The Department of Community Development (DCD) hosted the strategic retreat for the social sector, bringing together leaders of social sector entities and partners in Abu Dhabi to discuss the most prominent developments within the field and discuss plans for the future.
This comes in line with DCD's role as the government entity that is responsible for implementing the social sector agenda. The event also reflects DCD’s commitment to continued coordination and cooperation with all relevant authorities in order to deliver high-quality social services to diverse segments of society and ensure a decent quality of life for all.
The Retreat was attended by H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the DCD, H.E. Maryam Al Rumaithi, Director General of the Family Development Foundation (FDF); H.E. Aref Hamad Al Awani, Secretary General of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC); and H.E. Sarah Ibrahim Shuhail, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Center for Sheltering and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa. Also in attendance were H.E. Salama Al Ameemi, Director General of The Authority of Social Contribution - Ma'an; and H.E. Dr. Bushra Al Mulla, Director General of The Family Care Authority (FCA), along with several executive leaders from relevant authorities.
H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of DCD, emphasised that the Strategic Retreat marks the continuation of a series of developmental stages that the DCD has been working on since its establishment, and was conducted in fruitful cooperation with all entities in the social sector in Abu Dhabi. The collective aim was to develop clear plans for the sector's work in the coming years and build upon the tangible achievements of the past. These achievements have had a positive impact on all members of society through the implementation of various initiatives and high-quality programmes, in line with the vision of providing a dignified life for all.
He expressed DCD's commitment to enhancing people’s quality of life by aligning its objectives with government plans and strategies for community development in the Emirate. This is crucial to achieving a positive impact on all segments of society and sustainably growing the sector to meet the aspirations of the leadership.
“At this year’s Strategic Retreat, a review was conducted of the updated strategy for the social sector, which is the integrated system in social work that aims to take care of and develop individuals, families and society in general," Al Khaili added.
He continued: "With these updates in the agenda, we will continue our commitment to work with all relevant authorities in order to develop ambitious strategies and launch integrated programmes that are inspired by the vision of our leadership to create a social system that guarantees the sustainability of the quality of life, stability and happiness of society in Abu Dhabi."
The Strategic Retreat included a series of extensive discussions on strategic plans that would accelerate the pace of sustainable social development in Abu Dhabi.
An agenda that reflects the vision of partners
During the Retreat, a number of major issues in the social sector were reviewed, through dialogue sessions and presentations tackling the latest technologies and methods to identify the needs of the individual, family and society, and to enable the social sector to interact with the requirements of society and provide the necessary services.
The retreat also included an interactive workshop about quality of life and community development, which included several axes, including social monitoring, data empowerment, social care professionals, as well as senior citizens. In cooperation with the Abu Dhabi School of Government, an interesting lecture was presented on the impact of artificial intelligence on various sectors, which was delivered by Mr. Sami Mahroum, an experienced lecturer at PricewaterhouseCoopers Academy.
The interactive retreat sessions are an opportunity to stimulate the development of new ideas, facilitate the exchange of best practices, and develop mechanisms for joint action between the various entities. This helps in contributing to the development of effective future and operational plans to improve the efficiency of the social sector, while highlighting the most prominent emerging and potential challenges and the proposed solutions to address social challenges.
Leaders of social entities: The strategic retreat is a platform to enhance complementarity of roles
H.E. Maryam Al Rumaithi, Director General of the Family Development Foundation, highlighted the Foundation's commitment to promoting interdependence and integration within society. She also highlighted their role in monitoring societal issues and addressing them effectively to enhance family stability and cohesion.
The Foundation achieves this by carefully measuring the impact of its programmes and services across various segments of society, and by prioritising the addressing of social issues and aligning with the goals of a sustainable social sector. By employing objective scientific methodologies, the Foundation evaluates the effectiveness of its services and programmes, measuring the changes that occur among beneficiaries. This approach allows for continuous development and updates to ensure the services meet the evolving needs of the community, fostering cohesion and providing support to the most vulnerable segments.
Al Rumaithi added: "The Family Development Foundation is working to consolidate the family's position in society through the strategic implementation of plans and sustainable community initiatives. This is done in accordance with the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, with the aspiration to drive comprehensive development.
“We strive to preserve the values of solidarity and interdependence in order to create a safe environment that supports all families and maintains their cohesion and stability. By doing so, we consolidate the country's position globally so that it has become a leading model in coexistence, peace, tolerance, and partnership in building a better future for the family.”
