Characteristic of the United Arab Emirates

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 10
Words: 2835
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: PhD


A significant increase in crises and disasters globally has necessitated the use of strategic responses when handling the dangers posed by these calamities. Governments are responsible for deploying federal schemes to augment their nation’s readiness for tragedy and attacks. Therefore, administrations can have a significant impact on state and civilian preparedness through measures such as endorsing funding initiatives, developing new policies and putting new programs into action. Additionally, a calculated response to a disaster requires a detailed understanding of the environment to facilitate an effective reaction. This paper examines the role of the civil defence agency in response to natural hazards and emergencies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The purpose of this literature review is to examine the socio-demographic, economic and administrative characteristics of the UAE as well as the natural hazards faced by the country. This review also examines the role of the civil defence agency in the management of disasters.

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Socio-Demographics of the UAE

The United Nations (2017) approximated that the total population in the UAE was 9,400,145 by mid-2017 with immigrants comprising more than 88% of the entire population. The World Bank (2018) estimates that this population has increased to 9.54 million in 2018. In 2017, 72% of the population was male, whereas the remaining 28% was female (United Nations 2017). An analysis of the population by age found that 14.2% of the population was between the age of 0 to 14 years while 12.7% was between 15 and 24 years. 65.9% of the population was between the age of 25 and 54 years, whereas the age group between 55 and 64 years formed 5.7% of the entire population. The smallest age group was 65 years and older, which comprised only 1.5% of the population. Therefore, the median age of the country was 33.5 years. The majority of the UAE population was between 25 and 54 years, which could be attributed to a large number of the immigrant population of working men and women. The population distribution by emirates showed that Abu Dhabi had the highest population of approximately 4.1 million, followed by Dubai and Sharjah at 1.72 million and 1.53 million respectively. Ras Al Khaimah had 0.95 million people, followed by Fujairah and Ajman with populations of 0.67 million and 0.38 million people respectively. Umm Al Quwain had the lowest population with 0.19 million people (United Nations 2017).

The UAE had a population growth rate of approximately 2.37 in 2017 with a birth rate of 15.1 births per 100 people and a mortality rate of 1.9 deaths for every 100 people (Cordesman 2018). The country had an infant mortality rate of 11.6 deaths for every 100 live births in males and 8.3 mortalities per 1000 live births in females, which translated into an overall rate of 10 deaths per 1,000 live births (Cordesman 2018). The overall life expectancy was 77.7 years.

Approximately 86.1% of the population lives in urban settings. The official and predominant religion are Islam whose members form 76% of the population. Christians make up 9%, whereas other religions form 15% of the population (Cordesman 2018). Arabic is the official language of communication in the UAE. However, other languages such as English, Urdu, Persian and Hindi are also used (Raddawi & Meslem 2015).

Local and Foreign Population of the UAE

The number of international immigrants has increased rapidly, reaching 258 million in 2017 from 173 million in 2000 (United Nations 2017). In 2000, the UAE was ranked 15th among the top twenty countries hosting international immigrants with 2.4 million international immigrants. This number increased to 8.3 million in 2017, causing the country to be ranked at the sixth position (United Nations 2017). Bilateral corridors, which are migratory movements between two countries, have enhanced the diversity of international immigrants. As a result, approximately 12.7 million Indians have migrated to different countries with 3 million moving to the UAE. The nationals of the UAE, who are referred to as Emiratis, make up 11.48% of the total population. Indians in the UAE make up approximately 27.49%, whereas Pakistanis comprise 12.69% of the total population. Egyptians and Filipinos form 5.56% while other nationalities make up about 38.55% (United Nations 2017). The United Nations (2017) also reports that approximately 8,313 international migrants moved to the UAE in 2017, bringing the total proportion of immigrants to 88.4%. The median age of the immigrants was 33.8 years with females making up 25.3% of the total settlers (United Nations 2017).

The Economy of the UAE

The UAE is characterised by an open economy that records a high per capita income and immense annual trade profits. The country, which boasts of a powerful international trade standing and vast public funds invested in real and fiscal assets, is the centre for international trade in the Gulf area (Shayah 2015). The UAE is bestowed with huge oil and gas resources and ranks eighth among the biggest oil producers globally. Around 90 % of oil production in the UAE takes place in Abu Dhabi. Hydrocarbons constitute approximately 80% of overall government returns (Shayah 2015).

Economic diversification can be described as a situation where a country obtains incomes from diverse unrelated sources. The UAE economy is diversified because the country does not depend solely on oil. Many other sectors play a crucial role in the fiscal development of the country, for example, trade and tourism (Morakabati 2013). In addition, the country has a free-market economy with very few restrictions on the activities of the private sector, international commerce and capital movements. There exist free trade zones that allow 100% foreign proprietorship with no taxation to broaden the economy. As a result, many foreign investors are encouraged to conduct trade in the country, which has led to significant growth in the economy.

