Sheikh Khalifa's timeline
- Became the representative of the ruler of Abu Dhabi in the Eastern Province and the president of its legal system in August 1966
- Became Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on 1 February 1969
- Became the Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defence and Finance on 1 July 1971
- Became Deputy Prime Minister in the second UAE Federal Cabinet on 20 January 1974
- Became Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in 1976
- Became President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi on 3 November 2004
- Passed away on 13 May 2022.
Birth and tribal origins
Sheikh Khalifa was born in Al Muwaiji Fort in Al Ain in 1948. His full name is Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa bin Shakhbout bin Theyab bin Issa bin Nahyan bin Falah bin Yas. He is the eldest son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His mother is Sheikha Hessa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Al Muwaiji village was a centre of influence for the Al bu Falah subsection of the Bani Yas tribal confederation and the Al Nahyan ruling family.
Sheikh Khalifa belongs to the tribe of Bani Yas. Bani Yas is considered the mother tribe for most of the Arab tribes that settled in what is known today as the United Arab Emirates, which is historically known as 'Bani Yas Alliance'.
Sheikh Khalifa lived with his family Al Muwaiji Fort in Al Ain city. He received his school education in Al Ain at the city's first school built by his father.
Sheikh Khalifa spent most of his childhood in the oases of Al Ain and Al Buraimi with the company of his father who governed the Al Ain region at that time.
Figures who influenced Sheikh Khalifa
Sheikh Zayed was keen to take his eldest son on most of his daily activities and visits in the areas of Al Ain and Al Buraimi. The oases of Al Ain and Al Buraimi were places of strategic and vital economic significance for Abu Dhabi as the main agricultural producer and as the major strategic centre for the security of the region.
Accompanying his father in his difficult task to improve the lives of the tribes of the area and establish state authority, Sheikh Khalifa learned the essential values of responsibility, trust, justice and rights.
He was also fortunate to have the benefit of the education of public majlis, which was regarded as the finest school for teaching the skills of political leadership at that time. The public majlis of his father brought him close to the tribes, giving him the opportunity to learn their culture and understand their aspirations and acquire management and communication skills.
During the visits and at the majlis, Sheikh Khalifa saw his father's dedication to bring prosperity and well-being to the tribes, to maintain their security and unity, to care for the environment and preserve the heritage of his people. He learned that a real leader is one who is wholly concerned with the welfare of his people.
The other thing that complemented his leadership skills was the majlis of his grandfather from his mother's side. His grandfather Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, was the senior figure of the Al Nahyan family at that time and was known for his wisdom.
Along with his mother's attention, Sheikh Khalifa also enjoyed special care and attention from his grandmother Sheikha Salama, who was respected for her sophistication, wisdom and perception.
The beginning of governance journey
When late Sheikh Zayed moved to Abu Dhabi city to become the Ruler of the emirate in August 1966, he appointed Sheikh Khalifa - who was 18 at that time - as his representative in the Eastern Province and the President of its legal system. This delegation of authority was seen as a mark of the high confidence Sheikh Zayed had in his son.
Sheikh Khalifa followed in the footsteps of his father and continued the implementation of major development projects in the Eastern Province, especially those designed to improve agriculture. His notable success in Al Ain was the beginning of a long career in public service that saw Sheikh Khalifa assume his leadership role with ease and skill, marking major accomplishments and achievements.
During the following years, Sheikh Khalifa held a number of major posts. He became the main executive leader of his late father's Government, overseeing, both on the local and federal levels, the implementation of all major projects.
On 1 February 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was nominated as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. And, on the next day he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Defence in Abu Dhabi.
He oversaw the setting up of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force (ADDF), which later became the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.
On 1 July 1971, as part of the restructuring of the government of the emirate, he was appointed as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defence and Finance.
On 23 December 1973, Sheikh Khalifa assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the second Cabinet.
Shortly afterwards, on 20 January 1974, he was appointed as the first Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which replaced the emirate's local cabinet.
Under the direction of Sheikh Khalifa, the Executive Council oversaw the realisation of extensive development programmes in Abu Dhabi, including the construction of housing, water supply system, roads and general infrastructure that led to the emergence of the city of Abu Dhabi into the modern city that it is today.
Sheikh Khalifa was also in charge of establishing Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 1976. This authority manages the financial investments of the emirate to ensure a stable source of income for generations to come.
He was elected for presidency on 3 November 2004 after the death of his father, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who passed away on 2 November 2004.
Other areas of authority and development
Sheikh Khalifa has also been involved extensively in other areas of the country's development. In May 1976, following the unification of the armed forces of the emirates, he was nominated as Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
In this capacity, he devoted much attention to the building up of the country's defensive capability; thus, he established military training institutions and procured the latest military equipment and facilities.
