His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the second President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the 16th Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in UAE. He was elected as the President on November 3, 2004, the day after the demise of his father, the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ruled as the President from 1971 to 2004. Sheikh Khalifa, the powerful President of UAE is also the emir of Abu Dhabi, the supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and the chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council. He is also among the world’s wealthiest monarchs who controls over 97.8 billion barrels of reserves and owns one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority that manages USD 875 billion in assets. Ever since HH Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014, his half-brother Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has become more active and helps HH to manage the affairs of the state.
In 2004, after becoming the UAE President, HH Sheikh Khalifa decided to restructure the Federal National Council (FNC), an assembly that advises the president of UAE. He felt it was required for a broader outlook and to steer the country towards progress. In line with the restructuring, on December 1, 2005, HH Sheikh Khalifa announced a Federal Policy in which half of the members of FNC would be elected while the other half of the council’s members would be appointed by the leaders of the seven emirates. A new Cabinet came into force with Vice-President and Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as Prime Minister. The new FNC’s agenda included – to streamline and modernize the business of government, to focus on community development and, to reform of the political process.
While addressing the nation on 2 December 2005, UAE’s National Day he said, “The years ahead require a bigger role for the Federal National Council by empowering it to be an authority that would provide great support and guidance for the executive arm of the government. We shall work to make the Council more capable, more effective and more sensitive to the issues affecting the nation and the people. This would be done by ensuring a more participatory process and the entrenchment of the policy of “Shura” consultation. And through a gradual, organized course, we have decided to start activating the role of the FNC through electing half of its members through councils for each emirate and appointing the other half. By doing this, we will embark on a march that culminates in more participation and interaction from all the citizens of the country. . . . Today, we stand at a threshold of a new era, whose ultimate objective is to entrench the rule of law and due process, accountability, transparency and equal opportunity.”
While believing the re-structuring of government, can only become stronger if the people of the UAE themselves contribute effectively, he continued to say, “It is high time for our political, religious, cultural, information, educational and civil society institutions to take up their responsibilities to instill in our society the values of love of work, to change the negative perceptions about vocational work. It is high time to make them understand the true meaning of work – that it means responsibility and reflects human, civil and religious values. These institutions also need to work hard to diversify the skills of the national human resources, to raise productivity, encourage investment in human resources development, improve voluntary work and create awareness on this noble work and its significance to individuals and society in general.”
The President of the People, for the People
HH Sheikh Khalifa has been a hands-down leader. He often took extensive tours throughout the UAE to understand the needs of his people, after which he informed the FNC to undertake major housing and social projects.
Among several initiatives, the two that stand out most, include
- The introduction of high quality, efficient and affordable services for the public, and
- Opening up UAE to encourage foreign investors to participate in direct private investment and public-private partnerships.
In 2005, HH Sheikh Khalifa hosted the GCC summit conference, in Abu Dhabi. He has been an active advocate of peace and prosperity in the region.
From offering diplomatic support and range of assistance for reconstruction of Iraq’s shattered economy one hand, he has also tried to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. HH Sheikh Khalifa funded a major housing program, Sheikh Khalifa City, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip to show his determination to end the unnecessary conflict and restore security, peace and stability in the region.
HH Sheikh Khalifa has also continued to build strong relations with other countries and put UAE on the world map. He has visited Central Asian states and even received heads of countries from Asia and Europe, and other Arab countries.
From the iconic Burj Khalifa to the preparing to host World Expo 2020 (now postponed from Oct 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022), under the leadership of HH Sheikh Khalifa, the country has transformed from an oil rich economy to a world tourist and business destination.
International Titles and Honors
- 2008 Spain
Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Civil Merit.
- 2010 UK
Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.
- 2012 Netherlands
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion.
- 2012 South Korea
Member of the Grand Order of Mugunghwa.
HH Sheikh Khalifa, the Person
Born on September 7, 1948 at Qasr Al-Muwaiji, Al Ain, in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa is the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed. He is married to Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. They have eight children, two sons and six daughters and several grandchildren.
Besides proving to be the much loved and revered leader of UAE, his personal interests in fishing and falconry, have led to a number of environmental initiatives, including breeding and release programmes for falcons and the Houbara Bustard in the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asian regions. His environmental ambassadorship even led to the appointment of a Minister for the Environment in the FNC.
Also being a sports fan, HH Sheikh Khalifa has nurtured sportsmen. He honoured the successes of Emirati sporting teams at the local, regional and international levels.
He is the leader of tomorrow leading UAE to a better future.