Permanent committee for human rights logo
Permanent committee for human rights logo




Since 1971, the UAE has crafted integrated policies, initiatives and programmes focused on empowering youth. As a result, Emirati youth have preserved national identity and pride in the country’s heritage and achievements, while upholding coexistence based on mutual respect, equality and inclusivity without distinction between race or religion.   

The inspiring story of young Emiratis is complemented by their active contribution to making the UAE’s society and all its cities among the safest in the world where everyone is united by a shared sense of responsibility.

This status was achieved through the establishment of initiatives and programmes supporting the UAE youth’s education, financial independence and standards of living. As a result, the UAE has become a model for youth empowerment, as its programmes, initiatives and projects designed to support youth have become a regional and international benchmark. 

Introduction to youth rights

The UAE’s view of youth, their future role, and their social, educational and economic empowerment, is in line with the global framework identified by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In its annual 2018 report (A/HRC/39/33), the entity describes the deterioration of the socio-economic conditions of youth worldwide and provides examples of the challenges that young people face in ensuring respect for their rights. It warns about the risks of their marginalization in society and urges states to take measures at the national level to ensure the protection and realization of young people's rights.  

In the UAE, the youth represent the driving force of innovation and sustainable development. The policy and the subsequent youth initiatives adopted by the government have had a significant impact in empowering the young generations through various programs that reinforce cultural values, leadership development initiatives, and support systems to help young people achieve prosperity and take responsibility for their future. 

 Federal Youth Authority

The Federal Youth Authority was launched in 2018 as a comprehensive umbrella for empowering youth to contribute to the country’s development politically, economically, socially and culturally. It supports youth empowerment through various facilities, initiatives, activities and policies.

This authority established a comprehensive framework for various programmes and initiatives aimed at youth empowerment, and provided the environment needed to fulfil their potential, expanding their options in education, work, entrepreneurship and innovation – in ways that will contribute to the development of global society and human knowledge. The Youth Empowerment Measurement Index – the first of its kind in the world – was launched at the initiative of the Federal Youth Authority. The index evaluates programmes and initiatives, to expand and improve the impact they have on young people.

The UAE's strategic goals to enhance youth participation in national economic development have been successfully achieved through creating a conducive environment that cultivates a generation of youth who actively contribute to shaping the national agenda.

The National Youth Strategy

The UAE’s National Youth Strategy targets Emiratis from the ages of 15-35. The strategy splits this 20-year timespan into five stages: education, work, family formation, citizenship practice and national action.

The National Youth Strategy forms a roadmap for various institutions, bodies and entities concerned with youth in the country, and for various government and private initiatives to empower youth in all fields. The strategy has resulted in programmes and initiatives that support Emirati youth, and enable them to maximise their capabilities, realise their potential, and pursue opportunities of their choosing.

The Emirati Youth Empowerment Model is summarised in the National Youth Agenda, which is based on the vision of a productive youth with an entrepreneurial spirit and Emirati values. Empowerment programmes cover many areas that align with global education and economic priorities, while enhancing participation in decision-making and ensuring equal opportunities.

Empowerment Through Education

There are 13 youth centres across the UAE that provide vital spaces for empowering youth, developing their skills and enhancing their opportunities in the fields of education, mentoring, work and participation in economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship, and physical and mental health.

The UAE Constitution guarantees Emirati youth the right to education, and provides them free of charge for Emirati men and women. More than 16% of the country’s budget for 2022 was allocated to public and higher education institutions. 

The UAE is ranked highly in several global education indicators. It ranks high in the number of students transitioning to higher education.  International scholarship programmes are provided by governmental and semi-governmental institutions, private companies, academic institutions, and technical institutes for Emirati youths.

Equal Opportunities

The UAE is keen on providing equal opportunities for youth in education, work, entrepreneurship, health, skills acquisition, volunteering, as well as establishing start-ups, and participating in the design of policies and strategies for the coming decades.

Today, young Emirati women lead on various indexes of excellence alongside their male counterparts, especially in the fields of knowledge and innovation, as well as in the sector of space exploration and its related sciences and technologies.

