The delayed 2020 Dubai Expo, the first to be held in the Middle East, officially opened today. The United Nations will hold events and exhibits at a dedicated “UN Hub”, explaining the Organization’s central role in addressing the world’s problems. Here are some things to look out for during this six-month-long “mega-event”.
1) What are Expos?
Expos, also known as “world’s fairs”, have existed in various forms for more than two centuries, as an opportunity for nations to showcase new technology, products, and ideas.
In the era before mass travel, they were one of the few ways for most people to experience other cultures, and discover the world, and some of the big nineteenth century Expos have had an enduring impact on the countries in which they were held.
The 1851 Great Exhibition in London, for example, which took place in an iconic cast iron and glass building named The Crystal Palace, showcased the fruits of the Industrial Revolution, whilst the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris featured the Eiffel Tower, which some critics dismissed as an ugly construction that deserved to be dismantled by the end of the event.
Since then, it has become progressively easier to travel to different parts of the world, but even in the twentieth century, several Expos still left a lasting mark on their host cities. The landmark Space Needle in the US city of Seattle, raised for the 1962 Expo, for example, or the Atomium in Brussels, constructed for the 1958 edition.
2) What is happening at Dubai Expo?
The Dubai Expo is being promoted as the biggest event held in the Arab world. It was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the organizers to push the launch back to 2021. It is hoped that the Expo will kickstart a recovery of the United Arab Emirates economy, particularly tourism, which is a particularly important sector for the country.
To entice them, a huge 4.3 square kilometre site, containing more than 200 pavilions, has been created in the desert. Visitors are promised cultural experiences, entertainment, and educational exhibits and talks.
Dubai continues the Expo tradition of innovative architecture, with the Al Wasl dome, the world’s largest unsupported dome, and largest 360-degree projection surface, as its centrepiece, and it will also showcase innovative technology: the ride-hailing company Uber is expected to demonstrate its flying cars.
As well as the 192 country pavilions, there are “special pavilions”, centred around the themes of opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. One of these, the “Mission Possible” pavilion, houses the United Nations hub.
3) What can I see at the UN Hub?
The UN is planning a series of events and activities at the UN Hub and in the adjacent forum in the Opportunity Pavilion, including immersive experiences, interactive exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, advocacy campaigns, cultural performances, and installations, as well as dialogues and conversations around topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs (the targets agreed globally to reduce poverty and promote peace and equality whilst protecting the world’s environment).
The programming of the space is managed by a dedicated team under the leadership of Dena Assaf, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for the UAE, and Deputy Commissioner-General of the UN at Expo, with the support of the UN Country Team in the UAE. There will be a more detailed list of events here.
Different exhibits include creative expressions of the SDGs through art and photography, a journey through the UN’s partnership with the UAE, and opportunities to learn more about thematic areas where the UN makes an impact globally.
The UN Hub will provide visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the UN and the SDGs. And, on 24 October, UN Day, a series of events will take place including an official ceremony at the Al Wasl Dome and a performance by the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO).
4) Why is the UN at Expo 2020?
During the six months of Expo, which continues until the end of March 2022, several million people from around the world are expected to visit Dubai. For the UN, this is an opportunity to show the work of the Organization and explain why it is central to overcoming global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and achieving the SDGs.
Maher Nasser, the Commissioner-General for the UN at Expo, told UN News that, with the event convened under the theme of “connecting minds creating the future”, with a focus on the SDGs, the United Nations presence contributes to the Organization’s ability to connect with participants and visitors.
“Given the quality of work and exhibits to the level of interest seen so far, the UN Hub will undoubtedly contribute to a better understanding of the challenges that the world faces, and the crucial importance of working together to overcome them”, said the UN official. “It will also lay down the groundwork for more partnerships, and encourage visitors to become engaged citizens, committed to acting on the issues that matters to the future of people and planet.”
Ms. Assaf declared that “the UN Country Team in the UAE has a portfolio at the global, regional, and country level, which allows them to uniquely lead engagements with the public through the UN Hub showcasing the value and impact of the UN worldwide. The UN Resident Coordinator Office in the UAE aims to strengthen its strategic partnership in the UAE by also providing a platform to demonstrate strong UN/UAE partnerships at Expo2020”.
“Expo2020 will also provide the world with an example of how humanity can move forward from the pandemic and safely celebrate together again, providing a catalyst of hope for all”, she added.
5) Where can I get more information?
The UN at Expo page is here, and will contain information about engagements and events throughout the six months of Expo, as they are confirmed.
You can also follow the @UN_UAE #UNxExpo #UNHub on social media, and find the latest news and updates on the UN UAE homepage .