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United Arab Emirates: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
External political interventions and the rise of the oil industry have permanently changed the traditional way of life in the Arab Gulf States in recent decades. The modernization process, which lasted for centuries in the West, has been compressed into decades, putting great stress on traditional societies. It has also influenced identities like tribal, family and religious loyalties, linguistic and ethnic to be more important than state citizenship. The common bonds of the Gulf peoples are now overshadowed by political differences between the new states. These factors, along with economic disparities, unstable oil prices and politicized religion have all contributed to existing tensions, which have exerted a direct toll on the situation of women and children in the area.

The importance attained by the Gulf Countries stems principally from their massive energy deposits, holding 53 per cent of the world's known oil reserves and producing over a third of the world's daily output. Saudi Arabia ranks first with a 261 billion-barrel reserve, followed by the United Arab Emirates (98 billion) and Kuwait (96.5 billion). In addition, with 14 per cent of the world's reserves, the Gulf is also rich in natural gas, Qatar alone holds the world's third-largest reserves. In view of the uncertain oil market outlook and evolving trends in regional and international economics, Gulf Countries are faced with important challenges.

These are compounded by domestic developments, particularly the growing number of nationals ready to enter the labour market. Complicated by insufficient policy response to less favourable external conditions, risks include low rates of economic growth, rising unemployment and growing financial imbalances and indebtedness. If such conditions were supported by structural reforms, economic adjustment and financial stability, increased employment opportunities and sustained economic growth could be closer at hand.


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