The 12th edition of the ‘Building Political Awareness for University Students’ forum, hosted by the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), spotlighted the progress and achievements that Federal National Council (FNC) elections have made since their inception, underlining the remarkable efforts of all committees in ensuring the success of the current edition.
The forum highlighted optimal ways, tools, and methods to ensure the continuous advancement of the electoral process, enabling the UAE to elevate its parliamentary experience as one of the most prominent in the region and the world, and as an inspirational model for the relationship between legislative and executive authorities in the service of the country and its citizens.
His Excellency Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Cultural Advisor to His Highness the President of the UAE and UAEU Chancellor, said: “Holding the 12th ‘Building Political Awareness for University Students’ forum at the United Arab Emirates University is a strong affirmation that developing political awareness among university students and deepening their participation in the nation’s progress are key for stability, prosperity, and sustainable development. It is a fundamental goal of the empowerment journey, which is making remarkable progress under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.”
“The UAE is committed to empowering and upskilling youth to play their part in the decision-making process,” H.E. Nusseibeh added. “Young people possess the energy, creativity, and drive to confront challenges. They excel in presenting innovative and sustainable ideas and opinions for the development and improvement of the community, as well as for promoting stability and prosperity among all its members.”
Delivering a speech at the event, H.E. went on to note: “It is not an exaggeration to say that education has been and continues to be the true driver of nations’ progress and development, and this vision is manifested in the noble legacy left to us by our Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Our government has followed in his footsteps, recognising that the optimal approach to building a world-leading society begins with educating and enlightening citizens, dedicated to developing their capabilities and expanding their knowledge to play their part in the progress and development of all social, political, and economic sectors.”
Her Highness Sheikha Dr. Shamma bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan Cultural and Educational Institutions, also delivered a speech at the forum, emphasising the importance of elections and their role in getting qualified leaders into positions of influence, who are capable of driving change and development.
H.H. Sheikha Dr. Shamma noted that parliamentary elections offer an exceptional opportunity and are a critical juncture in efforts to support the UAE’s cultural development, underlining the indispensable role that the country’s wise leadership plays in promoting good governance during the electoral process. H.H. went on to highlight the unique character of the UAE’s electoral process, which strikes a balance between appointed and elected FNC members and integrates their roles.
Her Highness concluded her speech by underscoring the crucial role of universities and educational institutions, particularly the United Arab Emirates University, in educating the nation’s youth and promoting a sense of responsibility among them to contribute to their country’s progress and development by participating in the electoral process, and striving to build a better future for the UAE.
For his part, H.E. Tariq Hilal Lootah, Undersecretary of the Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs (MFNCA), and Chairperson of the National Elections Committee (NEC), said: “This year’s edition of the forum coincides with the fifth cycle of the Federal National Council elections, a significant milestone in the evolution of the electoral experience in the UAE, which began when the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the Political Empowerment Programme back in 2005.”
“Guided by the visionary leadership of the UAE and with the collective efforts of all teams and the active participation of the nation’s youth, this election cycle will add yet another success to the achievements made in previous editions,” H.E. Lootah added, calling on the youth to actively participate in the electoral process and vote for representatives who can voice their opinions and aspirations, and work to transform them into a reality.
Meanwhile, H.E. Mubarak Al Nakhi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, stated in his speech: “At the establishment of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his fellow Rulers of the emirates, were keen on developing strategic visions that empower youth in various aspects of life, considering them to be the most valuable asset our country has. Indeed, the UAE Government has succeeded in achieving all of those aspirations on the ground, turning the country into a role model to be followed both regionally and globally in terms of empowering the youth and enhancing their roles in various key sectors.”
“Today, our youth hold the keys to knowledge, education, innovation, and creativity, with the ability to effectively communicate with their peers around the world, setting a prominent and competitive example for all Arab youth,” H.E. Al Nakhi continued. “This is a matter of great pride for us, and with that in mind, the continued development of young people’s skills in various fields is a priority, serving to strengthen the leadership’s confidence in the youth, and shaping the nation’s future with promising talents capable of serving their country.”
On a similar note, Dr. Suad Al Arimi, Head of the Government and Society Department, said in her address: “Political awareness begins with self-awareness, and students can expand their political awareness by understanding the organisational structure, informal interaction networks, and individuals’ aspirations and ability to exert influence. Therefore, it is crucial for young people to recognise their important role in the political process and to understand the space and freedom provided for them to interact with their peers.”
“Youth participation creates a positive atmosphere for political and electoral interaction,” Dr. Al Arimi added. “It provides an advantageous opportunity for university students to gain a genuine understanding of political agendas, electoral programmes, and sources of strength within them. This, however, calls for promoting an electoral culture and raising parliamentary awareness among the youth of the UAE.”
During a panel discussion led by Dr. Moza Al Tenaijy, Chair of the Department of Languages and Literature at UAEU, H.E. Dr. Mohammed Hamad Al Kuwaiti, Head of the UAE Government Cybersecurity Council, discussed cybersecurity and its role in maintaining the highest standards of confidentiality and security for the electoral process and all activities related to the FNC elections. Meanwhile, H.E. Dr. Sultan Mohammed Al Nuaimi, Director-General of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, highlighted the influential role of higher education institutions in fostering political awareness among students and preparing them to be future leaders capable of carrying out the UAE’s mission and vision for global leadership and excellence.
Moreover, Counsellor Issa Saif bin Handal, Director of the Legal Department of the Government of Sharjah, Chairman of the Sharjah Committee of the 2023 FNC elections, discussed the role that the respective emirates’ committees play in optimising election organisation, showcasing the tasks and responsibilities these committees perform. For her part, Professor Ahlam Al-Lamki, Head of the Department of Research and Development at the General Women’s Union, shed light on the Fatima bint Mubarak Political Empowerment Programme for Women and its achievements in enhancing the capabilities of Emirati women, which is reflected in their active participation in the current elections as both candidates and voters.
The Forum concluded with a youth-led session, featuring and moderated by UAEU students, which discussed the active role of youth in elevating parliamentary work through meaningful participation in the 2023 Federal National Council elections.