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Philip Parham

UK Commonwealth Envoy, former British Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates

Part of UK in UAE

19th April 2018 London, UK

British Ambassador’s speech at the Queen’s Birthday Party in Abu Dhabi

Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen

Welcome! And thank you for joining this celebration.

Your Highness, Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan, Minister for Tolerance, it is a great honour that you are here with us again this year.

And the honour is all the greater because this is your fourth visit to this garden in only a few weeks. You kindly joined us to plant a ghaf tree in honour of the Year of Zayed; you presided at the annual gala dinner for the Future Rehabilitation Centre; you spoke inspiringly at a dinner to promote the Special Olympics; and now you are here again to celebrate the 92nd birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.

Those events encapsulate three of our themes tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Her Majesty, Sheikh Zayed and People of Determination. Our fourth theme is the centenary of the Royal Air Force, whose Salon Orchestra we are lucky enough to have playing for us tonight.

When Her Majesty was born, the RAF was just 8 years old; and one of its early advocates, Winston Churchill – then Chancellor of the Exchequer and still 14 years away from Number 10 – was unwisely lashing sterling to the gold standard.

26 years later, Churchill was Her Majesty’s first Prime Minister; and, in the 66 years since then, she has known 13 further Prime Ministers, 13 US Presidents, 7 Popes and over 26,000 performances of the Mousetrap, which, like her, started its unbroken run in 1952. Her Majesty really has set the gold standard for faithful, wise and dedicated public service.

Her extraordinary role is on global display this week, as Her Majesty convenes, in London and Windsor, the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth – that remarkable voluntary association of – now – 53 countries making up over a quarter of UN membership, a third of humanity and 40% of the world’s youth. Beyond any doubt, the Commonwealth would not be as it is but for Her Majesty.

While The Queen has been served by 14 Prime Ministers, she has known only three Rulers of Abu Dhabi. The first, HH Sheikh Shakbut, attended her Coronation – and was incidentally a faithful frequenter of her birthday parties here for many years.

The second and third, Their Highnesses Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Khalifa, both received Her Majesty here in Abu Dhabi, and were her guests as State Visitors in London. And you can see from the photographs up on the screen, ladies and gentlemen, the warmth of her friendship with them.

Her Majesty would be delighted to know that the garden of her Embassy here is adorned in Sheikh Zayed’s memory by a ghaf tree – the UAE’s national tree – which will stand and grow and spread, and observe gatherings like this, for decades to come. It is a fitting, living monument to someone who is the figurehead of his nation, and who still inspires the conservation of its natural heritage.

Among Sheikh Zayed’s many other legacies is the prosperity and measured development of Abu Dhabi – in which so many British companies have played important roles. None more so than Shell, our joint sponsor this evening – which, before the Netherlands Ambassador intervenes to claim his stake, I should quickly acknowledge is an Anglo-Dutch company.

Shell’s presence in the Emirates dates from 1939 as a shareholder in Petroleum Development Company (Trucial Coast) which signed a 75 year concession to explore for onshore oil – and which later became ADCO, now ADNOC Onshore, and is today responsible for more than half the UAE’s oil and gas output. And Shell’s historic contribution is also evident in technical support and downstream operations. Last year marked five decades of Shell supplying aviation fuel to Dubai. I am confident that Shell will r

emain a key partner of the UAE in the years ahead.

Returning to Sheikh Zayed’s many legacies, ladies and gentlemen: another is inclusion. As HH Sheikh Nahyan said in his speech to the British, Australian, Canadian and US business groups a couple of weeks ago, ‘open markets, open minds’ could be the motto of the UAE, thanks to Sheikh Zayed.

And this spirit of inclusion is now inspiring Abu Dhabi’s hosting of the Special Olympics – the MENA Games last month, and t

he World Games next year. It says a huge amount about Abu Dhabi and its leadership that they are doing this. As the proud father of a Down’s Syndrome daughter, I applaud them for it.

And not just for hosting the Games, but also for all the outreach which they are mounting around the Games in their desire to transform the inclusion of people of intellectual disability, and thereby to transform society as a whole.

As part of that wonderful enterprise, we are delighted to have here with us tonight this unified choir from the Future Rehabilitation Centre and the British School Al Kubairat, supported by the stunning voice of Kyle Tomlinson of Britain’s Got Talent fame, who is an Ambassador for the Special Olympics.

I encourage you all – companies, institutions and individuals – to get involved in these outreach and inclusion efforts; and I particularly urge members of the British community to promote and support the Special Olympics GB team, with its 129 athletes, who will participate in the World Games here next year.

Those special athletes will be yet another strand in the multifaceted relationship between the UK and the UAE – along with the 100,000 plus Brits who live and work here; the 1.5 million Brits who visit the UAE annually; the 365,000 visits from the UAE to the UK every year; the 440 direct flights between the UK and UAE each week; bilateral trade growing at around 12% a year; healthy investment flows in both directions, with the UK being the UAE’s largest source of Foreign Direct Investment; and our Defence Cooperation Accord, with all the collaboration and commitment which that entails – including our Royal Air Force contingent here in the UAE.

I had the honour to be with our RAF colleagues a couple of weeks ago for their centenary celebration – an immensely proud and happy, but also reflective, event marking one hundred years of duty, service, sacrifice and achievement. The iconic symbol of that record is of course the battle in the skies over southern England in August and September 1940, when the RAF changed history by ensuring that Britain could stand alone against fascism.

But our air force has been preserving peace and protecting freedom throughout those hundred years – as we saw again on Saturday when, with our French and American allies, we successfully conducted targeted strikes with the aim of degrading the Syrian Regime’s ability to use chemical weapons, and of deterring the Regime from doing so.

The use of chemical weapons was first internationally prohibited in 1899. And further efforts at prohibition were given added impetus by the appalling experiences of the Great War. It is dreadful that, one hundred years since the Armistice of 1918, chemical weapons are still b

eing used – and that independent international investigation and accountability are being blocked.

On a happier note connected with 1918: that is the year in which the first innovative Bentley aluminium pistons were fitted to Sopwith Camel aero engines. And here this evening, 100 years later, you see on display, ladies and gentlemen, the Bentley brand – a brand which, to its core, represents British heritage and excellence. Nothing could be more suitable for a Queen’s Birthday Party because, to mark Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, Bentley delivered to her the Bentley state limousine, a personal vehicle created specially for that occasion.

Many thanks to Al Habtoor Royal Car – Bentley Emirates for supporting this event. And prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, and your wallets for the opening of their new state of the art Abu Dhabi showroom in the fourth quarter of this year. 

British style and creativity of other kinds were on display during the UK-UAE Year of Creative Collaboration, which reached its conclusion last month. Thanks to the British Council, the year saw over 270 events across all 7 emirates involving over 100 British and Emirati partners and watched or visited by over 230,000 people, building new patterns of partnership for the future.

And I can confidently assure our Emirati friends that the United Kingdom will remain committed to broad, deep, dynamic partnership – partnership in security, partnership in prosperity, humanitarian partnership, and partnership in expanding the boundaries of human knowledge and endeavour.

Emiratis and all people of goodwill will continue to find in us:

  • a reliable ally
  • a trusted partner
  • a creative global leader for the common good
  • open
  • diverse
  • tolerant
  • dynamic
  • outward facing and
  • ready for change and challenge and opportunity

1 comment on “British Ambassador’s speech at the Queen’s Birthday Party in Abu Dhabi

  1. Really amazing speech. Super excited for Queen’s Official Birthday!
    Would share 9th June event as well on this blog?

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About Philip Parham

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.