A fu­ture of hap­pi­ness, tol­er­ance, and youth

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Over the past two weeks, I have heard and read many ques­tions, com­ments, and news sto­ries re­gard­ing re­cent changes to the govern­ment of the United Arab Emi­rates. Why, ev­ery­one seems to want to know, did we es­tab­lish a Min­istry of Hap­pi­ness, Tol­er­ance, and the Fu­ture, and why did we ap­point a 22-year-old Min­is­ter of Youth?

The changes re­flect what we have learned from events in our re­gion over the past five years. In par­tic­u­lar, we have learned that fail­ure to re­spond ef­fec­tively to the as­pi­ra­tions of young peo­ple, who rep­re­sent more than half of the pop­u­la­tion in Arab coun­tries, is like swim­ming against the tide. With­out the en­ergy and op­ti­mism of youth, so­ci­eties can­not de­velop and grow; in­deed, they are doomed.

When gov­ern­ments spurn their youth and block their path to a bet­ter life, they slam the door in the face of the en­tire so­ci­ety. We do not for­get that the gen­e­sis of the ten­sion in our re­gion, the events dubbed the “Arab Spring,” was squarely rooted in the lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to achieve their dreams and am­bi­tions.

We are proud that the UAE is a young coun­try. And we are proud of our youth. We in­vest in them and em­power them pre­cisely be­cause they are our fu­ture. We be­lieve that they are faster than us in ac­quir­ing and pro­cess­ing knowl­edge, be­cause they have grown up with tools and tech­niques that we lacked at their age. We en­trust them with driv­ing our coun­try to new lev­els of growth and de­vel­op­ment, which is why we have now ap­pointed a cab­i­net min­is­ter of their age and cre­ated a spe­cial coun­cil of youth.

We have also learned from hun­dreds of thou­sands of dead and mil­lions of refugees in our re­gion that sec­tar­ian, ide­o­log­i­cal, cul­tural, and religious big­otry only fuel the fires of rage. We can­not and will not al­low this in our coun­try. We need to study, teach, and prac­tice tol­er­ance – and to in­still it in our chil­dren, both through education and our own ex­am­ple.

That is why we have ap­pointed a Min­is­ter of State for Tol­er­ance. We be­lieve that a le­gal frame­work should for­malise the tol­er­ance our so­ci­ety al­ready dis­plays, and that our poli­cies and ini­tia­tives will pro­vide an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple to our neigh­bours.

When the Arab world was tol­er­ant and ac­cept­ing of oth­ers, it led the world: from Bagh­dad to Da­m­as­cus to An­dalu­sia and far­ther afield, we pro­vided bea­cons of sci­ence, knowl­edge, and civil­i­sa­tion, be­cause hu­mane val­ues were the ba­sis of our re­la­tion­ships with all civil­i­sa­tions, cul­tures, and Even when our an­ces­tors left An­dalu­sia, peo­ple faiths went with them.

Tol­er­ance is no catch­phrase, but a qual­ity we must cher­ish and prac­tice. It must be wo­ven into the fab­ric of our so­ci­ety to safe­guard our fu­ture and main­tain the progress we have made. There can be no bright fu­ture for the Middle East with­out an in­tel­lec­tual re­con­struc­tion that re-es­tab­lishes the val­ues of ide­o­log­i­cal open­ness, di­ver­sity, and ac­cep­tance of oth­ers’ view­points, whether in­tel­lec­tual, cul­tural, or religious.

With ev­ery les­son we learn comes a de­ci­sion that will shape our fu­ture. But we also know that we can learn by look­ing to the fu­ture, not just the past or present. Sim­ply put, we must think of what life will be like in a post-oil econ­omy. That is why we have in­vested heav­ily – more than 300 bil­lion dirhams ($81.5 bil­lion) – in es­tab­lish­ing a fo­cus for the UAE’s path ahead, with the aim of pre­par­ing for a di­verse econ­omy that frees fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from de­pen­dence on the ever-fluc­tu­at­ing oil mar­ket.

Achiev­ing that goal re­quires re­con­sid­er­ing our leg­isla­tive, ad­min­is­tra­tive, and eco­nomic sys­tem fully to move away from de­pen­dence on oil. We need a strong and ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tory in­fra­struc­ture to build a sus­tain­able and di­verse na­tional econ­omy for our chil­dren and their chil­dren.

In writ­ing this com­men­tary, I want to send a clear mes­sage to oth­ers in our re­gion that change hap­pens by our hands only. Our re­gion does not need a su­per-strong ex­ter­nal power to stop its de­cline; we need the power from within that can over­come the ha­tred and in­tol­er­ance that has blighted life in many neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

I am writ­ing to send a mes­sage that gov­ern­ments in our re­gion and else­where need to re­vise their roles. The role of govern­ment is to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which peo­ple can achieve their dreams and am­bi­tions, not to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that govern­ment can con­trol. The point is to re­li­gions. of other em­power peo­ple, not to hold power over them. Govern­ment, in short, should nur­ture an en­vi­ron­ment in which peo­ple cre­ate and en­joy their own hap­pi­ness.

We are not new to this talk about the govern­ment’s role in pro­mot­ing hap­pi­ness. Since the dawn of his­tory, hap­pi­ness is all that hu­man­ity has sought. Aris­to­tle said the state is a liv­ing be­ing which de­vel­ops in seek­ing the achieve­ment of moral per­fec­tion and hap­pi­ness for in­di­vid­u­als. Ibn Khal­dun said the same thing. Like­wise, the United States Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence up­holds the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness as ev­ery per­son’s right.

In our own time, the United Na­tions is now call­ing for changes in the cri­te­ria used to mea­sure gov­ern­men­tal suc­cess from eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors to mea­sures re­lated to hu­man hap­pi­ness and well­be­ing. It has ded­i­cated the UN In­ter­na­tional Day of Hap­pi­ness to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of this shift.

Fo­cus­ing on hap­pi­ness is both fea­si­ble and fully jus­ti­fied. Hap­pi­ness can be mea­sured, and its eval­u­a­tion is al­ready the sub­ject of many pro­grams and stud­ies. More­over, it can be de­vel­oped and its achieve­ment linked to ma­te­rial ob­jec­tives. Stud­ies have shown that happy peo­ple pro­duce more, live longer, and drive bet­ter eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in their com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries.

The hap­pi­ness of in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, and em­ploy­ees, their sat­is­fac­tion with their lives and op­ti­mism for the fu­ture, are cru­cial to our work, which cuts across ev­ery sec­tor of govern­ment. That is why there must be a min­is­ter to guide and fol­low up with all govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions (as well as pro­vide lead­er­ship to the pri­vate sec­tor).

Ours is no empty prom­ise. We will seek to cre­ate a so­ci­ety where our peo­ple’s hap­pi­ness is paramount, by sus­tain­ing an en­vi­ron­ment in which they can truly flour­ish. And we hope our for­mula ben­e­fits oth­ers in the re­gion. The for­mula is straight­for­ward: na­tional de­vel­op­ment based on core val­ues, led by youth, and fo­cused on a fu­ture in which ev­ery­one achieves hap­pi­ness.

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