'Pioneer' UAE ranked strongest Middle East 'soft power'

New research lauds 'visionary and stable leadership' at time of regional unrest

Expo 2020 was described as "the ultimate extension of Emirati soft power". Courtesy: Expo 2020
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The UAE is the highest ranked “soft power” nation in the Middle East, a new report by consultancy firm Brand Finance says.

Research said some of the UAE’s strengths are its appealing business environment, stable economy and positive brand image.

Its "visionary and stable leadership" and entrepreneurial flair were also praised.

The UAE was described as a “pioneer in the region” that had forged a path ahead at a time when some nearby countries suffered unrest.

Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who helped to launch the report on Tuesday in London, said the UAE was a good example of how a country could “use economic resources to promote sustainable development”.

Reflecting on his visits to the UAE, Mr Ban said: “Each time I have been impressed by what they have achieved, economically and culturally and socially.

“When it comes to soft power, they have also been investing in cultural centres including museums, providing many opportunities for cultural exchanges.

"So it has become a sort of hub for not only economic power but also cultural and political fields."

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, soft power is: "The use of a country's cultural and economic influence to persuade other countries to do something, rather than the use of military power."

"The UAE’s positive brand image, such as its new unified Nation Brand unveiled in December 2019, has allowed the young nation to succeed when other Arab states have faltered," the report said.

"Coupled with its visionary and stable leadership, it is this shift of power in the region has aided the UAE’s efforts to gain influence."

Familiarity with the UAE was found to be highest in the Mena region, and with those with significant expatriate populations in the UAE, such as southern Asia and the Philippines.

“In today’s increasingly interconnected and globalised world, soft power is everywhere, and is primarily manifested by cultural flows and people-to-people exchange,” Mr Ban said.

He gave examples such as the arts, including music, film and television, sports, food, travel and tourism.

The UAE has hosted a range of sporting events, including Formula 1 racing and international football tournaments. In 2017 it opened Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Dubai's Expo 2020, set to start this year, was described in the report as "the ultimate extension of Emirati soft power".

The UAE’s is set to add a new element to its standing with the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission.

The probe, to be launched in 2020, seeks "to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the Red Planet's orbit in 2021".

The research took in the views of about 55,000 people, including experts and the general public, from 100 countries.

It incorporated measures including awareness and familiarity, overall influence, reputation and performance on seven soft power pillars.

They were business and trade, governance, international relations, culture and heritage, media and communication, education and science, and people and values.

Brand Finance calls its survey the “world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of soft power”.

The UAE ranked 18th in the index with most of those interviewed believing it is a positive influence on the world.

"The UAE is a pioneer in the region, has become a real magnet for creative and entrepreneurial talent and has undoubtedly surpassed the traditional powerhouses of Arab culture and education of Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus, which have been blighted by civil unrest, political instability and economic deterioration," the report said.

First in the ranking was the US followed by Germany and the UK, despite Brexit.

"In today’s era of increasing nationalism, uncertainty, unilateralism and transnational challenges, I am of the view that soft power is now more important than ever," Mr Ban said.

"Soft power reinforces and enhances constructive co-operation and partnership, both bilaterally and multilaterally."