Dubai: Country and Foreign Investment
This page was last updated on 9 March 2021.
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven hereditary sheikhdoms or emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The UAE is an absolute monarchy; there are no general elections and political parties are illegal. Power rests with the seven hereditary sheikhs (emirs), who choose a president from among themselves. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been president since 3 November 2004.
The ruler of Dubai emirate is Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. He is also leader of the Supreme Council of the Union, a body that is like a cabinet but has substantially more power. The Supreme Council formulates policies that apply country-wide, ratifies the laws that result from them and appoints the Emirati president and prime minister/vice president. Members of the Council are government ministers, such as Minister of the Interior.
In addition, there is a unicameral advisory body known as the Federal National Council (FNC). It advises the Cabinet and the Supreme Council and can amend and review all legislation and also summon ministers to review and criticize the work of their ministries.
As per the constitution, the FNC consists of 40 members who are drawn proportionately from each of the seven emirates. Each ruler appoints the members for his emirate. Although there is a national government, each ruler is completely sovereign in his domain.
The UAE was a founder member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), created at a summit conference in Abu Dhabi in 1981. The members of the GCC include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman as well as the UAE. The country is also a member of the League of Arab States, the Islamic Conference Organization and the United Nations.
The unified customs area of the Gulf Co-operation Council has been in effect since 2003; it covers Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai). Since 2007, Yemen has expressed an interest in joining but has been rebuffed. It has been in negotiations with the existing member states, though joining is not possible at present as the country is in civil war.