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Culture Clash in the UAE’s Public Administration Report

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Updated: Jun 27th, 2020

There is no secret that public administration in UAE has suffered major changes over the past few years due to the need for the state to create stronger ties with the neighboring states, as well as the state’s partners in politics. As a result, the state has witnessed an impressive increase in diversity and the following alterations in terms of its culture, ethics, business principles, etc. While some of the changes have been carried out comparatively easy, other alterations have demanded rather painstaking efforts, and some are yet to occur.

The culture clash and the following conflicts, which can be witnessed with an increasing frequency in the state at present, are to be viewed as not merely minor issues that will sooner or later resolve itself, but as a manifestation of a major problem emerging as a result of the UAE society facing the need to adapt towards the ethics and moral principles of the UAE’s political and economic partners. In other words, an impressive culture clash can be observed within the realm of the UAE public administration and is to be resolved as soon as possible so that the residents of the state could either continue complying with the laws and regulations inspired by the traditional values or reconsider the current legislation principles, therefore, making the state more open to the influences of other cultures and suggesting tolerance as the basis for relationships with foreigners.

Indeed, a brief overview of the current situation will reveal that the present-day cultural principles that the UAE public administration is guided by are rather rigid. It would be wrong to claim that the modern public administration strategy is fully alien to the concept of tolerance – the admittedly evident vestigial concept of personal freedom and the right to be different still exists in the Emirates. Nevertheless, some of the regulations that are currently considered principal to the coordination of the UAE public life are still far too restricted in terms of interpersonal relationships.

The above-mentioned issue, in its turn, can be viewed as a major impediment to not only personal but also business-related interactions between the residents of the UAE and the people representing other cultures. In this relation, the role of women in the UAE culture in general and the code of conduct dictating very specific attitudes towards women deserve to be mentioned. Recent studies show that the representatives of the UAE business world have become increasingly more accepting of the idea of women in business, as well as the idea of different roles for women in other cultures; nevertheless, a rather biased attitude towards female partners is, unfortunately, far too common for the UAE to gain a more significant status as a partner in economy and business. While the aforementioned issue concerns culture and traditions rather than the actual coordination of the UAE public sphere, the public administration realm has admittedly huge power over the attitudes towards female employees, as well as the standards of conduct for women. Therefore, the public administration rules need to be altered towards a more accepting view of the elements and features of other cultures.

It should be noted that the gender issue is only one of the numerous dents in the current public administration approach adopted by the authorities of the UAE. Apart from the specified concern, the lack of tolerance towards other elements of foreign cultures can be observed. For instance, the present-day public administration sphere could use some improvements in terms of democratization in general. At this point, the efficacy of monitoring as a tool for maintaining adherence to new principles deserves to be mentioned.

The aforementioned concern is related directly to the process of modernization, which is also a hot-button issue for the current public administration sphere in the UAE; according to the recent study, the given processes have been taking place in the Islamic setting in general and the UAE setting in particular, yet with little to no effect. In other words, the present-date public administration principles require a major upgrade so that they could incorporate the ideas allowing for the acknowledgment of the rights of people belonging to other cultures. The given task is admittedly tricky, as a range of the elements of other cultures is in sharp conflict with the basics of the Islamic culture; as a result, the implementation of the above-mentioned approach in the UAE is quite complicated.

On a more general level, the issue in question can be identified as the problem of power within the UAE public administration sphere. Though culturally predetermined and justified, the current state of affairs within the UAE public administration domain needs to be addressed so that the state could evolve economically and politically by developing relationships with other countries. Seeing that the latter process is only possible once the premises for cultural conflicts are removed, it is imperative that the current public administration principles regarding the attitudes and hierarchy based on gender should be removed and that more tolerant views towards gender differences should be incorporated into the present-day domain of the UAE public administration.

It should be kept in mind, though, that the specified changes are challenging to the UAE public administration not politically, financially or economically, but socially for the most part. Based on cultural beliefs and the Islamic philosophy, which are by no means inferior to any other cultures or philosophies, these principles, nevertheless, are implanted into the identity of most of the UAE residents and are taken for granted by the latter. Consequently, a rapid switch towards the concept of public administration based on a set of entirely different cultural principles is most likely to result in protests among UAE residents.

Therefore, it is suggested that the current UAE public administration domain should be altered slightly towards accepting more tolerant views concerning gender issues. For instance, the attitudes towards women in power should be switched to more accepting. After all, “In a democracy, the administration must be constructed in such a way that it serves the people through their elected representatives” (Bertelli, 2012a, p. 1), and the interests of women in the UAE society seem to be underrepresented greatly. Though the introduction of democratic principles into the public administration of the state is one of the numerous steps towards becoming successful in the global economy (Bertelli, 2012b), it is a major foot forward in the cultural evolution of the UAE and its residents. Though the problem in question presupposes dealing with a rather delicate cultural issue and locating a compromise between the UAE culture and the global standards, it will lead to impressive improvements in the political and economic status of the Emirates.

Reference List

Bertelli, M. (2012). Introduction. In M. Bertelli, The political economy of public sector governance (1–18). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Bertelli, M. (2012a). Methodological foundations. In M. Bertelli, The political economy of public sector governance (19–34). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Culture Clash in the UAE's Public Administration'. 27 June.

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