On October 14, the UAE won membership on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term after obtaining 180 votes from countries during elections that took place among members of the United Nations General Assembly by direct secret ballot.
The UAE expressed its appreciation for being elected to this seat, as the country continues its efforts to promote and protect human rights on the national, regional, and international levels.
In presenting its candidacy for the seat, the UAE was presented with the opportunity to highlight the significant progress it has made in recent years to advance human rights, particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.
As home to more than 200 nationalities from a diverse set of ethnic and religious backgrounds, the UAE is deeply committed to human rights and to building upon its steady progress in this field. Over the years, the UAE has enacted a series of laws and regulations that enshrine certain fundamental rights, providing for the fair treatment of all its citizens and residents, especially women, children, workers and persons with special needs, as outlined in the UAE Constitution.
The UAE has also signed multiple treaties to protect human rights and is steadfast in working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretariat in order to strengthen and protect human rights globally.
In cooperating with UN bodies and other nations that share a vision for the welfare and prosperity of all peoples, the UAE has worked tirelessly to champion solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing challenges in the human rights field.
It is the UAE’s very belief in the strength of the UN system that underpins its commitment to multilateralism in continuing to progress in this area. Recognising that there is always more that can be done to advance human rights, the UAE continues to plan, monitor, report, learn, and enhance additional mechanisms, even where they are already guaranteed in law, in concert with its international partners.
Domestically, the UAE is working to strengthen human rights protections through two critical entities: the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).
The Committee is primarily responsible for drafting the National Human Rights Action Plan, which will serve as a comprehensive and integrated national human rights framework in the UAE.
The NHRI, announced in August by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is an entirely independent body charged with submitting proposals on the extent to which legislation and laws are compatible with international treaties and conventions on human rights to which the UAE is a party.
The UAE is undergoing an extensive consultation process to enact the National Human Rights Action Plan, identifying current areas of improvement while facilitating cooperation between various agencies involved in the promotion of human rights, and generating increased commitment to action among different segments of society, including members of the public and non-governmental organisations.
Moreover, the UAE has remained steadfast in its commitment to protecting human rights through the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, which closely collaborates with international and regional law enforcement officials to apprehend and punish those who violate human trafficking laws.
Through a five-pronged approach protection and prevention, prosecution of offenders, punishment, the promotion of international cooperation, and the protection of victims, the UAE is fighting human trafficking at home and abroad.
As signatory to some of the world’s most prominent conventions on human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, the UAE remains determined to champion international best practices in the promotion of human rights, while exchanging expertise and experience with its partners.
The UAE continues to champion developments in human rights laws, particularly in federal penal code. In 2020, the UAE removed the defence of honour crimes, which are now treated as murder, in line with the country’s commitment to protecting women's rights and promoting the principles of the rule of law.
Earlier this year, the UAE Government adopted an amendment to the Commercial Companies Law allowing foreign investors and entrepreneurs 100 percent ownership of onshore companies.
Legislative changes including Federal Decree Law No. 10 of 2019 on protection from domestic violence and the amended Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 on combating discrimination and hatred to include creed and gender, have further strengthened safeguards for women.
With the latest series of major reforms, the UAE has taken a further step to enshrine civil protections for all those who call the country home.
They are part of UAE’s ongoing efforts to develop its legislative structure and system, and reinforces the country’s commitment to provide a legislative environment compatible with multiculturalism and diversity, in line with relevant international human rights conventions.
It is worth noting the various achievements of the UAE in safeguarding the rights of all segments of society.
Women and men in the UAE are fully empowered members of society and enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, healthcare, employment, pay, and the right to inherit property.
Ranking first in the region in the UNDP Gender Inequality Index for its success in promoting gender balance, the UAE has exerted significant effort to reinforce protections for women.
Reaffirming our commitment to gender equality is the UAE’s partnership with UN Women, which maintains its Liaison Office for the GCC in Abu Dhabi, as well as the UAE Gender Balance Council established since 2015.
All children in the UAE are protected by a wide range of rights and legislation, guaranteeing their protection, right to a quality education, health, and access to welfare, including through the UAE’s Child Rights Law (Wadeema’s Law), which protects children from physical and psychological abuse, negligence, and exploitation while ensuring their basic needs are fulfilled.
People of determination in the UAE are protected by UAE laws that guarantee them a life of dignity with equal access to education and healthcare, social inclusion, economic health, job opportunities, and cultural and recreational services. For their part, senior citizens in the UAE benefit from free healthcare, community involvement, effective civic participation, infrastructure and transportation support, financial stability, safety and security and a high quality of life.
With regards to its multinational workforce, the UAE is steadfast in its conviction that respect for labor rights is a moral, cultural, and economic imperative.
The UAE has taken active and resolute steps in implementing laws, regulations, policies, and monitoring measures to consistently enhance the working conditions of its labor force and address any gaps.
As the signatory to nine International Labour Organisation conventions, the UAE is keen to support workers in accessing dignified housing, proper working conditions, standard contract terms, and legal support when needed.
In addition, with regards to the rights of inmates in the UAE, correctional facilities comply with international standards and are committed to rehabilitation.
Inmates receive proper healthcare, nutrition, recreation, exercise, education, training, and communication with their families and lawyers.
In October this year, the UAE remained the best country in the MENA region for its civil and criminal justice system in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2021.
This reinforces the UAE’s position that ensures a fair and impartial justice system, in accordance with the UAE law, where citizens, residents and visitors can feel safe and secure at all times.
As an active and engaged member of the Human Rights Council, the UAE looks forward to fostering ties of cooperation and constructive dialogue among member states to achieve a common vision in which human rights for all are respected and upheld worldwide.
By achieving the highest attainable standards, the UAE is committed to upholding mutual values and inspiring real positive change, as it stands together for the third time in its history with the UN Human Rights Council to protect the fundamental rights of every human being.