The Food Security Policy in the UAE


Food security issues form an essential part of public administration because no government in the world is interested in creating an unfavorable domestic agenda. Therefore, food security should be viewed holistically as a situation in which everyone in the region has equal and easy access to food of improved reliability and clinical quality. It follows that achieving food security involves the interests of several parties, including the government, the health sector, producers, suppliers, and, of course, the public. However, food security is a dynamic concept, the perception of which varies depending on the era and the culture. In this research paper, the food security agenda in the United Arab Emirates region, the center of global trade, technological advances, and foreign labor, has been studied in detail.

In the initial phase of the study, the most significant interest was the theoretical examination of the need to address food security issues in terms of the feasibility of government spending in this area. Once this question was addressed, it was necessary to determine the general preparedness and awareness of the Arab government in dealing with urgent food security issues. It was shown in detail that the local government is highly socially responsible and competitive, as well as foresight in this context. Thus, the development of advanced initiatives in the UAE occurred well in advance of the signing of binding global agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals. It has also been shown that the development of the state apparatus in addressing food security issues is notable, with the National Food Security Strategy 2051 being the primary vector of all relevant policies, aiming to implement state practices to achieve the set goals.

Addressing public administration practices is central to the design of this study, as it allows us to determine the overall preparedness of the authorities. As a result of this study, the paper has shown that while the effectiveness of the proposed solutions is high, their practical implementation requires refinement. As an alternative, the final chapter of the paper provides a list of five key recommendatory measures that can be implemented by government resources to achieve greater competitiveness and a softer food security climate. The research paper is a qualitative literature review of academic and government sources covering aspects of food security for the UAE regions and will therefore be helpful to all those interested in this issue.

Preliminary Thesis Proposal Procedures

Research Problem

Food security is an important issue globally and in the UAE. According to the latest data, there are 690 million people globally undernourished, which is 8.9% of the global population (“The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” 7). Since there is a tendency for growth in food insecurity, international organizations globally launch policies to solve this problem. These are institutions like the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Together with the state governments, these institutions form global governance that utilizes the principles of multilateralism to introduce the changes. UAE has local governmental, non-governmental, and private bodies that implement the food security policy.

These institutions include the Ministry of State for Food and Water Security, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) with its Agricultural Research Department and Marine Environment Research Center, Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) with its Research and Development Division, the Marine Innovation Park, Food Security Research Platform, FoodTech Challenge Platform, and national research centers. Other stakeholders interested in implementing the local food security programs include the UAE general population, multiple private enterprises, and research centers.

Although the UAE local initiatives have great potential, there is a need to develop a more comprehensive framework that would help the initiatives unite their efforts. It is also essential to constantly review the national food security policy at the macro, meso, and micro levels, taking into account victories, defeats, and in the framework of the short and long term. Therefore, this research aims to study the food security policies in the UAE and worldwide and eventually present recommendations for improving these policies, developing new approaches, or launching new initiatives.


The main objective of this study is to present a comprehensive review of the food security policies that are being implemented in the UAE during the last five years. Another important goal is to develop recommendations or new original policies to enhance the food security efforts exercised by the UAE state in cooperation with the global food security governance. For example, some advice on launching the National Food Awareness Campaign could be provided (Advancing Food Security in the UAE 37). The recommendations could be developed based on the information gained through the research.

Research Questions

Research questions are developed to meet the objectives and find solutions for the research problem. They are as follows: 1) What are the current UAE policies related to food security? 2) What recommendations can be made to enhance current food security policies and practices globally and locally? 3) Is there a need to launch a new UAE food security policy that will integrate the elements of the existing policies and utilize the previous experience? 4) Why is food security an essential and urgent issue in terms of global environmental governance? 5) How does climate change influence the trends in food security globally and locally? 6) What impact do the current tendencies in population growth have on food security? 7) What is the role of the UAE state in the global policies targeted at food security? 8) What is the role of the UAE in the global environmental policies that are connected to global and local food security? 9) How is UAE improving consumption, including water consumption, to contribute to food security locally and globally? 10) What is UAE doing to contribute to food security globally (focus on marine aquaculture)?

Significance of the Research

This research is essential since it will provide an overview of the existing food security policies, which can be very useful for the actors who would like to join such policies. Creating a list of policies is also handy for the food security policy stakeholders since they can rethink cooperation with other bodies and joint action. Assessing the situation regarding the food security policies is also helpful to find the implementation gaps and focus on improving the existing initiatives. The detailed scope of the current policies will also provide evidence to develop new short-term initiatives that could fix the urgent problems that are not being addressed. The long-term approach to the UAE food security policy can be re-evaluated based on the presented list.

Literature Review

The issue of food security in the UAE and globally is widely discussed in the academic literature. In 2007-2008, price surges exacerbated the global food security crisis (Candel and Biesbroek 195). In the EU, this has led to calls for developing integrated approaches to food security management. The scholars examined how policy integration was carried out by considering “(i) the policy frame, (ii) subsystem involvement, (iii) policy goals, and (iv) policy instruments” (Candel and Biesbroek 195). The scholars also admitted that they noticed that policy integration efforts have stalled (Candel and Biesbroek 195). This information is beneficial for this study as it proves the need to integrate existing policies, including in the listed aspects. Fouilleux et al. (1658) note that the main focus of the debate since 2007-2008 has been the increase in agricultural production. Scientists criticize the current food security policy, noting that it is predominantly focused on a production perspective. Scholars imply that policy strategies should be free from pressure from multinational corporations, private foundations, and farmers’ unions that lobby for their product interests. These findings are significant for the presented research, as they introduce an additional essential element in evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs.

