Expo 2020 Dubai: The ‘be there’ moment of our time
Throughout their entire 160-year plus history, World Expos have been catalysts for change, showcasing ground-breaking innovations that still impact the world today and sparking discussions that have changed the course of our future. Expo 2020 Dubai will be no exception.
Indeed, the six-month event – set to opens its doors on 20 October 2020 – will represent an unprecedented opportunity for all members of the international community to come together and exhibit their contributions towards creating a brighter tomorrow.
Under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, Expo 2020 will bring together participants for six months where we can celebrate successes, showcase achievements, share knowledge, inspire ideas and discuss inventive solutions to the challenges that face us all.
In an age of instant connectivity, the need to forge new connections, to create real-life solutions to today’s global challenges, has never been more critical – and this is why Expo 2020 excites me as it does.
When our national leadership took the decision in 2011 to bid to host the Expo in 2020, they were looking ahead to their vision for the UAE; a nation that, since its formation, had taken its natural resources – foremost among them its people, diversity and creativity.
As the UAE approaches its Golden Jubilee, Expo 2020 will shine a light on the tremendous strides we have made in the last 50 years, celebrating our progress and our values – founded on tolerance and respect.
As the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Expo 2020 represents an unprecedented opportunity for the Arab region to promote our culture, heritage and values on a global stage, highlighting our central role in sparking solutions and inspiring innovations from every corner of the earth.
And for the world, Expo will ignite the momentum to tackle the challenges that face us all, looking forward with great optimism to what we can all achieve when we work together.
Hosting 192 countries under one roof, each of which will be represented by its own pavilion in one of our Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability Districts, offers both participants and visitors a globally-aligned platform like no other, and exemplifies one central tenet facing the global community: that the ongoing challenges facing humanity do not respect international boundaries.
In the face of today’s challenges, none of us can afford to stand on the sidelines, and bringing the world together in one place for a sustained six-month period will facilitate collaboration, shift the problem-solution dynamic and spark fresh solutions to globally-shared issues.
If forest fires rage across vast swathes of land, damaging the planet’s ability to produce oxygen, we all must live with the consequences. Should portions of our societies be denied the opportunities they are rightfully entitled to, the ability to grow our global collective self will wane, damaging our promise to future generations from every corner of the earth.
At Expo 2020, we foresee a world with clean water to drink and pure air to breathe, where natural resources are conserved for future generations, where all women are well-educated and empowered, where every child goes to school and none go hungry, and where healthcare is not a luxury.
This is why our 200-plus international participants – be they countries, companies, organisations and educational institutions – form the innovation lifeblood of Expo 2020 Dubai and are crucial to ensuring Expo 2020 is an unbridled success, not only for Dubai and the UAE but for the wider Arab region and global community. I have been privileged to review first-hand many of the innovations set to feature across Expo 2020’s Country Pavilions; ideas and approaches that have the power to redefine how citizens around the world lead their lives. At a time when an ‘us versus them’ mentality has percolated some of our societies, the next World Expo takes on renewed importance in bringing people together.
The knowledge that 192 nations have confirmed their participation at Expo 2020 Dubai is incredibly exciting, because each participant will have the opportunity to showcase the best they have to offer and establish partnerships among each other, fanning innovation and development around the world.
We have an opportunity to forge new paths, certainly around the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – our global plan of action to secure the peace and prosperity of people and our planet.
As the Head of the UAE’s National Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals, I firmly believe we all have a role to play in ensuring we achieve these key targets at a global level. They are our route to achieving a better future for all humanity by 2030. With 10 years to go, Expo 2020 will be a pivotal moment to supercharge the SDGs, bringing them to life for millions of visitors, building on our progress so far and driving us forward in areas where we need to do better.
Often the issues we face do not stem from a lack of relevant solutions. Just look at the Global Best Practice Programme, a feature of all World Expos that spotlights simple, effective, local solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Expo 2020 uncovered more than 1,000 tangible, local solutions from all corners of the planet that are already demonstrating great success at a community level – proof that answers exist.
The 25 projects to be showcased during Expo include an ingenious ‘amphibious housing’ project that mitigates against floods, an enterprise initiative to help traditional mountain-based companies thrive and an urban farming project that champions the grow-your-own food movement.
Expo Live, our global innovation and partnership programme, is already boasting true international power and reach, growing from strength to strength since its inception in 2016. Fulfilling the promise made during the bid phase of Expo 2020, it is our proud pledge to support innovative solutions to our globally-shared challenges – recognising that economic, social and environmental issues are closely intertwined. By creating opportunities for partnerships, innovations and solutions, communities from around the world can benefit directly.
To date, Expo Live has provided funding, guidance and exposure to 120 grantees from 65 countries in every continent of the world. All have been carefully selected for creating tangible benefits through innovations in key sectors including healthcare, energy, agriculture, and education. The programme, which has attracted more than 11,000 applications from 184 countries, recently closed its fifth cycle, continuing to reach, and be felt in, every corner of the earth.
