The UAE is committed to providing equality and social justice to all people living within its borders. Over the last four decades, the UAE has transformed from a traditional, largely rural nation – where people had limited to no access to education and health services – to a modern, urbanized society with sophisticated infrastructure. With this extraordinary growth came large-scale immigration – the total UAE population increased from 1 million in 1980 to 9.4 million in 2014. It is expected that the population will continue to increase, reaching approximately 15.5 million in 2050.
Rapid urban development and population expansion brought new challenges for the UAE, its people and its government. The UAE Government has taken an active, transparent and inclusive approach in order to protect the different communities that contribute to the country's growth and development. Significant investments have been made in education, healthcare and sustainable economic development. The UAE ranked 40th in the world in the 2014 UN Human Development Index and 20th in the world in the 2015 World Happiness Report.
In recent years, significant progress has been made to promote and ensure the rights of workers, women and children; implement domestic legal frameworks; and ratify international human rights conventions.
Stopping Human Trafficking
The UAE is a regional leader in combating human trafficking and is the first country in the Arab region to enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. A fund has been established to support victims of human trafficking. Several shelters provide protection, rehabilitation and assistance to victims. In 2007, the UAE formed the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, which coordinates and implements all anti-trafficking activities across the country. The UAE has made real progress on its four-part anti-trafficking strategy, which has focused on:
- Developing legislation and regulations related to human trafficking;
- Guiding the relevant authorities towards implementing preventive and deterrent measures;
- Securing protection and support for the victims of these crimes; and,
- Promoting regional and international cooperation to combat human trafficking.
In its 2014 report, the United States Department of State concluded that the UAE was making significant and proactive efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and that the government continued to prosecute and punish sex trafficking offenders, support victims of trafficking and make trafficking prevention a priority.
Other components of the UAE's anti-trafficking activities include:
- An expanded public education campaign to enhance public awareness about the crime of human trafficking;
- A series of training courses and workshops to further raise awareness about the issue and strengthen law enforcement and judicial capacities and capabilities;
- The creation of a dedicated human trafficking department within police divisions in each Emirate, including a specialized human trafficking crimes center in Dubai;
- A strategy to combat all forms of forced labor through the imposition of heavy fines; and
- An expansion in the number of shelters for women and children who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation; these shelters provide care for victims of human trafficking in line with the highest international standards.
Strengthening Worker’s Rights
The UAE is actively committed to strengthening the rights of workers and has undertaken a series of measures that create more flexibility and freedom in the labor market. These include regulatory measures that protect the rights of workers in case of disputes with employers and provide access to litigation processes, as well as guarantee decent and safe accommodation for workers.
The UAE has ratified nine major International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions related to the rights of workers, and has adopted numerous laws to protect workers’ rights, including in the areas of recruitment, pay, housing and health. Most recently, the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization has introduced a series of reforms that focus on transparency and compliance in matters related to labor contracts and terms of termination. In addition to more transparency, these reforms offer workers and employers more flexibility and benefits with their employment options. The new reforms took effect in January 2016.
The United States Department of State noted the UAE’s efforts in its 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for initiating the Abu Dhabi Dialogue among migrant labor sending and receiving states in 2008. Through the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, governments seek to foster policies that offer greater transparency and protections for would-be migrants from labor source countries. The report concluded that other countries in the region need to overhaul their sponsorship systems, as well as expand and improve efforts to protect vulnerable workers.
Advancing the Role of Women
The UAE is a progressive, moderate country where women hold leadership roles in all sectors and industries, including government, military, business and society, and participate meaningfully in every facet of civic and political life. Women now occupy 30 percent of higher leadership and decision-making positions in the UAE and are major contributors to the UAE’s economy, with over 14,000 UAE businesswomen running 20,000 private companies.
In November 2015, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi became President of the Federal National Council, making her the region’s first female leader of a national assembly. In addition, the new UAE Cabinet announced in October 2017 features nine women, including Shamma Al Mazrui, who serves as Minister of State for Youth Affairs and was 22 years old when she took up her post in 2016.
The UAE also has the highest percentage of female high school graduates in the world who enroll in university, and 70 percent of all university graduates are women. The promotion of women’s rights continues to be a priority on the nation’s agenda with the government adopting a National Strategy for the Advancement of Women for 2013 to 2017.
To learn more about the lives of some of the UAE’s women leaders, please visit our page on Trailblazing Emirati Women.
Understanding the important role international cooperation plays in the protection of human rights, the UAE has taken active measures – as reported in its submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council – to comply with internationally accepted standards. The UAE was named the world’s largest donor of official development assistance in proportion to its gross national income (ODA/GNI ratio) in 2016.
The UAE has acceded to various international conventions, including:
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination;
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (whose optional protocol the UAE signed in 2010);
- The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;
- The Convention on Transnational Organized Crime; and
- The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are an essential part of the principles and values engrained in Emirati society. The UAE continues to promote and protect human rights by ensuring national implementation of human rights commitments and complying with international standards.