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UAE's Voluntary National Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2018

Monday, 16 July 2018
H.E. Abdullah Lootah
United Nations

Your Excellencies,

It gives me great pleasure to present the UAE’s Voluntary National Review.

We believe that the ultimate purpose of global development is to enrich the lives of current and future generations of our citizens and people around the world.

As you know, the UAE played an important role in the formulation of Agenda 2030.  

We aimed to ensure that a consensus on the importance of sustainable development was a key outcome of the Rio+20 Summit. Thereafter for almost 3 years, we worked with the global community to institutionalize the SDGs until they were adopted in 2015.

We challenged the global perception of our region by championing women’s empowerment, sustainable energy and climate action, alongside issues concerning education, poverty eradication, and health.

The SDGs are therefore part of our legacy and a reinforcement of our plans for the future.

The UAE has a federal system of government consisting of seven emirates. The ideas of sustainable development are reflected in UAE’s development plans at both the federal and local levels of government.

The principles that underpin UAE’s national development are encapsulated in the Vision 2021 and are outlined in detail in the National Agenda.

UAE’s National Agenda emphasizes sustainable development centered on 4 pillars, 6 national priorities and 52 key performance indicators.

For the UAE, making it over the milestones that the SDGs prescribe by the year 2030 is only the start. The SDGs are part of a chain of outcomes that the UAE aims to achieve in the coming years.

Last year, the UAE announced its fifty-year strategy for national development, the UAE Centennial 2071.

The national dialogue to shape long-term policy will derive significantly from UAE’s current National Agenda. Thereafter, it will use as guiding principles the ambitions of future development plans. The fulfillment of the SDGs will be an important measure of progress in the year 2030.

Let me say more about how Agenda 2030 is being implemented.

The National Committee on SDGs was established in January 2017.

17 federal government organizations are members of the Committee.

The Committee coordinates the whole-of-government systems and procedures for policy coherence and review of the SDGs. It also serves as a platform for multi-stakeholder engagement.

Since 2017, the National Committee has focused its efforts along three dimensions.

Firstly, mapping SDG targets to UAE’s National Agenda. Secondly, aligning monitoring and reporting cycles with the work program of the national statistics system. Finally, the Committee has embedded SDG targets in the strategic plans of federal entities.

Chapter 2 of the VNR report details the roles of National Committee members in achieving the SDGs.

The National Committee also manages UAE’s international engagement pertaining to Agenda 2030. I will say more about this shortly.

But before I proceed, I would like to invite everyone here to attend the UN World Data Forum in Dubai this October. I am pleased to announce that the forum will be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.  

Data is a challenge for many countries, including the UAE. Therefore, we believe that it is vital to highlight the importance of data and evidence-based policy in accomplishing the SDGs. We hope to contribute by hosting a world-class data forum in 2018.

Let me say more about the domestic implementation of the SDGs.

Government in the UAE operates in a transparent manner supported by a systematic performance framework. It has a highly skilled civil service and innovative mechanisms for the delivery of public services.

To implement UAE’s National Agenda, policy initiatives are incorporated in the government’s performance management framework. They are then linked to five-year strategic and operational plans of federal ministries.

This framework is flexible enough to incorporate the SDGs. Chapter 3 of our VNR report describes this framework in detail.

Multi-stakeholder engagement is an established part of UAE’s policymaking process.

Consultations for UAE’s National Agenda involved over 300 officials from 90 federal and local government entities. Participants from civil society organizations, the private sector and academia were also involved.

In its aspiration to leave no one behind, the National Committee on SDGs has developed a communication strategy to facilitate greater engagement with societal stakeholders.

For example, the consultation process to prepare for this VNR began in October 2017 when the National Committee hosted its first annual multi-stakeholder meeting on SDGs. 

One concept discussed at the meeting was the establishment of a Private-Sector Advisory Council for SDGs that will be launched later this month.

This advisory council will engage the business community in the UAE to raise awareness of the SDGs and advise on policies to achieve SDG targets. The council will also help shape community outreach activities and CSR agendas to align with the government’s efforts to achieve Agenda 2030.

Youth engagement was another topic of discussion.

In 2016, the UAE government appointed a Minister of State for Youth Affairs. When she was appointed, the minister was aged 22 making her, at the time, the youngest minister in the world.

Her mandate is to facilitate greater participation of youth to determine the future direction of the country.

Subsequent to the minister’s appointment, the Emirates Youth Council and seven Local Youth Councils were launched. These youth councils are involved in official discussions regarding the SDGs.

The slide describes a project called “Future Policy Depot” that involves Emirati youth in the policymaking process for the SDGs by providing direct access to Cabinet-level officials.  

To achieve the SDGs, we must collaborate to give hope for a better future to countries and communities where pain, suffering and anguish prevails.

In 2017, the UAE was recognized by the OECD as the world’s largest per capita donor contributing 1.31% of its GNI as Official Development Assistance.

This significantly surpasses the UN’s target for countries to contribute 0.7% of their GNI to ODA.   

The UAE also contributed 0.36% of GNI as ODA to LDCs, thereby also surpassing the UN target range of 0.15 to 0.20%.   

In addition, the UAE has reoriented its foreign aid program to align with the SDGs to locate it at the core of the issues and geographies where aid and assistance is most needed.

The 2016 Foreign Aid Report presents UAE’s contributions through the lens of the 17 SDGs. As you can see, the graph shows that aid is directed to the fulfilment of all 17 SDGs.

UAE’s foreign aid program is geographically diverse covering six continents.

Assisting other countries in achieving the SDGs will remain a centrepiece of the UAE’s international efforts.

The SDGs also feature prominently in global events hosted by the UAE.

As UAE’s flagship event on global issues – the annual World Government Summit – rises in prominence, so does its program of events on the SDGs.

Many of you will have participated in the ‘SDGs in Action’ series since it was launched at the 2016 World Government Summit. The SDGs in Action platform has hosted sessions on monitoring and reporting, financing, the role of STI and global partnerships.

Moreover, at the 2018 SDGs in Action event, the UAE launched an initiative called “The Global Councils on SDGs”.

The Global Councils involve former heads of state, ministers, private sector executives and senior officials from international organizations. The Councils facilitate partnerships to assist in the implementation of innovative solutions toward the SDGs. In addition, outcomes of council discussions will be shared at our side event tomorrow.

I hope to see many of you involved in the Global Councils on SDGs.   

Meaningful change is never straightforward but we in the UAE are confident that we have both the mindset and systems in place to make a real difference towards the SDGs. We owe it to ourselves and to our future generations to dream big and deliver accordingly.

Now I would like to invite you all to watch a video in which ministers from the SDG National Committee are highlighting their roles towards the SDGs.

To conclude, I look forward to the prospect of SDGs serving as a guiding path to ensure a brighter future for all.