Ajaj et al. (422) discuss the impact of climate change on food security. Population growth leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which are the cause of climate change. The latter’s effects, such as hurricanes and tsunamis, are destructive forces that destroy agriculture in many parts of the world. UAE, being a significant oil producer, “is included in the list of 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world’s GHGs and thus involved in the top 30 countries over the world with emission deficits” (Ajaj et al. 422). In the UAE, increasing urbanization and population, in general, are causing stress in the agricultural sector. This is an important observation, and it should be considered when developing the recommendations for enhancing the existing locally and globally-oriented food security policies.

Oil production is one of the critical sectors of the UAE economy. However, reducing fossil fuel consumption is a climate change prevention practice, posing a dilemma for policymakers in the UAE (Sever et al. 197). Finally, Alzaabi and Mezher (1) state that existing UAE food security policies work in the WEF nexus framework. According to t the scholars, the food security policy strategies have been a priority since 1971 (Alzaabi and Mezher 1). It is also stated that modern approaches “must consider the linkages between current energy, water, and food strategies” (Alzaabi and Mezher 1). In other words, scientists suggest using the nexus approach to enhance the existing policies and strategies. Namany et al. (1) emphasize that the WEF nexus approach was developed to provide food security. This approach aims to overcome water, food, and nutritional problems while conserving natural resources. WEF is an integrated resource-based approach that considers the nexus between energy, water, and food (Namany et al. 1). The main objective of the WEF approach, which for several years has been the basis for most local UAE and global food security practices and strategies, is the integration of subsystems producing and delivering WEF resources. Within the framework of the presented research, it should be understood that the WEF approach is at the heart of all food security practices promoting the conscious consumption of food, water, and energy resources.

Research Method

The research will be qualitative; it will use mainly secondary research to develop the recommendations. The questionnaire will also be developed with questions regarding the existing food security policy pros and cons. The participants from the UAE Food Research Platform will be invited to participate in the research. The questionnaire will include several open-ended questions to encourage the participants to share their ideas regarding the pros and cons of the existing food security policy. The answers will be recorded and analyzed when developing the recommendations.

Theoretical Framework

Today there are many theories related to food security and global governance. Zürn (4) acknowledges that global governance is carried out in international and transnational institutions, according to his Theory of Global Governance. Zürn (4) adds that the global governance concept implies the polarization of governance actors. The scholar states that these are actors like government, including the world government, intergovernmental institutions like the UN, and transnational regimes like International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), “which often regulate enterprises and indirectly also states” (Zürn 4). The scientist also notes that global governance works according to the agreed norms and rules and consists of two essential elements – shared goals and standard rules; there is also an element of communication, a communicative act that constitutes the global governance. Simelane (3) presents a Food Security Theory, which aims to separate food security and nutrition security concepts to achieve balance. Finally, the WEF Nexus approach “highlights the interdependencies between achieving water, energy and food security for human well-being” (“Sharing the Knowledge of the Nexus Approach” para. 10). These theories can be helpful as a theoretical basis for the presented research.

Final Thesis Structure


The range of public service tasks includes a large number of tasks of crucial importance, among which food security deserves special attention. This concept should be viewed as multifactorial and complex since food security cannot be reduced to a narrow range of state concerns. In fact, the creation of an enabling environment in which all people in a region can have unhindered access, including physical and economic, to food with increased safety for consumption and healthy lifestyles at any given time is a central goal of food security. Consequently, as can be seen from the above statement, this policy focuses on social equity, safety for health, promotion of athletic activity, and accessibility. For this reason, it is clear that food security is an essential strategy for public administration, and its implementation requires considerable effort and funding. Since prioritizing food security is no longer a matter of public debate and questioning, it is important to note that different states have not fulfilled this responsibility in the same way due to overall economic development or resource availability. In more detail, the classification of regions into developing and developed regions is widely known, which is determined by a set of facts, among which food security issues. If there are categories of citizens among the population who do not receive safe food in good quantitative terms, this leads to a general decrease in the tourist and investment attractiveness of the region. Moreover, such a scenario leads to a severe domestic socio-economic crisis, which has the most adverse effects on the entire nation. Thus, governments must take care to ensure a high level of quality and compliance with standards in matters of food security in order to prevent all harmful threats to the economic, social, and health security of the population.

The above principles formed the basis for this research work as part of an academic master’s thesis. In order to form a more substantive and detailed document, the region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is of particular value for the geopolitical arena of the Eurasian continent, was chosen for specification. To be more precise, the UAE is the most dynamically developing region of the Persian Gulf and has one of the most progressive economic policies in the whole world. Good governance, close accessibility to key natural resources, and an excellent approach to the conduct of social policy make the UAE a beautiful region for tourism and expatriation. For this reason, every year, there is an increase in the inflow of foreign workers and students coming to the UAE in search of better living conditions and practical professional activities in various fields. Recognition of the region’s attractiveness is key to this study, as there is a direct link between this fact and the topic of the paper. In particular, since more and more foreign visitors are becoming permanent residents, social policies must change rapidly. This includes food security issues, as an expanding population is causing an increased demand for safe food. For the UAE government, a situation in which the growing attractiveness of the region translates into a shortage of food or the sale of low-quality, contaminated or spoiled raw materials should be unacceptable.

As a consequence, the UAE authorities are interested in maintaining and implementing highly effective food security strategies. The implementation of national projects and reforms aimed at significantly improving the quality of life of the population in the context of food security is paramount. Thus, conducting a comprehensive review of scholarly and governmental sources covering issues of such a spectrum was the central academic goal for this master’s thesis. More specifically, the study of the forms of food security was time-limited and was conducted for policies from 2015 to 2021. As a result of the review, it was shown that the profile policies adopted by the UAE government are not entirely sufficient and comprehensive. For this reason, the thesis includes a set of professional recommendations and strategies that have the potential to qualitatively improve the current situation and, as a result, increase the region’s attractiveness and public confidence in the authorities. The specification of the recommendations took into account the attempts of the UAE government to cooperate with international and global agencies responsible for food security issues.

