Publication details for Dr Christopher DavidsonDavidson, Christopher M. (2012). Government in the United Arab Emirates: Progress and Pathologies. In Governance in the Middle East and North Africa. Kadhim, Abbas. London: Routledge. 275-291.
- Publication type: Books: sections
- ISSN/ISBN: 9781857435849
- View online: Online version
Author(s) from Durham
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of sheikhdoms in the lower Persian Gulf comprising oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the international entrepôt of Dubai, Sharjah, and four smaller members, has for years enjoyed the highest economic growth rates in the
Middle East. It has also built up enormous sovereign wealth funds, and has attracted impressive levels of foreign direct investment (FDI). Even though Dubai’s attempts to experiment with real estate and tourism may now be coming unstuck in the wake of tightening global credit markets, Abu Dhabi’s investments in heavy industries, renewable energies and a knowledge economy should nevertheless ensure long-term sustainability
for the UAE’s economic development and diversification strategies. Remarkably
and, for some observers, surprisingly, these economic achievements have been presided over by a hybrid polity made up of seemingly modern governmental structures, which have been grafted onto traditional political structures that have undergone little or no
evolution since the UAE’s creation in 1971. More specifically, politics and government in the UAE remain defined by an assortment of hereditary monarchies that are loosely assembled under a central, federal government dominated by the two wealthiest and most populous emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
There has been no real evidence of democratic opening, at least in the Western sense, and far less tangible political reform has taken place in the UAE than in neighbouring Gulf states, including even Saudi Arabia. International non-governmental organizations(NGOs) regularly rank the UAE among the least-free political systems in the world, and consistently place it behind Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Viewed through a lens of
development scholarship, this is especially significant given that most of the distinguished modernization theorists writing in the mid-20th century—including Samuel Huntington,
Karl Deutsch and Daniel Lerner—predicted that such traditional polities would eventually fail: most especially those on the cusp of great socio-economic growth afforded by substantial oil revenues.