local banks short on liquidity, the stage is set for foreign institutions to enter the market. As the cost of funding for these foreign banks is much lower than their local counterparts, a greater piece of the lending pie will flow to them as they serve the funding needs of both sovereign and private borrowers.

The ramifications of this will be a dramatic transformation of the local banking landscape over time. As local banks get priced out on financing the larger projects they will invariably be corralled into an already over-banked retail sector. This will force many institutions to seriously consider consolidating with their rivals or face being bought out by foreign institutions.

One would hope that our local banks have not only learned the hard lessons of unbridled lending, but will also be better positioned to take advantage of the vast opportunities that lie ahead.

Da Silva, Domluke. “Banking on UAE’s plans.” Arabian Business. September 8, 2010.

Much less conservative than Saudi Arabia, many from the region come to the United Arab Emirates for recreation and release. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is a “multi-faceted initiative that will create unprecedented access to film and talent from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”

The new Dubai Film Market will work ‘from script to screen,’ covering every aspect of cinema from conceptualization to distribution. It will house the Dubai Film Connection, the Festival’s successful co-production market; the Dubai Film Forum, its popular hub for talent development, funding, workshops, and networking; Enjaaz, the Festival’s dedicated post-production support programme; and the proven Dubai Filmmart, previously known as the Dubai Film Market, specializing in content trade, acquisition and distribution.

As the only gateway of its kind between the major film centres of Europe and South East Asia, the Dubai Film Market will represent and further the cinema interests of the more than 60 nations of the Middle East, Africa, South and Central Asia. In doing so, the unified market also cements Dubai’s reputation as an international hub for cinema capital and services…

“The new Dubai Film Market will allow DIFF to live up to its role as a catalyst for regional growth and enhanced global integration,” said DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali…

The Market is also expected to accelerate the Festival’s exponential growth. Since its inception in 2004, DIFF has drawn ever larger numbers of high-profile delegates, realized projects of scale and produced exceptional results in a short period of time. In three years, the Dubai Film Connection has driven forward 46 film projects, with more than 13 films completed and an additional nine nearing completion. This year, 15 new projects from the Arab world will be showcased, selected from hundreds of entries…

In two years, Dubai Filmmart fielded more than 530 films, prompting more than US$2 million in trade deals for more than 130 films in 2009 alone. DIFF offers industry buyers films at their fingertips, via a digital screening system linking sales agents to filmmakers and buyers and eliminating the need for booths. In 2009, the high-tech system recorded more than 3,350 screenings.

…;Last year, DIFF drew more than 1,600 accredited industry delegates from 69 countries and 1,500 members of the press, both all-time highs.

Last year’s sixth Dubai International Film Festival also recorded 50,113 admissions for its 168 films from 55 countries, including 29 world premieres, 13 international premieres, 77 Middle East premieres and 33 GCC premieres….

DIFF unveils the Arab world’s first and only comprehensive film market.” Dubai Chronicle. September 13, 2010.

Mira Al Hussain from the UAE addresses the following questions in her podcast on the impact of technology on the culture of the UAE:

  • How technology has influenced people’s lives in the UAE.
  • Materialism and globalization within the country.
  • The environment, and whether it’s of any importance to the government or locals.
  • UAE life and society in general; what it’s like to live there.

Click here to access the podcast.

Despite the UAE’s growing economy and government efforts to become a regional ICT hub, Blackberry service was cancelled in the Emirates. The blogosphere and the UAE media were abuzz about this story.

BlackBerry is operating beyond the UAE law, the government’s official news service reported today, throwing doubt on the future of the mobile email and messaging service.

BlackBerry’s suite of communication services such as e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) use internal networks that are encrypted under one of the world’s most complex codes.

BlackBerry has about 500,000 subscribers in the Emirates, not counting visitors who roam through the airports…

“As a result of how BlackBerry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain BlackBerry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions,” the statement added…

In March, Saudi Arabia’s communication and information technology commission was reported to have asked RIM to give it access to the BBM network and threatened to shut down the service if RIM did not comply. The commission later decided against a block.

