‘Holistic Sustainability’ Policies: Preserving Local Cultural Identity in the UAE in the Face of Globalisation

Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
‘Holistic Sustainability’
Policies: Preserving
Local Cultural Identity
in the UAE in the Face
of Globalisation
Georgia Daleure1
Fifty elders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), recalling life before nationalisation
in 1971, were interviewed to gain insight into their attitudes and beliefs as part
of an investigation into how those beliefs are reflected in modern priorities
of the UAE. The UAE was considered one of the poorest countries in the
mid-1900s. Yet, after independence, utilising revenues from newly found oil
reserves, a modernisation plan catalysed rapid development. For the UAE, holistic
sustainability, encompassing cultural, economic, social and environmental
dimensions, became the model for continued economic and political stability
in a troubled region. The findings of the study revealed that the elders valued
family closeness and education, depending on the contributions of women in
society. These concepts carried forward into modern policies and legislation and
emphasised by the leadership of the UAE to maintain cultural uniqueness yet
thrive in the global social and economic environment.
Holistic sustainability, identity, cultural preservation
The current study was carried out to address the recommendation of a joint
research study (referred to in this report as Job Satisfaction Study) carried out by
Indian Journal of Public
65(3) 749–768, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119844580
1 Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE.
Corresponding author:
Georgia Daleure, Higher Colleges of Technology, Happiness Center, PO Box 25026, Abu Dhabi,
E-mail: gdaleure@hct.ac.ae
750 Indian Journal of Public Administration 65(3)
the researchers belonging to a Federal Higher Education Institution in the UAE
and the Ministry of Labour, now known as the Ministry of Human Resources and
Emiratisation (MoHRE) utilising a team of Emirati college students (Sharif,
Daleure, & Alaskar, 2013). The Job Satisfaction Study investigated whether, and
to what extent, job satisfaction contributed to the rising Emirati unemployment in
a country in which nearly 90 per cent of the labour force consists of foreign labour
and in which the private sector is the fastest growing in the region (The World
Bank, 2014).
Findings of the Job Satisfaction Study (Sharif et al., 2013) indicated that,
although saturated, Emiratis prefer to work in the public sector for three reasons:
(a) salaries were perceived to be higher in the public sector than in the private
sector, (b) benefits were perceived to be more generous in the public sector than
in the private sector, and (c) most importantly, many Emiratis, especially Emirati
women, were dissatisfied with working conditions in the private sector. The main
reasons for dissatisfaction are: Western-based business practices used in most
private sector companies which are often at odds with Emirati cultural practices
and sensitivities. Recent studies by AlAli (2013), Behery (2009), Shallal (2011),
Sharif (2013) and Toledo (2013) reported similar findings and added that many
private sector employers preferred employing expatriates who were accustomed
to Western business practices and perceived to be willing to tolerate in less desir-
able working conditions than most Emiratis do. Therefore, despite concerted
efforts to incorporate Emiratis into the private sector—a practice known as
Emiratisation—the number of Emiratis employed in the private sector remained
low (around 4% in 2012), while Emirati unemployment, particularly youth unem-
ployment, was estimated at approximately 12 per cent in 2012 (Alali, 2013;
Quandl, 2014; Sharif, 2013; The World Bank, 2014).
The current study (referred to here as Ethnography Study) examines the
experience, attitudes and beliefs of the elder generation—those with recollec-
tion of life before nationalisation in 1971—to understand the basis of the modern
Emirati identity, cultural practices and sensitivities. Recent studies including AlAli
(2013), Daleure, Albon, and Hinkston (2014), and Daleure, Albon, Hinkston,
Ajaif, and McKeown (2013) found that as a society with tribal roots, elders
have an enormous influence on important educational, career and employment
decisions of young adult members. However, the progressive generations lived
during different phases of economic growth and experienced a different set of
circumstances. Daleure, Albon, and Hinkston (2014), supported by Ahmed (2011)
found that well-meaning older family members, recalling their own experiences,
often influenced career decisions of younger family members and ultimately
discouraged them from entering private sector employment even when unem-
ployment was the result.
Therefore, the purpose of this study, the Ethnography Study, is two-fold. First,
the study explores the ways so that elders’ experience, attitudes and beliefs could
be incorporated into the country’s economic and social model as described in
the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Vision 2021 (United Arab Emirates [UAE]
Government, 2010). It also highlights the ways in which core traditional values
have been re-engineered to fit into the modern Emirati social and economic

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