However, it should be emphasized that the topic under study in this paper is very broad and requires considerable time and resources to implement. In addition, such a broad work would not be of high academic value, as it would contain fragments of information but would not be concise and specific and thus would not meet university standards of quality. As a solution to the described need, in developing the central goal, it was decided to differentiate the present work into several related tasks. More specifically, the objectives of the study were (i) to identify the need to address food security challenges, (ii) to identify current UAE government food security policies through a literature review and research of relevant sources, and (iii) to form a set of professional recommendations to improve the current agenda. Thus, the following material meets all the requirements of a comprehensive academic study and is a broad and valuable material that comprehensively covers food security issues. As a consequence, this research paper is a relevant document not only for students but also for anyone interested in learning about the food policy aspects of state food security.

Theoretical Foundations

The conjuncture of world markets creates extremely dynamic conditions in which all areas of society experience significant changes over time. However, despite this volatility, food security must guarantee a highly conservative environment in which every individual in the region has equal access to sufficient, safe, and quality food at all times. Security and quantity are not abstract concepts but instead are governed by strict scientific and social norms. Thus, the critical goal of food security should be called the implementation of two-way work, in which, on the one hand, the state provides sufficient conditions for the sustainable supply of enterprises with adequate raw materials, and on the other hand, the provision of the population with quality food. The implementation of this goal meets the conditions of overall stability, conservatism, and independence from external forces.

Exploring the central core of this concept in more depth, it is appropriate to highlight three essential conditions for achieving high standards of safety. First of all, such a policy implies guaranteed physical access to food for every individual in the region or, in other words, its availability and supply in sufficient quantity. Secondly, food security aims to ensure that all social cohorts of the population have the economic opportunity to purchase food without exclusion or segregation. In other words, this criterion means the possibility of purchasing quality food by both low-income groups and well-off residents: and compliance with standards must be fulfilled at every level. Finally, the third most crucial condition for achievement is to ensure that the consumption of high-quality food occurs in quantities sufficient for rational nutrition. As a consequence of the factors described above, it is appropriate to emphasize the multiplicity of crucial tasks that must be accomplished in part or in whole to achieve food security goals. These include creating stable economic conditions in the region, guaranteeing equal conditions of consumption, striving to eradicate poverty and social segregation, and promoting the adoption of advanced technologies that optimize these practices. In addition, it is evident that without an effective agricultural policy, borrowing the experience of commonwealth countries, the rationalization of employment among the population, and optimization of a profitable export-import strategy is impossible to achieve the objectives. As a result, it becomes evident that the solution to food security issues is carried out only with the balanced management of economic, social, and technological driving forces.

It becomes evident that the problem of security requires the efforts of diverse specialists, including scientific, legal, political, and, finally, public community. At the same time, the relevance of this problem is increasing every day due to the growing population in the Gulf region and the UAE in particular. Providing the population with quality and affordable food has significant national benefits in terms of human health and preserving the gene pool of the country. In fact, together with food, substances that have a negative impact on health can enter the human body: their combination is commonly grouped under the term contaminants. These contaminants pose a serious threat to public health, and therefore the problems associated with increasing accountability for the effectiveness and objectivity of food quality control are particularly acute.

Research Methodology

The primary methodological principles underlying this research work are based on the fundamental principles of international and Arab food security policies. The theoretical positions are explored through a literature review of academic and government sources through the use of digital literature bases. Thus, the central part of the paper reviews the significance of the problem of food security and the current UAE government policy on the issue at hand. Materials were found using platforms such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and PubMed. In general, it should be emphasized that the subject sources were selected by filtering the original set of materials according to secondary inclusion criteria. These were the necessity of writing in English, overall relevance, availability of the results and conclusions sought, and the authority of the author(s) and publication. The review is accompanied by a critical reflection and analysis of the sources studied so as to contribute to a comprehensive and qualitative study that is not characterized by bias or excessive subjectivity. All the sources used have been arranged according to academic standards and cited appropriately throughout the text.

The practical value of this research paper lies in the admissibility of the material for use by the student and academic communities to address issues of contextual critical examination of food security. Moreover, the study is of high relevance to the public sector as well, as it provides a comprehensive assessment of current security management policies. Finally, the range of recommendations presented in the last chapters of the paper is valuable material that, if followed, is expected to yield positive results for the UAE regions on the issue under study.

Literary Review

The Topicality of the Problem

Based on the principles already known, it can be postulated that the problem of food security is one of the most significant in the modern world economy. As a complex issue, it affects the interests of different groups of countries, social and political forces, and as international law develops, this problem is becoming more and more popular. Factors such as the trend toward the division of labor, the intensification of trade in agricultural products, and the accelerated pace of globalization processes are also leading to increased public and academic interest in the issue at hand (Kuiper et al. 1). It is also fair to acknowledge that the issue of food security goes beyond state regulation and also involves aspects of an ethical and social nature. More specifically, since food security aims to create a level playing field, the public finds itself interested in a deeper discussion of social inequalities and segregation in which some categories of the population receive more quality products than others.

With reference to the multi-layered and ambiguous nature of the term, it should be particularly emphasized that the academic community has been trying to define the theoretical and practical scope of the applicability of this security over the past decades. For example, many academics have found that food security is inherently unstable and strongly region-specific (Silva et al. 285; Kaletnik et al. 176; Timmer 5). In particular, while the experience of developed countries showed recognition of the importance of this concept along with, for example, economic and military security, more developing countries or third world regions have not placed the same emphasis on this issue. In turn, this division of interpretations at the interstate level has again raised ethical questions discussing the legitimacy and superiority of some countries over others. More specifically, of high interest was the quest to understand why citizens of developed countries were able to enjoy the best food at an affordable cost, while residents of other states were forced to consume food and water of poor quality (Molle 196). It is to be expected that these kinds of issues have caused intercultural and interethnic conflicts, especially given the fact that developed countries often use the resources of poor regions on favorable terms (Schenimann). Although such social injustice has historical justification, in a modern civil society that recognizes the absolute inviolability and supremacy of human life, such a division seems inappropriate and anti-human.

