Bill Clinton advocates for New York University, UAE government

Former US president Bill Clinton says concerns about labourer abuse at New York Univeisty’s Abu Dhabi campus are being appropriately addressed by the university and UAE government authorities

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Former US president Bill Clinton has lauded the efforts undertaken by the Abu Dhabi government to address the concerns raised earlier this month about the working conditions of labourers involved in the construction of the New York University’s (NYU) new campus in the UAE’s capital.

“I wish the coverage this week had been about you,” he said, while delivering the first graduation speech at NYU’s existing campus in Abu Dhabi. Clinton was referring to an earlier report published by the New York Times, which claimed the workers on the site of NYU’s new campus in Saadiyat Island were subjected to harsh living conditions and unfair remuneration practices.

In his speech, Clinton defended both the university and the local government, stating that the organisations pro-actively worked to resolve migrant worker issues before construction work commenced on-site, and even after the New York Times report was published.

“NYU sought to change all that (labour abuse concerns) here, by coming up with a code of conduct strongly supported by its Abu Dhabi partners and by the government of the UAE.

“When this story came out, instead of going into an immediate denial, the university did something which reflects the values you have been taught here,” Clinton told the 140 graduating students. “The university, and the government, promised to look into the charges, to do it quickly, to do it honestly and, most importantly, among all the world’s sceptics, to do it transparently and if the charges were well founded, to take appropriate, remedial action promptly.”

He added that these concerns present “an opportunity to address in concrete, real flesh-and-blood form, one of the representative issues of equality and identity in the 21st century.”

Late in April 2014, NYU Abu Dhabi announced construction completion of its Estidama 2 Pearl rated main campus on Saadiyat Island four years after building work on the project commenced in June 2010.

Construction of the campus was completed under a Statement of Labour Values, which included the standards and expectations for the appropriate treatment of individuals building and staffing NYU Abu Dhabi.

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