The UAE pursued its pioneering humanitarian initiatives to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, an embodiment of its mission that seeks to uphold the values of solidarity and synergy around the world to overcome the repercussions of this crisis.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) established a diplomatic approach long-adopted by the UAE, cooperating with all countries around the world and lending a helping hand communities in need support and assistance, to enhance and strengthen international and multilateral cooperation under extraordinary circumstances.
This global context has shed the light on the Ministry’s key role in coordinating with international organizations and external parties in various countries to secure vital assistance to tackle the crisis induced by the global pandemic, adopting the UAE’s long-standing approach towards enhancing cooperation between the various parties to overcome current challenges.
Throughout the crisis, the Ministry joined efforts with all the concerned authorities in the UAE, in cooperation with the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and the Ministry of Health and Community Protection (MoHAP), towards nationwide coordination between federal and local government agencies concerned and the implementation of master plans to ensure business continuity.
The UAE diplomatic corps: protecting Emirati citizens overseas
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in coordination with the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, led the response plan since the onset of the crisis of the new Coronavirus outbreak, initiating the repatriation of Emirati citizens from a number of affected countries. The Ministry urged Emiratis overseas to follow health and safety instructions and abide by preventive measures, to register in Twajudi and contact embassies in their country of residence or the ministry's call center when necessary.
UAE embassies and representative missions abroad played a pivotal awareness role and UAE missions in countries most affected by the pandemic advised UAE citizens to avoid infected places and areas and follow official directives.
The Ministry maintained continuous contact with Emirati students studying abroad, as embassies and representative mission stressed the necessity to follow health instructions and preventive measures, to register in Twajudi and contact embassies in their country of residence or the ministry's call center when necessary.
In line with directives issued by the country’s top leadership under its close follow-up, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) has taken all necessary measures to evacuate Emirati citizens and their companions abroad, in coordination with UAE embassies and representative missions abroad. MoFAIC and UAE missions have reached out to Emiratis abroad to check on them and facilitate all procedures to bring them and their companions back to the homeland safely, following the decision to suspend all incoming and outgoing flights in a number of countries around the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak around the world.
The UAE leadership closely followed all measures taken the country’s embassies and missions abroad and was in contact with ambassadors and heads of missions through phone calls and a series of internal briefings, to support them and secure all practical and medical requirements to facilitate their work.
In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced the launch of “We’re here for you", a service for members of the country's diplomatic missions abroad. Launched during a teleconference, the service aims to preserve their health and safety, through the work of a dedicated team to ensure coordination and implement precautionary and preventive measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.
During the meeting, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said, "Ensuring the health and safety of all members of our diplomatic missions abroad and their families, as well as all cadres working in embassies and consulates, is a top priority. The ministry is keen to support and assist them and secure their various needs, whether preventive, health or otherwise." Sheikh Abdullah thanked the members of the diplomatic corps for serving the country, stating, "Due to all their efforts, the UAE will be able to overcome this challenge."
He praised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation's operational efforts that supervised and ensured communication with citizens overseas and coordinated their safe return back to the UAE.
In this context, following the decision to suspend all incoming and departing flights in a number of countries around the world due to COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry and UAE missions overseas reached out to UAE citizens abroad to check on their situation and facilitate all procedures for their safe repatriation.
H.E. Khaled Abdullah Belhoul, Undersecretary of MoFAIC, confirmed the completion of 166 air and ground repatriations from 61 countries, involving 4,043 Emiratis and their companions.
H.E. highlighted teams at the Ministry worked comprehensively to ensure Emiratis abroad a safe return to the homeland and facilitate the necessary procedures for the same. He highlighted the continuous cooperation with the National Authority for Crisis, Emergency and Disaster Management (NCEMA), and with all the concerned authorities in the UAE and abroad, to monitor any development in the situation, repatriate Emiratis and ensure their safe return.