Moreover, the differences in the interpretation of the term have not only spatial but also temporal significance. In particular, food security has been interpreted in alternative ways throughout different eras and even decades (Bricas and Conaré 6; Logan et al. 419). This has included such issues as the recognition of one social class or group as superior to others and thus having greater rights to access better and more nutritious raw materials. At the same time, it is absolutely clear that such differences were related to the general degree of development of the global and local socio-economic agenda since, before the widespread of civil society, monarchical and despotic forms of state regime were relevant. Thus, summarizing the topics discussed above, it should be emphasized the relevance of predicting scenarios in which, over time, in developing communities, there will come a formal recognition of the need for full state regulation of food security issues.

As a consequence, it can be postulated that various states have at various times come — or will come — to recognize the absolute importance of adhering to high-quality food standards. A discussion of the critical reasons for this policy takes place in the following paragraphs, but for the present moment, it should be clearly articulated an approach common in the academic literature that highlights three significant phases of world social philosophy. First of all, it should be said that at the heart of any view of food security has traditionally been the recognition of the basic need of the individual to eat. This view was perfectly articulated by the twentieth-century American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who recognized the need for food as a fundamental physiological need that forms the base of the famous pyramid (Adamov et al. 409). Thus, while recognition of the need for food has remained constant throughout history, its availability to different social and quality needs has evolved over time.

Thus, the first of the stages of philosophical recognition of the idea of food security is characterized by portraying the public policy system, as well as its derivative functions, as the source of its fulfillment. To put it another way, the core of this philosophy was that the government was to implement policies on its own with available resources by providing the population with the means necessary for subsistence regardless of the action of external forces. From this perspective, it is clear that the quality of nutrition, the level of accessibility, and social equity in the division of food are indicators of the economic maturity of a society. Thus, the more developed and stable a region is, the more likely it is that each individual has equal access to affordable and quality food at any given time.

However, with the launch of globalization processes and the increasingly apparent cultural unification, it became clear that states could not ensure complete independence from the outside world. Thus, the influence of outside forces was inevitable, but the management of these external factors became vital in the discussion of the maturity of social systems. In the second phase, the biological basis of the need for nourishment was modified by the addition of economic forces in which foreign trade relations took precedence. Thus, this phase of social recognition of the problem of food security should be seen as the initiation of the formation of a world political system that exercised effective communication between states for the most beneficial and beneficial economic relationships. Consequently, the needs of populations for quality and affordable food were no longer seen as the concerns of individual regions but were characteristic of the international community as a whole.

In turn, this led to the formalization of a third phase: the development of what is known as world food security. In fact, the transitional processes of political and socio-economic development in countries have caused severe crises in some areas of distressed and developed countries. However, with globalization already in motion, the crisis phases of individual states could not remain only the problems of local governments and therefore went beyond national interests. As a result, problems in some countries resonated throughout the geopolitical arena, and therefore the world community took an active interest in solutions to the issues of global hunger. It was during this period that the problem of food security began to be viewed through the prism of two criteria at once, namely quality and availability. Thus, between the biological and economic rationale for the basic need for food, a balance emerged, the achievement of which became a task for the whole world.

Much of the catalyst for the third phase was the global food crisis that took place in 2007-2008. The official reason for the crisis states in the world market was the drought, which was relevant for grain-growing countries in late 2006 (Murphy and Smaller). As a result, yields in such countries declined rapidly, which in turn led to an increased demand for food. In addition, this time was characterized by an increase in the cost of petroleum products, which is known to be a fundamental determinant of the modern foreign exchange market (Murphy and Smaller). The increase in the price per barrel of oil, in turn, affected the cost of transporting food and producing chemical fertilizers. Some researchers also mention alternative causes of the food crisis, among which the intensified use of biofuels (and the resulting displacement of oil from the market) and the growth of the middle class in Asian countries, whose cheap labor has traditionally been used by rich regions (Herwartz and Saucedo 388) are most often cited. As a result of this combination of factors, by 2007, the price of grain was extremely high, and governments could not afford to purchase sufficient quantities. During the crisis, countries were particularly affected by supply instability and heavy reliance on global optimization, which led to unrest and social discontent in a number of regions.

To summarize this section of the literature review, it is necessary to emphasize the absolute inviolability of food security as an individual’s right to quality and affordable food for all citizens. Although there have been spatial and temporal differences in interpretations of this problem, over time, almost the entire world has come to recognize this need as fundamental. Now that all participants in the geopolitical arena have realized the critical importance of implementing food security strategies, the vector of interest has shifted to the implementation of concrete measures that can be used. As a result, there is a tacit competition among states on the criteria of the efficiency of social and economic systems in order to provide healthy and quality food in sufficient quantity for all citizens.

The Attractiveness of the UAE in the Socio-Economic Context

Discussion of specific national policies and programs relevant to the UAE should be preceded by a brief introduction to the significance of the region for international economic and social relations. First of all, it should be pointed out that the UAE is a federal state consisting of seven emirates, each of which is a microstate with an absolute monarchy (The UAE Government, “The Political System”). At the head of the Emirate is the President, who is also the Emir of the largest Emirate called Abu Dhabi. In fact, such a unique administrative structure of the UAE has an extremely important economic significance: each of the subordinate emirates has the right to virtually freely dispose of its own hydrocarbon and other natural resources (ITA). As a consequence, together with this delegation of management, each of the emirates receives an essentially unique share in the general political course of the entire UAE.