In Kuwait, the Arab Times newspaper reported in May that the ministry of interior was planning to stop the BBM service because neither the ministry of communications nor security authorities had access to the encryption codes. But it is not clear whether the service has been blocked as the country’s three telecoms operators have not received any request from the ministry to enforce a ban on the message service.
RIM was not immediately available for comment.

BlackBerry is ‘beyond the law’ says government.” The National. July 25, 2010.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has said that BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry E-mail and BlackBerry Web-browsing services in the UAE will be suspended as of October 11.

The suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the UAE in line with UAE telecommunications regulations.

Today’s decision is based on the fact that, in their current form, certain BlackBerry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE.

The UAE tried to get RIM to let them snoop user data, and RIM told them to f… off.

Bye Bye Blackberry.” Secret Dubai. August 1, 2010.

Assuming the BlackBerry ban isn’t mere saber rattling, is it not disgusting that consumers will have to bear the costs of the TRA’s decision to ban BlackBerry services?

Not only the cost of devices, but for companies and individuals to swap over to different devices?…

Also, at a time like this, let us not lose sight of the General Policy for the Telecommunications Sector in the State of the United Arab Emirates:
“3.3 Become the Regional ICT Hub
The Government will support the development of the UAE as a regional ICT and telecommunications hub by:[...]
3. Ensuring a secure environment in telecommunication applications and usage, including information security and network security, authentication, privacy and consumer protection by developing Policies and Regulatory Framework for this subject.”

So to ensure that the UAE becomes a regional ICT Hub by “ensuring a secure environment”, the TRA’s grandmaster plan is to ban anything that is a secure environment?

With front page CNN, BBC, Slashdot, New York Times the UAE is sure set to become the regional ICT hub in about minus 8000 years. What will the TRA find reason to block tomorrow in its continuous quest to ‘protect consumers’? Skype?

Is it little wonder companies like Skype have set up shop in Bahrain and not the UAE?

Blackberry dumbphones.” UAE Community Blogspot. August 2, 2010.

“The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) website conducted interviews with experts and academicians specialized in the field of human resource development to elicit their views on the UAE’s policies and the obstacles facing the plans for human development, particularly on issues related to the expatriate workforce and related to demographic imbalance.”

Professor of Political Science at the United Arab Emirates University Dr. Abdel Khaleq Abdullah:… “Despite all the financial support given by the UAE to its citizens, the nationals will find it difficult to be in step with a huge economy that is considered the second largest economy in the Arab world. Therefore, a great leadership and the burden of development has been placed on the shoulders of a small number of nationals and regardless of the government’s efforts in supporting its citizens, there will always be a need for importing a large number of foreign workforce, which would come at a high social cost for the nation. This is the essence of the problem.”

As regards the problem of the expatriate workforce, Dr. Abdel Khaleq Abdullah maintained that the problem has become really serious. He noted that the largest segment of the UAE population enjoys a high standard of living. However, this problem has come at a high social cost and has affected the identity of the nation…He emphasized that it is necessary to review the frenetically rapid pace of growth currently witnessed by the UAE, which requires the recruitment of millions of workers from abroad in order to ensure that such growth remains balanced and consistent with the demographic capabilities of the UAE. He considered that over-recruitment of foreign workforce, in such a manner that the UAE nationals represent only 10 to 20% of the population, shall no longer continue.

