Interview: Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan
How are closer ties between Abu Dhabi and UNESCO being explored and developed?
SHEIKH SULTANBIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN: It is well known that the UAE is a member of this UN organisation. In the UAE we have the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, which was established by a Cabinet decree at the request of the minister of education, who also heads the commission ex officio. This commission is responsible for coordinating between UNESCO agencies and the state entities and institutions involved in education, culture and science. The UAE has regularly demonstrated its support for the UN organisation and is among the most regular members when it comes to paying its share of UNESCO’s annual budget. The UAE also participates in many of the UN organisation’s programmes, and regularly attends its general conference meetings and executive board sessions.
However, this does not preclude any sort of special cooperation between the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and UNESCO. A few years ago the authority hosted the meetings of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and succeeded, in cooperation with the committee, in registering falconry on the list of world heritage. Moreover, there are programmes currently implemented by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority in collaboration with UNESCO for the restoration and development of some archaeological sites, particularly in Al Ain City. Also, a large number of schools in Abu Dhabi have participated in the UNESCO-associated schools project network.
Events and actions such as these and others without a doubt contribute to the development of closer relations between Abu Dhabi and UNESCO.
What is being done to ensure that the CMC’s strategy is broadly in line with tourism and will complement the goals set out for the sector?
SHEIKH SULTAN: A strategy has been defined for the CMC that is set to make the centre an important player in the field of culture. That is, promoting a climate of moderation and responsible media, offering at the same time reliable outputs that can help decision makers better understand and address sector problems.
This strategy is consistent with the tourism sector’s objectives, either in Abu Dhabi or the UAE at large, albeit indirectly, because it aims to contribute to facilitating the openness of both UAE citizens and residents towards the cultures of the world. Accordingly, this will contribute in shaping their cultural awareness, provide them with positive ideas and familiarise them with the cultural components of other nations. This way they will be more able to promote their heritage and their national features, and look forward to learning about other world cultures. This is, in my opinion, one of the main objectives of the state’s tourism sector.
Are you confident that enough is being done by organisations, such as the Emirates Heritage Club (EHC), to preserve the UAE’s cultural identity, given the rapid pace of economic development?
SHEIKH SULTAN: We are convinced that these laudable efforts are substantial, and the Abu Dhabi Executive Council is sparing no effort to implement the directives of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, in this regard. There are various organisations that are active in this field, most notably the EHC. The EHC offers programmes, activities and events that cover the UAE’s cultural heritage ranging from traditional marine sports to falconry, camel racing, endurance races and educational programmes aimed at acquainting the youth with traditional customs and preserving them. The EHC also publishes two monthly magazines, one specialised in heritage in general, and the other concerned with Nabati poetry, a prominent component of our folklore.
The EHC does not spare any effort in providing assistance to universities, schools and other community institutions wishing to organise activities in the field of heritage. It also actively participates in annual heritage and cultural exhibitions either in the UAE or abroad.
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