The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven semi-autonomous emirates. The seven emirate rulers constitute the Federal Supreme Council, the highest legislative and executive body. The council selects a president and a vice president from its membership, and the president appoints the prime minister and cabinet. In 2004 the council selected Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi Emirate, as head of state for a five-year term. Democratically elected legislative institutions, political parties, and general elections do not exist. Citizens voice concerns through traditional consultative mechanisms such as the open "majlis" (council) and increasingly through the consultative Federal National Council (FNC), which consists of 40 advisors, 20 of whom a 6,689-member appointed electoral college elected in December 2006. The judiciary is not independent. In limited cases, security forces reportedly employed flogging as judicially sanctioned punishment. Arbitrary detention and incommunicado detention remained problems. The government limited civil liberties such as freedom of speech, press (including the Internet), assembly, and association. Trafficking in persons and legal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens remained problems. Workers have no right to redress grievances through collective bargaining.
U.S. efforts to promote freedom and democracy focus on broadening political participation, contributing to the development of a free press, encouraging government transparency, and pursuing greater judicial independence. U.S. officials engage the government to encourage broader elections for the FNC, municipalities, and student councils. Support for media training is designed to bolster the media's professionalism and ability to pursue independent stories, rather than relying on wire services or officially sanctioned government sources. The United States encourages increased access to information about and communication with government bodies, especially online, to increase public awareness of official decision making and to foster more participatory governance. U.S. officials consistently encourage the government to permit the licensing of more NGOs. The United States encourages judicial training and seeks to foster practices and principles supportive of an independent judiciary.
The United States strives to improve the human rights situation, particularly for the more than 80 percent of the population who are noncitizens, many of whom are unskilled laborers. Through monitoring and public diplomacy outreach, the U.S. government also focuses on the issues of civil society development, political participation, and increasing transparency in government. The United States also maintains contact with dissident voices who call for greater political freedoms and lends programmatic support where appropriate.
The U.S. government seeks out organizations and individuals with nonofficial views and information to shed light on the human rights situation in the country, including the lack of civil liberties. The U.S. government works with these organizations and individuals and offers resources and access to expertise and training through U.S.-funded programs, which foster greater public awareness of the value of a viable NGO community and public monitoring of human rights. U.S. officials engage with other like-minded democratic allies and encourage them to raise human rights and democracy concerns with the government.
The United States encourages the government to build on its measured progress toward more representative governance. The United States actively encourages the government to fulfill its stated commitment to expand the electorate to include all citizens and supports the transformation of the FNC into a more independent legislative body. In addition, the U.S. government continually urges the government to provide a greater role for civil society and engages individuals and organizations pursuing an agenda of expanded civil liberties.
The U.S. government directs concrete assistance through local partners to cultivate conditions favorable to democratic reform. A U.S.-funded program expands the role of youth in decision-making by facilitating student council elections at local universities. Another U.S.-funded program helps strengthen independent reporting and overcome self-censorship by providing training to journalists and editors to build investigative capabilities and professionalism. Also in support of media freedom, in 2006 the embassy facilitated engagement with U.S. media law experts, who helped support local efforts to propose draft amendments to the press law. In addition, the U.S. government seeks to support future democratic leaders by promoting a more vigorous discussion of democracy in educational reform and civics curriculum and enabling student polling on citizens' views of democracy.
In pressing for progress on labor issues, U.S. officials engage the government on the values of freedom of assembly and association, which are largely restricted in the country. This effort supports the rights of the vulnerable foreign labor force, which constitutes the majority of the country's 4.2 million residents. U.S. civil society programs also focus on women's empowerment in a society that has made great strides toward promoting women into senior positions yet continues to suffer from the lack of female participation in public policy decision-making. U.S. officials engage and assist female leaders on a wide range of topics with a focus on developing their leadership skills. For example, a recently concluded U.S.-funded program focused on women's participation in public life by providing communication skills training to women.
The U.S. government aggressively combats trafficking in persons by working with government contacts, other diplomatic missions, private activists, and international NGOs. The United States assists trafficking victims through training programs for judges, for example, to increase potential prosecutions for trafficking. U.S. efforts to persuade the government to rectify the plight of hundreds of young foreign boys previously employed in the dangerous occupation of camel jockeys deepened effective engagement with activists, government authorities, and other governments. The United States continues to engage the government on child labor and trafficking in persons, including trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation.
Paving the way for responsible democracy, the U.S. government promotes understanding of democratic governance, America, and individual responsibility in a free society. From university student discussion groups to formal educator training programs, U.S. officials work directly with those in the classroom to promote skills and ideas necessary to pursue and sustain transparent governance. This effort includes English language training microscholarships, virtual clubs, educational advising, and an American Corner for children. Seeking to seed the dialogue among the country's youth, the United States encourages a broader discussion of political freedoms through student exchanges, dialogue on ethnic and religious tolerance, and pursuit of higher education at U.S. institutions or U.S.-affiliated institutions in the country.