On Wednesday, April 5, our delegation visited the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations. We were warmly welcomed by the staff members of the mission, who also generously supplied us with drinks and cookies. Our briefing was held by Mr. Muhammad al-Otaiba, Deputy Ambassador of the UAE to the United Nations, who briefly introduced himself and welcomed us once again. Since the agenda in the committees of the NMUN conference had been set the previous night, all members of our delegation were particularly interested in the position of the Emirates regarding “their” specific topic. Mr. al-Otaiba was interested to find out which committees would be simulated at the NMUN conference and allowed us to ask a round of detailed questions regarding the respective committee topics.
Asked about the Emirates' efforts regarding sustainable development in Africa, the Ambassador explained that the UAE was working closely together with its partners from the GCC, the Arab League, and the Group of 77, to open the markets of the developed world for products from developing countries. This would particularly benefit the agricultural sector in Africa. The Deputy Ambassador also mentioned that the UAE spent around 3 % of its GDP on development aid, a fact that was often unnoticed since most of the aid was spent in bilateral aid programs rather than being donated to UN agencies and programs.
After a question regarding the integration of developing countries into the global economy, the NMUN topic for the GA Second committee, Mr. al-Otaiba again stressed the importance of “fair competition” between businesses in the developing and the developed world, which could only be achieved through the opening of the US and EU markets. Aside from its work in the Group of 77 to foster South-South cooperation, the UAE is also making progress on the subregional level with the successful integration of economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
When asked about the strategy of the UAE in trade negotiations, Mr. al-Otaiba explained that the UAE would highlight the good record of the Emirates and its economic success over the last years but would also actively call for change and further opening of markets with the goal of a world economy open to all countries. Despite the fact that the UAE economy was not centered on agriculture, this topic would be the priority in WTO meetings to support the developing countries of the G77. The Deputy Ambassador stressed the fact that in an open economy, the choice should be left to the consumer.
Regarding the issue of Regulating Conventional Arms, to be discussed in the First Committee of the General Assembly, Mr. al-Otaiba outlined the UAE's commitment to stop the illicit trade of weapons and its support of regulation on all levels to guarantee regional stability. In the Emirates, it was almost impossible to own a gun due to strict regulations limiting private ownership. Asked about the UAE's position on the topic from the GA Third Committee, Crime Prevention in Developing States, and its importance in the fight against terrorism, Mr. al-Otaiba emphasized that the UAE had been a close partner of the US and the EU in the global fight against terrorism even before 9/11. The Emirates had a solid legal framework for crime prevention and were working together with their partners to set standards on the international level.
In response to a question about the role of NGOs in the UAE, the Ambassador explained that the UAE did not object to the work of NGOs in general, but was opposed to those organizations which tried to interfere in national affairs and had a hidden agenda. NGOs with the express support of the UAE government were the Red Crescent Society and the UAE Women's Federation.
Even though the status of women in the society of the Emirates has greatly improved and could be considered a regional role model, Mr. al-Otaiba pointed out that the UAE government did not preach and try to force its culture onto other countries, but rather supported the progress and change in the region on this issue, even though this might be a longer process in which some countries needed more time than others.
After having answered a great number of questions covering all kinds of topics in the UAE’s foreign policy, the Deputy Ambassador gave us the opportunity for a brief photo with the portraits of the great UAE leaders, and kindly provided us with some DVDs and books about the Emirates. The visit to the UAE mission was certainly a highlight of our week and gave us further insight and knowledge to begin the discussions at the NMUN conference.