In 2016, the UAE Cabinet included the youngest minister in the world at the time, Her Excellency Shamma bint Suhail bin Faris Al Mazrouei, as Minister of State for Youth Affairs at the age of 22. Currently, Her Excellency  has been Appointed as  the UAE Minister of Community Development and the COP28 Youth Climate Champion in 2023.

Social Empowerment

Emirati youth benefit from housing programmes in the UAE. Those aged 18-35 have the right to request housing support from the country's national and local housing programmes. 

Beneficiaries of the housing programmes can attend specialised sessions on the basics of building houses, reducing costs, avoiding construction delays, and obtaining various approvals from the relevant authorities. The UAE has dedicated 3.8% of its 2022 budget for infrastructure and economic resources.  

In addition, Emirati youth have the right to apply for a marriage grant using the Ministry of Community Development’s mobile application or website. After the relevant department approves the application, the amount is transferred directly to the applicant’s bank account.  

Economic Empowerment

Numerous opportunities to launch start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are available for young talents. The UAE provides facilities for supporting entrepreneurship, launching start-ups and investing.

The Ministry of Community Development provides the Mahalli platform to support owners of SMEs in expanding their commercial projects and reaching a broader customer base. In addition, the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, established in 2007, empowers young graduates in the business sector.

The UAE’s 2022 budget also allocated AED 300 million ($81.7 million) to help fund the Alumni Support Programme, which was launched in September 2021 within the Projects of the 50 initiative.

The AED 1 billion ($272.3 million) Alumni Fund supports university students and recent graduates with micro-financial loans to start their own projects in cooperation with state universities. The fund aims to produce entrepreneurs from local universities.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development provides financing solutions and advisory services for young citizens who are founders or owners of small and medium enterprises. Abu Dhabi’s accelerators programme, Ghadan 21, also allocated a budget of AED 50 billion ($13.6 billion). 

Access to quality business incubators is also available. For example, Hub 71 is a platform that supports young entrepreneurs in the field of advanced technology. Another incubator, Area 2071, connects youth to public and private sector investment entities that allow them to design the future. The Fazaa Centre was launched in 2020 to provide support, training and consultancy for young Emirati entrepreneurs. 

In addition to these programmes and platforms, the 100 Mentors initiative guides young people, and enhances their skills in innovation, management, marketing, entrepreneurship and investment. The Youth Station initiative provides a starting point for Emirati youth to launch their businesses for free in the country's most vibrant areas. 

Article 7 of Federal Law No. 2 of 2001 regarding Emirati Social Security allows the disbursement of exceptional social assistance to those who are not working, including youth, due to a reason beyond their control, for six months, after the Ministry of Community Development considers their request. 

The state’s federal budget for 2022 allocated AED 4.64 billion ($1.25 billion) for social benefits and salaries, representing 6% of the total budget for social security rights and social inclusion.

Supporting youth projects in innovation and development

To achieve the goals of the national innovation strategy and close the funding gap in terms of innovation projects and supporting young talents, the 2022 federal budget allocated AED 2 billion ($544 million) for the Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF), to support innovators and entrepreneurs. 

The Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council is in the process of creating strategies to execute projects that will provide 75,000 private sector jobs for citizens, with special programs for young professionals and fresh graduates. 

Participation in Decision-Making 

In June 2019, the UAE recognised the right of Emirati youth to apply for membership in the boards of directors of government agencies, institutions and companies. Furthermore, as of February 2020, the government approved the right to involve young people in official visits conducted by federal authorities. The percentage of young members in the 17th legislative term of the Federal National Council in the UAE reached 37.5%, the highest since the council’s establishment.

The Federal Youth Authority has launched a series of initiatives to engage young people in various fields, such as Youth Councils, which harness the energy of young people and empowers them in various sectors. The authority’s key pillars include the Youth Circles initiative, which engages the youth and presents best practices in topics related to youth and their aspirations. Another initiative is the Youth Effort programme, which employs young skills and talents in national projects. In addition, Youth Policies aims to activate the role of youth in society, Youth Retreat helps young people create a plan for themselves, and the Youth Agenda, the first-of-its-kind, enhances the role of Emirati youth in creating positive change. The UAE also identifies young leadership talents through the UAE Government Leaders Programme, and empowers the role of UAE youth globally through the Emirates Youth Global Initiative.