The Department of Community Development (DCD) in Abu Dhabi hosted the second Strategic Retreat for the social sector in the emirate to define future plans and discuss the current operational systems within the vital sector.
The retreat was organized virtually and attended by representatives of 11 entities from the social sector who engaged in in-depth discussions on ways and mechanisms to set up strategic plans that will help accelerate the pace of social development in Abu Dhabi.
The event was part of DCD’s role as a government entity responsible for implementing the social sector’s agenda in Abu Dhabi. Based on this mandate, the Department continues to coordinate and cooperate with all relevant authorities to provide high-quality social services to various segments of society, aiming to enhance the quality of living and ensuring a decent life for all in the emirate.
The online retreat presented an interactive platform to exchange new ideas and best practices that can help develop joint work mechanisms between various participating entities and design future strategic and operational plans to improve the efficiency of the social sector. The participants also proposed solutions to emerging and potential challenges in the sector while also showcasing the 2021 goals of their respective organizations.
H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman, DCD, revealed that the second Strategic Retreat is the result of the fruitful cooperation and joint coordination between the Department and all concerned authorities in Abu Dhabi. The event was organized to develop clear work plans for the social sector for the coming years, in line with the sector’s agenda.
H.E. Al Khaili noted that the social sector made tangible achievements in 2020 as it launched more than 150 initiatives and programs for families, children, people of determination and senior citizens. These efforts had a significant and positive impact on the happiness and satisfaction of community members in Abu Dhabi, especially given the unlimited support provided to them during the extraordinary situation brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide.
He stated: “During the Strategic Retreat, the participating entities presented many constructive proposals to unify efforts to raise the efficiency and quality of services provided within the social sector. Our common aim is to improve the lives of citizens and residents in Abu Dhabi. This year, we will pay special attention to the key pillars of our action plan, which include improving the quality of life for families, encouraging the practice of sports and increasing adequate housing options. These focused areas will help build a cohesive and tolerant society where people have healthy, happy and prosperous lives.”
“We will continue to work closely with all relevant entities in Abu Dhabi to develop effective strategies and launch integrated programs inspired by the vision of our wise leadership that aims to create a social ecosystem in the emirate that ensures sustained security, stability and happiness,” Al Khaili added.
H.E. Eng. Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary, DCD, said that a clear picture of future social development-related issues was formed during the second Strategic Retreat. He reiterated the DCD’s keenness to consolidate the efforts of all concerned authorities to continuously improve the operational processes of the social sector and ensure a decent standard of living for all members of society.
Al Dhaheri added: “We appreciate the tireless efforts made by all concerned parties in Abu Dhabi last year. Their efforts further strengthened the emirate’s position as an ideal destination for work and living. We will continue to promote family and social cohesion as well as increase happiness and prosperity among people to accelerate social development in the emirate. We will also remain committed to supporting the national agenda for the social sector that aims to enhance people’s wellbeing by promoting healthy and active lifestyles, good mental health, positive thinking and life skills.”
During the virtual event, the DCD presented a research paper on social innovation and its importance in developing the human economy and finding innovative solutions to contemporary social challenges. The Department also shed light on the proactive efforts of the Abu Dhabi Government to strengthen the emirate’s leadership in the field of social innovation. In line with this, the DCD has established a special department concerned with social innovation. The department is tasked to identify social trends, phenomena and challenges in Abu Dhabi as revealed by the DCD’s surveys and studies, as well as create sound policies and innovative solutions to address these challenges.
H.E. Maryam Mohammed Al Rumaithi, Director General, Family Development Foundation (FDF), said that the Strategic Retreat had unified visions and enhanced the cooperation, coordination and the exchange of experiences between entities concerned with social advancement and the quality of life and prosperity of all community members. She pointed out that the event had sought to harmonize the strategic and operational plans, projects and initiatives of the social sector to ensure a decent life for the people of Abu Dhabi.
Al Rumaithi added: “During the retreat, the FDF presented its vision, aspirations and proposals as it seeks to have an active role in promoting family development, cohesion and stability as well as maintaining a cohesive and interconnected society. In accordance with the directives of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of FDF, we were able to provide distinguished social services in 2020 despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation was one of the first government agencies to offer remote services and programs as part of its efforts to preserve the health and safety of all community members.”