At the same time, the region has an essential global significance for the entire geopolitical arena, being a key supplier of petroleum products and tourist facilities. According to official statistics, the UAE manages more than 5.9% of the world’s oil, ranking seventh among the major players in the industry (United Arab Emirates Oil). This factor gives no reason to doubt the UAE’s attractiveness to private and state investors from all over the world. Nevertheless, it is erroneous to consider the UAE’s overall success as a result of the oil industry alone, as the tourism industry (The UAE Government, “Travel and Tourism”) accounts for a significant part (about 5.2% to be precise) of the country’s GDP. More specifically, in the six months since the beginning of 2019, according to official figures, the number of foreign visitors to the UAE was 8.36 million (Sandhya). The bulk of the tourist flow was represented by residents of Saudi Arabia, India, and Britain. On the other hand, according to the World Bank, more than 21 million tourists visited the country by 2019, and as seen in Figure 1, this number has only had a positive growth trend in the last few years (WTO). This leads to the idea of the overall popularity of the region, both from a tourist and investment point of view.

Dynamics of visits to the UAE by foreign tourists from 2014 to 2019 (WTO)
Figure 1. Dynamics of visits to the UAE by foreign tourists from 2014 to 2019 (WTO).

As a result of its general attractiveness, the UAE is becoming a center of attraction for foreign labor. In fact, the statistics are surprising: more than 90% of the region’s permanent population are foreigners hired under labor contracts (ILO). Looking at this trend from the perspective of a research question, it is appropriate to emphasize the critical need of the UAE authorities to ensure incredibly high standards of food security. In particular, the marked urbanization and territorial expansion of the UAE are becoming a stressor for the agricultural sector, which does not have unlimited resource options (Ajaj et al. 425). Therefore, the continuing increase in the local population may eventually cause food shortages and, as a consequence, a food crisis. In other words, if there is mismanagement or government error, the possibility of another socio-economic crisis increases, which is unacceptable for such an important actor in the outside world.

The UAE’s Current Food Security Policy

Since there is no reason to doubt the critical importance of the UAE to the modern world, it is worth summarizing the general policy course followed by the government of the region. It is safe to say that the UAE is already in the third phase of philosophical acceptance of the idea of food security as a developed country with a progressive economic system. Thus, the UAE is characterized by the development of national projects and programs aimed at maintaining the idea of food security. The whole set of such programs should be differentiated by the source of influence: it includes both local, strictly national projects and global strategies, the agenda of which is also relevant for the Emirates.

Of primary importance is the discussion of state programs that were developed by local authorities to address urgent issues of food security. However, it is worth noting that alignment with the Arab agenda does not mean that the UAE’s experience cannot be replicated by other countries in the international community. On the contrary, the national programs and strategies discussed below can be adapted to the food climate of individual regions so as to be more effective. When discussing such standards and reading the relevant sources, it becomes apparent that the most popular is the so-called National Food Security Strategy 2051, launched back in 2017-2018. The initiative to create such a state-level program belongs to a UAE minister of food and water security named Maryam al-Muhairi (Dhal). The existence of such a department of public administration, reflecting the high socio-economic maturity of Arab society, is remarkable. Therefore, this strategy aims to achieve the following results within 33 years of its official publication, as shown in Figure 2.

The UAE Government
Figure 2. The UAE Government, “National Food Security Strategy” leaflet of the National Strategy 2051 objectives with crucial results and steps to achieve them (excerpt).

First of all, the country’s leadership plans to reach the top position in the world food security ranking by 2051 and, by 2021, to enter the top ten countries in the world. The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) is used to assess this parameter, summarizing such indicators as affordability, accessibility, quality and safety of food, and elasticity of use of natural resources (Singh 22). Notably, by 2018 the UAE was firmly in 21st place, but by 2021 its position had dropped to 42nd (GFSI). Figure 3 shows the general dynamics of the average score determining the region’s position in the international ranking: it is noticeable that this is a very dynamic indicator, directly dependent on external and internal political forces. Thus, it is easy to see that the first goal of the National Strategy 2051 has not been achieved in terms of intermediate results.

Evolution of the average score of the UAE in the ranking of countries on the level of food security (GFSI)
Figure 3. Evolution of the average score of the UAE in the ranking of countries on the level of food security (GFSI).

Conditionally, the second objective of National Strategy 2051 can be called the development of the production base, widely applying the latest technologies. In more detail, this includes improving the mechanisms of the agricultural industry producing meat, fish, vegetable, and dairy products (The UAE Government, “National Food Security Strategy”). Admittedly, this goal seems very abstract and immeasurable, and therefore it may not be easy to assess its effectiveness accurately. On the other hand, an indirect examination of the UAE government’s progress toward this outcome may provide some insight into overall performance. For example, the annual increase in the representation of foreign labor, as well as the UAE’s participation in international food fairs and conferences, may indirectly indicate the gradual realization of this goal (ILO; Cherian et al. 45). On the other hand, the technological achievements of the Arab world in recent years may also show how far the UAE has progressed towards the completion of the second goal. In particular, it should be referred to the most impressive product of local scientific and technological progress, namely the launch of the largest food technology center — the so-called Food Technology Valley — initiated by Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed in May 2021, as shown in Figure 4 (Maxwell). According to Sheik, the goal of this Valley is to triple food production in the UAE. The launch of such a project aims to develop vertical farming in the UAE, as well as to stimulate agricultural research projects to achieve cutting-edge results. Part of the construction of such a center, as well as the UAE’s participation in international cooperation, confirms another of the goals of National Strategy 2051, namely the development of relations with foreign partners in order to diversify foreign supplies.

Image of the state-of-the-art food technology science and technology center built in Dubai (Maxwell)
Figure 4. Image of the state-of-the-art food technology science and technology center built in Dubai (Maxwell).

Another of the goals of the National Strategy deserves discussion, namely the development and use of administrative methods in order to increase access to quality food. Although the development of such measures is no longer in doubt, attention should be paid to raising public awareness of food security issues (The UAE Government, “National Food Security Strategy”). More specifically, in 2017, Dubai hosted the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which aimed to promote healthy lifestyles among the population, including in the context of conscious food consumption (Fadhil et al. 6). In turn, such an event was just one example of the many city and state actions aimed at qualitatively changing the mindset of Emirati residents so that they start to think about the production of the food they consume and the resource consumption of such businesses. This becomes evidence of the UAE’s profound work on public consciousness, which indirectly confirms the goals of the National Strategy.

