UN deputy chief praises message of peace and solidarity at Expo 2020 Dubai

Amina Mohammed speaks of ‘journey of discovery’ at world fair

The deputy secretary general of the UN praised Expo's commitment to solidarity, peace and equality following a visit to the Dubai South site on the 76th anniversary of the founding of the world body.

Amina Mohammed said she was hopeful, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, to see a large number of people from all countries at Expo 2020 Dubai.

After a visit to some of the country pavilions, she spoke about how uplifted she was to see a wooden replica of the Knotted Gun statue at the UN headquarters in New York.

“If you know the UN headquarters you will have seen the gun that has a knot at the end which looks to end conflict,” she said.

“I think what was wonderful today was to see that same replica in wood, which really seems to sustain peace and that is what I hope will also come out of this gathering.

“The first in-person gathering of such numbers and such representation – that gives us hope and signifies solidarity, [and] also a yearning for equality in the world.”

The sculpture shows the barrel of a .357 Magnum revolver tied into a knot.

Officially called Non-Violence, the Knotted Gun, an enduring symbol of peace, was created by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward and given to the UN by the government of Luxembourg.

Ms Mohammed said while progress had been made in the years since the formation of the UN, gaps in the development of human rights and dealing with global challenges remained.

“The current challenge we are dealing with is Covid and the pandemic,” she said.

“How we deal with that depends on how comprehensively we respond to health, socio-economic challenges.

"And what we have seen during the day that I have been at Expo is a realisation in real terms how countries have come here and shared bonds of partnership of what they can do to face the challenges we have.”

Complex situation

Responding to a question about Afghanistan, Ms Mohammed said the international community needed to keep the rights of women and girls in focus during negotiations with the Taliban.

August 15 was a dark cloud for many in Afghanistan, and certainly the international community has found it a complex situation to address,” she said.

The UN recently said that some provinces in the north and south of Afghanistan were accepting girls back into secondary schools thanks to mounting international pressure.

As discussions continue with the Taliban, Ms Mohammed said: “We want to make sure they are shaping in defence of women and girls at the centre of Afghanistan’s development and we are hopeful as we continue to work and engage.”

The UN has said that even before the current upheaval, about 18 million people, or half the Afghan population, depended on emergency aid to meet their basic needs.

The need was to prevent an economic collapse and find ways to ensure that services continued to be available to the people of Afghanistan.

“It has opened up an opportunity to engage with the Taliban, to ensure that recognition by the international community doesn’t happen overnight and does not happen with the current values they bring,” she said.

“To really communicate and negotiate that, when you become a member of the international family there are certain norms that we expect to be adhered to.”

Ms Mohammed, also the chairwoman of the UN sustainable development group, said she was on a journey of discovery at Expo.

She was "reinvigorated" to see how the sustainable development goals were implemented by curating themes with more than 190 countries on a daily and weekly basis.

Seeing the number of schoolchildren visiting the world fair was another encouraging sign, along with the technology and innovation that countries put on show.

“It shows in spite of Covid, we are still rising to the occasion, we are still hopeful, we are rising to forming partnerships,” she said.

“People are coming to Expo. The number of students I have seen here means that the future is guaranteed and that there is hope for them to shape their future. I am really very proud of the association we have with the UAE.”

In a book she signed at the Expo leadership pavilion, Ms Mohammed wrote: “Such an inspiration to walk in the present and see a future of promise, solidarity, dignity and hope for our world and all its people.

“We will take away from Expo 2020 visions, ideas, aspirations and continue to build a future where the 17 SDGs become a reality in the lives of all, leaving no one behind!!

“Congratulations to the UAE and deep appreciation for the exemplary leadership of my sister Minister Reem al Hashimy.”

Updated: October 25th 2021, 7:00 PM