…Dr. Ibtisam Al-Kitbi, an assistant professor of political science at the United Arab Emirates University: …“Whoever claims that the expatriate workforce is necessary for growth does not understand growth and development. These are two different concepts. Economic growth pertains to theoretical economic figures and may be affected by the absence of expatriate workforce, while development is a broader concept that pertains to economic, political, social and cultural spheres. All these dimensions must be taken into consideration. We are against nobody but we favor ourselves first. We are in favor of balanced development, which takes all these spheres into consideration…”

….However, a multi-phase plan could be developed to better re-shape the demographic structure by including long-term, medium-term and short-term measures. Al-Kitbi stressed that this plan must have a well-defined goal, such as finding an answer to a very important question: What would be an ideal ratio for the population of UAE nationals to expatriate work force? Moreover, if we care about the UAE’s Arab identity what should be the percentage of Arab expatriates among the workforce? “If we claim to be an Arab country, then the Arab component should be certainly pronounced,” she said. Accordingly, a few measures should be taken to reduce the size of expatriate workforce, such as the adoption of capital-intensive methods of production, and review of the expansion of the property sector. “Do we need such a large number of buildings?” she wondered…

…Dr. Fatima Al-Shamsi, Secretary General of the UAE University….: “The UAE needs expatriate workforce. This is an indisputable truth. However, the economic, political, social and cultural cost of having this workforce should be taken into account. In earlier times, we were in dire need of workers to build infrastructure in the Gulf countries. However, today we need to re-assess our economic policies and our human resources, which in turn will affect the development process. This does not mean that we need to rid ourselves of the expatriate workforce altogether, but we need to re-assess its size and our actual requirements. Therefore, we need to give priority to the employment of the UAE national graduates.”

Dr. Khaled Mohammed Al-Khazraji, Undersecretary of Labor and former Director General of the National Human Resources Development & Employment Authority in the UAE, …noted that foreigners have become part of the UAE and of our day lives. This is a reality that we have created for ourselves. Therefore, we must accept it and manage it. “This doesn’t mean giving up on our identity as UAE nationals. On the contrary, we must preserve our identity, religion and lifestyle and have a strong sense of patriotism for our nation. This is what we must focus on, our national identity. As to remedying any imbalance, it would not be an easy thing”, he added. Al-Khazraji criticized all talks of nationalization, and said: “How could we carry out this process in a society where over 90% of the work force consists of foreigners? How can 10% of the population (constituting UAE nationals) replace 90% of foreigners? This is illogical and unrealistic given the demographic situation. Instead, we should talk about developing UAE national cadres by giving them priority in recruitment and developing leadership”.

Al-Khazraji believes that the foreign workforce is essential for economic growth and development, which is testified by the fact that the UAE has the second largest economy in the region.

Human Development and Expatriate Workforce in the UAE.” Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research February 5, 2009.

“The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research ‎‎(ECSSR) website conducted interviews with experts and academicians specializing ‎in the field of human development to know their views on the present status and achievements of the UAE’s women and the ‎obstacles that lie in the development of their role in society.‎”

Dr. Hussa Lootah, Professor at the Humanities and Social Sciences ‎Faculty at the UAE University, said that UAE women had always had a highly significant presence and role in society throughout history but the nature of their role varied over time. In the early days, UAE women largely focused on raising their children. As society changed, however, women’s involvement in all realms of life increased, and they proved their ability and competence in various fields, especially in education. Dr. Hussa took pride in highlighting the fact that there were no wage disparities between men and women in the UAE and wished that one day there would no longer be any gender discrimination in top posts and ranks. She also expressed the wish of greater inclusion of women in the decision-making process and sought a closer assessment of the issues that are currently preventing women from playing their due role in society, especially on family-related issues. Dr. Hussa spoke highly of women’s associations in the UAE. She noted that these associations had played a key role in supporting and developing women’s rights even before the formation of the UAE…

… Dr. Khaled Mohammed Al-Khazraji, Undersecretary of Labor and former Director General of the National Human Resources Development & Employment Authority in the UAE,.. said women have attained their distinction and presence in all fields; they have even excelled over men in education and have proved their competence in the job market…He said that women played a pivotal role in the raising of children and in taking care of the family. This is a highly important role that is no less important than any other responsibility women may assume…