It is noteworthy that the strategic paradigm created more than three years ago has the ability to evolve and adapt to the changing environment. For example, the apparent lag in progress by 2021 was corrected by the creation of the Food Security Council, headed by the already mentioned Maryam al-Muhairi (Takshe et al. 346; WAM). The task of this Council is to monitor the consistency between the current agenda of the Emirates and the expectations set out in the National Strategy. In doing so, the formation of such a Council based on five ministries and local municipalities solves quite a genuine issue of jobs, as it creates at once 16,000 new vacancies (The UAE Government, “National Food Security Strategy”). In addition, such a government body is designed to increase agricultural food production by more than 100,000 tons, which also covers the goals of National Strategy 2051.

Cooperation with International Agencies and Adherence to Global Standards

In its food security policy is not a closed system, but on the contrary, it actively adopts the experience of commonwealth countries and strives to follow the standards of the international agenda. As it is known, one of the most popular and recognized organizations is the World Food Programme (WFP), which provides assistance to the poor in developing countries through the fight against hunger and poverty (O’Connor et al. 3). The global recognition of the humanitarian organization is not coincidental: WFP is the current food aid arm of the United Nations with a history of more than sixty years (O’Connor et al. 7). Key WFP activities include the provision of humanitarian aid, therapeutic foods, school feeding and home feeding for the poor, and support in emergencies and crises. In its quest to provide adequate food to the entire world, WFP receives permanent support from the UAE, one of the organization’s key donors. For example, according to the UAE Ministry of FAIC, for 2019-2020, the Arab emirate authorities have donated more than $650 million to the fund to support their activities. On the other hand, the UAE is home to one of WFP’s key logistics centers, so there is every reason to view the two sides’ relationship as mutually beneficial and partnering.

This partnership is also evident in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly affected all of humanity. In the midst of a significant health crisis, all spheres of life have undergone significant transformations, and previously established economic links and supply chains have been threatened (Dwivedi et al. 2). As a result, the least prepared regions experienced severe socio-economic and food crises. WFP did not stand by and provided support to such communities, including through the UAE. More specifically, in early 2020, the UAE handed over to WFP at least three government aircrafts to transport humanitarian aid to regions in need (WFP). Acts such as these clearly define the Arab government as a conscious and responsible authority aimed at addressing food security issues not only locally but also beyond the region.

Another crucial global concept closely associated in the UAE is the water, energy, and food security nexus, or WEF for short. In fact, the concept of WEF characterizes the close relationship between water, energy, and food security, indicating the mutual influence between these factors (Zhang and Velimir 1). The fundamental philosophy of this concept is that increased population unambiguously causes an increased demand for food, fresh and potable water, and sources of cheap energy: as a result, if world governments do not work correctly, overpopulation will lead to severe discrimination against developing nations. Thus, the protection of these three forces is a priority for the environmental, economic, and social policies of states.

The government of the Arab Emirates understands the importance of a balanced harmony of the directions described and is therefore implementing a series of strategic steps aimed at achieving this well-being. To be more precise, one manifestation of national strategies has been the implementation of a three-week course in collaboration with WEF highlighting the key problems of the Arab region and potential solutions (FWS). At the same time, a 2017 Arab-Dutch collaboration that launched a joint study of current threats to food security for the population (RVO 3) was part of the implementation of WEF goals. In addition, both countries participated in EXPO 2020 in Dubai, which aimed to advocate for the need to develop and strengthen national strategies for governments and the need to lead informed nutrition for residents (RVO 30). At the same time, EXPO 2020 aimed to attract more investment in the region from private investors and companies to support the financing of food security policies.

In light of the issues discussed, it is the most global international cooperation of recent decades that has attracted the most interest, namely the mission to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN General Assembly in 2015 developed a pool of 17 key goals to be achieved in whole or in part by all participating countries by 2030 (Pedersen 22). The central idea behind the formation of these goals is to ensure a future in which every individual on the entire planet enjoys equal and guaranteed freedoms and rights. Thus, the second goal of sustainable development is to ensure zero hunger and high standards of food security, in which food quality and availability improve markedly, and the agricultural industry becomes more sustainable. In doing so, each government is personally responsible for implementing its own customized strategies to realize such missions, so it is appropriate to consider the National Strategy 2051 as a kind of continuation of the philosophy of the Sustainable Development Goals

Even before the emergence of the National Strategy and the formation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UAE governments were already aware of the need to support the agricultural sector and ensure food security. For example, in 2013, the Sheikh Zayed Foundation of the former President of the UAE initiated a government program called Ziraai, which aimed to support the agricultural sector and private farmers in the post-crisis period (Banhidarah et al. 2). Several ways of such support were proposed, including educational, marketing, and financial support. For example, the organization provided basic farming and sales training for private farmers, as well as an interest-free loan of up to $280,000 to anyone who was employed in the agricultural industry. Among others, advanced hydroponic water system technology was introduced, in which the plants’ need for soil is reduced, but the quality of the crop is maintained correctly. This scenario was cited to show the decisiveness of measures — although not on a national scale — to support and strengthen competitiveness in the private sector. As a long-term result, this program should have led to increased development of the agricultural industry in the UAE and, as a consequence, high yields and regional prosperity. In addition, the launched Ziraai program also had economic expectations: from the improvement of the agro-industrial agenda, the dependence on imports would be significantly reduced.

