Expo 2020 Dubai a ‘catalyst for hope’ of Covid recovery, UN official says

World’s fair ‘an opportunity for the world to gain sense of normality’

Follow the latest updates on Expo 2020 Dubai here

UN official Dena Assaf has said she hopes the world’s fair will be a “catalyst for hope” for humanity as countries host big events once again.

In an interview with The National, Ms Assaf, the UN’s resident co-ordinator in the UAE, said masks, testing and vaccine requirements would make for a safe spectacle.

Expo 2020 Dubai will be the largest global gathering since the start of the pandemic, with a projected 25 million visitors expected to attend over six months.

All who attend must provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test.

Expo is an opportunity for the world to feel that it’s possible for us to go back to some form of normalcy, some form of fun, some form of gathering,” Ms Assaf said.

“Perhaps it will be more than Expo, a catalyst for hope that allows the world to say: ‘We can now live with Covid, we just need to be careful’.”

UN events at Expo 2020 will begin on Wednesday with a televised talk between Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and director general of Expo 2020, and the UN’s deputy secretary general, Amina Mohammed.

Over the course of six months, the UN will host events highlighting its work in the region and its anti-poverty, climate change and sustainability targets, called the Sustainable Development Goals, at its hub in the “opportunity pavilion”.

Ms Assaf said the oil-rich Gulf region was making gains on raising education levels and other SDG targets, but could focus harder on switching fossil fuels for solar and other renewable energy types to curb rising temperatures.

“The Gulf has an important role to play there,” she said. “It is an area that the UAE is focusing on to elevate their indicators on the SDGs and specifically in the areas related to the environment and renewable energy.”

She described deepening co-operation between the Emirates and the UN on everything from children’s rights to outer space affairs and global aid work through Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, a UN logistics hub.

Expo 2020 Dubai opens its doors to the public on Friday. It will have more than 190 country pavilions and 200 dining venues, and stage up to 60 shows a day, as well as themed exhibitions at the Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability pavilions.

The multi-billion-dollar event was delayed by a year by the pandemic, which also forced other big events, including the Tokyo Olympics and the UN General Assembly, to be scaled back.

Officials point to the full vaccination of four-fifths of the UAE population and the steady influx of arrivals to Dubai since the emirate reopened to tourists in July 2020. More than 2.85 million people visited the emirate in the first six months of this year.

Addressing the UN assembly in New York on Monday, UAE Minister of State Khalifa Al Marar said Expo 2020 was a chance to “connect minds, develop innovative solutions for the most pressing international challenges”.

“We aspire for this international event to help in the next phase of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and support international efforts aimed at instilling hope and optimism among peoples,” Mr Marar said.

Ms Assaf said the Expo site built was large enough to allow visitors to practise social distancing while enjoying the futuristic, carnival-type exhibitions.

“The world is trying its best as we can see, from country to country, to find a way to live with Covid,” she said.

“Expo is an important test. Given the infrastructure they have, the responsibility for masks, vaccines and testing, I think it can work and I actually think it will be a big success.”

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid reviews Expo 2020 site preparations

Updated: September 30th 2021, 10:16 AM
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