From climate change to vaccines, work of the UN celebrated in Dubai

More than 30 UN agencies operate in the UAE working on everything from humanitarian aid to protecting the environment

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When the UAE flag was raised at the UN in New York on December 10, 1971, it signified the moment the UAE joined the club of nations.

Now, more than 30 UN agencies operate in the UAE, including the World Health Organisation, the World Food Programme, UN Women, and UN Climate Change in a partnership that spans the environment to humanitarian aid.

This history was celebrated in Dubai on Monday at an event to mark UN Day — the moment the organisation's charter came into force in 1945.

UN Day featured music from the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra, talks from staff members and explained the scale of the UN’s work in the UAE in co-operation with its host country.

As part of the celebrations, the UN emblem will be projected on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Adnoc building in Abu Dhabi.

UN relief agencies use International Humanitarian City in Dubai as a major base. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

The WFP, for example, has its largest global hub at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, and aid leaves there to go to those who need it the most.

During the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 80 per cent of the WHO's Covid-19 medical support was supplied from the UAE.

The UAE also assisted efforts on equal access to vaccines through a partnership with UN Children's Fund (Unicef) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This aimed to provide medical supplies, transportation and the donation of one million vaccine doses.

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“It is a moment we reflect on the UN,” Abdel Mageed Yahia, WFP director for the UAE office, told The National on Monday.

“In the world we are seeing, the purpose of establishing the UN becomes evident every day.”

The UN is also preparing for a crucial period in the fight against climate change.

Egypt plays hosts to the UN climate summit, Cop27, in November, while the UAE will carry the baton for Cop28 at Expo City Dubai in November 2023.

Mr Yahia said the UN was looking forward to both summits, where vital work will be done to try to limit global temperature rises to 1.5ºC, and to keep them “well below” 2.0ºC above pre-industrial levels.

“The whole world is really taking bold steps in addressing climate change,” Mr Yahia said.

“It is affecting lives of millions of people around the world. It is causing hunger and now goes hand-in-hand with conflict as a driver of hunger so efforts like this, we applaud and are encouraged to see.”

Dena Assaf, UN resident co-ordinator for the UAE, told The National in September that people needed to ask themselves if they wanted the human species to become extinct because of climate change.

“People ask: ‘what has it got to do with me? That’s for the government or the UN to address'. But from the UN’s perspective, it is through collective action we make the difference,” she said.

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Updated: October 24, 2022, 1:44 PM