… Assistant Professor of Political Science at the United Arab Emirates University Dr. Ibtisam Al-Kitbi stated …“It is true that women are often treated as a marginalized category but the development we aspire for must target everybody. It must include all members of the society” …Al-Kitbi asserted that there had been a dramatic progress in enabling women at political, economic and social levels… Al-Kitbi averred that although there is no discrimination in the UAE between men and women as far as economic and political rights are concerned, the social and cultural system is often an obstacle that hinders the advancement of the UAE women…In her opinion, the problem lies in the fact that civil society institutions are weak. This casts a greater responsibility on the government in solving these problems. For instance, we could promulgate a law that obliges every big organization to have a daycare facility…

Dr. Fatima Al-Shamsi, Secretary General of the UAE University, laid stress on women’s employment. She said that although UAE women have scored highly at the post-graduation level, their participation rate in the job market is still low…In addition, private sector employers’ are averse to hiring women as women employees require more benefits, such as extended maternity leaves, etc. Therefore, employers tend to hire men. But as male citizens are not always available, employers end up hiring expatriate workforce. Furthermore, the social system with all its customs and traditions pose restrictions on women’s employment…

UAE Women: Achievements and Challenges.” The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research

Human Rights
The UAE newspaper, The National, covers the issue of human trafficking.

…More than half of the cases in Dubai over the past year involved young adults between the ages of 19 and 25. These are often the most defenceless members of society…

The UAE’s 2009-2010 report on trafficking found more than twice as many prosecutions, and five times as many convictions, as the previous year. The question is whether trafficking-related crimes are increasing, or if prosecution is bringing more of them to light.

Perhaps both are true. There are worrying signs of international smuggling operations penetrating the UAE; the recent conviction of Emiratis, Indians, Bangladeshis and a stateless person for the abduction of a Nepalese woman and running a brothel illustrates the transnational nature of these rackets…

Where trafficking is allowed to flourish, there is a miasma of related crimes. For too long, these crimes had been swept under the rug, a state of denial that continues in too many countries. In the UAE, however, the statistics show something else – the national will to recognise the problem, punish the traffickers, and help the victims…

There are still major challenges. Undoubtedly, trafficking crimes and prostitution persist in society. It is not until we can acknowledge that victims like those teenage girls are someone’s daughters, just like our own, that will we give them the protection they deserve.

Seeing human trafficking from the victims’ eyes.” The National. September 8, 2010.

The UAE has sought to become a regional hub for education through the building of Dubai’s Knowledge Village, as well as other initiatives. Improving education at all levels is an important goal of the country.

Three and four-year-olds starting at government kindergartens across Abu Dhabi for the first time tomorrow will be greeted by not one, but two teachers: one native English speaker and one Arabic speaker.

The new initiative to introduce teaching in both languages early on is among a range of changes within the Abu Dhabi government school system known as the New School Model (NSM), which will begin when those schools go back tomorrow…

According to Adec [Abu Dhabi Education Council], this means 38,000 pupils and more than 6,000 teachers in 171 schools will start adopting the new model from Wednesday. The model is expected to be introduced across all school years – from KG1 to Grade 12 – over the next six years.

The aim of the NSM is ultimately to produce students who are better prepared for tertiary education, whether at an Emirati institution, or overseas.

In recent years, according to Dr al Khaili, up to 97 per cent of students graduating from government schools have been forced to take foundation courses before they could enrol in regular classes at UAE University…

Significantly, the new school model also places a strong emphasis on teacher training. The executive director of Adec’s preschool to grade 12 education policy, Dr Lynne Pierson, described this as a more “student-centred learning approach”.

“We are moving from rote-learning to critical thinking and problem solving, leadership and research,” Dr al Khaili said. “This will require our teachers to change the old ways of doing things, such as using tests as the only way of measuring a student’s skills.” Learning should also be more “fun”, he said.

Constantine, Zoi. “Abu Dhabi pupils will be taught in English and Arabic.” The National. September 14, 2010.

