The UAE is home to 200 nationalities, and the UAE cultural scene has celebrated the meeting of Emirati, Arabic and international cultures over many years. The UAE considers the diversity of cultures and religions in the UAE society as a source of strength and enrichment. With that, the UAE has taken more deliberate efforts to ensure the awareness and promotion of cultural diversity values takes root in the UAE, some of those initiatives include the following:
* Respect for diversity and religions in education: The UAE has issued laws to regulate education and those laws have emphasized the right to education and respect for different religions and cultural backgrounds for students and parents, especially when it comes to providing them with educational options that allow them to retain and celebrate their cultural backgrounds, and the freedom to establish private educational institutions and the right to apply to all public and private educational institutions. The cultural diversity of UAE's population has led to the provision of diversified curriculums in the UAE's education system, which includes 17 curriculum models to accommodate students of different nationalities and different languages. Moreover, the UAE has introduced a subject on moral education for public school students, which focuses on personal values and morals, the role of the individual within the community, and child protection, to encourage students to gain skills related to empathy, tolerance, critical thinking, communication, good behaviour, respect and cultural diversity; and to encourage students to engage in dialogue about environmental, social, economic issues and to ensure solidarity with others.
* Inclusive education policies: The UAE has implemented a number of educational policies to ensure cultural diversity, and ensure all children in the UAE have access to education, and they include: a policy on mandatory education in the UAE, regardless of gender, language, religion, socio-cultural background; a policy to develop school curriculum to ensure the inclusion of international and human issues and stories to ensure engagement with other cultures and backgrounds; and a policy on inclusive education to provide education for all segments of students such as the gifted and those with special needs. Furthermore, cultural diversity is not only upheld in the curriculum and class related activities in the UAE, it extends to and is fully integrated into extra-curricular activities and community volunteering programs that are run by the Ministry of Education for all students. To ensure freedom of expression amongst students, the Ministry of Education has provided programs and platforms to encourage expression. Some of those include dialogue clubs that have been established in schools and local/international competitions in science, arts, music, theater, and culture. The UAE also encourages students to participate in activities organized by UNESCO and other regional and international organizations. UAE students participate in international programs and competitions in fields such as culture, debate, arts, and science. Moreover, students in UNESCO associated schools in the UAE participate in international exhibitions and scientific fairs that engage with the concept of cultural diversity. Furthermore, youth level education programs focus on international cultural awareness and the meeting of culture and education to engage youth in ideas related to arts, cultural exchange, cultural diplomacy, and cultural and social entrepreneurship.
* 2019 - Year of Tolerance: The UAE proclaimed 2019 as the Year of Tolerance and made an opportunity to fortify its efforts to implement the values of tolerance, dialogue, coexistence and openness through regulations, legislations, policies and programs. This was evident at the federal and national levels and across all segments - public, private and civil society. Furthermore, in this year, the Ministry of Education organized programs for students such as students worked on the Tolerance Charter with other international students, Tolerance Choral, UAE Students Orchestra, and the Voice of Tolerance. Students in the UAE were granted a day off to engage in activities related to the Pope's visit to the UAE.
* Guide of Religions: In line with its efforts to promote the diversity of cultures, Abu Dhabi's Department of Community Development published a guide of religions to be used as a reference when granting religious licenses in Abu Dhabi. The guide outlines religious rituals and the ranks prescribed to religious clerics and was developed based on academic papers and references. It was then verified in two stages; firstly, by senior representatives of the religious groups in Abu Dhabi and second by a committee of academics at UAE University. The guide was completed in October 2019 and sent to the international courts to be used as a means of incorporating various religious cultures in the sustainable development framework and establishing a continuous framework for cultural integration.
* A framework for religious communities in Abu Dhabi: The Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi has become responsible for licensing the activities and houses of worship for all religious communities in the UAE since 2018. This has introduced a government framework to support all religious communities in Abu Dhabi and facilitate the bureaucratic procedures to establish different houses of worship.
* Inclusion Programs: The Community Development Authority in Dubai encourages private organizations to provide cultural and awareness raising programs that contribute to social inclusion, language learning, communication between diverse cultures, and promote tolerance between different cultures. The program targets low-income groups, specifically workers to ensure they feel integrated into the wider community.
* Dialogue on Tolerance: The Department of Antiquities and Museums in Ras Al Khaimah hosted events, workshops and film screenings to initiate dialogue on the value of tolerance as seen in literature, film and represented through cultural artifacts.
* Spaces of Co-Existence: The Ministry of Culture and Youth developed a publication on Spaces of Co-Existence in the UAE, which highlighted from an architectural and urban perspective how these Spaces of Coexistence celebrate a culture of acceptance deeply rooted in the UAE. These structures best represent how the coming together of the various cultures, nations and religions enrich one another and add to the value of the UAE's community as a whole. The main purpose of the research was to show how intangible concepts such as daily rituals, multiculturalism and tolerance could be reflected in a number of architectural forms.
With the instutionalization of processes related to support of different communities in the UAE, cultural diversity data has become more available. Some of the major accomplishments over the years include the following:
* Houses of Worship in Abu Dhabi: 18 Places of Worship have been registered, and 5 are under construction.
* Cultural and religious activities in Abu Dhabi: Roughly 100 denominations have held cultural and religious activities in Abu Dhabi. The number of religious events implemented in Abu Dhabi by different communities was 77 events between September 2019 to March 2020.
* Inclusion programs in Dubai: Beneficiaries of the cultural and awareness raising programs represent 19 cultures and include a total of 383,910 individuals in 2016, 393,480 individuals in 2017, 450,000 individuals in 2018, and 553,153 individuals in 2019.
Students have been engaged in many activities that promote understanding and cultural diversity, and some of the accomplishments in this area as organized by the Ministry of Education in the UAE are:
* Furthermore, schools have implemented many events and festivals to celebrate tolerance in 2019, which culminated in an end-of-school-year theatrical performance by private and public school students, and included an art exhibition from different cultures and backgrounds that represent the UAE demographics and community.
* There are extensive plans to engage students in Expo 2020 (now to be held in 2021). Expo 2020 is considered the biggest international event to celebrate cultural diversity. Students participation at expo will include showcasing art, visitations to the site, and volunteering programs.
Celebration and appreciation for cultural diversity has a very long history in the UAE. Recent efforts by institutions to provide additional support for different communities in the UAE have made cross-cultural dialogue all the more meaningful. The Department of Community Development (DCD) in Abu Dhabi has engaged with its stakeholders to understand their needs and is currently working to update their services, and offer other services required by the different communities in the UAE.