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Political System

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Since the establishment of the federation in 1971, the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have forged a distinct national identity through consolidation of their federal status and enjoy an enviable degree of political stability. The UAE's political system, a unique combination of the traditional and the modern, has underpinned this political success, enabling the country to develop a modern administrative structure while, at the same time, ensuring that the best of the traditions of the past are maintained, adapted and preserved.

Over the course of 2007, major steps have been taken, both at a federal and at a local level, in terms of reforming the structure of government, these steps being designed both to make it more responsive to the needs of the country's population and to ensure that it is better equipped to cope with the challenges of development, in all spheres, in a manner that is in keeping with current best practices in administration and the delivery of services, as well as being more cost-effective.

The process has been directed, at a federal level, by the country's President, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and has been devised and guided at an executive level by the Vice President and Prime Minister, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has also overseen reforms in Dubai. Similar programmes have been launched in other member emirates of the federation, in particular by its largest component, Abu Dhabi, again directed by HH Sheikh Khalifa, as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and implemented by the Crown Prince and Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Executive Council, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The most important development during 2007 was the formal launching, early in the year, of a UAE Government Strategy for the years ahead. Covering 21 individual topics, in the six sectors of social development, economic development, public sector development, justice and safety, infrastructure and rural areas development, the strategy is based upon the National Programme unveiled by President HH Sheikh Khalifa in December 2005. Drawn up after extensive consultation between the federal ministries, as well as other bodies, the strategy was launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who noted that it . . .

sets the foundations for a new era of public administration. The changing times and the nature of the challenges prompt us to think in a different way and to adopt international best practices in the area of public administration. This strategy unifies efforts within a strategic framework with clear objectives, based on detailed studies (and) . . . clearly identifies and integrates federal and local efforts.

A key focus of the strategy is the maintaining of continuous cooperation between federal and local authorities, with HH Sheikh Mohammed noting that 'Creating synergy between the federal and local governments is one of the most important vital elements of development' in the strategy.

Other general principles include the revitalisation of the regulatory and policy-making role of the ministries and the improvement of their decision-making mechanisms, and increasing of the efficiency of governmental bodies and upgrading of the level of the services provided in accordance with customer needs.

Other principles include an improvement of the civil service, based on competence, effective Emiratisation and leadership training, empowering the ministries, in accordance with public policies and reviewing and upgrading of existing legislation.

In August, the Abu Dhabi government announced its own policy agenda for 2007 and 2008. The agenda included 18 independent policy statements providing details of plans in areas such as planning and economy, energy, tourism, health, education, labour, civil services, culture and heritage, food control, urban planning, transport, environment, health and safety, municipal affairs, police and emergency services, electronic government, women, and legislative reform.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan commented: For the people of Abu Dhabi, the publication of a comprehensive policy agenda will provide unprecedented understanding of the priorities and plans of the government. For the private sector, the initiatives outlined in this agenda represent huge opportunities to operate in new sectors that were previously the traditional realm of the government. For citizens and residents, the policy agenda signals a new era in accountability, transparency and government performance.

The agenda is expected to enhance the spirit of teamwork among government departments, improving government performance and improving the quality of services delivered to residents of the emirate, as well as strengthening Abu Dhabi's ability to attract inward investment.

The process of administrative

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