Repatriations included several Emiratis receiving medical treatment, some fit for travels and others unfit for travel. They returned safely to the UAE and continue to receive medical treatment in the country, in light of the global outbreak.
Operations were carried out with the joint efforts of the MoFAIC Call Center, Operations Department, and the Citizens Affairs Department, which teams worked around the clock to respond to citizens' inquiries and to coordinate with UAE embassies and representative missions abroad that mobilized all their resources to secure the repatriation of citizens and their companions.
Facilitating the return of foreign residents. The UAE: a unique model of coexistence
In a clear expression of UAE’s humanitarian stance in supporting all those residing on its territory and of the country’s keenness on joint cooperation and coordination with countries around the world to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the UAE’s humanitarian initiatives throughout the COVID-`9 pandemic included several residents who were abroad upon the announcement of the suspension of flights to and from the UAE.
In this context, MoFAIC took all necessary measures, coordinating with embassies and consulates accredited to the UAE and facilitating the repatriation of citizens from brotherly and friendly countries unable to return to their homes following the suspension of all flights to and from the UAE, through a program launched by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship for holders of valid UAE residencies to facilitate their safe return to the UAE in emergency situations.
The UAE was one of the first countries to declare its readiness to stand alongside China to tackle the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and proceeded with the evacuation of several nationals of friendly and brotherly countries from China's Hubei Province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, at the request of their governments. They were transferred UAE Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation held also held several e-briefings, 2020 during which ambassadors and consuls accredited to the UAE were briefed on latest COVID-19 developments and precautionary measures rolled out in the UAE and processes in place for the repatriation of Emiratis, residents and visitors amid the global outbreak.
In April 2020, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) and the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on transit flights for British nationals during the COVID-19 emergency period. The MoU contributed to facilitating the repatriation of British nationals to their homeland, by allowing flights that carry them to transit through UAE airports en route to the United Kingdom, and providing the necessary services and facilities to them, while maintaining precautionary and preventive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the UAE.
The Department of Foreign Nationals Affairs at the Ministry and competent authorities nationwide intensified efforts and coordinated with embassies and consulates accredited to the UAE to tackle all the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, to maintain national security and public safety and curb the spread of the virus. The department contributed to the repatriation of inmates in punitive and correctional institutions who had served their sentence and were sentenced to deportation, in addition to people whose employment had come to term or those who wished to take early leaves from their work, as well as tourists visiting the UAE.
The Ministry also had a key role in establishing direct communication with foreign ambassadors and consuls accredited to the UAE through meetings held at MoFAIC headquarters or through teleconferencing, to coordinate the return of their nationals to their homeland and reunite them with their families, whereas embassies submitted repatriation requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
More than 1,300 flights to these countries, and some 320,860 residents and visitors of various nationalities to date, and flight permits obtained for national and foreign carriers to operate repatriation flights for their nationals from the UAE as part of the country's efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on UAE residents.
The Ministry also took part in several national committees on repatriation, which meetings were held daily, including: the NCEMA Committee for the Repatriation of Foreign Nationals, the Committee for the Return of UAE Residents from Abroad at the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, the Committee for the Monetization of Bank Guarantees of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Director of the Department of Foreign Nationals Affairs led the task force, which contributed to the development of a set of rules and guidelines to implement a mechanism to deal with the requests of foreign missions accredited to the UAE, especially with regard to visits members of foreign missions to their nationals in labor camps, and requests for visits by medical staff from various countries to provide treatment to all USE residents, and finally requests for aid to foreign nationals in the country.
After negotiating with all foreign missions in the UAE and in coordination with the competent authorities nationwide, the department tackled the safe repatriation of bodies of foreign nationals at the morgues of the criminal laboratory and hospitals in all emirates to their homeland or their burial in the UAE.
