UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan passed away May 13

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the second President of the United Arab Emirates and 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi, died aged 73 on 13 May.

Sheikh Khalifa, is survived by his wife Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. He had eight children and was a grandfather to several grandchildren. Born in 1948, he was raised in Al-Ain and became his father’s official representative to the region when the latter became emir in 1966.

Months prior to the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, Sheikh Khalifa was appointed prime minister of Abu Dhabi, which was retitled Abu Dhabi Executive Council. When the UAE was established, Sheikh Khalifa assumed several positions in Abu Dhabi, including Prime Minister, head of the Abu Dhabi Cabinet, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Finance.

He became the second Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates in December 1973. He was named Chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi in January 1974. The same year the country formed, he also oversaw the development of the Abu Dhabi Defense Force, which would become the UAE Armed Forces. In May 1976, he became deputy commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

He was the head of the Supreme Petroleum Council in the late 1980s. Additionally, he was the chairman of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency.

He assumed the office of the UAE President in 2004 after his father, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, passed away. Sheikh Khalifa was elected in 2009 to a second five-year term.

During his tenure, he initiated a major restructure of the country’s federal government. Additionally, Sheikh Khalifa worked to implement changes in Abu Dhabi’s government, including improving public services and opening up the economy to encourage investment and public-private partnerships. The appointment of a new Cabinet in February 2006, with Vice-President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as prime minister, saw major changes in the government’s structure.

These included new ministries devoted to streamlining and modernising the government, a new focus on community development and an important step towards reforming the political process through introducing indirect elections for half of the Federal National Council’s membership.

Sheikh Khalifa was committed to building relationships with other countries through foreign aid. Under his leadership, the UAE provided emergency assistance at times of natural disaster, and the UAE has become the world’s largest donor of humanitarian assistance relative to national income, as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018.

The UK’s Queen Elizabeth II has expressed her sadness on the death of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In a message to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Queen Elizabeth said, “I am saddened to hear of the death of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Your distinguished brother devoted his life to serving the people of the United Arab Emirates and his relationship with its allies and friends.He will be long remembered by all who work for regional stability, understanding between nations and between faiths, and for the conservation cause.”

This article first appeared in Arabian Business