Dr. Neha Vora, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, visited the UAE to do research on migrants and writes about her experience at the UAE schools, where she interviewed expat students.

In 2006, I was in Dubai conducting research among the large Indian migrant community in that emirate. Several of my younger informants, it turned out, had attended branches of US-accredited universities, which were a relatively new arrival in the Gulf States. My research, which focused on forms of identity and belonging among differently situated South Asians, was mainly concerned about the question of what it means to belong to a place like the UAE, where despite family histories that sometimes go back generations, one has no access to citizenship or even permanent residency. I started to notice that almost all of my informants, while staking certain historical, cultural, and geographic claims to Dubai and the UAE, vehemently denied any desire for formal belonging. In fact, the exclusion of the UAE’s overwhelmingly non-citizen population was predicated in many ways on the participation of non-citizens themselves. However, one group of informants differed greatly in how they spoke about their status in the UAE, and these were the young people who had attended foreign universities in the Gulf. They were actually quite politicized. They spoke of themselves as “second-class citizens” and expressed anger at what they felt to be systemic discrimination against South Asians in the Gulf. And, surprisingly, they attributed their awareness of their own exclusion directly to their university experiences, at schools like American University of Dubai, University of Wollongong, and American University of Sharjah [AUS], among others…

…The marketization of education is by and large seen as a negative by American academics, who lament the contemporary commodification of higher education, part of which is indexed by the increasingly transnational nature of universities and the neoliberal orientation of international curricula. Gulf-based projects such as Education City in Qatar and Knowledge Village in Dubai seem to be prime examples of these processes, particularly in light of recent WTO negotiations to further liberalize the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which specifically includes higher education as a commodity service.

Gulf governments…find foreign universities attractive because they provide educational opportunities for citizens that make them competitive both at home and abroad, and because they will potentially generate—after large initial investments—non-oil revenue. Foreign universities are also attractive to expatriates, who are barred from attending state schools. However, these students, particularly those who have spent their lives in the Gulf, are simultaneously inculcated into parochial national identities and an exclusion from the UAE nation-state…

When I asked Indian and Pakistani young people who attended these schools to talk about their childhood experiences, I learned that they grew up almost exclusively in South Asian social and cultural circles… Only in the university setting, when they began to interact with Emiratis and other expatriates, often for the first time in their lives, did they seem to develop a greater sense of the citizen/non-citizen hierarchy and the fact that they were in fact foreigners in their home. The university was a space in which all students were technically on equal footing—they had equal access to facilities, they excelled based on grades and not ethnicity, and they interacted socially with a wide range of different nationalities and ethnic groups. However, it was the very space of the academy that highlighted to my informants their difference from other groups, for they experienced direct racism and practices of self-entitlement from their peers.

While primary and secondary education in the UAE tends to follow national lines, higher education is very diverse. ..All of the young people whom I spoke to about being South Asian in Gulf universities told me that the thing they found most difficult was the behavior of Emirati and other Gulf Arab nationals. In our conversations, they spoke of incidents in which “locals” would cut in front of them in the cafeteria line, would expect them to share their notes and even their homework, and would speak in Arabic in mixed Arab/non-Arab social gatherings in ways that made them feel excluded…

Because AUS is in Sharjah, it also follows some of Sharjah’s strict decency laws. Men and women are housed in separate dormitories on different sides of the campus and women have a curfew that they have to follow or they are reported to their parents. In addition, tank tops and short skirts are banned from campus, as is any public display of affection between men and women. In the classroom itself, which often has members of the ruling families as students, faculty members do practice a certain amount of self-censorship. They do not criticize social and economic hierarchies in front of their students because they never know how influential or connected their students might be…

Ironically, it was the egalitarian platform of the university, and not the segregated environment of their childhoods, that showed them the realities of inequalities in the UAE. For these young people, then, the university experience was doubly unsettling—they had to face the impending realities of perhaps settling outside of the Gulf, and they had to face the knowledge that they did not belong in the place where they felt most at home…

…On the one hand, citizens have access to more education and training; on the other hand, expatriates who do not ever have to leave may begin actively to assert belonging in the domains they previously accepted as unavailable to them, like the nation.

