Friday, September 16, 2011

UAE: FNC Candidates Have A Duty Towards The Nation's Youth

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) cannot afford to live in a "Me Generation" but must focus instead on developing tomorrow's leaders. Candidates for the Federal National Council (FNC) can help.
By Khalid Al Ameri
The hot topic on Emiratis' minds this month is the heavily Twitter-trending Federal National Council (FNC) elections that are right around the corner on September 24.
Candidates are campaigning now and reaching out to communities. And Emiratis, both old and young, are eager to learn more about the FNC, what it can do for them and how they can contribute.
What has grabbed my attention is the increasing role the UAE's young people are playing in this year's election.
They are assuming a role in this process which is far greater than the one they played in the previous FNC election in 2006.
This is in large part thanks to the widespread use of social media, which has been apparent since the candidates were announced.
What is more interesting is that newspapers are highlighting how younger Emiratis are attending the various FNC-election related functions to learn more about the process of campaigning. In large part, this is a process of political education. Many of them are doing this so that they will be prepared for the next cycle of voting.
I am no political expert, but I am an Emirati and a father, so my interest in the FNC is two-fold: first I am naturally interested in creating a better environment for my family and community today, and second I also want to ensure the future of my children and of future generations in the UAE.
The basic structure of the Federal National Council is like it was in 2006: the 40-member council is made up of 20 members appointed by the rulers of the seven emirates and 20 who are elected, from each emirate, by Emiratis who are eligible to vote. What has changed is that the number of eligible voters has increased greatly since the last elections.
It is also important to point out that the FNC is an advisory body and not a legislative one. The Council is mandated under the constitution to examine federal legislation, to question federal ministers on the performance of their respective ministries and to discuss annual budgets.
Most Emiratis are in a process of reading and learning about the ambitions of the candidates running for the Federal National Council. Most of them seem to be focused on a few principal issues which are obviously important, even critical, to the UAE today and tomorrow: issues such as Emiratisation, health care, education and the empowerment of women.
These issues are all of the utmost importance to ensuring a high quality of life for the people of UAE, but having said that I ask that our budding politicians focus on another critical sector, and that is youth development.
I am not simply talking about providing young people with a solid education. That is something that has been a priority of our leadership for a while, and great strides are being made.
But as a campaign issue, candidates should be talking about youth in the context of how we can provide a holistic environment for our children to prosper in society. This will involve different factors including employment opportunities, youth centres, development initiatives and more.
Our youth make up the largest portion of our population, and they are the ones who will carry forward the responsibility of leading our country in the future.
Think about it for a second. What opportunities are out there for our youth today? Where can they go to unleash their creative energy? What federal initiatives are there to harness their potential at a young age? And how have the youth participated in the national development to date? These are all critical questions that I think need immediate answers.
Any candidate who genuinely wants to improve and develop our country should have youth development issues at the top of his or her priorities.
Why do I say this? Because a candidate can promise to work towards all the improvements in the world but at the end of the day, if we don't have an upcoming generation ready to carry the torch and build on those improvements, it will have all been for nothing.
So there should be emphasis on making improvements with the goal of ensuring that as our children grow up there is a healthy environment - both socially and economically - in which they can prosper. This is where tackling pressing issues such as personal debt levels and quality of health care comes in.
When considering all the problems of policy, it is critical that candidates keep in mind that our children will be living tomorrow with the decisions they make today.
As a society, we cannot afford to live in a "Me Generation" but need to focus on contributions that can be made to the next generation. Take as an example the question of which generation will be paying for the global economic crisis and you will see the importance of our decisions.
Our late and loved Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, is quoted as saying that the youth of the country are the real wealth of the nation.
I humbly ask the candidates to look towards their children and the children of our country to see what Sheikh Zayed saw in them - the future of the nation.
-This commentary was published in The National on 16/09/2011
-Khalid Al Ameri is an associate at an Abu Dhabi development company

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