The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation established in December 1971. This page provides a brief about the political system and government in the UAE.
The UAE has its own flag, coat of arms and national anthem. All citizens of the UAE carry the unified nationality of the United Arab Emirates, which is recognised internationally. The UAE consists of seven emirates:
- Abu Dhabi
- Ras Al Khaimah (it acceded to the new federation in February 1972)
- Umm Al Quwain
How does the political system work?
The political system is based on the Constitution which explains the main rules of the political and constitutional organisation of the country. The Constitution demonstrates the main purpose of the establishment of the federation and its objectives at the local and regional levels. It guarantees all UAE citizens equal rights and opportunities, safety and security, and social justice.
The Constitution has 152 articles establishing the basis of the UAE and the rights of citizens in ten areas that are:
- The federation, its constituencies and principal aims
- The fundamental social and economic basis of the federation
- Public freedom, rights and duties
- The federal authorities
- Federal legislations, decrees and authorities in charge
- The emirates
- Allocation of legislative, executive and international jurisdiction between the federation and the emirates
- Financial affairs of the federation
- Armed forces and security forces
- Final and transitional provisions
Key developments in the political system
Over the years, the UAE has taken many steps to develop its political system, make it more receptive to the needs of the socio-economic progress of the country and to ensure that that UAE's population is equipped to cope with the challenges of global development.
The UAE's elections of the Federal National Council in 2006 and the creation of the electoral college were landmark steps designed to enhance public participation in the UAE political system.
Having followed the practice of nominating all its 40 members between 1972 and 2006, since 2006, 20 members of the FNC were elected by an electoral college and 20 were nominated by the rulers of the respective emirates.
In 2008, the Supreme Council also approved constitutional amendments to further empower the FNC and increase its scope of influence and coordination with the Cabinet.
Political reform strategies
The UAE Government took several steps to reform the political system in the UAE. Some of these steps are:
- UAE Government Strategy in 2007
The strategy aimed to create cooperative interaction between federal and local governments. In addition, it aims at revitalising the regulatory and policy-making roles of the ministries and improving their decision-making mechanisms, increasing the efficiency of governmental bodies and upgrading their services in accordance with the needs of the people, as well as reviewing and upgrading existing legislation.
- Amendments to the Constitution
A significant development was the amendment of Article 62 of the Constitution in late 2008. The amended law states that the Prime Minister or his deputies or any federal minister may not practice any professional or commercial job nor enter into a business transaction with the federal government or local governments.
In addition, the Supreme Council in 2008 also approved constitutional amendments in Articles 72, 78 and 91 to further empower the FNC and increase its scope of influence.
In 2010, Vision 2021 was launched as a national charter aimed to transform the UAE into 'one of the best countries in the world' by 2021, by integrating the efforts at the federal and the local levels.
Vision 2021 focuses specifically on four objectives:
- Ensure that UAE nationals have ambition and sense of responsibility, are capable of drawing the future with confidence and participate effectively in a sustainable socio-economic environment based on stability, solidarity, moderate Islamic values and national heritage.
- Ensure a strong union with a common destiny that protects Emiratis and advocates balanced development.
- Develop a knowledge-based economy that will be diverse and flexible, and led by skilled Emiratis.
- Ensure prosperity for UAE nationals.
The UAE's foreign policy
The UAE's foreign policy is based on the belief in the need for justice in international dealings between states.
This includes the necessity of adhering to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and the pursuit, whenever possible, of peaceful resolution of disputes, together with support for international institutions, such as the United Nations.
For full view of UAE foreign policy, please refer to the website of UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
UAE Soft Power Council
The formation of the UAE Soft Power Council aims to support the country’s National Agenda and build the UAE’s position as a global example of leadership and excellence.
It seeks to reinforce the country’s position and consolidate its values of respect and appreciation with governments and citizens across the world.
Parallel to its economic and military strength, the UAE’s long-term plan is to promote a strong coherent international policy, build diplomatic relationships and introduce and influence the UAE’s culture, values, history, knowledge and vision to all.
The UAE Soft Power Council will report directly to the UAE Cabinet and will be in charge of the following tasks:
- defining a comprehensive strategy to reinforce the country’s position with governments and citizens across the world
- introducing an integrated national strategy that consolidates the roles of both the public and private sectors in achieving soft power
developing a soft power strategy for the state, including in the fields of science, culture, technology, humanitarian work and economy
reviewing all legislation and policies that affect the UAE’s status and reputation in all the strategic countries
providing counsel and reference on soft power initiatives
protecting the country’s achievements, ambition and accomplishments in science, culture, arts, tourism, trade, humanitarianism and other sectors regionally and internationally.
Updated on 24 Jan 2018