Country report and updates: United Arab Emirates

Last revision: 05 Apr 1998
05 Apr 1998

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

Conscription has never existed.

The introduction of conscription is not foreseen. However it was announced in 1990 that all university students had to undergo military training if they wished to graduate. Introduced as a reaction to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the authorities decided to regard this requirement as a possible prelude to reservist training. No further details are known. [1]

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven separate emirates that united in 1971-72 to form a single independent country. Before 1971 the United Kingdom was responsible for the defence of these countries. The armed forces, the Union Defence Forces (UDF) are a combination of the separate emirate forces, the Abu Dhabi forces being the most dominant. Separate emirate forces do still exist but are called regional commands of the UDF. Military expenditure constitutes 40 percent of government spending - one of the highest percentages of all countries in the world. [1]


As in the other Persian Gulf States, the armed forces are to a large extent composed of foreign volunteers: at least 30 percent of army rank-and-file are foreigners. [1] [2]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

3 Desertion

No information available.

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 64,500-strong - that is 2.5 percent of the population. [2]


[1] US Library of Congress 1993. Persian Gulf States - a country study. Area Handbooks, State Department, Washington DC. [2] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: United Arab Emirates

19 Jan 2018

For many years, it looked like obligatory military service was on the way out. But in the last five years, the picture has changed: Norway has extended conscription for women; Sweden has reintroduced conscription for all; Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Kuwait have reintroduced conscription for men after short hiatuses; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have introduced conscription for the first time. We look at why governments are turning to compulsion in filling their armies, and what this means for pacifist movements.