How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges

Workers are pictured next to the Expo 2020 logo ahead of the opening ceremony in Dubai on Sept. 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Rula Rouhana)
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Workers are pictured next to the Expo 2020 logo ahead of the opening ceremony in Dubai on Sept. 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Rula Rouhana)
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is pictured on Sept. 30, 2021 on the day of the Expo 2020 opening. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP)
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The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is pictured on Sept. 30, 2021 on the day of the Expo 2020 opening. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP)
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Updated 01 October 2021

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges
  • For 170 years, World Expos have provided a platform to showcase the greatest innovations
  • Expo 2020 seeks to ‘connect minds, create the future’ through sustainability, mobility and opportunity

DUBAI: A multiple reuse rocket. A desert farm where food grows using salt water. Pop-up theaters. A hyperloop carriage where passengers feel what it is like to travel in a superfast vacuum. These are just some of the experiences visitors can enjoy over the next six months at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since 2013, when Dubai won over a panel in Paris with its presentation, the expo has easily been the most talked about event in the UAE.

Indeed, Expo 2020 has become a byword for an event to be celebrated not just for the scale and ambition of the projects and pavilions on display, but also because the organizers hope that it will be a game-changer for host Dubai.

The event, which got underway on Thursday with a grand opening ceremony, reportedly showcases over 200 participating entities, including about 192 countries, and features 60 events. Anticipation has grown because the opening has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.

The fact that the expo is going ahead on such a scale with an expected “25 million visits,” even as travel remains difficult after 18 months of closures and postponements, is probably a feat in itself.

A 4.38-square-km site in Dubai South near the new Al-Maktoum International Airport, the city’s second, has been transformed over the past eight years. The center point is Al-Wasl Plaza, dominated by a massive molded steel dome designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture of the US.

The permanent structure is 130 meters wide and 67 meters tall. It can screen images both internally and externally and will host the expo’s main opening ceremonies.

Expo 2020 Dubai has an ambitious goal: to create lasting change in the world.

“What is extraordinary is the diverse range of programs Expo 2020 has put together — it is a global celebration evident in the events and festivities centered around 192 participating countries all showcasing their own culture, heritage and innovation,” Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president for marketing strategy and sales, told Arab News.

“More importantly, Expo 2020 reflects the inclusive spirit of the UAE, where we have over 200 nationalities living.”

The World Expo dates back to 1851 when the first event, then called the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” took place in London.

It served as the first of what are now called World Expos, which have been staged every five years at an international city for a period ranging from three to six months. Dubai is the 34th World Expo to take place and follows the one previously held in Milan in 2015. The next is scheduled to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 expo.

Today, the aim is to find solutions to global issues and challenges. Countries around the world have built pavilions that showcase their latest architectural and technological innovations, in accordance with a particular theme.

For Expo 2020, this is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” with the aim of exploring possibilities in the spheres of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Technology on show should be unique, pioneering and sustainable.

The event, said Ramanathan, is taking place at “an inflection point in our society,” when the act of uniting and celebrating together has become a rare event.

“People have not been able to come together for nearly two years now,” Ramanathan said. “We are hosting an event at a time when the world is trying to manage the challenges of a global pandemic.




A general view shows the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP) 

“People have not been able to meet, interact, experience, engage, or exchange in a physical environment, and that’s what makes this expo incredibly special — the ability to be able to bring together a platform for collaboration and cooperation at a time when the world perhaps needs it the most.”

Despite the challenges, Expo 2020’s ambitious goal of delivering 25 million visits over the course of its six months — it runs until March 31, 2022 — remains.

Every single country from the original 192 participants, said Ramanathan, is coming to Expo 2020. And it is not just the country pavilions that hope to capture the spotlight.


Visitors can view a host of other attractions, such as a collaboration with Cartier to design and host a pavilion dedicated to highlighting the advancement of women in the Middle East.

Commencing as it does just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, kicks off in Glasgow, UK, Expo 2020 predictably puts a strong emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability.

Terra — The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, aims to meet the highest available accreditation for sustainable architecture, the LEED Platinum certification.




A view of Terra, The Sustainability Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo site in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

There is also Alif — The Mobility Pavilion, designed by the award-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners. It features what it says is the world’s largest passenger lift, which can transport over 160 people at a time.

The pavilion is dedicated to discoveries in cutting-edge mobility devices and has a partially open-air 330-meter track for visitors to view new gadgets and technology in motion.

In typical Dubai style, the opening ceremony featured high-tech performances and an impressive line-up of international stars. They included opera singer Andrea Bocelli; classical pianist Lang Lang; international pop stars Ellie Goulding, Andra Day and Angelique Kidjo; and regional stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Ahlam Al-Shamsi and Hussain Al-Jassmi.

Ramanathan said more than 1,000 performers and technical crew worked on the 90-minute extravaganza, which the organizers hope will change the way people around the world view Dubai and the UAE.




Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)

She said ticket sales were strong, with an uptick in demand from countries across the world, including the UK, France, Germany, the US, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region.

All an overseas visitor needs to be eligible to visit the event is a single successful PCR test and a flight ticket.

