On November 24, 2021, Unesco’s 41st General Conference met and unanimously decided to proclaim December 2, 2022 as the first World Futures Day. We applaud this momentous occasion and celebrate Unesco’s focus on futurism, given its critical role in global development.
We hope this day will encourage the global community to look to the future in anticipation of new technologies and innovations that offer positive opportunities for humanity and prepare us for all that is to come. Instead of waiting for change to happen and playing catch up by reacting, we are now more than ever in a position to proactively look down the road, prepare for change and lead into the future with confidence.
The underlying concept of World Futures Day is to encourage governments around the world to plan for the future and raise their future readiness. This is important because our existence depends upon the anticipation of what is to come and our preparation and policymaking responses.
The best way to predict the future is to shape it. If we continue to wait for the future, we wait for the unknown. We would be unprepared and fearful of changes on the brink of the horizon. Instead, we should enhance our capabilities to be more future-ready, make our people ready, reinforce our agility to respond to mega changes and enhance our ability to design and shape the future we want for our current and future generations, as per President Sheikh Mohamed.
Today, every minister and government leader around the world should be a futurist. Governments must actively anticipate economic, social and technological changes, and lead in innovation to safeguard our future. This means having the ability to make decisions for the future. It means identifying and preparing for the most likely future and a variety of potential futures. It means having the foresight to ensure our society is resilient, and that we have the policies and regulations in place to usher in a safe, prosperous and sustainable future. This gives us control, if not over the future itself then at least over how it may affect us.
The day Unesco chose to be World Futures Day also happens to be National Day in the UAE. On this day, we traditionally celebrate our heritage and past, our present achievements and, most importantly, our future. This year, we will have doubled the incentive to celebrate, having been one of the few governments worldwide who, from an early time, dedicated its attention and resources to understanding the future and shaping it to our advantage.
In responding to not just today's issues, but looking ahead and making strategic provisions for what may impact the world tomorrow, the UAE – by all standards – aims to remain ahead of the curve. Being forward-looking has become a key component of our national identity, and pushing the frontiers of technology to prepare our economy and government for the future is central to our daily activities. We are the region’s most competitive economy, home to the Museum of the Future, and are hosts to international forward-looking events like Expo 2020 and Cop28.
We have proven how well our future readiness has paid off many times over, most notably throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The UAE has consistently ranked at the top of Bloomberg’s “Covid Resilience Ranking”; we were ranked first three times, and have not dipped below the top three spots since September 2021.
This was achieved because when the future came, we were ready. Our digital infrastructure was ready, our agile government system was ready and our innovation ecosystem was ready. We were able to ensure minimum disruption through robust digital systems, ranging from government services to educational platforms and even health services. These systems were not built overnight; in fact, we have spent years digitising our sectors as part of our national strategy. We integrated advanced technologies into our society and reaped the benefits when they mattered most. That is what we will continue to do.
We will continue to invest in time, effort, energy and positively disruptive ideas towards a better future for our nation. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, the UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, put it best when he said: “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it. It isn’t something you await, but rather create.” This is the spirit of the UAE, and this is the spirit of the global World Futures Day, both to be celebrated on December 2.