The UAE’s respected leadership, its local response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Emirates Mars Mission helped the country improve its position to 17th in the world in the Global Soft Power Index.
The country's overall "Soft Power score" improved by 5 per cent, leading it to climb one place globally and rank first in the Middle East in the index, which is a comprehensive research study on based on an opinion poll survey of 770,000 people in 105 countries.
On Thursday, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, celebrated the achievement.
"We want to send a message to everyone that the UAE continues to build bridges with all people, build positive economic and developmental relations with everyone and embrace world cultures because we are not a country in the world, but a world within a country," he said on Twitter.
With an overall Index score of 48.4 out of 100 – measured across a number of pillars – the UAE significantly improved in governance (18th globally), education and science (19th) and people and values (24th). The UAE also ranked ninth in terms of global media interest, up eight places from last year.
The report said the improvement in governance was mainly due to increased political stability, with the general public scoring the country particularly high for its leadership, safety and ethics. The index ranked the UAE seventh in the ‘respected leaders’ category, up seven places from last year.
It also achieved high rankings for ease of doing business (third globally), leading-edge technology (ninth), safe and secure (ninth), and infuential in diplomatic circles.
Role model in Covid-19 response
The UAE's handling of the pandemic saw it included among the top 15 countries in the world, all of which were considered to be role models in crisis management.
Facilitating international aid and the country's mass vaccination drive were widely praised in the index.
The report said nations with strong governance did best in their response to Covid-19, with New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Germany among the top five.
Mission to Mars
Sending the first Arab-made spacecraft to Mars helped the UAE jump five spots in the education and science pillar.
“The UAE can now be counted among the global powers in space engineering with the successful entering into orbit of its Hope mission to Mars on February 9th, 2021; the planet’s media were flooded with images and stories of that very recent success,” said Prof Arthur Petersen, professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the University College London.
“The technological leapfrogging compared with other nations, and the ability to develop local Emirati capability to carry out such a mission have not only contributed to the UAE’s self-understanding as a nation investing in its STI systems but have also led to global admiration,” he said.
Prof Peterson said the Emirates' reputation in the international space community "has obviously grown significantly” and is now seen as a trusted collaborator on future international programmes.
“Local perceptions about the attractiveness of science careers have been noticeably changing, which has prompted the creation of new university degrees,” he said.
Andrew Campbell, managing director, Brand Finance Middle East, said: “The Emirates Mars Mission is a clear example of the nation punching above its weight, entering the race with global heavyweights China and the US, also forming an integral part of the nation’s journey to diversify its economy, and to becoming a new central hub for science and technology.”
The UAE's level of influence climbed to 12th in the world - far higher than the majority of other nations of similar size, and overtaking neighbours Saudi Arabia in this metric this year.
Its recent decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel – the first Gulf Arab state to do so – factored into its increased ranking in influence and familiarity.
The country's many global brands helped spearhead transformation across their respective industries. The report highlighted Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's innovation in sustainability, DP World’s position as a leader in logistics and Emirates as a successful global airline.