On 8 March 2015, Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations, delivered remarks at the Spring Meeting of the Women’s Leadership Board at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Massachusetts, USA.

On the closing day of the meeting, Ambassador Nusseibeh delivered a briefing on the Middle East, from the perspective of the United Arab Emirates as well as the United Nations. 

Drawing comparisons between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Ambassador Nusseibeh noted “Our country is built on foundational principles of openness and tolerance, where over 200 nationalities and people from all religions coexist peacefully”.   

Referencing the centrality of women’s empowerment to the UAE model of development, Ambassador Nusseibeh emphasized the important role of the UAE’s leadership in enshrining equality and social justice and equality of opportunity in the constitution for all citizens.

Ambassador Nusseibeh noted the important contribution of women’s education to the UAE. The very high numbers of women graduating from university has translated into enormously positive effects for the economy, stability and security and in building the country’s knowledge economy.

She noted that in 2012 the UAE introduced compulsory legislation requiring female board members in every company and government agency. The intention of the legislation was to ensure that women participate as decision-makers in the corporate and government spheres, and are fully integrated into the UAE’s development and nation-building process. 

The Ambassador also addressed the current situation in the Middle East and the challenges that have resulted from the rise in conflict across the region, which have forced nearly 14 million people to flee from Iraq and Syria, totaling more than a quarter of the displaced people globally.

Ambassador Nusseibeh underlined that these humanitarian crises are challenging the international community’s ability to respond sufficiently, or to provide adequate security or protection to those in need. This has forced refugees to take desperate and dangerous survival measures, such as sending their children to work or marrying off minors, which has led to their increased vulnerability to human smuggling, trafficking and exploitation.

She emphasized that extremist groups are using the stalled Middle East Peace Process to further their agenda, and stressed that the UAE believes that the Arab Peace Initiative, first proposed in 2002 by the late King Abdullah of Saudi, should not be overlooked.

“The initiative was visionary and should not have been overlooked as it continues to be a comprehensive and viable proposal for achieving peace and justice,” she said.

Speaking on the UAE’s priorities on international level, the Ambassador said that they center around meeting shared global challenges including empowering women, supporting low-income countries to develop their economies sustainably; providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance; countering extremism and achieving political solutions to the range of conflicts confronting us today.

With regard to her experience at the United Nations, Ambassador Nusseibeh said that after nearly two years, she sees the Organization as not only indispensable and necessary, but also a unique one. “Seventy years after its founding, it continues to respond to challenges and undertake responsibilities that no other existing institution could – or perhaps would choose – to shoulder”, commending the UN’s efforts in combating the Ebola pandemic, responding to the devastating earthquake in Nepal and working towards agreement on the sustainable development goals.

The Ambassador also noted where the United Nations could improve – notably in responding more quickly and decisively to prevent the rise in extremism and stop the descent into chaos through inaction in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. 

In response to a question asked of her at the end of her speech about the challenges that lay in the way of women achieving their goals in the UAE, the Ambassador said: “We are in an enviable position both regionally and globally in terms of the unequivocal support of our leadership for women to reach the highest levels in every sector. The only challenge for women is for them to make the most of these opportunities and to strive for excellence in whatever they choose to do.”