“The focus is really on what this expo will mean to you depending on what you are interested in,” Ramanathan said, adding that the programming is designed both for the individual and a broader collective, be it business networking, social and environmental change, knowledge and learning, space travel and exploration, or arts and culture.

What is proposed is an exercise in broadening and expanding knowledge about other people and places as well as introducing the power of new philosophies and ideologies, she said.

“What is most interesting is the fusion of the programming that we are offering,” Ramanathan told Arab News. “You can view the traditional, such as the heritage of each country, as well as the most avant-garde technology and innovation.”

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Biden considers restoring terror listing of Yemen’s Houthis

Biden considers restoring terror listing of Yemen’s Houthis
Updated 20 January 2022

Biden considers restoring terror listing of Yemen’s Houthis

Biden considers restoring terror listing of Yemen’s Houthis

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden says the US is considering restoring its designation of Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group.
Biden’s comment, made at a White House news conference Wednesday, came after a cross-border strike Monday that killed three people in the United Arab Emirates. The Houthis, a militia group that now controls much of Yemen, claimed responsibility for the attack, which Emiratis say used both missiles and drones, and started fires at a fuel depot and international airport.
The attack led Emiratis and Saudis to step up months of demands that the US restore its terrorist designation for the Houthis. Biden lifted that designation shortly after taking office, as his administration worked without success to jump-start peace talks and wind down the eight-year war in Yemen.
Aid groups had complained that the terror designation, which limits interaction by US entities, complicated humanitarian work in the impoverished Gulf country of Yemen. Biden said Wednesday returning the terrorist designation was “under consideration.”
His defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, expressed solidarity for the UAE’s security in a conversation earlier Wednesday with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed.
The UAE was a member of the coalition that entered Yemen’s civil war in 2015, after the Houthis had overrun the capital of Sanaa the previous year and ousted the country’s president from power.
The Houthis have used drones and missiles to attack Saudi Arabia and oil targets in the Arabian Gulf over the course of Yemen’s war. Monday’s attack was the UAE’s first acknowledgement of being hit by the Houthis.
The coalition intensified airstrikes on the Houthis across Yemen late Monday, including in Sanaa. At least 14 people, including a senior Houthi military official, were killed in one airstrike in Saana, the group said. The office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that there were five civilians among the dead.


International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN
Updated 20 January 2022

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN
  • Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek also reaffirmed Kingdom’s support for people of Lebanon and urged authorities there to end ‘terrorist Hezbollah’s control of state’
  • He also pledged his country’s continuing support and commitment to the Palestinian cause, and to comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East

NEW YORK: The failure of the international community to take decisive action to address the terrorist activities of the Houthis in Yemen has emboldened the Iran-backed militia to attack the Yemeni people and threaten peace and security in the region and beyond, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek told the Security Council that the Kingdom reserves the right to “take any necessary measure in line with international law” to respond to Houthi aggression. It came two days after a deadly attack on neighboring Abu Dhabi by the militia.

The envoy said authorities in the UAE have the full support of the Kingdom “as they address any threat to their stability and security,” and called on the international community “to confront the terrorist Houthi militias.”

The ministerial-level meeting was convened by Norway, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek. (SPA)

Alateek said that Tehran provides support to the Houthis “day after day” and added: “These terrorist militias continue to disregard the aspirations of the Yemeni people and to threaten regional and international peace and security.

“A case in point is their violation and threats to international navigation and their use of civilian facilities and Yemeni ports to undermine regional security and attack civilians in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

On Monday this week, three people were killed and six injured by a drone strike on a key oil facility in the Emirati capital, and a separate fire was sparked at Abu Dhabi’s international airport. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, which immediately drew condemnation worldwide.

Last Friday the Security Council unanimously condemned another hostile Houthi act, the seizure on Jan. 3 of the UAE-flagged ship Rwabee in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen and the detention of its crew.

In a statement drafted by the UK, council members demanded the immediate release of the vessel and those on board, and urged the Houthis to guarantee the safety and well-being of the crew.

Civilian targets in Saudi Arabia have also repeatedly come under attack from Houthi-launched drone and missile strikes.

Highlighting the Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict in Yemen, Alateek called on the international community and the Security Council to “take all necessary measures against these terrorist militias that obstruct peace and any attempt to reach a political solution sponsored by the UN in line with resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and the outcome of the National Dialogue.”

Turning to the crisis in Lebanon, Alateek reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the people of the country and urged Lebanese authorities to prioritize “their people, to meet their aspirations for security, stability and well-being, and to end terrorist Hezbollah’s control of the state.”

Regarding the Palestinian question, Alateek said Riyadh remains committed to ending the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and ensuring Palestinian refugees can return home.

“We stress that comprehensive and lasting peace in the middle East is a strategic choice to end one of the most protracted conflicts in our modern history, based on the two-state solution and international terms of reference, as well as the Arab peace initiative of 2022,” he said.

“All these initiatives call for the establishment of the Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the return of refugees, and an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories.”

Alateek accused Israel of continuing “to violate international laws and norms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, committing the most heinous forms of injustice and aggression against the Palestinian people.”

