Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, wrote an open letter on the significance of appointing ministers of state for happiness, tolerance, the future and youth earlier this month, in what was deemed the largest overhaul of the federal Government in its history.
In his letter explaining the appointments, published on Saturday, Sheikh Mohammed addressed unrest in the Middle East related to lack of opportunities for young people, the regional events which led to the creation of the tolerance portfolio, the importance of happiness for productivity and economic development, plus the country’s need to prepare for a post-oil future.
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, such societies 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 practise 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 religions. Even when our ancestors left Andalusia, people of other faiths went with them.