FNC is on course to have a greater say in functioning of government

WAM Abu Dhabi, June 23rd, 2013: Since the President of UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, launched his national action programme to enhance the role of the Federal National Council (FNC) in 2005, government efforts to empower the Council have gained increasing momentum.

The Council is now on course to have a greater say in the functioning of government than it has had since it was established on 12th February 1972.

The road map for political reform outlined by the President will provide it with more powers, thereby strengthening public participation in the process of government.

In his speech announcing his vision for the future role of the FNC, Sheikh Khalifa noted: “We will do our best so that our Council will become more powerful and effective and closer to domestic issues and concerns of citizens, with the true values of participation and a deliberative approach being well established through a gradual process of development.” As part of that process, it was decided that half of the 40- member Council would be chosen by electoral colleges in each emirate, with the remainder being selected, as before by the rulers. The evolutionary approach, he said, had been designed in accordance with the country’s demographic structure and the aspirations of the UAE’s citizens, also reflecting changing circumstances, both locally and elsewhere.

The intention of the reforms, he said, was “to promote a culture of political participation among citizens and create a mood of democracy, respecting the rights of others and allowing them the freedom of expression that the Constitution of the UAE has guaranteed.” As part of the process, the Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs was established. In 2008, the Supreme Council of Rulers endorsed constitutional amendments to further empower the FNC, expanding its role as a legislative and regulatory authority to promote the democratic process.

In the first elections, in 2006, one woman was among the 20 elected FNC members, with a further seven being appointed by the Rulers, meaning that 18 per cent of the members were women, a major step forward in terms of expanding women’s role in public life.

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa has made it clear that this initial step, in 2006, was only the first of a series of changes to come. “We will keep our promise,” he said, “to advance the democratic experiment to deliver its targets of broadening participation and empowering the FNC as a legislative and regulatory authority.” A study by the Dubai School of Government said the 2006 elections were a historic milestone in the political development process of the country and represented a new step at a time of impressive growth and progress in the UAE’s socioeconomic development.

”Women played an enormously impressive role, and this was an important litmus test of how far the UAE has progressed. UAE women demonstrated their ability to successfully move into the national political arena, a fact that has been reaffirmed by their active and diligent contribution to FNC sessions and legislative debates over the past year since the elections. This new configuration enabled the UAE to significantly decrease its gender gap in political participation and heralded the beginning of a more gender-balanced parliamentary life,” the study noted.

For the second FNC elections, on 24th September 2011, the number of citizens appointed to membership of the electoral colleges was greatly expanded, from less than 7,000 to over 129,000. Among the 20 FNC members elected, one was a woman, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, who was subsequently elected by Council members as their First Deputy Speaker, the first time that such a post had been held by a woman in any parliamentary body in the Arabian Gulf.

In his address at the opening of the first ordinary session of the 15th legislative chapter of the FNC on 15th November 2011, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa said :” Your convening today is a successful launching of the second phase in our course to deepen the culture of participation and develop its practices which we have taken with full national will. We are determined to move forward to achieve the aspirations of our people in our shared homeland, of which we can be proud to live in and to which to belong, because empowerment is the spirit of the Union.” The Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, has stated: “This process is based on phases, where each phase boosts another and builds on it”, indicating that for the next elections, there will be no ceiling on the numbers of those who can be appointed to the electoral colleges.

He noted that the UAE programme should be understood in the sense that “it is a series of steps that reflect and express the political programme, whose ultimate aim is to boost the political participation in the country”.

In a speech by the President to inaugurate the second ordinary session of the current FNC on 6th November 2012, delivered on his behalf by the Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he stated that “We are going forward firmly to bring our political experience to its (desired) ends so as to achieve development and expand participation. We are also looking forward to the pivotal role of the FNC, as a supportive and control authority to further strengthen the government with its visions and innovative ideas.” Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, Speaker of the Federal National Council, said the parliamentary experience in the UAE is steadily progressing, thanks to the support being given by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, In an interview with the FNC’s ‘Al Watani Al Itihadi’ in-house magazine, Al Murr said decades before the federation, rulers in the different parts of the country resorted to ‘Shura’ as a genuine form of governance.

“It was natural that the FNC, one of the five estates of the constitution, was established shortly after the federation. This reflected the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the founding fathers’ deep faith in Shura, he said.

Al Murr said under President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the parliamentary scene had witnessed a massive progress under the political programme announced in 2005, including a constitutional amendment in 2009, two successful elections in 2006 and 2011, expanding citizens, particularly women’s, participation.

“Thanks to the vision of our leadership, the parliamentary experience is steadily progressing into a genuine national representation system that meets aspirations of the people of the UAE.” He said that the FNC had always sought to reach and interact with the citizens and listen to their opinions on different matters of importance to the country and to its people. He also added that in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the FNC adopted the ‘school parliament’ initiative which is aimed at spreading awareness and knowledge about the parliament among future generations.

Between February 1972, when it was established, until January 2013, the FNC has held 493 sessions, during which lawmakers have debated seven constitutional amendments, passed 533 federal bills, discussed 282 issues of public interest, have directed 483 questions to the executive arm of government, made 245 recommendations to the government, have issued 67 statements on local, Arab and international issues of interest to the UAE and have reviewed 675 international treaties and agreements. Ministers have also been called on a regular basis to appear before the Council to explain the work of their Ministries and to respond to detailed questioning from Council members.

WAM/TF

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