Vora, Neha. “Globalized higher education in the United Arab Emirates – unexpected outcomes.” Global Higher Ed. June 25, 2008.

…Despite being the world’s largest importer of international branch campuses, the UAE still lacks a federal body to oversee the 41 foreign university branches it boasts across the federation.

In the light of such challenges, The National reports today that DSG experts are stressing the need for a federal regulatory body. The aim will be to ensure that setting new standards, developing degree programmes and recruiting faculty is uniform throughout the country.

This recommendation falls in line with the UAE’s strategic aim of becoming an international education hub. Federal oversight would trim disparities and enhance the credibility of the education system nationwide…

Uniform standards for universities.” The National. August 31, 2010.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Awadi of The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research writes about the creation of specialized courts to adjudicate media-related cases.

The local media has welcomed the recent announcement on the establishment of specialized courts and prosecution offices for dealing with media-related cases in Abu Dhabi…

Some might rightly say that the UAE does not have a large number of media-related cases or disputes related to publishing and printing industry, which might necessitate the creation of specialized courts. ..In addition, traditional values of the UAE society themselves serve as a powerful deterrent against instances of defamation against individuals or the publication of inappropriate content. Although there is merit in the contention, it must not serve as an excuse and justification for not establishing specialized legal institutions for the media. Even if the need for such courts may not appear to be immediate, they would be essential for the future. ..

….The existence of specialized courts for media cases conforms with the specialized nature of media-related activities, and would facilitate the activities of media professionals. In addition, the availability of judges specialized in the field of the media as well as in the legal field would remove the obstacles faced by media officials from the misinterpretations of the contents of the published material. Thus, administration of justice in media-related cases would be enhanced, which would not impede but promote media-related freedoms….More important, media personnel facing charges would not be treated or placed alongside petty criminals in public courts.

…It is hoped that legal protection is provided to media personnel in the press, radio, TV or in the multimedia in the age of information and globalization, in order to enable them to perform their work in an environment pervading with clarity and stability.

Al-Awadhi, Abdullah. “Impartial Courts for Media Cases in Abu Dhabi.” The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. July 26, 2009.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Awadi of The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research writes about UAE’s new Publications Law.

…If we browse through the debate raging in the Op-Ed pages of our newspapers over the new draft “Regulation of Media Activities” law governing media censorship, which was recently passed by the Federal National Council—which was drafted without consultation with concerned journalists—one can easily sense a degree of dissatisfaction among members of the press over the contents of this new piece of legislation. Some of the journalists even see this new law as regressive.

If we imagine that this law mirrors the functions of the press in all its aspects, then media persons contend that this mirror reflects a distorted image. ..On studying the details of the laws, we find that journalists could be liable to punishment in their practice of the profession, which in effect would be counterproductive to the creative spirit of the profession. Thus, the draft law seems out of sync with the nature of the “media” because it is engaged in daily dissemination of news, opinions and comment.

If the aim of the advocates of this new law is to minimize the “confusion” caused by certain opinions, then the history of the UAE tells us that the incidence of such kind of subversive opinions has been rare and exceptional. Our leaders have at all times emphasized the principle of “Responsible Freedom”, and we do not accept anything but the total observance of this approach. Members and institutions of any dynamic society never expect absolute freedom…However, this does not mean that freedom should be curtailed unjustifiably or that it should hinder in the natural development of the media. If the aim of the “Regulation of Media Activities” draft law is to restrict the functions of the media by implementing stringent regulations, then it would undermine the achievements made under the previous journalistic law, in spite of the latter’s shortcomings…

Al-Awadhi, Abdullah.” Media Mirrors Social Mobilization.” The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. February 23, 2009.

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