Can Dubai Expo 2020 serve as a catalyst to change the world?

Can Dubai Expo 2020 serve as a catalyst to change the world?

JEDDAH (RAHNUMA): In physical build and ideology, the Dubai Expo 2020 is remarkable.

While its impressive architectural playground of avant-garde, high-tech, and previously unthinkable attractions is nothing short of impressive, so is Expo 2020’s mission to impart new ideas, ways of thinking and solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.

As the opening date of Dubai’s largest event draws near, already organizers and participants are thinking about its legacy — not just the physical one, but the ideological one: What will be the ideas that visitors will take away? How can Expo 2020 serve as a catalyst to change the world? Responses to such crucial questions will be explored in Expo 2020’s Programme for People and Planet, a line-up of events, experiences, thought-leadership and public conversations that aim to creatively foster solutions to the challenges presently facing the world.

“This could not be a more urgent or opportune time for what we are trying to do,” Nadia Verjee, chief of staff at Expo 2020 Dubai, told Arab News. “The Programme for People and Planet is the manifestation of our theme and purpose, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ It will not only form an essential part of our event-time activities but will also catalyze a one-of-a-kind movement to shape the legacy that Expo 2020 leaves the world, long after we close our doors.”

The program is set to run across the six months of Expo 2020.

It will be anchored by 10 theme weeks and 18 international days, each of which will explore key issues of global significance, including mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss to making human habitats more sustainable, bridging the digital divide, and ensuring equal access to education and healthcare.

Its main themes include technology and innovation, youth and women and girl’s empowerment.

Talks and events will be led by experts, including wildlife advocate Dame Jane Goodall, Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit, and Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE minister of state for advanced technology as well as the woman behind the Emirates Mars Mission, the 191 nations participating in Expo 2020, business leaders, grassroots actors, and the wider global community.

“Since COVID, and over the course of the last year and a half, the international community has become more pressed to solve the challenges that face us as people and a planet going forward,” said Verjee. “This program has been designed to coalesce all of those interests and bring all of those nations together under an umbrella framework of 10 key themes that form the backbone of our program as an expo.”

Expo 2020, which retains the year the event was originally scheduled, will open its doors next month from Oct. 1 through to March 31, 2022, and coincides with the UAE’s golden jubilee.

It is expected to draw millions of visitors to the UAE.

However, there’s no denying that the expo has had to adapt to the hurdles posed by the pandemic.

“We want this expo to be highly relevant during a COVID era so that the heart of all of this are the sustainable development goals, the agenda 2030, and putting people and planet first.”

Verjee said the program was conceived “in harmony and selected by the countries” that the expo worked closely with during the pandemic to ensure the subject matter would resonate around issues that were priorities for each of them.

The 10 themed weeks will kick off with conversations on climate change, followed by the subject of space and, in March, will conclude with the topic of water.

“What we have tried to achieve across all of these different subject matters, irrespective of what they are, is to create a space for every single voice to be heard,” she added.

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