With regard to the return of UAE residents from abroad, the Ministry, through its participation in the National Committee, was able grant the permission to reenter the country to over 40 thousand UAE residents wishing to return. MoFAIC also worked with competent authorities in the UAE to formulate policies regarding the return of residents, and facilitate entry procedures for GCC citizens through the establishment of mechanism rolled out since the beginning of the flight suspensions, whereas the total number of GCC citizens who entered the country ever since exceeded 10,000.
MoFAIC’s Department of Foreign Nationals Affairs has also had a clear impact in the humanitarian field, where an operational mechanism was rolled out to implement the nationwide program "Together We Are Good" (Maan), initiated by the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, represented by the Community Contributions Authority, in support of the government's efforts to overcome the current global challenges, and in coordination and follow-up with the UAE Red Crescent Authority. The program led to the provision of food aid to its beneficiaries, offered online education support to foreign communities in the country, provided adequate housing for migrant workers and covered flight costs for those unable to afford them.
UAE: The Home of Humanity
Since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE adopted a swift response to assist countries in implementing preventive measures and procedures to contain the virus and curb its spread, by providing the needful medical supplies and flying them to countries affected by the pandemic. The UAE has thus delivered more than 1,000 metric tons of medical supplies to over 70 countries in need, assisting more than 1 million medical workers worldwide in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, a clear demonstration of the considerable potential and capabilities of the UAE aid sector, enabling it to reach over a third of the countries in the world despite difficulties and challenges suffered by most shipping and storage sectors globally.
The humanitarian role of UAE aid sector went beyond sending aid to countries in need; it featured coordination at the highest levels with relevant international organizations and specialized bodies, particularly the World Health Organization, and the World Food Programme and its assistance in delivering medical and food supplies to some countries, strengthening the capacity of these organizations to reach the largest international beneficiary group in all parts of the world and contributing to the provision of the necessary medical supplies.
In this regard, the UAE has become the main artery of logistics operations for international organizations that have established strategic warehouses located in the International Humanitarian City in Dubai, and the first responder to global crises, particularly COVID-19 aid.
In a letter to David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed the UAE’s commitment to supporting the UN World Food Programme in its efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. H.H. Sheikh Abdullah expressed the country’s deep appreciation of the joint UAE-WFP airbridge established in recent days to ensure supply chain continuity for essential medical and humanitarian cargo and services needed across Europe, Asia, and Africa, as part of an agreement to provide USD 10 million worth of PCR COVID-19 testing kits.
"The agreement forms a key part of the UAE’s commitment to global solidarity in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that multilateral cooperation will be essential to both stopping the virus’ spread and managing recovery in close coordination with bilateral efforts," H.H. remarked.
Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the UAE’s contributions to the global response to COVID-19, outlining the country’s support for the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and regular contributions to World Health Organisation operations in China, Somalia, and Ethiopia, among others.
Emphasizing the UAE’s coordination with international organizations to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian cargo, H.H. referenced Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, IHC, which has processed more than 132 shipments of aid to 98 countries. Moreover, he said, more than 80 percent of the World Health Organisation’s distribution of personal protective equipment worldwide has transited through the IHC.
H.H. also noted the UAE’s in-kind donation of lifesaving medical and food aid to countries in need. To date, the UAE has provided more than 1,000 tons of aid to over 70 countries, boosting the efforts of nearly 1 million medical professionals in the process.
Sheikh Abdullah concluded by reinforcing the UAE’s pledge to continue strengthening cooperation with the WFP and other international organizations in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering and bolster the efforts of fragile communities to combat COVID-19.
The UAE has thus succeeded in delivering series of pivotal messages to the world in tackling these novel circumstances, a clear reflection of the pillars the UAE was founded upon in all walks of life, foremost the principles of giving and serving all humanity.