In addition, Sheikh Khalifa established the Abu Dhabi Department of Social Services and Commercial Buildings (known as Khalifa Committee) in 1981. The department provides loans to citizens for construction.
Sheikh Khalifa has held several other senior posts in Abu Dhabi Government. One of the posts was that of the Chairman of the erstwhile Supreme Petroleum Council, whose regulatory powers got merged with the Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs in 2020. He was responsible for overseeing Abu Dhabi's upstream and downstream oil and gas industries. He also encouraged diversification of the country's economy away from dependence on its reserves of hydrocarbons.
In 1991, he created the Private Loans Authority to ensure that citizens were able to build the properties they needed, both for residential and for investment purposes.
He was until 2006 the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), which oversees the country's international development assistance program.
Sheikh Khalifa was the honorary Chairman of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Sheikh Khalifa as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE
Sheikh Khalifa assumed his posts as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and as the President of the United Arab Emirates on 3 November 2004. He succeeded his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who served as the UAE's President from 1971 to 2004.
After being elected as the President, Sheikh Khalifa launched his first strategic plan for the government of the UAE to achieve balanced and sustainable development in order to ensure the prosperity of UAE nationals.
His key objectives as President of the UAE was to continue on the path laid down by his father, whose legacy, he says, "will continue to be the beacon guiding us into the future, a prosperous future where security and stability will reign."
Sheikh Khalifa steered the development of the oil and gas sector and the downstream industries that have contributed so successfully to the country's economic diversification.
He undertook extensive tours throughout the UAE to study the needs of the Northern Emirates, during which he gave instructions for building of a number of projects related to housing, education and social services.
In addition, he launched an initiative for developing a legislative authority to modify the technique of selecting members of the Federal National Council where the selection would be done by a combination of election and appointment. This was aimed at providing an opportunity to select members of the Council through direct elections.
He has been keenly interested in sports activities in the UAE, especially football. He supports and honours the local sports teams that achieve local, regional and international recognitions and championships.
Re-election of Sheikh Khalifa as the President
Re-elected as President in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa pledged to continue with implementing the ambitious strategies for political, administrative, economic, social and cultural development that he had started in his first term. His stewardship and focus on good governance and the integrity of the Federation have proved a blessing in times of financial and regional turmoil.
The UAE's foreign policy under Sheikh Khalifa
While emphasising on the need for a restructure home, not just in terms of governance but also in terms of society and nationalism, Sheikh Khalifa continued to ensure that the country pursues an active foreign policy.
Sheikh Khalifa is a strong supporter of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). He believes that the success and achievements of this body reflect the depth of understanding reached amongst its leaders.
Sheikh Khalifa has demonstrated his commitment to build relations with other countries by receiving leaders from countries in Asia, Europe and from other Arab countries as well. He also paid visits to Central Asian states, with whom he has shared the idea of developing closer ties ever since they emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
He has shown a strong commitment to providing assistance to those in need internationally. In addition to government aid, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the third most significant donor of UAE foreign aid, makes an enormous difference to people's lives in over 70 countries around the world. He has proved to be a generous donor of emergency assistance in times of natural disasters, responding immediately by sending help after events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 earthquake that devastated much of northern Pakistan and neighbouring parts of India.
Sheikh Khalifa has launched several initiatives and decisions, aiming to improve the quality of life and achieve the nation's highest priorities and development goals. The initiatives include:
Khalifa Excellence Award (SKEA)
The Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award (SKEA) was launched by Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI) back in 1999 as a blue print, a roadmap and a methodology for continuous improvement aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the business sector in the UAE.
Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation
In 2007, Sheikh Khalifa established Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation. Its vision is: pioneering initiatives for welfare and its strategies are focused on health and education on domestic, regional and global scales.
Khalifa Award for Education
The Khalifa Award for Education being awarded since around 2007 aims to promote education, encourage outstanding educators and enhance innovative education practices. The award is intended to discover successful individuals and educational practices at the local, regional and Arab world levels.
Establishing the debts settlement fund
Sheikh Khalifa ordered the establishment of the debts settlement fund on 2 December 2011, the occasion of the 40th National Day with an initial allocation of AED 10 billion, to help heavily indebted Emiratis settle their loans.
In 2014, the number of beneficiaries whose debts were dropped amounted to 3,482 citizens and the total value of the waived amount touched AED 1.5 billion.
The beneficiaries fell under the category of 'committed to pay' in addition to the cases of social security, health disability or special needs and a number of humanitarian cases.
How does the Debt Settlement Fund work?
Banks write off half of the outstanding amount and the other half is bailed out by the government. Banks then collect the money from their customers and pass it back to the government. Those who are helped by the fund are banned from borrowing any more money from banks in the UAE until the obligation is settled.
