Moving forward to brighter future - GulfToday

Moving forward to brighter future

Visitors at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim, Gulf Today

Visitors at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim, Gulf Today

From investment deals to climate goals, cross-border collaboration to multi-national festivals, the first three months of Expo 2020 Dubai have seen a plethora of link-ups between countries, organisations, and artists, showing that exhibition is truly exemplifying its theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.

In early October, Uganda signed business deals worth $650 million while in the first two weeks of Expo, Malaysia generated more than $1.7 billion in agreements. In October, the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo announced $1.1 billion of new investment deals with the UAE and San Marino and Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tourism.

The UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in early December proved to be a boon for deals. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Expo 2020 Dubai on 3rd December, meeting Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, thereafter signing a series of agreements to benefit both France and the UAE, while Maharashtra Week resulted in $2 billion of investment deals for the Indian state.

Expo’s Programme for People and Planet is convening global stakeholders to contribute expertise, content, and best practices to encourage international cooperation on the world’s most pressing challenges. It has already hosted five Theme Weeks and sparked a raft of agreements and action-led pledges.

Nadia Verjee, Chief of Staff, and Chief of Programme for People and Planet, Expo 2020 Dubai, said, “It has always been Expo’s purpose to connect minds to create a brighter future - a goal based on the belief that innovative solutions and progress are the result of people and ideas coming together in inspiring new ways.

“Expo has brought together change-makers from around the world - individuals and organisations who are working together to drive positive impact. We are thrilled to see so many tangible agreements so far, and look forward to many more collaborations, deals and alliances in the next three months.” At Climate & Biodiversity Week from 3rd-9th October, the UAE announced its Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative, which will see more than $163 billion being invested in clean and renewable energy to meet the country’s mid-century target.

Staying with this theme, on Nov.22nd, the governments of Jordan, Israel and the UAE signed a landmark declaration, committing to building renewable electricity and water desalination capacity in the region to address the challenges posed by climate change and water scarcity.

Witnessing the signing, John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, praised the deal, describing it as “a welcome example of how cooperation can accelerate the energy transition and build greater resilience to the impacts of climate change.” At Space Week, from 17th-23rd October, the UAE Space Agency said it would work with strategic partners to develop programmes permitting private sector investment in space.

On Oct.20, the Agency signed an MoU with its Israel counterpart that could see the flags of both countries planted on the moon by 2024, and provide a framework for a mutually beneficial strategic partnership to strengthen efforts to gather and analyse scientific space data.

In addition, on 19th October, Curtin University and the UAE University revealed joint plans to develop the region’s first radio array observatory in Al Ain, through a strategic research-and-development collaboration between Australia and the UAE.

During Urban & Rural Development Week, from Oct.31 - Nov.6, the UN unveiled the Last Mile Delivery Roadmap - a blueprint for an inclusive, localised approach to make informal settlements safe and sustainable.

In November, during Expo’s Tolerance & Inclusivity Week, the Te Aratini, a Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas was hosted, the first at a World Expo.

The three-day event saw Aotearoa New Zealand collaborate with the UAE, Australia, Canada, the United States, Malaysia, Paraguay and Panama to ignite new connections and forge partnerships to address the issues facing our world today.

Expo 2020 Dubai also saw the opening of the Joint World Summit of Religions at the Italy Pavilion, which brought together scholars, clerics and intellectuals to promote dialogue between different religions.

Expo’s most recent Theme Week - focusing on Knowledge & Learning and running from Dec.12-18 - saw a number of education agreements. Financing for education in 37 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, worth half a billion dollars, was agreed at the RewirEd Summit hosted by Dubai Cares on 14th December. Called the Smart Education Financing Initiative, the programme aims to assist 28 million children who are not in school.

On Dec.12, Accenture, Expo’s Digital Services Partner - along with Dubai Cares, Microsoft and UNICEF - announced the launch of a global, digital learning platform for young people aged 15-24 across the world with free, certified education and skills training.

Expo 2020 Dubai has also witnessed an array of artistic and cultural collaborations, from a cross-continent art exhibition between Malta and the UAE; a fashion week, organised by the Mexico Pavilion that showcased designs from around the world on runways in the pavilions of Israel, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA; and a Portuguese language festival that united performers from Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, S?o Tomé and Pr?ncipe and Timor-Leste.

One of the biggest announcements was the collaboration between world-renowned filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and Academy and Grammy award-winning musical composer AR Rahman, to create “Why?” The Musical, which will premiere at Al Wasl Plaza in January 2022.

The most inclusive and diverse World Expo ever, Expo 2020 Dubai runs for six months, with more fruitful collaborations expected before the event ends on March 31 2022.

Visits to Expo 2020 Dubai continue to climb substantially, increasing to 8,067,012 in the period up to Dec.27 as the most significant global gathering of 2021 continues to welcome visitors safely and responsibly.

Expo’s stringent COVID-19 safety measures are designed to protect everyone on site, and include mandatory mask-wearing – indoors and outdoors – for visitors, as well as all staff and participants. Venues may also close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitisation in response to positive cases detected by extensive workforce testing protocols, as well as for maintenance, private events and staff shortages.

During the past week, Expo 2020 celebrated Christmas with a series of special events, with thousands of visitors safely enjoying the festivities, with many taking advantage of the Dhs95 festive pass valid until the end of December.

Visitors and performers have shown collective responsibility in the face of heightened health concerns. Academy and Grammy award-winning composer AR Rahman, during a special concert on Dec.22, thanked audiences for being responsible and encouraged everyone to wear masks – a message echoed on Christmas Day by award-winning actor and singer Lea Salonga and internationally acclaimed singer and pianist Joe Stilgoe.

On Dec.24, The Holy See held a prayer service for humanity, award-winning Lebanese singer Tania Kassis and the Festival Chorus performed a special carol service, while the UK’s most successful gospel choir group, the London Community Gospel Choir and American soul artist Naia Izumi delighted audiences.

The next days promise another host of events to dazzle, entertain and educate, with a special focus on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Helping visitors ring in 2022 will be two of the world’s biggest DJs – Dimitri Vegas, who will perform at Jubilee Park from 2330 GST, and Armin Van Buuren, the ultra-famous producer of electronic music, who will be in action from 0130 GST.

New Year’s Eve will also see numerous Arab, Filipino and Indian DJs performing sets, and there will be a midnight ‘ball drop’ moment at Al Wasl Plaza, as well as two separate fireworks displays at midnight and 0300 GST.

Dubai Metro will run continuously throughout New Year’s Eve, ensuring every visitor to Expo 2020 can enjoy the world-class experiences on offer and get home safely.

Expo 2020’s virtual visitation rose to 37 million up to Dec.27, with more than three million children around the world enjoying the Virtual School Animation Series – now available in six languages – in the last 20 days alone.

The health, safety and wellbeing of everyone continue to be of the highest priority and organisers remain committed to working with participants to welcome visitors to a safe and exceptional Expo.

Expo 2020 Dubai runs until 31 March 2022, inviting the world to join a global celebration that will help to shape a better, brighter future for everyone.

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