Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament opens in Abu Dhabi

By Muhammad Aamir ABU DHABI,� The Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament opened on Monday amid, attracting over 400 parliamentarians representing 50 states, bringing together 100 international figures and 1,000 participants from around the world.

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, the two-day summit is themed 'United for Shaping the Future,' and focuses on the role that women speakers can play in uniting parliamentarians around national and political interests to deliver sustainable prosperity and security for present and future generations in a rapidly changing world.

The event is being held at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, with the participation of 100 Arab parliamentarians and 200 young people taking part in the first dialogue between Speakers of Parliaments and world youth. It is co-hosted by the Federal National Council, FNC, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU.

The opening ceremony was attended by Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of Federal National Council (FNC), H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Saber Chowdhury, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, a number of ministers, members of the FNC, and civil and military dignitaries.

In her welcoming address, Dr. Al Qubaisi highlighted the role of women legislators and called for international dialogue to address future challenges. She also thanked H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak and welcomed all women speakers and parliamentarians from around the world as well as policy makers, thinkers, and scientists.

Speaking about the history of the UAE, compared to other nations, Dr. Al Qubaisi said that the UAE, although a young country in comparison to others, has a great lesson on how far a nation can go when it is united. "Our union taught us that differences can be strengthened when integrated."

"The world today faces various moral, political and economic challenges," she added, calling for a united action that would shape the future. "Shaping the future is not a luxury but it is the only choice that we have."

The FNC Speaker went on to speak about the UAE's early beginnings over 45 years ago, and noted that the establishment of the UAE federation comprising seven emirates, was a matter of pride.

She noted that the Union of the emirates showed that differences could be a strength if people solves them and remained united. "Standing shoulder to shoulder and aligning national and global interests can play an important role in facing the challenges and seizing opportunities for this generation and the future generations," she said.

Dr. Al Qubaisi emphasised the role of women in nation-building efforts and said, "Women are the heart of any society, the biggest investors in peace and security, and the greatest defenders of the interests of future generations."

"We believe that shaping the future is not the sole responsibility of the legislators and that maximising the benefit of the future and dealing with its challenges is the joint effort," she added.

Saber Chowdhury, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in his speech, highlighted the role of women in today's politics and encouraged more women to be active participants in the governance of their country. He noted that 19 women speakers were represented at the summit in 2005, and 11 years later, there are 52.

"I see a world of women serving as leaders to humanity at large. The UAE inspires the world and this event in its capital city is a testimony to that. Let us seize the opportunity to explore ideas to create a better world for the next generation," he said.

In his speech, Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed his deep condolences to Egyptian leadership, government and people over the innocent victims of the terrorist attack on Saint Mark's Coptic Cathedral in the Abbasiya district in Cairo, saying," This will only make the world and the people of Egypt even more strong and determined to fight terrorism."

Talking about the summit, Sheikh Saif said, "We have united here for shaping the future, and united we meet today hopefully for positive results." He also urged to make use of the new techniques, citing the 3-D technique in the medical and other fields for the ease of humanity. He also talked about turning the challenges into opportunities.

He stressed the importance of not allowing the terrorists organisations to take advantage of the social media freedom to promote and disseminate their heinous thoughts, and called for intensifying government, private and international efforts to enhance security on the internet.

Sheikh Saif went on to praise the social networking site Twitter for shutting down 125,000 accounts linked to the terrorist organisation Daesh, and thanked it laying out safeguards to protect people from evil, adding that he hoped that other social media platforms will follow suit.

He talked about the branches of government, especially the media, which he said acts as the fourth pillar of government. "We know how much the media has developed and the impact of media on the people and on shaping future trends."

There is a fifth branch of government, he said, which are the technological means of communications which have a deep impact upon us, a positive impact. "I think this fifth branch of social media allows people to represent themselves."

Citing studies, he said there are 2.3 billion users of social media. "I do not think in any country you could hear the voices of 2.3 billion people. They include our children, colleagues, brothers, sisters, socialites, and government institutions. About 98 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 use social media. It means that the current generation are using these platforms.

"But there are many challenges as there are opportunities with these social media platforms. Unfortunately, the forces of evil use these platforms," he said citing those who committed atrocities in Cairo blast on the birthday of Prophet Muhammed, PBUH. Perpetrators carried out this terrorist attack against those who went to church to be with their Creator, he added.

"There is no doubt that social media has entered our homes," Sheikh Saif said, while advocating the need to regulate social media in a way that protects people's liberties.

Taking about the importance of the families, Sheikh Saif in his speech said that late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan from the very inception of the UAE had given great importance to families, and for the cohesiveness of the family unit in the country. "In the UAE, we believe that unity begins in the family," he said, adding, "the people and their government are united, and we all work together to bring happiness to the people of the UAE."

The Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, said that the example of Al Qubaisi, the first Arab woman parliament speaker, is heartening for the region. He hoped that the assembled parliamentarians, speakers and experts would tackle several challenges facing us today, foremost among them, the scourge of terrorism. He noted that its splinters are spreading all over the world today.

The second challenge, Al Tayeb believes, are the policies that are fragmenting and destroying stable countries. "These countries", he said, "Are being turned into fields of proxy wars and easy markets to sell weapons."

The third challenge he highlighted was the empowerment of women that still needs significant improvement, despite research and papers on the subject in Arab libraries. To address this important issue, he recommended going back to the original sources of texts, where Muslim women had significant rights and enjoyed financial independence and privileges. "A key challenge facing the region was the focus on traditions and customs adopted by certain sects to marginalise women," he explained.

He urged governments in the Arab world to exercise caution in their interpretation of tradition and customs, adding that the concept of Western modernity also played a key part in this journey of empowerment by bringing a positive influence via development, science and technology.

In a video message, Vice President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, echoed the words of Dr. Chowdhury and said Dr. Al Qubaisi's story is an inspiring one. The contribution of women to policy and their pragmatism is extremely important to tackle the challenges the world faces. She, however, underlined that there is a need to 'bring men to our side', and not wait.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that the Sustainable Development Goals calls for global cooperation on the social, economic and environmental priorities that will define the future. UN is constant champion of equality, he said and added that good data is also helpful in advancing the gender equality. "Together we can bring this agenda to life and build the future of opportunities and dignity for world."

The Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament is the first event of its kind in the history of parliamentary collaboration worldwide. It is an unprecedented initiative due to the importance of issues it addresses and the number of participants that include political leaders, government officials, private sector representatives, heads of international organisations, scientists, inventors, and the youth. Over eight sessions, the event discusses issues and themes that focus on main geopolitical, social, economic, environmental, and technological trends.

Source: Emirates News Agency