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UAE 2019 highlights in pictures: From Pope visit to first Emirati in space

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In a few days, the UAE will bid farewell to 2019 - 'Year of Tolerance,' with achievements that have reached out to space with Hazza Al Mansoori's astonishing spaceflight, as well as offering humanity the first 'Document on Human Fraternity' during Pope Francis' visit to the country and raising the parliamentary participation of women to 50 percent during this year's Federal National Council elections.

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The UAE Cabinet, led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, continued its efforts to explore the future and promote sustainable development, to achieve the UAE Vision 2021. The UAE continued implementing its wise foreign policy and managing its relations with the rest of the world, as part of the significant efforts and official meetings of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, with world leaders, which have helped reinforce the UAE’s strategic partnerships and strengthen its prominent stature in the international community. In the following report, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, highlights some of the country’s main achievements in 2019: UAE emerging as a global centre of tolerance In 2019, the UAE enhanced its reputation as a global centre of tolerance, through the signing of the 'Human Fraternity Document,' the papal mass in Abu Dhabi, the establishment of the Abrahamic Family House, the hosting of the World Tolerance Summit, and other related initiatives. Federal National Council elections In 2019, the UAE held the fourth Federal National Council elections, which raised the parliamentary participation of Emirati women to 50 percent, reflecting the belief of the country’s leadership in their capabilities, as well as its keenness to involve them in the political decision-making process. The election recorded an increase in the number of members of electoral bodies (people eligible to vote) reaching over 337,000, while the total number of votes around the country reached 117,592, or 34.81 percent of the number of potential voters.

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In February, the 'Human Fraternity Document' was signed, initiating is a joint declaration and a manual for future generations on how to achieve world peace and live together, with the blessings of Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church. On 5th January, the Zayed Sports City Stadium hosted the first papal mass in the Arabian Peninsula, with the participation of over 180,000 people from around the world. The event was an important moment in the history of the region and the world thanks to its role in promoting values of tolerance, co-existence, love and peace. The UAE also declared a historical initiative, which is the establishment of the Abrahamic Family House on Al Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. The house will be opened in 2022 and will include a mosque, a church, and synagogue under one roof.

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Journey into space Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori made history for his country when he travelled to the International Space Station, ISS, becoming the first Arab astronaut to reach the station since its establishment in 1998. Al Mansouri conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with international space agencies. He also conducted some of 'Science in Space' experiments, which was organised by Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in coordination with schools from the UAE.

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Sports At the start of 2019, the UAE hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which witnessed the participation of 24 football teams for the first time in the history of the tournament. It also organised Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, attended by some 7,500 athletes from around the world. The UAE was the fifth most decorated team winning 182 medals, including 64 golds, 55 silvers and 63 bronzes. In Jiu-Jitsu, UAE team won 22 medals at the World Youth Cup and the Balkan Open for Youth in Romania in September 2019, as well as 52 medals in Jiu-Jitsu World Championship 2019 in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club won the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship title, and the Abu Dhabi Maritime Sports team won the Formula 2 World Championship title while Paralympic champion Mohammed Al Qayed won three medals for the UAE at the World Athletics Championship in Dubai.

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Culture In 2019, the UAE witnessed distinguished cultural events to further boost its position on the global cultural map. This year, the UAE achieved two major events; the first represented in naming Sharjah as the UNESCO World Book Capital, and the second is the UAE’s winning the membership of the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO. This marks the fourth time that the UAE has won a seat at one of UNESCO's three constitutional bodies. The UAE hosted many major cultural events in 2019, including the inauguration event of naming Sharjah the UNESCO World Book Capital title in 2019, and the confirmation of the UAE’s permanent seat in the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, ICCROM. The 38th Sharjah International Book Fair, which continued to enhance its stature as one of the top three book fairs in the world, received around 2.52 million visitors in 2019, with the participation of 2,000 publishing houses from 81 countries. The 29th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair attracted over 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries, showcasing over 500,000 books.

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Strengthening diplomacy The UAE strengthened its regional and international presence to reinforce the global efforts in countering terrorism and extremism, and maintain regional and international security and stability. The UAE also continued strengthening its diplomatic ties with many countries. In March, it opened its embassy in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and in June, the new premises of the country's embassy in Bulgarian capital, Sofia was inaugurated. The Emirati passport also preserved it ranking as the world's most powerful passport, based on Global Passport Power Rank, Passport Index 2019's rankings. Rising in global competitiveness The UAE continued its progress in Global Competitiveness Report, as it occupied the 25th position internationally in 2019, advancing two places from last year in the prestigious report issued by the World Economic Forum. The UAE was among the best five countries in 19 international indexes, and among the best 20 countries in 57 indexes. In sub-indicators, the UAE came first globally in the stability of the national economy, second in Information and Communication Technology, ICT, adoption, fourth in product market and commodity markets axis. The UAE ranked second globally in the rate of electricity contributions from the percentage of population index, the mobile subscription ratio index, the manpower diversity index, and the third globally in the speed of government response to variables index. The country was also ranked fourth in the world in the efficiency of legal frameworks index, the low burden of government procedures, the adaptation of legal frameworks to accommodate the digital business model, the long-term government vision index, fiber-optic Internet subscriptions, wages and productivity, and availability of venture capital. It was also ranked fifth globally in the internet users index, the low impact of taxes and subsidies on business competition and the innovative growth index.