As a manifestation of the prognostic awareness of the UAE authorities, it should be also mentioned the activities of ADAFCA, responsible for the development of the agricultural sector in the country, which launched the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Center (ADFSC) in 2009. The initiation of the ADFSC was justified by the need to address six elements of food security policy. They consisted of restructuring the agro-industrial complex to form a more sustainable system, reducing harmful environmental impacts, and ensuring equal working conditions and high competition among private farmers. The other three pillars of the ADFSC were a focus on critical domestic foods, improving the quality of agricultural products, and increasing national productivity as part of an overall strategy to achieve food security. The ADFSC still exists today and has already been able to achieve positive results during the course of its professional activities. In particular, by 2015, ADFSC counted that 16 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the UAE remained in the regions as domestic market products. At the same time, according to the ADFSC’s development vector, these figures were to grow by the following years, and the size of the market for agricultural products was to increase.

Legal Aspects of Food Security in the UAE

The recognition of the critical importance of ensuring high standards of food security is not just theoretical, but on the contrary, the region has a strict legal framework that strictly restricts the production and sale of counterfeit and low-quality products. More specifically, Federal Food Safety Act No. 10 of 2015 legally formalized the fundamental principles of food safety in the region’s jurisdiction. Thus, in the case of an intentional or unintentional violation that has had a negative effect on regional food safety, the Ministry of Economy has the power to impose a fine of up to $27,000 on the producer. At the same time, the federal law imposes a number of additional restrictions on the management of food in the UAE. This mainly concerns a pool of three rules, providing for judicial penalties in the event of an offense.

For instance, the first of the restrictions in Federal Law No. 10 postulates that the importation of food products into the UAE for the first time cannot take place without the approval of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. It seems clear that such a measure is intended to protect the country’s domestic natural resources from the potentially threatening effects of alien species, especially if they are invasive. It is known that invasion are not a positive ecological factor in the short term and have the ability to significantly reduce the biodiversity of local regions (Petruzzella et al. 2). The second restrictive measure is oriented around unreliable products: if a person was found trying to transport and sell alcoholic products or pork (considered non-halal meat), as well as their derivatives, he faces a prison term of one month or a fine of up to 140 thousand dollars (Sheikh Khalifa 10). It is important to note that the sanction does not apply to individual cases in which an individual or organization has received approval from the Ministry. In the implementation of this restriction, the cultural and religious characteristics of the population are more visible since neither alcohol nor pork are desirable products for Muslims. Thus, this ban indirectly affects food security and instead aims to maintain the cultural sovereignty of the region. Finally, the third of the critical prohibitions in Federal Law No. 10 concerns false marketing, namely deliberately misleading consumers about the organoleptic or biochemical characteristics of a food product. This includes instances where unscrupulous sellers rearrange trade labels or independently alter the expiration dates of a product in order to sell it even after the period is over. As a sanction, the UAE jurisdiction imposes a fine of $3,000 to $30,000 for such persons, depending on the severity of the food safety offense (Sheikh Khalifa 10). Thus, this restriction is intended to improve the quality of traded products and maintain high standards of food raw materials. At the same time, through this ban, the government seeks to prevent the development of severe epidemiological conditions in the region and maintain a high level of public health.

The action of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the regulatory authorities is not centralized but has municipal representations in the regions. Thus, for each emirate and for each major city, there is a separate government body for the control and management of food security (The UAE Government, “Zero hunger”). The implementation of safety protection takes place through regular raids, random inspections, and examinations of raw materials, aimed at an independent investigation of the reliability and quality of products sold.

Discussion of Findings

The results of the literature review of scientific sources and government regulations allow us to draw some particular conclusions of interest for this study. The findings of the study are summarized in this section and are really a set of several key points. Their combined critical assessment makes it possible to situate the UAE within food security issues in order to generally determine the effectiveness of local government in achieving high standards of quality and availability of food commodities.

One of the first results was the recognition that society as a whole is unstable and that external factors and forces have a significant impact on government management practices. From this stemmed the first of the philosophies of accepting the idea of food security as part of the overall methodological approach to the study of this model. Thus, it has been shown that the closed borders of the state and the relatively high conservatism, in general, had an instead natural manifestation: the issues of food security became a personal responsibility, with the level of achievement of standards of such security determining the economic maturity and development of communities. It has also been shown that, over time, a second phase occurred in which globalization processes were set in motion but had not yet reached their apex: states thus sought to find better terms of cooperation, and the study of food security was given an economic context. Finally, the third phase became relevant relatively recently with the emergence of the world food security model. In this context, states find themselves as solid partners interested in addressing global hunger and jointly addressing food crises, including the 2007-2008 crisis. Given these three phases, it is appropriate to conclude that the identification and public perception of food security have not been constant but have been dynamic in both time and space.

The review also led to the conclusion that food security is not only a matter of state importance but also involves philosophical aspects of public ethics and social equality. By now, most civil societies — or, more accurately, the cosmopolitan society of Earth — recognize the inviolability of inviolable human rights, and thus activists from around the world seek to create a level playing field for all inhabitants. This is done through humanitarian support for impoverished regions and the provision of quality food for needy social categories. Another conclusion of this review was the recognition of the facts of the high investment and tourist attractiveness of the UAE region. With the help of accurate statistics, it was shown that the UAE is the seventh-largest country in terms of its share of the total turnover of petroleum products. At the same time, the UAE’s rich cultural heritage and high rate of technological development make it extremely attractive to foreign tourists, which is reflected in an annual increase in the number of visiting tourists. As a result of the combination of the two forces, the UAE regions attract a large number of foreign workers, and it has even been shown that more than 90 percent of the local population is not native to the UAE.