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In a country that owns approximately 10% of the world’s total oil resources, oil provides funding for economic growth and the development of social services (Shayah 2015). Abu Dhabi and Dubai have invested vast resources amounting to billions of dollars to vary their economies and minimise dependence on oil. Both emirates are channelling their resources into tourism, commerce, logistics, air travel, groundwork and finance (Shayah 2015). On the other hand, Dubai is the hub of finance, trade, carriage and leisure industry. Effective economic diversification has lowered the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) obtained from oil and gas to 25% (Shayah 2015). According to Akin, Iqbal and Mirakhor (2016) the IMD World Competitiveness Centre Index of 2013 reported that the UAE had the most viable economy in the Middle East and the eighth-most competitive economy worldwide. This raking indicated that the country performed better than other countries such as Australia, Portugal, Spain, France, Japan and Russia (Shayah 2015).

Despite the devastating consequences of the global economic recession, the UAE’s economy has proven to be extraordinarily adaptable. Increased oil prices, high government spending and a remarkable revival of the service sector, transportation and commerce have played a vital role in the upsurge of the economy. Furthermore, the effective redistributing of liability unpaid by high-profile firms, coherence among the emirates and accommodative fiscal policies have contributed to fostering economic stability. However, the majority of UAE nationals are dependent on public-sector employment and bankrolled services.

Policies and Administration of the UAE

The UAE has taken on the approach established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to develop policies that direct its interactions with other nations, people and regimes. The country strives to use the most influential and humane approaches to promote justice and support the rights of its citizens. The basis of the country’s foreign policy includes hospitality, understanding and a harmonious resolution of wrangles. The UAE is dedicated to the support and defence of human rights based on the principles of justice and equality as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This policy has led to beneficial alliances between the UAE and the rest of the world on political, financial, commerce, ethnic, scientific, didactic and health levels.

The UAE demonstrates devotion towards humanity through foreign aid, which is among the top priorities in the country’s external relationship approach. This commitment is directed by an Islamic conviction that it is important to help those in need. Additionally, the administration believes that a portion of its riches from oil and gas should be dedicated to helping other nations and the less fortunate people. As a result, the country provides financial and benevolent assistance to some countries through expansion plans, groundwork projects and helping victims of natural or man-made disasters through its partnerships with other donor countries or UN programs. The president of the UAE has made personal pledges to the tune of $270 million since 2011 to back international efforts to eliminate life-threatening illnesses such as malaria, poliomyelitis and guinea worm disease (National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority [NCEMA] 2018). The UAE government has also partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to raise $100 million to support initiatives to eradicate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (NCEMA 2018).

The UAE administration has set policies to safeguard the environment. For example, collaborations with the World Wide Fund for Nature to develop Masdar City, which is expected to be the first city without carbon and other wastes. It is expected that this city will use sustainable, clean energy technologies to produce power and desalinate water.

The UAE’s foreign policy focuses on establishing regional and international networks that connect the country with other nations at bilateral levels, regional or international blocs. Consequently, the UAE has successfully built ambassadorial relationships with approximately 189 countries all over the world. The country has established about 82 embassies overseas, whereas the number of foreign delegations with a physical presence in the country has risen to 110. To maintain these ties, the UAE is committed to eliminating terrorism and supporting efforts to promote discourse and acceptance among religions (Almezaini 2012).

Natural Hazards in the UAE

The UAE has witnessed earthquakes of moderate intensities over the last 30 years (Barakat et al. 2018). The highest intensity recorded was a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale, which happened in the Masafi area in 2002 (Yagoub 2016). The most recent earthquakes that occurred in Iran in 2013 resulted in vibrations and slight shaking of buildings in some UAE cities (Yagoub 2016). Even though the tremors have a small magnitude, their succession has become a crucial topic in research, which has necessitated additional assessment from topographical, geological, engineering and communal standpoints.

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Heat and dust storms plagued the UAE in February 2009 (Alam et al. 2014). The temperatures escalated to 37 degrees Celsius, which was the highest temperature recorded in February since 1974. The dust storms were pushed by winds moving at approximately 65 kilometres per hour, thereby lowering visibility all through the region. Shamal winds, which are strong northwesterly winds, are common in spring and summer and are responsible for most dust storms in the UAE. Unstable weather conditions hit the UAE in December 2017 resulting in heavy flooding (Alawadhi & Udeaja 2018). The water levels rose to approximately one meter, which led to incessant traffic jams as well as the destruction of property. Families in areas such as Fujairah, Al Ain City and Kalbaa were evacuated to safety. Fortunately, no human lives were lost. Heavy rains have also resulted in landslides. Pathirage and Al-Khaili (2016) report that terrorism, atmospheric and tectonic hazards as the three main risks of vulnerability within the UAE.

