20/21 vision: historical partnerships

The past half-century has been defined by historic partnerships that laid the groundwork for a better, brighter 21st century. Vision highlights a selection of standout examples

Politics: United Arab Emirates – a nation is born
The United Arab Emirates, thanks to the foresight and wisdom of its Rulers, has evolved from a disparate group of emirates to a unified nation that is a key player on a global stage. In the mid-1960s, shortly after he became Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan decided to make concrete his belief in the importance of unity in the Gulf region. After Britain’s withdrawal from the Trucial States in 1968, His Highness Sheikh Zayed and His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, agreed to unite the two emirates and share policies. Three years later, on 2 December 1971, the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain jointly signed a draft constitution that formed the United Arab Emirates. Ras al-Khaimah signed up shortly after. Today the UAE is one of the most important economic centres in the Gulf region, with world-class financial and business hubs, a thriving tourist industry and a stable, multicultural society.

The United Arab Emirates has evolved from a disparate group of emirates to a unified nation that is a key player on a global stage

Business: OPEC – delivering oil security
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was formed around the premise of cooperation and has played a key role in ensuring the global flow of oil at times when volumes have been affected, and in maintaining stable pricing structures for both producers and consuming nations. OPEC  was formed at the Baghdad Conference in 1960, bringing together founding members Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Since then, OPEC’s membership has expanded to incorporate Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Libya, Nigeria, the UAE and Qatar. In 1968, OPEC adopted a “Declaratory Statement of Petroleum Policy in Member Countries”, which underpinned the “inalienable right of all countries to exercise permanent sovereignty over their natural resources in the interest of their national development”. That principle has been vital to member states’ development.

Philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – teaming up for the greater good
In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates launched the Giving Pledge to encourage wealthy families to donate at least half of their fortunes to philanthropic causes. As of April 2013, 105 billionaires have signed the pledge, reflecting an estimated US$10bn worth of donations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was set up by Bill Gates in 1994 with a gift of US$94m. Funding grew to US$2bn and, in 2006, the investor Warren Buffett pledged staggered contributions, which doubled the foundation’s financial capability. In its stated aim to relieve poverty and improve health, since its inception the foundation has made grants amounting to US$26.1bn. Polio eradication is a top priority for the foundation, which works alongside organisations including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. By 2000, the virus had been wiped out of the Americas, Europe and most of Asia. Today, the number of global polio cases has been less than 1,000 for the past two years, and complete global eradication of this disease is expected within the next six years.

Technology: Apple Inc – shaping the IT landscape
With a market cap of US$380bn, Apple – the result of a partnership between two fresh-faced computer and electronics virtuosos – is the most valuable technology company in the world. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs first met in 1971 through a mutual friend, Bill Fernandez. Employed by Hewlett Packard, Wozniak was a computer wizard; Jobs had a keen interest in electronics, but his genius lay in marketing. In 1976, Wozniak designed the Apple I computer, from the hardware to the operating system, but it was Jobs who suggested selling the machine. It was an instant success. In December 1980, the company went public at US$22 per share, immediately turning Wozniak, Jobs and several employees into millionaires. The company went on to develop products with unique and attractive design and intuitive interfaces at their core: the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Science: Watson and Crick – partnering for a cure
University of Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson’s discovery of the internal structure of the molecules that form the hereditary information in our genes changed the field of biology for ever. The publication by Crick and Watson of an article in 1953 outlining the twisting, ladder-like ‘double helix’ configuration of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) ranks as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in history. The ability to compare genetic codes has led to a whole industry, to new sciences and disciplines and to a greater understanding of diseases and how to cure them. It is not easy to name one particular aspect of life that is not or will not be affected by that discovery and its consequences. Crick and Watson’s momentous breakthrough was based on the work of another remarkable partnership forged between Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, molecular biologists at King’s College London who used X-ray diffraction to study DNA. Franklin died in 1958, and Crick, Watson and Wilkins went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962.