The UAE is a constitutional federation. It enjoys full sovereignty and independence. It has its own flag, logo and national anthem. All UAE citizens carry the unified nationality of the United Arab Emirates, which is recognised internationally.
This page provides information about the UAE's governance and constitutional system. Here, you will find information relating to:
- The UAE Constitution
- The objectives of the UAE Federation
- Government strategy
- Federal authorities in the UAE
- Local authorities in the UAE
The UAE Constitution
After its establishment on 2 December 1971, the UAE had set a temporary constitution, which declares the welfare of the Federation as a top priority.
The Constitution explains the main rules of the political and constitutional organisation of the country. It demonstrates the main purpose of the establishment of the Federation and its objectives. It also elaborates on the major social and economic pillars of the Federation and stresses the public rights, responsibilities and freedoms.
The UAE Constitution protects human rights and prohibits torture and various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment. It also prevents arbitrary arrest, search, detention, and imprisonment.
In July 1996, the Federal Supreme Council made the provisional Constitution permanent and the city of Abu Dhabi became the capital of the Federation.
The objectives of the UAE Federation:
The UAE Constitution highlights the key goals of the Federation which are:
- maintain UAE independence and sovereignty
- protect security and stability for the Federation and member states
- defend any aggression upon its existence or the existence of its member states
- protect the rights and freedom of the people of the Federation
- achieve close cooperation between the emirates for the common benefit of the Federation
- promote the prosperity and progress of the Federation
- provide better life for all citizens
- respect the independence and sovereignty of the other emirates in their internal affairs within the framework of this constitution
The UAE Vision 2021 outlines the government strategy which aims to make the UAE one of the best countries in the world by the year 2021. It maps six national priorities, which represent the key focus sectors of government action in the coming years.
Read more about the National Agenda of the UAE.
Federal authorities in the UAE
The UAE Constitution names five federal authorities and outlines their duties and powers. The five federal authorities are:
The Federal Supreme Council
The Federal Supreme Council is the highest constitutional authority in the United Arab Emirates. It is also the highest legislative and executive authority that draws up general policies and approves various federal legislations.
The Federal Supreme Council consists of Rulers of the seven emirates constituting the federation or their deputies in their emirates in case of Ruler's absence or unavailability. Each emirate has one single vote in the council resolutions and deliberations.
President and Vice President
The Federal Supreme Council elects from amongst its members, the President and the Vice President of the UAE. The UAE President heads the Federal Supreme Council and appoints the Prime Minister of the UAE. The Vice President assumes all authorities granted to the President during his absence.
Article 52 of the Constitution specifies the term of presidency and vice presidency as five calendar years, renewable. Article 54 of the Constitution lists the powers of UAE President.
The UAE Cabinet is the executive branch of the Federation. It handles the execution of all internal and external affairs related to the Federation as drawn by UAE Constitution and the federal laws.
The President and the Federal Supreme Council supervise the work of the Cabinet.
Federal National Council
The Federal National Council (FNC) is the fourth federal authority in terms of order in the hierarchy of the five federal authorities mentioned in the Constitution. It is comprises 40 members, distributed in the following manner:
- 8 seats from each of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai
- 6 seats from each of the emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah
- 4 seats from each of the emirates of Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah
20 members of the FNC are elected by the people, while the other half is appointed by the Ruler of each emirate.
The FNC is responsible for examining and amending all proposed federal legislations.
Federal Judicial Authority
The federal judiciary in the UAE began pursuant to the Federal Law No.10 of 1973, with the establishment of the Federal Supreme Court. The federal judiciary comprises the Federal Supreme Court, Federal First Instance Courts and Federal Appeals Courts.
The Federal Judicial Authority enjoys independence. The UAE Constitution guarantees the rights and freedom of all UAE citizens and equality before the law regardless of race, nationality, religion or social status.
Federal Supreme Court
It is the highest federal judicial authority. Its decisions are final and binding upon all local and lower federal courts.
Key functions of the Federal Supreme Court are:
- look into various disputes among members of the UAE Federation, or between one or more emirates, and the Federal Government
- look into the constitutionality of federal and other laws and legislations
- look into conflicts of jurisdiction between the federal and local judicial authorities in the country, conflict of jurisdiction between the judicial authority in one emirate and another
- interpret the provisions of the Constitution
- look into crimes and issues which directly affect the common benefit of the Federation
Local authorities in the UAE
Each emirate of the UAE shall handle all authorities that are not assigned by the Constitution to the Federation. Moreover, each respective emirate shall contribute to building and protecting this Constitution as well as benefiting from its services. All member emirates shall strive to coordinate their legislatures in all areas for standardisation purposes.
Articles 116-119 of the Constitution demonstrate key powers of the member emirates.
Refer to the list of federal and local entities in the UAE.
*Source: The official website of the UAE Cabinet