UAE Fire Agency or Civil Defence Agency Roles and Responsibilities

Civil defence is a social organisation meant to ensure the safety of civilians against armed aggression (Al Hmoudi, El Raey & Zeesha 2015). One of its roles includes making emergency planning for disasters. The Civil Defence of the UAE is an emergency management organization whose goal is to have the UAE among the safest nations worldwide (Al Hmoudi, El Raey & Zeesha 2015). It deals with the safeguarding of human lives, public and private property, as well as providing help during general disasters. The Dubai Civil Defence mainly deals with fire emergencies all over the country. Apart from safeguarding the well-being of individuals, the energy sector, which is the major source of livelihood in the UAE needs to be protected.

The UAE treats disasters as an important issue and has taken numerous tangible steps towards emergency vigilance. This effort is mirrored in the enhancement of the National Seismic Networks (Al Khatibi et al. 2014), the founding of NCEMA in 2007 and the amendment of building codes with regard to earthquakes (Grose 2016). Before 2007, the Ministry of Interior was the organisation that was tasked with handling emergencies in the UAE (Yagoub & Jalil 2014).

NCEMA, which is governed by the Higher National Security Council (HNSC), strives to guarantee the safety of human lives and enhance the country’s capacity to handle crises and emergencies (NCEMA 2012a). Some of the proposed strategies include establishing the prerequisites of business endurance, permitting quick recovery through collective planning and synchronising communication at the national and local levels (NCEMA 2012c). A National Response Framework (NRF) was also developed following the inception of NCEMA to oversee training standards and appraise all activities related to emergency management (NCEMA 2012b). Furthermore, state, regional and local operation centres were created to facilitate the responses of organisations involved in emergency management through continuing training (NCEMA 2012b). NCEMA uses ‘Taware’e wa Azamat’, a quarterly magazine, to serve as a communication bridge between NCEMA and other administrative establishments as well as between NCEMA and various segments of the UAE community. NCEMA has formed partnerships with other agencies to facilitate timely responses to emergencies (NCEMA 2012a).

The conventional process of tackling and managing emergencies entails four main phases: deterrence, readiness, response and recovery (NCEMA 2012c). However, prevention is the most important phase, which necessitates the adoption of ‘preventive prediction’ as an important prerequisite in the calamity management process. Preventive prediction is founded on pre-emptive and prognostic thinking that helps avert potential crises through a precautionary, cutting-edge and training-based scheme. The third version of the Crisis and Emergency Management Conference (CEMC) was organised within this structure to facilitate improvements in risk preparedness (NCEMA 2012c).

The Relationship between Natural Hazards and Fire or Civil Defence Roles

Emergency and disaster preparation entails a synchronised, collaborative process of matching critical needs with accessible resources. The preparation of emergency plans occurs in five phases: investigation, writing, propagation, assessment and updating. Therefore, an emergency plan should be a valid document that is occasionally customised to changing conditions and offers direction concerning practices, techniques and sharing of responsibilities in emergency responses. Specific sectors of the economy require precise plans, for example, education, healthcare, production and trade. Such plans should also subsist in a nested chain of command that ranges from the local emergency response (which is the basic level) to the state and global levels.

Emergency planning is a fairly new field that was developed initially as a reaction to technological hazards, including noxious spills and industrial blasts. As time progressed, there was a growing emphasis on natural calamities such as storms, floods and seismic activities. Even though international geopolitical influences have minimised the likelihood of wars, the community faces novel challenges in the form of natural catastrophes or human-prompted disasters, leading to far-reaching damage of property, human fatalities and deterioration of normal lives. The community is always the first to respond when disasters occur. Therefore, there is a need for adequate awareness and readiness for the community to react to these situations and alleviate destruction and suffering. As a community-based community organisation, civil defence can rescue, provide relief, rehabilitate and play a vital role in creating public awareness in addition to enhancing the community’s capacity to face any disaster.

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Challenges Faced by the Civil Defence When Responding to Natural Hazards

The main setback encountered by the civil defence when reacting to natural hazards is the lack of national government legislation (Yagoub 2016). Poor public awareness and education is another problem that complicates the response to natural calamities. In a study conducted by Alawadhi and Udeaja (2018), it was noted that an apparent lack of research regarding the dissemination of good practices across the energy sector was an obstacle to enhancing resilience. Education and preparation are the most important interventions required to build strength in the Emirati energy sector. Consequently, pertinent courses should be developed to advance skills and cognizance using effective, hands-on approaches. However, training and capacity building are longstanding projects. Therefore, the UAE should introduce these programs as soon as feasibly possible. Another notable problem is the lack of strategic planning and good management, which could be attributed to the failure to predict and foresee disasters (UAE Government News 2016).


From this review, it is evident that disaster risk reduction should encompass community involvement, public policy actions, safe construction and urban development. Emergency response preparation and training are crucial to the success of countries and their economies because they help circumvent many disasters. In addition, proper planning helps countries to surmount such events with minimal loss of human lives and financial resources.

Reference List

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