He called on the Security Council and the wider international community to assume their responsibilities toward Palestinians by “ensuring justice,

achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state as guaranteed in international laws, and deal firmly with the Israeli violations of international law and relevant UN resolutions.”


European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem
Updated 20 January 2022

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem
  • Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem

PARIS: The foreign ministries of France, Germany, Italy and Spain urged Israeli authorities on Wednesday evening to stop the construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem.
Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, nearly half of which are to be built in the controversial areas of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa.
In a statement, the European countries said that the hundreds of new buildings would “constitute an additional obstacle to the two-state solution,” referring to international peace efforts to create a state for Palestinians.
They said that building in this area would further disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem and that these settlements are a violation of international law.
The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Israel captured East Jerusalem including the Old City in a 1967 war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts the city, and the Gaza Strip. Israel views the entire city as its indivisible capital.
Most world powers deem the Israeli settlements illegal for taking in territory where Palestinians seek statehood.
The four countries also expressed concern about the evictions and demolitions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where residents say they are being displaced.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home — which they say they had lived in for decades — before a digger tore down the property, prompting criticism from rights activists and diplomats.


Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups
Updated 20 January 2022

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups
  • World must deal with their ‘criminal acts,’ Yemen’s prime minister says

AL-MUKALLA: Demands grew on Wednesday for the US to restore the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen to its list of designated terrorist groups.

The government in Yemen joined calls for the reinstatement by authorities in the UAE after Monday’s Houthi drone attack on Abu Dhabi in which three people died.

“These criminal acts require designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization,” Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said. “The international community has to deal with this group.

More pressure needs to be applied to stop these terrorist crimes that threaten regional and international peace and stability.”

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization on Jan. 16, 2021, a few hours before the Trump administration handed the White House over to Joe Biden.

The new administration quickly reversed the move, paused a ban on financial transactions in Houthi-controlled areas on Jan. 25, and fully revoked the terrorist designation on Feb. 16.

The revocation was followed by a barrage of drone and missile attacks by the Houthis targeting civilians and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

On the ground, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy escalated airstrikes on Houthi military sites and reinforcements on Wednesday as government troops repelled the militia’s attempts to seize control of new areas.

"We are carrying out a large-scale military operation to paralyze the Houthis' capabilities in a number of governorates," the Coalition said in a statement carried by El-Akhbariyah TV. "We are monitoring the terrorist leaders responsible for targeting civilians.|"

Earlier on Wednesday, Coalition warplanes destroyed military vehicles carrying Houthi fighters in Marib and struck Houthi gatherings and locations in the province. Thick smoke and large balls of fire billowed over targeted locations in southwestern Sanaa, including Attan Mountain, which hosts a ballistic missile depot.

The coalition said it had carried out 19 airstrikes in Marib that killed 90 Houthis and destroyed 11 of their vehicles.There was heavy fighting between government troops and the Houthis south of the strategic central city of Marib. Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News the Houthis had mounted several counterattacks on government troops around Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range in a bid to break a siege on pockets of their fighters on the strategic mountain.

The Houthis failed to achieve their goal of reaching the mountain and were forced into stopping their attacks after suffering heavy casualties. “They have to either surrender or die,” Al-Mekhlafi said. Loyalist Giants Brigades troops also engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis south of Marib.

In the western governorate of Hodeidah, Houthi weapons storages at the naval forces camp were also targeted, the Coalition said early Thursday.

It said the port was being used by the Houthis as a military barracks to threaten regional and international security. Houthis reportedly transferred the weapons from the port to the military camp under commercial cover.

Houthis had also been accused of engaging in sea piracy, attacking civilian ships passing along the Red Sea.

The US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, began visits on Wednesday to the Gulf states and the UK. “The special envoy and his team will press the parties to deescalate militarily and...participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said.


US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts
Updated 20 January 2022

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

RIYADH: US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking held talks with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia to discuss efforts to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.
Lenderking is on a tour of Gulf states and the British capital, London, to reinvigorate peace efforts in coordination with the UN, senior regional government officials, and other international partners, the State Department said.
During the meeting, GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf stressed the importance of applying international pressure on the Iran-backed Houthi militia to end its terrorist activities and seriously engage in the Yemen peace process.
The two sides discussed regional and international efforts to reach the political solution sought by the bloc, in accordance with the GCC initiative and its Executive Mechanism, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and UN Security Council resolution 2216.
Al-Hajraf praised Washington’s significant role and the efforts of the US envoy to end the Yemeni war, and the humanitarian and development assistance it provides to the Yemeni people.
He also strongly condemned the continued targeting of civilians and civilian targets with missiles and drones in Saudi Arabia, as well as the cowardly terrorist attack that targeted Abu Dhabi International Airport on Monday, killing three people.
Al-Hajraf said it constitutes a terrorist act, a flagrant violation of international law and a threat to regional security and stability.
During his tour, Lenderking “will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and seize the new year to participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said.
He will also call on donors to provide additional funding to mitigate the dire humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis, after the UN had said that around $3.9 billion is needed this year to help millions of people in the war-torn country.