Business Continuity through Smart Services
In line with the UAE leadership’s directives and visionary stance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, proactively invested in state-of-the-art technologies and established an advanced digital infrastructure to provide its customers with a range of electronic and smart services.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has worked to ensure the safety of all its employees in the country and its diplomatic and consular staff abroad, and the safety of customers, through the adoption of comprehensive precautionary and preventive measures. These measures included remote working and closing customer happiness centers temporarily to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, as of Sunday March 29, 2020 until further notice and in line with government directives in this situation, stressing business continuity in all circumstances and providing all services through smart channels to facilitate procedures.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation adopted digital technologies to ensure work continuity, meet the daily requirements of the public, in order to ensure public safety and contribute to the diligent management of the COVID-19 crisis by addressing implications while ensuring the continuity of business with efficacy.
The Ministry also confirmed the provision of all its services electronically, particularly smart attestations, which can be applied for through the ministry's website www.mofaic.gov.aev and UAEMOFAIC smartphone application.
MoFAIC also activated the “Twajudi”, one of the best services provided by the UAE to its citizens abroad, to follow up on their situation, provide support services to help them face any circumstances, and organize their return to the UAE through direct communication with them, providing them with all necessary in terms of social, material, technical and logistical support.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, the Ministry and UAE embassies and missions abroad, have received and processed 100% of applications for UAE Citizens services for attestation services certification via online and smart channels.
His Excellency Faisal Issa Lotfi, Advisor to the Consular Services Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stated that "there has been a marked increase in the number of transactions through the website and smart application following the activation of a process to complete transactions through e-services and the addition of a delivery service that secures the receipt and delivery of documents at the customer's location in cooperation with Emirates Post”.
His Excellency stressed that "since the beginning of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, the ministry has swiftly took all necessary measures to maintain the safety of customers and reduce its risk of spreading, while ensuring business continuity in all circumstances and providing services through smart channels to facilitate procedures" .
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had recently launched its Smart Attestation service that allows customers to swiftly and easily authenticate various types of official documents, certificates and invoices, a service which ensures the authenticity of a seal and signature on documents and papers issued in the UAE or abroad.
Diplomacy: Between a New Reality and a Vision for the Future
The COVID-19 crisis imposed the need to adapt to a new reality in all areas, and thus a qualitative shift in the field of diplomacy and a review of future diplomacy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation adopted the latest methods of online communication within the framework of public and cultural diplomacy, hosting a number of ministers, officials, state ambassadors, foreign ambassadors and specialists during the Online Cultural Marathon Symposium, through a series of teleseminars broadcast on the Ministry’s various social media channels.
The cultural marathon saw a series of weekly sessions on various topics from "Space Diplomacy" to "A Focused View of Latin America", "Lessons in Cultural Diplomacy from Nigeria", "UAE and Saudi Arabia, Cultural Unity and a Shared Destiny", as well as "UAE and Japan, Joint Efforts to Tackle Crises", "The Role of Embassies in the Future", as well as "Covid-19": How the crisis helped foster a culture of solidarity.
State embassies and missions abroad also held online cultural talks, including the virtual dialogue on the documentary series "The History of the UAE", hosted by the UAE Embassy to the United Kingdom.
In this context, the Youth Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in cooperation with the Diplomatic Youth Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, held a youth workshop entitled "The Future of Diplomacy Post-Covid-19" on June 8, 2020, via video-telecommunication technology. The seminar was hosted by H.E. Ma'ad Hareb Al Khaili, Uae Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Russia, and His Excellency Sergei Kuznetsov, Ambassador of the Russian Republic to the State, in the presence of more than 110 members of the two councils and young people affiliated with the foreign ministries of the two countries. During the talk, young diplomats from both countries discussed views and ideas on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on future diplomatic work, emphasizing the importance of young people's role in preparing for the future of diplomacy, and the need to increase the use of virtual tools and modern technology in diplomacy, based on lessons learned from this crisis.
MOFAIC: safeguarding Emiratis overseas
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation continues to watch out for its citizens overseas around the clock and to be the link between them and the visionary leadership through all its departments, embassies and representative missions around the world in an effort to strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation with other countries, and to foster economic and cultural development, and peace in the world.