All grantees have been carefully selected for creating tangible benefits through innovations in key sectors including healthcare, energy, agriculture, and education.
Grantees include ‘Labayh’, a Saudi Arabia mobile-based app that provides content and consultation services for those suffering from mental illnesses. Offered in Arabic and factoring in cultural and social traditions, it provides mental health services remotely and offers 24/7 access to professional consultants anywhere, at any time, while completely protecting the user’s identity.
Another grantee is ‘Posadiles’, a Russia-based educational gaming project that combines virtual reality with real life. With every tree planted online in the ‘Plant the Forest’ game, a real tree is planted. Its creator, 29-year-old Marianna Muntianu, was recently awarded the Young Champions of the Earth prize as part of the UN Environment Programme in what was a proud moment for Expo Live and Expo 2020 Dubai as a whole.
It is clear that where solutions exist, it is often a lack of resource or scale that encumbers progress. Expo 2020 is exciting for this very reason, representing a huge opportunity for all stakeholders around the world to work together and share ideas, learning from each other and collaborating to seek new solutions – not just for a few short days, but over a sustained period before, during and after Expo 2020.
We are just 12 months away from the World’s Greatest Show of human brilliance and achievement, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that will bring together artists and academics, culinary geniuses and corporate gurus, technology pace setters and tomorrow’s world leaders.
It is here, once again, that our international participants will come to the fore – their shows, national day celebrations, cultures, achievements and innovations forming the soul of Expo’s immersive entertainment offering to an expected 25 million visits.
We are on the final stretch of what has been an enthralling journey, and are firmly on track to complete all Expo construction by the end of 2019. In May, we hit a key construction milestone with the completion of the Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability Thematic Districts, while September saw a feat of precision engineering with the crowning of Al Wasl dome, the jewel of the Expo 2020 Dubai site.
Al Wasl dome is an architectural marvel that, at 67.5 metres, stands taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and forms the largest 360-degree projection surface in the world. It embodies the inherently international nature of next year’s World Expo. Designed by American architects, made from raw steel sourced in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, shaped into its beautiful flowing curves in Belgium, Germany, and Spain, then moulded into its iconic intricate latticing in Italy – it is an impressive physical representation of what can be achieved when nations work together.
Personally, I have been privileged to work alongside a team of more than 70 nationalities, each one bringing their vision, experience and voice into a bigger whole, as we have worked to transform the Expo site from barren desert into a global hub of innovation, inspiration and optimism that will live on as a brand new city after Expo closes in April 2021.
Known as District 2020, this welcoming, dynamic hub for innovation, collaboration and aspiration will use more than 80 per cent of Expo-built structures and form an anchor for Dubai’s developing knowledge economy, a key pillar of the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda.
In addition, Expo will have a significant long-term effect on growth and employment. It is expected to add AED 122.6 billion to the UAE economy and support 905,200 job-years between 2013 and 2031, contributing 1.5 per cent to the UAE’s GDP during the six months of the event, according to an independent report published by global consultancy EY.
Even before the show opens its doors, the impact on businesses is being felt far and wide, with Expo awarding AED 3.41 billion to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to date. This exemplifies our aim of fostering innovation and supporting the small business sector – a crucial engine of growth.
Expo also presents the UAE with a huge social opportunity to inspire and empower millions of visitors. For example, visitors to the Sustainability Pavilion will experience an emotional journey that addresses the negative environmental impact humankind is having on the planet and encourages them to make changes in their own lives, while the Opportunity Pavilion will emphasise the power of our collective actions to unlock unprecedented possibilities for humanity. Across the board, Expo 2020 will demonstrate that every one of us has the power to make a difference because small actions, when pooled together, can have a huge impact on making the world a better place.
Youth is another crucial element of this legacy, and Expo 2020 will excite young minds through school and university programmes that invite the UAE education community to explore Expo 2020 and its global vision through dedicated thematic journeys. Right now, our Emiratisation strategy is encouraging UAE nationals to play pivotal roles in delivering Expo 2020, equipping young Emiratis with the skills and experience they need to benefit themselves, Expo 2020 and the UAE.
All this, combined with the inclusive and international nature of Expo 2020, highlights the UAE’s capacity to bring the world together, promoting collaboration and cross-pollination of thoughts, cultures and ideas. As the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, it will showcase the great potential of the region and amplify the UAE’s reputation as an inclusive, diverse, tolerant, safe and cooperative nation.
We are not only creating an exceptional venue that befits a spectacular global celebration, but a bedrock that inspires all of us to build a better tomorrow – a truly historic event, not just for Dubai and the UAE as we approach our nation’s Golden Jubilee, but for the world.
This is the ‘be there’ moment of our time. We invite you to join us, and look forward to greeting you with an unforgettable ‘hayyakum’ Emirati welcome.