It is evident from this that the region under study is permanently under severe pressure on the agro-industrial complex since public and private farming must provide sufficient and safe food to an ever-increasing population. As a result, this becomes a challenge of sorts for the authorities in the Arab Emirates interested in shaping a favorable food security agenda. It was shown that the local government has a high level of awareness and responsibility in dealing with the issues of providing quality raw materials. Among others, the foresight function of the government was discussed: even before the conclusion of the world agreements, the UAE had implemented programs to support the concept of food security, including Ziraai and ADFSC, focused on supporting farming from the economic and educational sides. At the same time, the UAE, as a critical player in the geopolitical arena, cannot stay away from addressing the critical issues of food security. For this reason, the government has an ongoing collaboration with global organizations such as WFD, WEF, and the UN. It has been shown that cooperation with the WFD is highly collaborative in nature, as the UAE actively invests in the development of the fund, and the WFD hosts key logistics facilities in Dubai. At the same time, during the most critical periods of COVID-19, the UAE authorities transferred three state aircrafts to WFD to provide cargo transportation with humanitarian aid to the regions in need. Following the WEF ideology also has practical value: the implementation at the national level of the food security philosophy is carried out both through local laws and regulations, as well as through training courses that raise civic awareness on quality nutrition. In addition, the WEF, the UAE, and the Dutch Embassy have entered into a collaboration to facilitate a joint study of current threats to Arab food security. Finally, the central core of the UAE’s strategic policy philosophy is the concept of the Sustainable Development Goals, developed by the UN General Assembly in 2015. Each of the goals has a mission to address a fundamental human problem: the second of these goals is aimed at eliminating hunger.

The UAE authorities recognize the critical importance of this goal, and therefore, in 2017-2018, the most significant initiative to address food security in the history of the country was developed. The program is called the National Food Security Strategy 2051 and is aimed at improving the quality of life of the local population and achieving the planned strategy for 33 years of implementation. The review showed that not all of the interim steps had been achieved, and the progress of some of the strategies cannot be measured at all. Although a Food Security Council was created in 2021 based on five ministries and municipal agencies in the UAE, aimed at adjusting the National Strategy 2051, it is still too early to speak of meaningful results. Finally, the legal establishment of the food security philosophy is relevant to the Arab world. The UAE has had Federal Law No. 10 since 2015, which imposes restrictive sanctions for food quality violations and deliberate misleading of the consumer.

However, the UAE government has already been able to reach certain heights: this is especially noticeable in the context of technological progress. It is known that the scientific model of knowledge is most often the natural engine of social development, and therefore the authorities of the Arab Emirates are actively investing in research projects aimed at solving the problems of food security. As some of the successful implementations includes the construction of the Valley of Food Technology on the basis of the Dubai Emirate, as well as the improvement of private farm hydroponic water supply systems to solve the problem of the lack of fertile soil. These technology vectors are expected to largely catalyze an accelerated solution to food security issues relevant to the UAE’s agenda.


In a critical reflection on food security, it is essential to emphasize the need to follow two key criteria, namely availability and quality. In reality, there is more than an abstract concept behind these terms. Instead, affordability and quality define the central core of the third phase of public perception of food security, in which a balance has been outlined between the economic and biological contexts of recognition of basic food needs. This research paper is a comprehensive and relevant contribution that summarizes the overall results of a theoretical review of academic and governmental sources. Key findings throughout the study include recognition of the overall effectiveness of UAE government strategies in responding to food security challenges, as well as the close relationship between local authorities and global organizations and missions. However, it is fair to acknowledge that while the Arab authorities aim to create an enabling agenda in which every resident or visitor to the emirates has an equal opportunity to access quality food, some recommendations and observations on government measures are warranted.

The following section has a significant practical value, as it presents a set of recommendations developed for local government to improve the overall effectiveness in addressing food security issues and thereby increase public confidence in the authorities. The recommendations were created taking into account the climatic and cultural specificities of the region.

  1. The literature review concluded that the availability of general data on food security issues is technically difficult. Thus, a relevant recommendation for the government is to use the data more transparently and publish it on a single digital platform for easy access.
  2. While this is a goal of National Strategy 2051, no meaningful government activities have been found dedicated to advocating for reducing the inefficient use of food resources. The UAE government should implement a more explicit strategy to achieve adequate resource use. This can be accomplished through a system of preferential programs for companies that have reached certain heights in recycling and utilization of raw materials or the formation of a national sector regulating the work of meaningless waste products.
  3. Academic education of residents is also of high practical value. Although the UAE government has shown interest in educational activities, they must be systematic and creative. It is suggested that a specific strategy for resident education projects should be developed, even with adjustments for pandemic conditions.
  4. Technological progress is a crucial vector of development for the UAE, so it is necessary to support the introduction of advanced technologies in agricultural practices. This can be implemented through a program of training farmers in new technologies.
  5. Finally, the UAE government should have a contingency plan in case severe natural disasters destroy crops or livestock. Since the geographical location of the region is vulnerable and fertile soils are generally not common in the desert lands of the UAE, the use of GM technology would be an excellent alternative. By the current moment, there is no adequate policy on GMOs, although the whole world scientific community recognizes their biosafety (Shrivastava 44). Thus, the UAE must start investing in its own GM technology as soon as possible as an alternative plan for food supply.

As a general conclusion of the whole research work, it is necessary to emphasize the correspondence of the results between the objective and the intended objectives. The objective of studying food security policies in the UAE regions was fully achieved. In doing so, each of the three objectives of the study, including the identification of the need for food security, the study of policies, and the creation of a set of recommendations, have also been addressed. As a consequence, the current work is a complete and comprehensive paper that has consistently addressed all of the questions posed. Furthermore, it should be understood that the degree of development of food security issues is an individual achievement of each government. For this reason, the results described for the UAE will not be common to other states and regions due to different management strategies, climatic and geographic conditions, and degree of economic maturity.

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Appendix A

Full copy of the results and expectations flyer for National Strategy 2051 (The UAE Government, "National Food Security Strategy")
Full copy of the results and expectations flyer for National Strategy 2051 (The UAE Government, “National Food Security Strategy”)

Appendix B

Copy of Federal Law No. 10 of 2015 (first page, English translation) (Sheikh Khalifa 1)
Copy of Federal Law No. 10 of 2015 (first page, English translation) (Sheikh Khalifa 1)

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