An Expo 2020 Dubai chief praised the "indomitable spirit" of the event's international community and vowed the UAE would deliver a world class spectacle next year.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, admitted the Covid-19 pandemic had tested the relationships of countries across the globe.
But she said the first ever hosting of the Expo in the Middle East would be a celebration of collaboration and bring the world together amid challenging circumstances.
Expo 2020 Dubai was set to be held this October before the wide-ranging impact of coronavirus forced it to be postponed until next year.
Senior government officials and heads of companies said lessons would be shared on coping with the health crises and the resultant global economic upheaval.
“We firmly believe we will see huge advances in preventive interventions and medical treatments in coming months,” said Reem Al Hashimy on Thursday, at the end of a four-day International Participants Meeting for the Expo event held online.
“I assure you that the UAE is absolutely ready to deliver a world class event whatever the size of our physical and online audience.
“After all see how far we have come in the few months since Covid-19 became recognised as a global pandemic.
“That is why for now we are sticking with our expectation of 25 million visits because the world will be very different in just a few months let alone the next 13 months we have until event time.”
Organisers are confident of the appetite of visitors to travel and be part of Dubai Expo once the pandemic eases next year.
“Covid 19 has truly tested the strength of relationships between countries and communities near and far,” said Ms Al Hashimy, director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau.
“What I have witnessed personally, within our own Expo community is an indomitable spirit committed to collaboration.”
Expo organisers assured participants of reduced charges including a 15-month cap on electricity connection fees following the one-year postponement to next October.
Participants’ requests to lower telecommunication and event permits were met.
“In light of the postponement you have asked us to review current fees including your utility connection charges. We have coordinated with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to ensure a 15-month cap on your electricity connection fees. This is the latest in a series of concessions and relaxations that we have delivered in order to reduce costs,” Ms Al Hashimy said.
“From telecommunication packages with our partner Etisalat to ... costs related to event permits, we are going above and beyond because we know you have gone above and beyond as well.”
With more than 190 countries participating, pavilion construction is expected to be completed by December.
Countries discussed various scenarios including more virtual offerings.
Paolo Glisenti, commissioner general for Italy at the Expo, said it would be a “historic milestone as a new model for global events.”
He said it would “allow participation in person and remotely with the Expo site and the national pavilions, so that we can welcome visitors and at the same time broadcast in real time to reach millions of people around the globe.”
Countries would also have the chance to showcase plans for recovery.
“As the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to ensure that our plans for recovery aim to create a future with stronger safeguards against pandemics, more climate action, less inequality,” said Maher Nasser, commissioner general of the UN at the Expo 2020.
Lee Yoong Yoong, commissioner general of ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at Expo, said it was only through “collective determination and joint action that we can overcome this crisis successfully.”
Harnessing limited resources would be essential content for country pavilions.
“In the light of Covid-19, securing water, energy and food has become even more challenging,” said Hans Sandee, consul general of Netherlands to Dubai.
“We believe that the challenges of today demand close collaboration between governments, business communities and knowledge institutions to develop sustainable solutions.”
Others said people-to-people links were critical as borders shut down to contain the pandemic.
“More than ever, with lockdown measures highlighting the significance of interaction and intellectual exchange, Expo 2020 Dubai will play a key role as an event that will bring together the global community,” said Dietmar Schmitz, commissioner general of Germany for the Expo.
Justin McGowan, commissioner general of Australia at Expo, said his country’s participation was more relevant than ever.
“The Covid-19 crisis has impacted the way of life in Australia and around the world, affecting communities, businesses, and industries. The crisis has also had a profound impact on the global economy,” he said.
“Expo 2020 presents a unique opportunity for all of us to play a key role in promoting global social and economic recovery, so we can all emerge stronger on the other side.”
Erik Linquier, commissioner general of France at Expo 2020 Dubai said the theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' was key.
“Given the current major health crisis, this theme is no longer a suggestion, but a priority,” he said.
“The goal of a World Expo is to raise awareness and work towards solving the greatest challenges we face today.”
Nations planned to brainstorm and implement concrete solutions.
“As the pandemic continues to present new challenges, the next World Expo is a collaborative global initiative,” said BB Swain, commissioner general of India at Expo 2020 Dubai.
"As we say in India, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means, 'the world is one family'. Expo 2020 is a unique opportunity to bring the global family together."
Fahad bin Abdullah Al Yabis, commissioner general of Saudi Arabia at the expo said the pavilion symbolized the people’s spirit.
“Expo 2020 Dubai offers an exceptional opportunity to tell the world about our hopes, dreams and aspirations,” he said.