Why I applied to be the UAE's Minister of Youth

The opportunity humbles me, and I stand committed to our leadership's vision that the country's youth is the future


Abdulla Mohamed Al-Riyami

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Published: Thu 28 Sep 2023, 3:39 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Sep 2023, 10:49 PM

Earlier this week, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced a vacancy in the UAE Cabinet: he was looking for the next Minister of Youth. And I knew instantly: I was going to apply.

The UAE youth's particular quality is to be ambitious and aim high. But, for me, this was more than about personal gain. Helping the UAE create a new economic order through its youth would be a major achievement for the nation — and one of the key reasons I wanted to join the thousands who had applied within hours.

The UAE government is a model of futuristic strategic planning. The opportunity to become a youth minister is a testimony of a healthy government that recognises how essential the participation and integration of young people is in a robust economic landscape set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing, technology-driven era.

Youth empowerment and engagement are the essential ingredients for the UAE's vision that seeks to create a nation where young people lead, innovate, and are actively involved in shaping the future of their country. The opportunity humbles me, and I stand committed to our leadership's vision that the UAE's youth is the future of this country.

One of the benefits of growing up in the Emirates is that we become naturally placed to navigate the many cultures that call this country home. I was born in Abu Dhabi and attended an international school with more than 50 nationalities. Since those days, I have grown a passion for understanding and communicating with people of other cultures, traditions, and religions. In 2010, I joined the University of Colorado Denver to study political sciences, economics, and international studies. Throughout my journey in the United States, I developed a passion for decoding the different communication techniques required by societies and ways of governance, enabling me to connect with everyone through — or despite — these differences.

I then joined Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy in 2016 to pursue my diplomatic career, where I presented a capstone that facilitated practical foreign direct investment policy recommendations, some of which are currently implemented. This has only cemented my belief that Emirati youth can play a crucial role in advancing our country towards the future.

From my humble experience, our community youth's number one issue is failure to address communication gaps. The longer this pattern of miscommunication remains, the more it becomes entrenched, causing it to be termed or challenged as youth entitlement. A different approach is necessary to overcome our youth's challenges that cause underperformance.

For example, young people in both the public and private sectors face the wrath of bureaucracy endorsed by outdated systems. Our generation recognises the need to update systems that fail to address pressing issues in their academic, social, and work environments — but must learn how to steer such conversations. It has been, and still is, a challenge I face; however, through perseverance and observation, I have been breaking through the barriers of identifying the elephant in the room, addressing communication issues, and finding solutions.

I have also recognised the importance of constantly communicating with everyone to reach their utmost potential and meet all their needs. I learned this by closely observing our leadership in the UAE, starting with the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, and his successors, the late Sheikh Khalifa (may God rest their souls in peace), and now His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the UAE President; His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; and Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Today, I introduce myself as a thirsty learner and as one who wishes to pivot away from societal jargon. Being in a position of representation makes one extra careful in speech and actions. It's in keeping with one of the best illustrations I learned about leadership, which states that a leader is not a person who 'gets to' but who 'has to.' To become a Minister for Youth would mean that one would no longer represent oneself but the people one leads.

I previously wrote an article: Dreams become thoughts, and thoughts become actions. To be very ambitious and to aim high is not subjective; my ultimate goal is to ensure the UAE is a part of creating a new economic order through its youth.

And since specialism is the primary benefit of economies of scale and our economic growth, the involvement of our youth will be a competitive advantage for the UAE’s future.


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