SSIIM Paper Series Vol. 11
Urban Citizenship and the Right to the City in cities in the United Arab Emirates
by Kaja Kühl
This paper discusses the spatial and social consequences of development in Abu Dhabi, where migrants outnumber the local population. The cities of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are among the fastest growing cities in the Middle East. Most of this growth is enabled by the work of migrants from South Asia, who constitute a stunning 89% of the population. The paper focuses on concepts of citizenship and identity and illustrates how both are constructed and shaped by urban planning and economic development policies. In addition to field research conducted in 2011, this paper draws from a review of planning and policy documents, and from international reports and literature on human rights and the right to the city. Given the large number of foreigners living under challenging conditions within the borders of the UAE, questions of local identity arise as well as questions of human rights violations. This paper suggests the “Right to the City” concept as a useful framework to address both questions, deliberately plan for the urban inclusion of all citizens and build a robust urban culture.