The UAE gained formal independence as a federal state on December 2, 1971. The agreement to form a federation was due to the need to form a viable, independent, political, and constitutional entity. The Trucial states formed a federation after the British government agreed to withdraw its rule and facilitated talks amongst the states. The British proposal included.
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- The establishment of a unified educational system with a central administration in Bahrain.
- Common nationality and abolition of travel documents across member emirates.
- The unification of the administrative authorities, viz. judiciary and legislative entities.
The federation further sought to find links and alliances with the neighboring Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iraq. However, continued negotiations between the seven Trucial states with a watchful eye of the British political agents could, at last, come to the establishment of the essential unity. A council was formed and provided a forum whereby the individual tribe leaders were given the capacity to operate at a broader level than that of sheikdom.
This move was advantageous as it cut down the stiff competition amongst leaders, which gave them an opportunity to understand the basics and benefits of collaboration. Towards the end of 1968, the British masters made it clear that they would withdraw from the earlier treaty in 5 years’ time—this move intended to give the Trucial state’s independence. The rulers of the Trucial States were motivated by the move of the British government, which resulted in the Dubai agreement that defined the main federal, political, and executive authorities.
The birth of a federation was not well thought, and thus not all frameworks and systems needed to sustain it were consolidated. Hence it was bound to fail afterward. The Federation of UAE was quickly planned under the watch of the nine leaders, but the terms of the agreement lacked commitment.
Competition for leadership, particularly in Bahrain and Qatar, was the main cause of the failure of the Federation of the UAE, as sources of federal income were not well indicated in the agreement, thus stagnating operations. The emerging rivalry amongst the nine rulers led to the withdrawal of efforts to create a viable federation. However, Dubai and Abu Dhabi come out as the two largest emirates, and their rulers were given special powers in the supreme council. The supreme council worked alongside the president, council of ministers, and the federal judiciary as the main authorities of the union.
The supreme council had the mandate to elect the president and the vice-president. The president is the head, and thus s/he has the prerogative to gather the Supreme Council at will to discuss any pertinent issues that s/he deems necessary.
The council represents the union in both domestic and international affairs. In addition, it appoints all senior officials. The federal system favors the president since all other organs, including the legislature and the Supreme Council, serve as advisors, but not as decision-makers. The legislature has a minimal role in decision-making, and it only comes in during consultations. Matters within the domain of the member emirate can be tackled at the individual level when they are not captured in the federal jurisdiction system. Therefore, the constituents of the federation did not cede all their powers, and thus they maintained some at the local level.
Constitutionally, the members of the federation can rule over their local emirates, and thus exercise some mandate and enjoy certain privileges like raising individual flags. In conclusion, the federation of the UAE has been reflected in the developments made in administrative infrastructure as well as in education. Better policies have been made at the level of member emirate and the union level. The dynamic political process has been in a position to react to the emerging framework.
Al Abed, Ibrahim. “The Historical Background and Constitutional Basis to the Federation”.