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Strengthening diplomacy The UAE strengthened its regional and international presence to reinforce the global efforts in countering terrorism and extremism, and maintain regional and international security and stability. The UAE also continued strengthening its diplomatic ties with many countries. In March, it opened its embassy in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and in June, the new premises of the country's embassy in Bulgarian capital, Sofia was inaugurated. The Emirati passport also preserved it ranking as the world's most powerful passport, based on Global Passport Power Rank, Passport Index 2019's rankings.

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Legislation The UAE continued advancing its legislative infrastructure and issued many decrees, federal laws and ministerial decisions, with the aim of ensuring the community’s safety and security, and achieving economic and social stability for all citizens, as well as establishing the foundations of responsibility, transparency and efficiency among government authorities. The year 2019 witnessed the adoption of UAE President’s Resolution No. 01 for 2019 to raise the participation of women to 50 percent in the Federal National Council, Federal Law Decree No. 06 for 2019 on prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, Federal Law Decree No. 10 for 2019 on prevention of domestic violence in UAE, as well as Federal Decree-Law No. 19 on the Insolvency of Natural Persons Federal Law. As for ministerial decisions, the UAE Cabinet has adopted in March a decision to amend provisions of the resolution on sponsoring of foreign workers to their families in the country, as well as the National Space Strategy 2030.

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The UAE Cabinet adopted decisions to amend and waive fees for a number of federal services within the framework of government’s effort to enhance the national economy, reduce costs to business owners and increase the competitiveness of the UAE. The decisions were aimed to boost economic growth in the UAE, including the amendment or cancellation of fees for more than 1,500 government services and allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of 122 economic activities across 13 sectors. The Cabinet also adopted a series of ten strategic decisions to support Emiratisation, along with many national strategies and plans, including the strategy for the Advanced Skills National Programme and the National Strategy for Wellbeing. The third UAE Government Annual Meetings concluded in the launch of four national strategies related to soft power, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, higher education and water security.

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2019 has also seen the launch of a work programme of the UAE Vision 2071, the launch of the UAE Bank for Jobs, which prioritises the appointment of Emirati citizens in 160 targeted professions, and the launch of Abu Dhabi School of Government. Economy In 2019, the UAE’s economy proved its strength and ability to overcome global challenges and developments. A report issued by the Ministry of Economy revealed that the country's gross domestic product, GDP, will rise to Dh1.65 trillion by the end of this year, compared to Dh1.59 trillion in 2018, an increase of Dh60 billion and a growth of 3.77 percent. The Central Bank of the UAE expects real GDP to grow by 2.3 percent in 2019, driven by the growth of the non-oil sector, which is expected reach 1.4 percent this year compared to 1.3 percent in 2018. It also expects the oil sector to grow by 5 percent in 2019, compared to 2.8 percent in 2018.

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The UAE approved its 2020 Federal Budget totalling Dh61.354 billion without deficit, which is the largest since its establishment, with a third being allocated to the social development sector, another third to government affairs, and the rest to infrastructure, economic resources and living benefits. One of the major achievements of the country’s financial sector in 2019 was the significant increase in assets of the banking system, which jumped to more than Dh3 trillion, which strengthened its global standing and maintained its leading economic position in the GCC and the Middle East. The UAE has implemented major development projects that helped improve the level of services provided to the public and created thousands of job opportunities. Private sector employment increased by 0.1 percent per annum in the second quarter of 2019.

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In the oil sector, the Supreme Petroleum Council announced in early November that it discovered and added new hydrocarbon reserves with an estimated increase of 7 billion barrels of crude oil and 58 trillion standard cubic feet of conventional gas, placing the UAE in the sixth position globally in terms of oil and gas reserves. It also issued a landmark decision to launch a new pricing mechanism for the standard Murban crude used by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, to sell its crude oil, and it approved the abolition of current restrictions on selling Murban to certain buyers.

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In an another remarkable global achievement that enhances the country’s leadership in the field of international maritime trade, the UAE won Category 'B Membership' into the International Maritime Organisation Council, besting the competition that was composed of 10 leading countries in the field of international maritime trade

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