Sheikh Khalifa: A life dedicated to the service of nation


Looked back on his achievements and initiatives that propelled the UAE to where it is today.

As the UAE Supreme Council re-elected His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as President of the country for a fourth term, looked back on his achievements and initiatives that propelled the UAE to where it is today.

Let’s get to know the leader whose vision and wisdom have bolstered the pillars of the UAE; fulfilled the aspirations of its people; and created positive change that rippled in different pockets of the world.

The early years

> Born in Al Muwaiji Fort in Al Ain in 1948, he was named Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa bin Shakhbout bin Theyab bin Issa bin Nahyan bin Falah bin Yas

> He is the oldest son of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Sheikha Hessa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

A born leader

> When Sheikh Zayed moved to Abu Dhabi city to become the Ruler of the emirate in August 1966, he appointed Sheikh Khalifa – who was 18 at that time – as his representative in the Eastern Province and the president of its legal system.

> Sheikh Khalifa followed in the footsteps of his father and continued the implementation of major development projects in the Eastern Province, especially those designed to improve agriculture.

> His notable success in Al Ain was the beginning of a long career in public service that saw Sheikh Khalifa take up leadership roles with ease and skill, marking major accomplishments and achievements.

> During the following years, Sheikh Khalifa held a number of major posts. He became the main executive leader of his father’s government, overseeing the implementation of all major projects.

February 1969: 

Sheikh Khalifa was nominated Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. And, on the next day he was appointed as the head of the Department of Defense in the Capital. He oversaw the setting up of the Abu Dhabi Defense Force (ADDF), which later became the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.

July 1971: 

As part of the restructuring of the government of the emirate, he was appointed as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defence and Finance.

December 1973:

Sheikh Khalifa assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the second Cabinet.

January 1974: 

He was appointed as the first Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which replaced the emirate’s local Cabinet.

May 1976: 

Following the unification of the armed forces of the emirates, he was nominated as Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In this capacity, he devoted much attention to building the country’s defensive capability; thus, he established military training institutions and procured the latest military equipment and facilities.

November 2004: 

Sheikh Khalifa became the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and as the President of the UAE. He succeeded Sheikh Zayed, who served as president from 1971 to 2004.??All for the people

When Sheikh Khalifa was first elected as President, part of his first order of business was to launch a strategic sustainable development plan that would ensure the prosperity of UAE’s people.

And upon being re-elected as President in 2009, he pledged to continue implementing the ambitious strategies for political, administrative, economic, social and cultural development that he had started.

Here are some of his initiatives that aimed to improve the quality of life in the country:

Housing for Emiratis

Sheikh Khalifa regularly issues directives to construct and repair houses of Emiratis. In 2012, he ordered the rapid replacement of Emiratis’ houses built before 1990 in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, ?Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

Priority for employment

In 2012, he launched Absher initiative to enhance the participation of UAE citizens in the labour market.

Exploring space & developing tech

In 2015, Sheikh Khalifa allocated Dh300 billion to the Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy, aiming to establish for the coming generations a solid future away from the fluctuations in the oil market. UAE’s long-standing dream to send an Emirati to space was achieved, thanks to Sheikh Khalifa’s vision to make UAE a regional pioneer in the space sector.

Needy not forgotten

In 2007, he established the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation with a vision to implement pioneering initiatives in welfare and a focus on health and education within and outside the UAE.??Bolstering business

The Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award (SKEA) was launched by Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) back in 1999 as a blue print, a roadmap and a methodology for continuous improvement aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the business sector in the UAE.

Education Initiatives

The Khalifa Award for Education being awarded since around 2007 aims to promote education, encourage outstanding educators, and enhance innovative education practices. The award is intended to discover successful individuals and educational practices at the local, regional and Arab world levels.

Economic achievements


As part of the efforts to establish public-private partnerships to help improve the welfare of youth, Emirates Foundation was established


The Ministry of Environment and Water was set up


The Abu Dhabi Plan, a comprehensive update of the Abu Dhabi Policy Agenda 2007-08, was first launched, aiming to achieve Abu Dhabi’s vision of “maintaining a safe and secure society, and building a sustainable, diversified and globally open economy”


The emirate’s efforts to reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons were given a major impetus with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030


Decree issued establishing the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR)


Kizad or the Khalifa Industrial Zone was launched


The UAE government began considering the case for a dedicated insolvency law, distinct from the Commercial Code, and a draft law was published for consultation


The UAE adopted a joint approach for defence procurement, MRO and logistics support activities


Abu Dhabi has in some cases refined its strategic approach to crucial sectors through the development of specialised bodies, most notably with the establishment of the Industrial Development Bureau


Total foreign investment, including rose by 18 per cent from Dh298.8 billion in 2014 to Dh353.1billion in 2015


The UAE’s charitable contributions and development assistance rose by 43 per cent to $8.8 billion


The Abu Dhabi Plan was launched. This blueprint outlined shorter-term goals, including creating an effective private sector that provides business opportunities.


The UAE performs favourably in the “Doing Business” global ranking issued annually by the World Bank, which rates countries on how welcoming they are for businesses

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