DUBAI, 30th March, 2022 (WAM) — H.H. Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and wife of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, affirmed the UAE’s support for international efforts in gender balance to ensure progress in women’s rights, in order to achieve the fifth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, related to gender balance and the empowerment of all women and girls.
She noted that the UAE was one of the first countries in formulating and adopting these UN goals that were announced in 2015.
Sheikha Manal stressed the positive effects of gender balance in the educational, economic, social and political fields, as well as women’s access to services and healthcare, noting that diversity and societal and economic inclusion contribute to human prosperity and development. She praised the ongoing cooperation between the UAE Gender Balance Council the World Bank to achieve significant progress in gender balance globally, which serves as part of the council’s commitment to building effective partnerships with countries and international institutions that have extensive experiences in gender policies.
She made this statement during a discussion session titled “Empowering Women for a Strong Economy”, organised by the UAE Gender Balance Council and the World Bank on the sidelines of the eighth session of the World Government Summit, held this year under the slogan “Shaping future Governments”, in conjunction with Expo 2020 Dubai.
Sheikha Manal stated that organising this inspiring session has highlighted the role of governments and international organisations in advancing women’s participation in the economic sector and reflects the priority of gender balance within the wise leadership’s vision and its aspiration for a more prosperous future for Emiratis and all of humanity. Her Highness stressed the importance of the summit as a unique global platform that shapes the future of governments and develops a better future for humanity with the participation of global leaders, experts and thinkers across all fields.
The event commenced with speeches by Hanan Ahli, Acting Director, Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre, Ministry of Cabinet, UAE, and Ferid Belhaj, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, The World Bank. The event witnessed a fireside chat with Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank, which was moderated by Dan Murphy, CNBC. The fireside chat was followed by a panel discussion titled ‘The Role of Governments and International Organisations in Advancing Women’s Economic Participation’, and panelists included: Wendy Teleki, Head of Secretariat, Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), World Bank Group; Issam Abousleiman, Country Director, GCC, World Bank; Franz-Michael Skjold Melbin, Ambassador of Denmark to the UAE; Noora AlMarzooqi, Vice President, Group Strategic Investments, ADNOC ; and moderated by Iva Hamel, Resident Representative, World Bank Country Office, UAE.
Sheikha Manal stated that gender balance is embedded in the wise leadership’s vision for the next phase and reflected in their continuous support for initiatives and women, which include more than 20 laws and legislative articles during the past two years, in addition to the integrated efforts of all government institutions. This led to the UAE achieving advanced global positions in competitiveness indicators, leading the region as indicated in the ‘Women, Business and the Law’ report issued by the World Bank in 2021-2022. Her Highness noted the importance of this report, which monitors the efforts of governments around the world in regards to the status of laws and legislation aimed at protecting and empowering women economically. The UAE also achieved a full score (100 points) in five main areas in the report: mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship, and pension confirms the commitment of advancing the women’s agenda in the wise leadership’s vision and emphasises their role as a key partner in sustainable growth and the next fifty years strategy, which aims to make the UAE the best country in the world in all fields by 2070.
Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank, said, “Women still have only three quarters of the legal rights of men, and limited educational opportunities for girls is costing countries between US$15 -30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. COVID-19 has exacerbated gender gaps, reversing decades of gains for women and girls. Reforms to accelerate gender equality must be at the center of recovery efforts, through women’s meaningful leadership and participation in decision-making. Transformative change toward gender equality requires a concerted effort by government, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders, involving further investments, changes in law and policies, and interventions to shift social and gender norms.”
The 2026 UAE Gender Balance Strategy has four strategic priorities including Economic Participation, Entrepreneurship, & Financial Inclusion; Wellbeing; Protections; and International Partnerships & Leadership. A policy dialogue such as this one co-hosted with the World Bank, particularly with its emphasis on policy reforms and entrepreneurship, serves as evidence of the UAE’s commitment to this file.
International studies have shown that about US$28 trillion could be added to the global GDP if the gender gap is closed by 2025. Benefits are not merely economic, as gender equality is also an invaluable driver for more cohesive and inclusive societies. Therefore, impact of gender policy reforms transcends beyond reaching the full potential of the untapped 50% of the population and plays the domino and spillover effect across other crucial challenges such as sustainable development, poverty reduction, building resilient societies and most importantly achieving gender equality across all of the public and private domains.
Ferid Belhaj, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank, said, “Strengthening economic opportunities for women is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. A legal environment that encourages women’s economic inclusion is essential to making them less vulnerable to crises, such as the COVID19 pandemic. The UAE has implemented bold legal reforms recently, which are inspiring other countries in the region to move the needle on gender equality.”
Hanan Ahli, Acting Director, Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre, Ministry of Cabinet, UAE, said that global competitiveness reports indicate the achievements of women in the UAE, and the country has become an inspiring example for others in the region and the world, adding that the UAE has made successive leaps in global competitiveness reports, having ranked first in the world in 29 indicators related to women’s empowerment and gender balance, which is testament to the effective presence of women and their distinguished role in serving their country in various areas of life.