A recent Russia Today (RT Arabic) poll on the most influential Arab leader in 2019 has placed His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on top with 68.6% of total votes. A few days later, a New York Times report dubbed His Highness the most influential personality in the Middle East, along with US President Donald Trump in the US, President Xi Jinping in China, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa, Prime Minister Imran Khan in Pakistan, and Prime Minister Abi Ahmed of Ethiopia.
These are just a few examples of international testimonies to the personality of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and his positive influence locally, regionally and internationally, which encouraged world leaders to listen to him and his vision.
This rightful, well-deserved international recognition of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s stature did not emerge from a vacuum, but, rather, from his domestic and foreign policies and visions combined with personal characteristics that made him exceptional in the eyes of the world.
On a personal note, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is all modesty combined with firmness, decisiveness, prestige and charisma. As one writer put it, “He is not only a genius leader with iron-will and unmistakable charisma, but also a human being in the truest sense of the word, patting and chatting affectionately with the young, treating the vulnerable with kindness, offering assistance to the needy, combining humility with prestige and always insisting on being close to — if not one of — his fellow citizens to share their joys and sorrows”.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed is no different from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul) in terms of humility, prestige and charisma, as expressed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, (May God protect him), in his poem “Elder Young”:
He inherited Zayed’s sharp thinking, bravery and perseverance. He bestowed his grace and generosity on the needy – offered his patience and knowledge to all his guests. He even inherited his stature, voice, endurance, laugh and frown in humor and seriousness.
With regard to his outlook on development, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed believes education is the cornerstone of development, excellence, international competitiveness and a genuine source of wealth. His Highness’ speech in the 2015 Dubai World Government Summit reflected this vision: “Our real bet in the forthcoming period is investment in education… we live prosperous lives, and so, we are obliged to exhaust all our potential in education. After 50 years there will be the moment to ship the last oil barrel for export. I wonder if we will feel sad. If today’s investment in our human resources is correct, I bet we’ll celebrate that moment”.
His Highness maintains that in the future it will not be a luxury but rather a necessity to maintain sustainable development. He who waits for the future to come, he argues, is doomed by lagging behind human progress. So, His Highness always calls on the youth to anticipate the future by developing the necessary tools, as exemplified by “Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis (meeting) for Future Generations” which is held periodically to enlighten the Emirati youth about the future.
Particular emphasis is placed on the youth whom His Highness considers UAE’s ultimate power and trump card to climb to the top: “We have no choice but to depend on quality. Science is our ultimate weapon and we need you to compete with world nations. Our ambition is to compete with advanced nations that achieved successes in human development, education and economics such as Finland, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore”. “You, sons, are our best bet”, adds His Highness, “We firmly believe that UAE’s progress depends solely on you. You are UAE’s best hope, future and ultimate weapon rather than three million barrels of oil daily” He always inspires confidence in the youth and motivates them to excel: “Our ambitious youth is our best bet to accomplish our aspirations for the future. We trust you to shoulder the responsibility and actualise the message of our founding fathers”.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed calculates that “development requires power to defend and to secure accomplishments” and that “defenseless nations without the will to offer sacrifices in order to defend national interests and sovereignty are fragile and unable to live with dignity in a tumultuous, threat-filled age”.
Accordingly, His Highness showed a great deal of interest to develop and support the capabilities of the UAE armed forces to defend national development achievements. He sees them as the backbone to maintain national accomplishments, security and stability. His Highness’ vision to develop and boost the armed forces’ potential revolves around a number of specific reasons: give utmost priority to Emiratis as the backbone and source of excellence of any modern armed forces, equip these forces with top-notch weapons, start a local advanced arms industry, build more military academies, institutes and schools to strengthen academic background, pursue world-class training per latest techniques, participate in military exercises with sisterly and friendly nations to bring the military in touch with varied experience and apply expanded military service systems to increase armed forces’ manpower.