Only Emiratis are eligible to apply if their loans are the subject of litigation brought before a specific date. An Emirati who has been taken to court by a bank before 2 December, 2011 can apply.
Sheikh Khalifa regularly issues directives to construct and repair houses of Emiratis.
In 2012, Sheikh Khalifa ordered the rapid replacement of Emiratis' houses built before 1990 in the emirates of Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. There were some 12,500 such housing units that met the replacement criteria and whose construction was estimated to be AED 10 billion.
In April 2015, the Follow-up Committee of the Initiatives of the UAE's President approved a list of 504 eligible citizens whose houses require maintenance or replacement. The projects include maintenance of 105 houses at a total cost of AED 40.1 million and urgent replacement of 75 houses at a total cost of AED 63.9 million.
In 2012, he launched Absher initiative to enhance the participation of UAE citizens in the labour market.
Science, technology and innovation
In 2015, Sheikh Khalifa allocated AED 300 billion to the Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy, aiming to establish for the coming generations a solid future away from the fluctuations in the oil market.
2015: the year of Innovation
Under the directions of Sheikh Khalifa, the UAE Cabinet approved the designation of 2015, as the Year of Innovation. According to Sheikh Khalifa, the initiative aims to support federal government efforts, attract national skills, increase distinguished research, as well as boost efforts to build a national cadre, capable to lead the UAE towards more progress, prosperity and innovation.
The Khalifa Student Empowerment Program launched Aqdar initiative (Arabic only) aims to promote the literacy skills. The initiative is a part of the efforts to mark 2016 as a year for reading, and embody the UAE's directives aimed at reinforcing its international stature in the areas of creativity and innovation.
2016: Year of Reading
Sheikh Khalifa gave directives that the year 2016 be the Year of Reading because reading is the basic skill for a new generation of scientists, intellectual, researchers and innovators. This stresses that the establishment of a knowledge-based economy requires nurturing a generation of readers who are fully aware of developments happening around them, as well as of the best ideas and the latest theories.
2017: The Year of Giving
Sheikh Khalifa declared 2017 as the Year of Giving in the country. Under this initiative, the focus will be on three main themes:
- Strengthening social responsibility in the private sector
- Promoting a spirit of volunteering
- Strengthening the concept of serving the nation in new generations.
2018: The Year of Zayed
Sheikh Khalifa declared 2018 the year of Zayed to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding President of the UAE. The year of Zayed will highlight the role of the late leader in establishing the UAE and his local, regional and international achievements.
2019 - The Year of Tolerance
H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. The announcement aims to highlight the UAE as a global capital for tolerance and its approach, since its establishment, to be a bridge of communication between peoples of different cultures in a respectful environment that rejects extremism and emphasises on the acceptance of the other.
The Year of Tolerance will focus on five main pillars:
- to deepen the values of tolerance and co-existence among cultures by teaching the youth the values of tolerance
- to solidify the UAE as the global capital for tolerance through a series of initiatives, projects and dialogues between various cultures and civilisations
- to implement multiple cultural programmes and make contributions to build tolerant communities
- to focus on legislative and policy-oriented objectives that contribute to mandating cultural and religious tolerance via dialogue
- to promote tolerance through targeted media initiatives and projects.
In order to provide a better life for the citizens and ensure the highest quality of infrastructure across the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa dedicated AED 16 billion in 2005 for development and infrastructure projects in the Northern Emirates. As of 2013, over 24 ports were completed; one hospital named Sheikh Khalifa Hospital was built in Ras Al Khaimah, 2000 houses were built and several highways, intersections and tunnels were constructed.
Emirates Polio campaign
The Emirates Polio Campaign for polio eradication is made under the directives of the late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AI Nahyan, in support of health-care programmes in Pakistan to bring epidemics under control and deflect the health hazards on the children in the affected areas.
The effort is part of the UAE Government's 2013 pledge of AED 440 million for supporting global efforts to put the world over the finish line for polio eradication by 2018, with a focus on Pakistan, which has one of world's highest rates of polio infection.
Through the Emirates Polio campaign, the UAE has provided 116,177,794 million polio vaccines for Pakistani children aged under five from January 2014 to the end of May 2016.
The Emirates Polio Campaign supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) of WHO's General Assembly for eradicating polio by the end of 2018 and the Pakistani Government's National Emergency Action Plan to wipe out the polio virus.
In 2011, H. H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed USD 100 million (USD 50 million each) for the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines to prevent diseases and save the lives of Afghani and Pakistani children.
Biography and profile of H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan compiled from the websites of:
Initiatives sourced from:
Updated on 22 Jun 2022