H.E. Abdullah Abdulalee Al Humaidan, Secretary General, Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination (ZHO), said: “One of our many achievements in 2020 was the implementation of remote work, education and treatment systems to overcome the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to take advantage of advanced technological infrastructure to provide digital services to people of determination in compliance with the government’s directives and out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees.”
“As part of our plans to develop and improve the services provided to people of determination and avoid waiting lists, H.H. Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the ZHO Board, inaugurated the new ‘Al Ain Autism Center’ in Al Ain city. We also launched the ‘Remote Work’ initiative for people of determination, and the ‘Initial Remote Evaluation’ initiative that was implemented by ZHO’s Comprehensive Assessment Department. A new community service called ‘Sports and Fun for People of Determination - Remote Training’ was also announced for the athlete members of the Organization’s sports clubs and centers in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the rest of the Arab region,” Al Humaidan added.
H.E. Basheer Khalfan Al Mehairbi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Housing Authority (ADHA), said that the ADHA is committed to implementing the directives of the wise leadership to make the welfare and happiness of Emirati citizens a top priority. He also stressed the Authority’s keenness to provide UAE families with a decent life through the development of a modern and sustainable housing system, which can help establish a cohesive and stable society and strengthen the nation-building process.
H.E. Al Mehairbi explained that the ADHA seeks to provide adequate housing options to Emirati families, one of the Abu Dhabi social sector’s key goals. He further noted that the Authority works closely with its strategic partners to overcome any challenges that may negatively affect the lives of UAE families and sustain their active role in the country’s development process.
“We have been taking serious steps to attain the Abu Dhabi Government’s goal to accelerate the digital transformation of social services in the emirate. In line with this, we have enabled the digital application procedures and have been using robotic technology to automate our different work operations,” Al Mehairbi added.
H.E. Salama Al Ameemi, Director General, Authority of Social Contribution – Ma'an, said: “While 2020 was one of the most challenging years that many of us have experienced, it will also go down in history as an important year for Ma'an. Last year, we demonstrated the power of social impact in terms of making a significant difference in people’s lives in Abu Dhabi. We also launched several innovative programs in collaboration with community members and relevant organizations as part of our joint societal efforts aimed at improving the quality of life in the emirate.”
Al Ameemi continued: “Under ‘Ma'an Social Incubator’ initiative, we inaugurated 30 social start-ups to provide distinguished social services, empower people of determination, enhance family cohesion and spread cordiality and love in society. The ‘Together We Are Good’ program is one of our several campaigns launched in 2020 to help address the health and economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated AED 1 billion worth of cash and in-kind contributions was collected under the program last year to support more than 400,000 individuals affected by the pandemic in Abu Dhabi.”
She further noted that, through social innovation and community participation, Ma'an was able to launch 14 new programs in cooperation with 40 strategic partners as part its commitment to finding innovative and sustainable solutions to social challenges and making a real impact that will positively affect people’s lives in Abu Dhabi.
H.E. Aref Hamad Al Awani, Secretary General, Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), emphasized the role of the second Strategic Retreat in supporting the social sector’s gains in 2020. He further highlighted that unified efforts and relevant policies will help implement the development plans and sustain the sector’s achievements while also providing community members with more programs and projects according to their aspirations.
Al Awani said: “We will launch initiatives and activities to urge our community members to adopt a healthy lifestyle and raise their awareness and knowledge about the importance of sports in their lives. Our previous online initiatives, which received positive response, produced constructive outcomes and great societal impacts.”
“We are committed to discussing our development plans and strategies that will help make new milestones and address the current and future needs of our communities, in line with the directives of our wise leadership to harness all available capabilities and deliver key services that will guarantee the wellbeing and happiness of the Abu Dhabi society,” he added.
Hamad Nakhirat Al Ameri, Director General, Dar Zayed for Family Care (DZFC), said: “We work on rehabilitating and positively integrating into society all children who left without family care. We are also keen to raise the public’s awareness about DZFC, its role and education-related plans to help the integration into society of its target individuals, whether through adoption or facilitation of marriage for young men and women. We will also continue to create programs to empower and nurture the talents of children and youth.”
