'UAE Minister of Foreign Trade H.E Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi has been awarded the Italian President's Gold Medal, Italyâ€™s highest recognition at the local and international levels, for her continuous and outstanding contributions to economic growth and sustainable development as well as her active role in addressing issues related to women, children, youth, and rural development.
The Secretary General and Board Director of the Pio ManzÃ¹ International Research Center in Italy, Mr. Gerardo Dassi, presented the Gold Medal to Sheikha Al Qasimi during Her Excellencyâ€™s participation in the Center's 35th international conference on economy as a communication platform. The award was granted in the presence of representatives of the Italian government and members of the scientific panel including Claude Shesson, Alando Floppan, and Alberto Rafaeoulli. The mayor of Rimini and other prominent Italian figures active in the fields of international cooperation and social development were also present.
A government official explained that Italy honoured Sheikha Lubna in recognition of her unique leadership at the international level and her ability to direct her rapidly growing country to new paths to knowledge. Her encouragement of UAE and Arab women in general to start new careers and join the social, economic and political fields was likewise lauded.
The Italian President's Gold Medal is bestowed annually to personalities who contribute to the improvement of human conditions. It is handed out by the Pio ManzÃ¹ Center under the authorization of the Italian president, parliament, and the senate.
After receiving the medal, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi expressed her gratitude and pride: â€œI consider this recognition a welcome message of love, appreciation, and friendship from Italyâ€™s president, government and people to the UAE. It is also a strong expression that Italy is committed to enhancing its relations with the UAE and elevating it to the highest levels.â€
Her Excellency further added that the recognition is a medal of merit for UAE women and an international testimony of how much she achieved under the wise leadership of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE president, (God Protect Him), and his brother Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
She included the support given by Sheikha Fatima Bin Mubarak among the factors which have enabled UAE women to excel in education, development and governmental work and thus become role models. The Minister also expressed her gratitude to and respect for the Italian president for his genuine pursuit of stronger UAE-Italian ties and his concern for global development issues.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi joins an elite group of prominent personalities who have received the medal in the past years, including Javier Pierce Dockweiler, former UN Secretary General; former US president George H.W. Bush; Helmut Schmidt, former German chancellor; Javier Solana; the late Lady Diana, Princes of Wales; James Heckman, the 2000 Nobel prize winner in Economic Sciences; Syrian first lady Asmaa Al Assad; Dominican First Lady Dr. Margarita CedeÃ±o de FernÃ¡ndez; and Egyptian First Lady Susan Mubarak.
The Italian President's Gold Medal adds to the list of various international awards H.E. Al Qasimi has received in the past years. She was awarded the Italian presidentâ€™s â€œGrande Ufficialeâ€ medal in 2008 in recognition of her efforts to foster greater bilateral support and cooperation between the UAE and Italy in various fields. This honor is considered the highest that can be granted by the Italian president to prominent and distinguished characters who forge closer partnerships between their respective countries and Italy.
Her Excellency was the first Arab woman to receive the â€œStella Reâ€ award, which is granted annually to a women in recognition of her contributions to developing communities and contemporary cultures through her hard constant work and creative ideas. She was also awarded the Italian â€œPremio Minervaâ€ award for her unique contributions to the economy and politics back in 2005. Just last June of 2009, the Italian president also granted Sheikha Lubna the rank of â€œKnight,â€ in a tradition that traces back to the Napoleonic period to recognize her achievements as a government official and her vital role in enhancing the countryâ€™s foreign relations.
During her participation in the Pio ManzÃ¹ Center conference, the Minister presented her vision of how the Arab region should deal with the global economic slowdown and its impact on the coming generations.
In her speech, Her Excellency confirmed that the worldâ€™s problems cannot be faced by anyone alone, and noted that the Arab region was not as affected by the global economic crisis as other parts of the world. She outlined factors that have helped GCC countries minimize the effects of the crisis, including a solid economic foundation, substantial foreign assets and a broad portfolio of important investments.
She also stressed that, in spite of the regionâ€™s strategic location, there remain long term concerns about the effects of the crisis at the regional and international levels. She further pointed out that the financial crisis has influenced a united Arab approach to the downturn and economic challenges in general.
Sheikha Al Qasimi discussed the impact of the downturn on job opportunities for Arab youth, explaining the regionâ€™s countries are implementing comprehensive reforms to facilitate a better transition from school to the job market. Moreover, she referred to the fact the UAE allows young locals to engage in part-time jobs at the age of 17 to expose them to the work environment and assume responsibility at a younger age. She emphasized the importance of the â€œTawteenâ€ initiative launched by the Emirates Foundation, which enables UAE locals to improve their skills through 54 hours of training.
Her Excellency highlighted the need for global cooperation under the current financial crisis so that the world could get back to its former state, pointing out the importance of developing and refining youth skills. She noted that the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan considered the youth development as â€œthe countryâ€™s biggest investment.â€
She further explained that the demographic share of youth in the Middle East has reached record levels, saying that 32 per cent of the population is between 15-29 years of age. This means that the number of job seekers will double in the coming years. She referred to the results of research conducted on 11 countries in the Middle East which revealed that unemployment costs have reached more than EUR16.8 billion, equivalent to 2 per cent of the regionâ€™s GDP.
Her Excellency concluded by saying: â€œThe global financial crisis is an opportunity for us to discuss how to reach the goals of prosperity and security for the coming generation who will reap the fruits of business.â€
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