Exclusive: Security pioneers of the Middle East


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International Security Journal sits down with H.E. Khalifa Ibrahim Al Saleis, CEO of the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA).

For a number of years now, Dubai has been at the forefront of innovation and technological development. The Emirate is renowned as being one of the safest cities in the world and utilises a range of smart technologies to protect the security and wellbeing of its almost 3 million residents.

Dubai’s place amongst the world’s most advanced cities was recognised when it was invited to host Expo 2020, taking place from October 2021 until March 2022 following a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Expo received more than 400,000 visitors in the first 10 days after its opening with many millions more expected to attend over the coming months. The event provides an ideal platform for Dubai to showcase the many technologies that set it apart from the rest of the world.

From a security perspective, it is not just the use of technology that has made Dubai one of the safest cities in the world. The fantastic work of the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA) has ensured that Dubai benefits from the very best security standards anywhere in the world, with the implementation of its laws and international best practices continuously helping to drive excellence throughout the Dubai security sector.

To find out more, International Security Journal spoke exclusively with H.E. Khalifa Ibrahim Al Saleis, CEO of SIRA to discuss SIRA’s key aims and objectives at the moment as well as some of the main security challenges facing Middle East businesses in the current climate.

Sustainable protection

In 1999, SIRA was started as a department at Dubai Police under the name of Department of Protective Systems (DPS) and in 2016, SIRA was established under a law issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. In addition to that, in 2005 SIRA set the first technical specifications in Arabic concerned with security systems, which were amended in 2008 based on the changes to the security industry and development of the city.

H.E Khalifa Ibrahim Al Saleis is the CEO of SIRA and detailed the agency’s mission: “Our vision is to be pioneers in security, delivering sustainable protection for society and business. SIRA aims to reduce external and internal security risks, while preparing future security landscapes. 

“At the same time, we will develop strategic and institutional plans and programmes for industrial and investment projects. The execution of our mission will be carried out within a leading-edge framework by the government, the framework will be professionally managed and audited. In this way, we will not only reduce current external and internal risks but will prepare the security community to deal with future threats and challenges.”

Al Saleis then went on to describe the five key values that SIRA holds:

Institutional Reputation: Our reputation is built on transparency and reflects confidence between us and our society.

Compliance: We comply with all national, international and best practice standards in providing outstanding security services.

Customer Happiness: Our objective is to make customers happy by providing the highest quality of security services.

Leadership: We look forward to leading in security innovation in the institutional environment, by seeking to identify future risks and challenges and by a process of innovation that will allow us to rise to those issues in a dynamic way.

Sustainability: In modern society, this is no longer an option, but an essential practice if we are to protect our planet, our society and the future of our grandchildren.”

Making progress

SIRA now has more than 60,000 members working within the Dubai security industry, with the agency’s laws and guidelines helping to ensure that standards are continuously kept high. Al Saleis explained: “The SIRA team works with its partners in the Emirate to improve security standards through the implementation of laws, standards and international best practices in security systems as well as security management and guarding services. 

“At the same time, we raise professional standards by a formal system of training and licensing of staff in the private security sector. Our partners in this activity include Dubai Police, Sharjah Police, Dubai Electronic Security Centre, Expo 2020, Emirates Group Security and The Security Institute.”

When asked what SIRA’s biggest achievements were during his time as CEO, Al Saleis was quick to answer: “The protection of the public and improving standards in the private security sector remains central to our work and we have made great progress in this area. 

“As a result, we have seen a distinct reduction in criminal activity in all areas where security systems have been installed and the protective function has been enhanced. This, in turn, has helped us to achieve our goal of making Dubai one of the safest cities in the world.”

Al Saleis continued: “At present, we are designing and enforcing clear and effective measures and procedures for all security service providers, coupled with effective oversight of their activities. This work is designed to ensure that they offer the best-possible security advice and service to their clients. In this way, we mandate exacting standards of quality, efficiency and transparency, in order to ensure that Dubai remains one of the safest cities in the world.”

For businesses across the Middle East and the rest of the world, the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the security function being somewhat diminished. Al Saleis warns of the impact this may have: “The cost of security provision is a business overhead that is always under pressure and, at a time of economic slowdown, the security function is often the first to see reduced budgets. 

“Thus, pressure on the economy can lead to difficulties in funding the growth – or even the continuance – of some security functions. However, given the importance of effective security provision to society and business, this is a situation that must be monitored carefully.”

Sharing knowledge and expertise

One of the main priorities for SIRA in recent times has been the creation of security standards and specifications for Expo 2020. Securing a huge event such as Expo has provided SIRA with a platform to showcase what it does best. The agency has played an active role throughout the build-up, including:

  • Participation in the design of the security systems
  • Training of security guards and managers with an innovative curriculum for Expo and the legalisation of technical support and consultancy for Expo
  • Providing its opinion on the security standards of the systems used in Expo 2020
  • Reviewing and approving building plans
  • Evaluating and approving security systems at Expo 2020

Al Saleis believes that SIRA has significant amounts of security knowledge and expertise which can be shared with the rest of the world. He said: “The Emirate is ahead of many other countries in the way in which it publishes laws and standards that govern the practice of security in the private sector and it bases those laws and standards on professional assessments of current best practice, modern security systems and risk assessment methodologies. 

“It also shares its own innovative practices with similar institutions and non-profit organisations around the world to develop security operations and raise security specifications and is thus able to learn from those organisations by sharing experience and knowledge with them.”

Looking ahead, he is hopeful that SIRA will further enhance its global footprint: “Our aim is that SIRA will develop further as a local agency with global capabilities, energy and influence. Backed by our Government, Dubai society and business have the ability to use their knowledge and creative power to lead the world by example, in security practice.”

The role that H.E. Khalifa Ibrahim Al Saleis and the rest of the team at SIRA have played in improving security in Dubai cannot be overstated. Their knowledge and experience are second to none and there is no doubt that the standards they have implemented have gone a long way to making Dubai one of the safest cities in the world. They are undoubtedly a leading example to follow for other cities and countries around the globe.

For more information, visit: www.sira.gov.ae

This article was originally published in the November 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here

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