Al Ameri continued: “We commend the people for complying with the COVID-19 precautionary measures issued by our authorities, from the beginning until today. Their adherence has enabled the UAE to be recognized as one of the countries with the best response to the pandemic. The DZFC has been participating in all social campaigns in Abu Dhabi to help accelerate its recovery from this global health crisis. It has also been providing all the technical requirements needed to implement a robust remote work system to ensure continuity of operations in the social sector.”
H.E. Dr. Nidal Al Tunaiji, Director General, Zayed House for Islamic Culture (ZHIC), noted that the second Strategic Retreat was vital to strengthen the efforts made within the social sector to overcome the pandemic and support Abu Dhabi in its fight against COVID-19 and its associated challenges and social impacts.
She added that ZHIC has updated its methods of delivering services in light of the pandemic. The organization now uses modern technologies for remote learning and communication to provide its educational programs to its beneficiaries of various nationalities.
“ZHIC launched the fourth edition of the virtual ‘Tolerance’ forum themed ‘The UAE: homeland of tolerance and peace’ to promote the values of tolerance, coexistence and openness instilled in Emirati society. It also organized the fourth edition of the ‘Social Workers’ forum remotely under the theme ‘The role of the social workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.’ Meanwhile, 20 interactive community initiatives were launched to raise awareness about the epidemic. Our other initiatives included the ‘Thank you, My Family’ community campaign, which emphasized the role of the family in containing the spread of the virus, and the ‘Never Mind, Your Rations on Us’ initiative, which supported 200 families of ZHIC’s students affected by the COVID-19,” Al Tunaiji stated.
H.E. Rashid Ateeq Al Hameli, Director General, Social Care and Minors Affairs Foundation (SCMAF), emphasized that unifying efforts and utilizing all available resources are key to uninterrupted provision of services to families.
He said: “Reinforcing its role in supporting minors and similar cases, the SCMAF has offered digital services using unified government digital platforms according to the highest international standards. Our efforts seek to support our target individuals, meet their current and future education, health and investment needs.”
“In response to the directives of our wise leadership, the Foundation will continue to play a pivotal role as an authority concerned with the legal custody of minors and similar cases. We will also keep empowering and caring for them. In coordination with our several strategic partners, we aim to maintain social stability and enhance family cohesion to benefit our target individuals,” he added.
Sarah Ibrahim Shuhail, Director General, Ewa'a Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking, said: “Abu Dhabi has been keen to ensure a good standard of living for all members of society by providing them with adequate housing and a decent life, as well as by building cohesive families who enjoy security, safety and happiness. Ewa'a, which aims to serve victims of human trafficking, violence and all forms of abuse, is currently working on a strategy that can help achieve the goals for which it was established. These goals include the provision of safe shelter and proper health and psychological care for human trafficking and abuse victims and the implementation of a program to rehabilitate and help them to be reintegrated into society.
In coordination and cooperation with relevant authorities, we will utilize an appropriate system that enables frequent follow-ups on them after they leave the shelter.” Shuhail continued: “We pay great attention to protecting the rights of victims of violence and human trafficking and providing them with the needed advice during the stages of collecting evidence and conducting investigations and trials. We also help them secure the services of defence lawyers and educate them about their rights and duties. We will continue to raise awareness through our initiatives against human trafficking and violent crimes, including family violence, to build a healthy society that is free from all forms of abuse.”
H.E. Abdullah Humaid Al Ameri, Acting Director General, Abu Dhabi Social Support Authority (ADSSA), affirmed that ADSSA is keen to support and empower low-income national families and achieve their social stability and financial independence. This is in line with the vision of the wise leadership to enhance the standards of living of low-income Emirati families in Abu Dhabi. He also noted some of the Authority’s recent achievements, including the empowerment of more than 160 members of families who benefitted from the ‘Abu Dhabi Social Support’ program, whose primary goal is financial support and empowerment.
Al Ameri added that ADSSA has supported 3,332 families to date. He also confirmed that the recent updates on the policies of the ‘Abu Dhabi Social Support’ and the improvement of the social support request application for the seamless submission and evaluation process were rolled out for the benefit of Emirati families. To be able to achieve this, the Authority completed the electronic linkage with 21 relevant entities to facilitate data-sharing between each other. It also signed numerous agreements to integrate and unify the efforts of all concerned organizations and authorities in the UAE.