Al Rumaithi emphasised the Foundation's inclusive social role that benefits all members of society. It has proactively worked towards empowering Emirati women over the next 50 years, in line with the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, enhancing their roles within families and making them active partners in sustainable development initiatives in the country.
Furthermore, the Foundation places significant emphasis on the well-being and development of children, implementing specialised services and programmes to cater to their needs. Additionally, the Foundation prioritises supporting the youth, recognising their importance and dedicating considerable attention to their growth in order to create a nurturing environment where children and youth feel happy, safe, and empowered, thus nurturing a highly qualified generation capable of leading the future.
It's worth noting that the Foundation also focuses on providing comprehensive care for senior citizens. Through ongoing initiatives and services, they offer health, psychological, social, and recreational support, recognising senior citizens as an integral part of the fabric of Emirati society.
For his part, H.E. Abdullah Abdul-Ali Al-Humaidan, Secretary General of Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, said: “The support and guidance of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and his generous patronage of the Organization serves as a strong foundation for the ZHO family. It also provides constant motivation for employees to dedicate their utmost efforts to serving people of determination and all beneficiaries of the Organization's services.”
He pointed out that all the initiatives and projects launched by the ZHO are in line with the National Policy for Empowering People of Determination, and the Abu Dhabi Comprehensive Strategy for People of Determination.
He added: “The Organization works through the directives and supervision of His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Directors, to provide high-quality services to various segments of people of determination. ZHO has a wide scope and cooperates with ministries, institutions and concerned authorities to achieve the goal of creating an inclusive society that is free of barriers and guarantees empowerment and a decent quality of life for people of determination and their families. This is achieved through the drawing up of policies and creation of services that contribute to their enjoyment of a higher quality of life, access to community integration, active participation, and substantiation of their role in the development of society.”
Al-Humaidan said that the Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination strived to follow up on the implementation of projects, while also launching strategic initiatives in 2022 to achieve excellence in evaluation, diagnosis, and therapeutic rehabilitation. Additionally, the Organization strengthened its inclusive education system, enhanced social protection and empowerment of families. They also empowered people of determination professionally by supporting them achieve job stability and expanded the participation of people of determination in public life, culture and sports.
H.E. Aref Hamad Al Awani, Secretary General of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), pointed out that the Strategic Retreat for the social sector was a remarkable opportunity to review the most prominent social contributions of ADSC, which reflect its goals and embody the vision of the wise leadership to develop the sports sector and youth activities. The ADSC also works to motivate athletes from various segments of society, support athletes to achieve their aspirations, encourage members of society to make exercise a part of their daily lives, create a sporting environment that raises awareness of the importance of being active, and provide programmes and events that everyone can enjoy.
He added: “One year after the launch of the Active Hub programme, which provides public access to sports facilities in 20 public schools across Abu Dhabi, we reached 220,000 participants. We also organised the Active Parks programme last year, in cooperation with the DCD and the municipalities of the cities of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, with the aim of encouraging community members to adopt an active lifestyle and take advantage of public and community facilities such as public parks and modern green spaces. As part of the programme, we provided 380 free training sessions, which are equivalent to more than 530,000 training hours”.
Al-Awani continued: “Abu Dhabi Sports Council's weekly community events and races play an important role in raising awareness of the importance of sports. These initiatives have led to an increase in the percentage of people engaging in physical activities. In 2022, the Council organised a total of 46 activities, attracting over 62,000 participants. In addition to these community events, the Council successfully hosted numerous major international sporting events and championships. These included renowned events such as the UAE Tour, the Spartan World Championship, The Triple Basketball World Championship, ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon, World Triathlon Championship Series, and more.”
H.E. Sarah Ibrahim Shuhail, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care - Ewaa, confirmed that the Center received and handled 328 cases during 2022, including 258 domestic violence and violence against children cases. This brings the total number of cases received by the Center from 2020 to the end of 2022 to 657 cases.
According to Shuhail, the Center provided a higher number of services, signifying an increase of 32%, which varied between social and psychological counselling, family visits, activities, practical training, medical services, legal support, and others. The average length of stay of sheltered cases ranged from 6 to 18 months.
“The Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa taps into its close collaborations with relevant stakeholders. This solid foundation widens the horizon for continuous development, builds on achievements and sustains growth, and opens doors to new opportunities. In 2022, Ewaa joined the UAE delegation participating in the review of the fourth periodic report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It also signed an agreement with the National Health Insurance Company – Daman to grant health insurance cards to cases of human trafficking, violence, and abuse. In addition, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts, an Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) project, to provide direct support and vocational rehabilitation and empowerment for the cases. During the year, the Center has referred 88 cases to other social sector entities to ensure they get the relevant support.”