Citing the problems, challenges and risks that engulf the Arab region and the Middle East in general, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is keen to inspire hope in the future, taking the UAE as a role model of success and excellence despite the turbulent regional landscape. He said “The UAE is a torch of light in a dim land – a good example to follow. Numbers never lie. The UAE is, regardless of challenges, a good example for the region to follow. How many positive messages did the Middle East serve the world over the past 60 years? A positive message is being sent daily to the world by your nation”.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is gifted with a deep vision about threats to regional and world security and has been warning for years against the dangers posed by political Islam, besides calling for a global confrontation against it. The world, particularly the west, only came to realise His Highness’ sound judgment and immaculate view vis-à-vis this issue following the heavy blood spilled by terrorist organisations throughout the world over the last few years. It, hence, earned His Highness great world recognition and international leaders developed more interest in listening to him on how to maintain stability in the Middle East – a region of paramount strategic importance to the whole world.
His Highness maintains that coexistence, tolerance and moderation are concepts adequate enough to achieve world peace and stability; a message he is working hard to spread world-wide. His Highness has set a true example of this endeavour, giving instructions in July 2017 to change the name of Mohammed bin Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi’s Al Mushrif area into Mariam Umm Eisa’s (Marry the Mother of Jesus) – a universal message of tolerance and love.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed played a leading role in developing the “Document on Human Fraternity” which was signed by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, and Pope Francis of the Vatican during their historic visit to the UAE on 4 February 2019. In a historic message to the world marking the signing of the Document, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed said, “There’s plenty of room for everyone in this universe. Diversification is a source of wealth, not for bickering and infighting. We were born different so we can complement one another, get acquainted and cooperate for goodness, peace and prosperity for all”. He added “Bigotry, hatred and grudge among people of faiths and sects has been one of the reasons behind mankind’s most painful and sanguinary tragedies that claimed million innocent lives”.
So, it was logical for US Fox News Network to call, in a 4 February 2019 report, for awarding His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and Pope of the Vatican, the Nobel Peace Prize.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s global initiatives are not limited to spreading coexistence, tolerance and moderation, but extend to other aspects that reflect his belief in common destiny and vital inter-dependence in the face of common challenges. One pertinent example is His Highness’ pioneer initiative to combat infantile paralysis globally. In 2013 His Highness contributed DH440 million to exterminate the disease in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to confirm that the far-reaching achievements of the universal initiative to exterminate infantile paralysis and other contagious diseases were only successful with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s personal involvement and staunch support.
His Highness also made a great effort to preserve endangered human heritage against extinction as a result of wars and disputes. In this context, the “Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage” Conference was hosted by Abu Dhabi in 2016. At the Conference’s closing session, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed called on world nations to cooperate and coordinate their efforts to counter antiquities trafficking, citing the significance of these antiquities as common universal heritage.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is striving to make culture a bridge for coexistence and peace among nations, which he eloquently expressed at the opening ceremony of Louvre-Abu Dhabi Museum in 2017 by saying, “Our message to the world at the opening ceremony of this UAE-based world cultural edifice is that culture has been, and is indeed, a bridge for communication and dialogue among peoples and civilisations rather than a source of clashes and struggles as fancied by extremists and fundamentalists”.
Furthermore, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s active diplomatic moves at the regional and international levels helped boost UAE’s presence and influence on the world stage, consolidate UAE’s relations with global influential powers and diversify UAE’s foreign initiatives to boost national interests and defend national achievements. These efforts have made the UAE a stopover terminal for world leaders visiting the Gulf and the Middle East, and an active partner to deal with, and settle, regional crises.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed helped boost Saudi efforts to reach a historic reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose leaders were hosted by Abu Dhabi in July 2018. At this summit, Sheikh Mohammed said, “The conciliatory role by the UAE, sponsored by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, of Saudi Arabia, and support of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, helped reach this historic agreement between two friendly nations. This role stems from our profound belief in the significance of tipping the balance in favour of cooperation, peace and tolerance among world nations and peoples as the best way to achieve common interests and consolidate the march of development and prosperity for all mankind.
This brief presentation was a modest attempt to shed light on the unique characteristics of a born-leader, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. A full account requires volumes, which will still fall short of inclusive, in-depth insight and analysis..