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 Hub, 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 There will be a more detailed list of events here.
Artwork inspired by the Goals will be on display, with an official launch on 9 November, which will involve a series of panel discussions with the artists, and a virtual exhibit experience for a wider audience. 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, has described the event as “an excellent platform for global dialogue and collaboration, offering a unique opportunity to showcase not only the power of ingenuity and innovation, but the power of cooperation and how countries come together, united in a shared vision, a vision to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”.
Mr. Nasser added that the theme of Expo 2020 – “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” – is about working together to build a future in which everyone thrives in peace, dignity, and equality on a healthy planet. “Our ultimate goal”, he said, “is to encourage international participants and visitors to recognise that the sustainable development agenda is their agenda; it is an agenda adopted by world leaders at the United Nations and can only be achieved if all sectors in every nation commit to the Goals and act to fulfil these commitments”.
5) Where can I get more information?
The UN Hub page is here, and will contain information about engagements and events throughout the six months of Expo, as they are confirmed.