The General Assembly met today to pay tribute to the memory of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, who died on 13 May. “Our hearts are full of sorrow,” said the representative of United Arab Emirates, while recalling the late leader’s boundless hope for his country.
Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, opened the solemn tribute, recalling the vision and “political brilliance” of Sheikh Khalifa, particularly emphasizing his commitment to sustainable development and a greater role for women in society.
After the Assembly observed a minute of silence, Secretary-General António Guterres took the floor, recalling that the late leader had learned from his own father, the founder of United Arab Emirates. He noted that Sheikh Khalifa then worked to transform the country by creating metropolises in the desert country, also underlining his efforts in the fight against climate change.
“We are bidding farewell to a pioneer,” added the representative of Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States. He cited the economic, scientific and civilizational progress of the United Arab Emirates, overseen by a leader who — in a career extending across more than 40 years — participated in the great events of the world, with the goal of ensuring his country a prominent place on the global landscape. Denmark’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, noted the late leader’s efforts transformed the United Arab Emirates into the second largest economy in the Arab region, with an emphasis on health and education, the pillars of sustainable development.
Presidents of regional groups then took the floor, with the representative of Mauritania, speaking on behalf of the African States, recalling the donations made by the United Arab Emirates to many countries in the Middle East and Africa — noting they have saved human lives. The representative of Oman, speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States, said the late leader was a strong supporter of sustainable development, recalling his wisdom, moderation and intelligence.
The Czech Republic’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States, spoke of a “huge loss” for the United Arab Emirates and the wider world. The representative of Peru, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries, recalled the late President’s support for justice.
“His legacy and commitment to partnership between our countries will carry on,” added the representative of the United States. The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), hailed a “wise and visionary” leader, while Saudi Arabia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, paid tribute to a model of tolerance and humanity.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates noted that, thanks to the leadership of the late President, 50 per cent of the elected representatives in her country are now women, while some 135 countries have received assistance to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Assembly will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 23 May, to act on a number of draft resolutions.