H.E. Hamad Hareb Al Muhairi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Housing Authority, said: "The Authority is dedicated to implementing the directives of the visionary leadership to fulfil the aspirations and ambitions of the social sector, providing a decent quality of life for citizens. In cooperation with strategic partners in the sector, the Authority has succeeded in providing a modern and sustainable housing system that addresses the housing needs of Emirati families. These efforts contribute to the building of a harmonious and cohesive society that facilitates the active participation of Emirati citizens in the nation’s development.”
Al Muhairi explained that the Authority has updated the housing benefits policy, which included the updating of eligibility conditions and benefits management in a way that meets the requirements of Emirati families. Additionally, the housing ‘one-stop shop’, Iskan Abu Dhabi, was launched to offer governmental housing services for citizens from a single location, in cooperation with the Authority’s partners.
He stressed that the Social Sector retreat, which this year focused on the housing sector, has become an important platform for dialogue on a variety of concerns of the social sector in Abu Dhabi. Through this platform, entities are able to unify their vision and integrate the efforts of all the sector’s institutions, thus supporting the efforts of DCD to implement the goals of the Abu Dhabi government to enhance the quality of life and social well-being of everyone who lives here.
H.E. Salama Al Ameemi, Director General of The Authority of Social Contribution - Ma'an said: “The development of a community-centric ethos has always been central in the work that we do at the Authority of Social Contribution – Ma’an. Over the last three years, we have significantly contributed to the empowerment of communities and the Third Sector across Abu Dhabi through our programmes and initiatives that are designed to assess, address, and resolve critical social challenges, as identified by the Department of Community Development. Many of our key outcomes have been a result of constructive cooperation across government, private, and Third Sector, that has helped us drive sustainable positive impact, enhance the mental and social well-being of the residents in the emirate, and create a long-term model for community engagement, volunteering, and fundraising. We are thankful to all our contributors across the public, private and Third Sector, volunteers and community members that have helped in the development of a stronger ecosystem built around social innovation, contribution, and inclusion for a strong and thriving community.”
H.E. Abdulla Hamid Al Ameri, Director General of The Abu Dhabi Social Support Authority, emphasised that the entity works in accordance with the strategic vision of the social sector in Abu Dhabi, which is led by the DCD, in order to provide the foundation of a decent life for all members of society. Among their many goals, they strive to provide a social safety net for Emirati families in Abu Dhabi, ensure a decent quality of life by encouraging participation, offer financial support, empower and train citizens to enter the labour market, in addition to enhancing financial education.
Al Ameri added: “In 2022, the Authority focused on its primary objectives, which included providing support to approximately 4,500 Emirati families, significantly enhancing their stability and financial independence, and ensuring their basic needs are met. Additionally, the Authority worked on empowering family members by equipping them with essential skills and preparing them to enter the labour market. The dedicated team at the Authority is committed to expanding its network of strategic partnerships to create more opportunities for empowerment and continuous education for beneficiaries. They also aim to raise community awareness to shift the perception of social financial support being solely an entitlement to viewing it as an integrated safety net. This is particularly crucial in situations where sustainable sources of income for Emirati families in Abu Dhabi may be affected.”
H.E. Dr. Bushra Al Mulla, Director General of the Family Care Authority (FCA) stated: “Our vision aligns comprehensively with the Social Sector Retreat Agenda outlined in the DCD's third strategic plan. We deeply value families as the cornerstone of our community, which is why the FCA is dedicated to improving the existing family care model and anticipating the needs of all beneficiaries, including infants, children, adults, senior citizens, people of determination, and individuals with troubled pasts.
“We collaborate closely with various social entities across Abu Dhabi, offering an expanded range of specialised services to ensure the unique needs of beneficiaries are addressed. This is made possible through an integrated governance model, with the FCA serving as a central point of contact and overseeing a unified database of needs.”
H.E. Dr. Al Mulla added: "The Family Care Authority confirms its repeated first-place ranking in its performance in the Abu Dhabi government call center system, among 24 entities classified in the category of entities with low numbers of cases, receiving less than 1,000 cases, recorded for the year 2022, reflect FCA's commitment to integrated family care services has been recognised through the prestigious Abu Dhabi Award for Excellence in Government Communications. This accolade is a testament to our dedication to aligning our services with the emirate's policies, laws, and regulations. The FCA will continue to support relevant social entities. We are determined to strengthen Abu Dhabi’s leadership position among global cities by prioritising the quality-of-life index and working towards establishing a cohesive and stable society."