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Policy Majlis Series Launches with Urban Development Lab in Ras Al Khaimah

Al Qasimi Foundation
December 22, 2013

An array of Ras Al Khaimah’s leaders and policymakers assembled at the Al Qasimi Foundation offices this October for the first in the Foundation’s new Policy Majlis series. The Policy Majlis series is dedicated to the dissemination of original research conducted in Ras Al Khaimah to policymakers and community stakeholders. 

Each Policy Majlis takes place in an interactive forum that is designed to increase the knowledge base and other resources available to policy makers in order to promote evidence-based decision-making. 

From a broader perspective, the Policy Majlis series is a logical extension of the Al Qasimi Foundation’s mission to make significant contributions to the cultural, social, and economic development of its community. 

At the inaugural Policy Majlis event, the Al Qasimi Foundation partnered with ICOS, a Dubai-based research group, to discuss the results of their project, an Urban Development Lab. The goal was to acquaint Ras Al Khaimah’s constituents with the emirate’s changing urban landscape. 

Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director of the Al Qasimi Foundation, comments, “We are very pleased to be able to launch the Policy Majlis series. Core to our mission is making research available to members of the public and to policy makers in as many mediums as possible. 

“I am also happy that the first Policy Majlis was on urban development, as this is a new and valuable addition to our research outputs. The team from ICOS did an outstanding job in mapping the urban environment and examining the aspirations of various community members in terms of the characteristics of the city in which they would like to live in the future.”

In particular, the ICOS Urban Development project is highly relevant to Ras Al Khaimah, as the emirate anticipates further growth and has the chance to improve strategically its urban environment and infrastructure through evidence-based decision-making. 

With this in mind, ICOS conducted a study identifying residents’ perceptions of and aspirations for Ras Al Khaimah. The idea behind the study is that policy makers can better promote urban growth that addresses the needs of their community by first becoming familiar with those needs through fresh research. 

Mr. Emmanuel Reinert, a leader at ICOS, summarized the study’s findings, saying “People living in Ras Al Khaimah desire to see their city grow into a more economically diverse and culturally appreciated place, one with neighborhoods that are conducive to both work and family life.”

Known as the rising emirate, Ras Al Khaimah is commonly considered to be a restful, family-friendly town. Ras Al Khaimah resident Mr. Sascha Baer articulates a popular sentiment when he describes the city, saying, “My family and I moved here from Dubai in February. We love the beautiful landscape, the small-town feel, the close-knit community, the cultural flare, and the heritage.” 

More specifically, research showed that residents are interested in developing individual neighborhoods like Al Nakheel and Al Mamoura according to participatory urban designs. 

In response to residents’ feedback, such designs would incorporate certain businesses and public spaces like parks into residential areas in order to contribute to the utility of the urban environment. 
As part of the presentation, Mr. Reinert offered creative ideas for meeting the different needs of the Ras Al Khaimah urban community—like installing shaded sidewalks to make Ras Al Khaimah more walkable and using solar panels to provide shade in parking lots while generating energy for the city.

As Mr. Reinert was presenting the results of the study, participants took advantage of the majlis format to ask questions, offer suggestions, and communicate about the strengths and challenges unique to Ras Al Khaimah’s urban development. 

“What made the Urban Development lab special,” observes Ms. Caitrin Mullan, the Al Qasimi Foundation’s Program Manager for Outreach, “is that the event gave Ras Al Khaimah policymakers access both to new research specific to our city’s landscape and to the wealth of insights and skills held by other Majlis participants, who are their fellow professionals as well as their neighbors.”

A group of city planners, engineers, and business people, comprised of Emirati as well as expatriate participants, attended the Policy Majlis. 

One of these was Eng. Azza Abdulraheem Al Ahmed, the Deputy Director of Ras Al Khaimah’s Project Management Office, who believes that these kinds of dialogues “open your eyes and widen your knowledge.” Therefore she says,  “We always look for such a gathering to evaluate and review current policies.”

Ms. Seda Mansour, a director at the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority, also took part in the Policy Majlis and remarks, “It is very encouraging to see professional initiatives like the Policy Majlis series introduced by the Al Qasimi Foundation. 

“The Urban Development Lab, in particular, highlights the community’s desire to see the uniqueness of Ras Al Khaimah, its natural beauty, and its cultural heritage preserved at the same time that the emirate pursues a committed path toward development and improving the quality of life of all its citizens.”

The Urban Development Lab succeeded notably, as participants forged mutually beneficial connections and have continued to pursue goals related to Ras Al Khaimah’s urban planning during the weeks and months since the formal ICOS presentation concluded. 

In the future, the Foundation plans to hold more Policy Majlis events in connection with research conducted through its Seed Grants.