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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Expo 2020 revels in the spotlight at New York museum

Delegates hear debate on vaccines in the age of fake news and the need to support marginalised young people across the developing world

Dubai's hosting of Expo 2020 and the need for more access to vaccines in the developing world were among the topics debated at World Majlis event in New York. Courtesy: Expo 2020
Dubai's hosting of Expo 2020 and the need for more access to vaccines in the developing world were among the topics debated at World Majlis event in New York. Courtesy: Expo 2020

Expo 2020 has been showcased as the World Majlis on a top floor setting of the New Museum in New York.

The event, held as the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings kicked off, proved to be an enlightening encounter between the youth who are the targets and those who will deliver the themes over the six months of the exhibition.

Reaching out to a global population that is approaching eight billion is the key opportunity of the event in Dubai. According to Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, the New York event was a demonstration of the power of the process designed to lead up to 2020.

“People left the room today kind of light, a little bit more optimistic, a little bit more hopeful. To know that you can do something is a very powerful emotion and people often don’t recognise we all have that ability to make things better,” Ms Hashimy told The National.

With guests such as Kim Campbell, the former Canadian prime minister, and Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, presenting both the progress and reverses across a range of issues there was a lively exchange across the generations as the sun set over Manhattan on Sunday.

The thoroughgoing discussion set a robust tone for the outreach programme of the Expo.

Mr Berkley said there had been rapid progress on his basic goal of vaccinating all children but also recent backlash in advanced countries with the spread of fake news on vaccines.

“In terms of humanity we are in the best place we have ever been with 86 per cent of children receiving our tracer vaccine,” he said. “[But] there is lower coverage in parts of Los Angeles than there is in Sudan.

“It is a tough time but it is also a time to look forward to see how the eight billion can have a healthy future.”

The Expo 2020 is designed to provide a platform for ideas that unlock opportunities across communities worldwide. The $100m Expo Live initiative provides grants for innovative ideas that will then be part of the main exhibition.

To Ms Al Hashimy that openness to ideas is key to making an impact with at the exhibition.

“The expo as it commemorates the eve of our Golden Jubilee is also an attempt from our side to advancing human progress, to advancing the global agenda,” she said. “At the end of the day we are simply guardians of what will be handed over to the young generation.”

One of the speakers was Kehkashan Basu, an 18-year old youth activist based in the UAE, who spoke of her work though the Green Hope Foundation to connect and assist young people in developing countries around the world.

“We can get our voice heard,” she said.

“The thing marginalised youth need is access to ideas, a culture of tolerance and peace. Expo is important to close the opportunity gap.”

The minister saw the New Museum event as a demonstration of the power of taking the time to talk about ideas, highlighting the contribution of Chris Anderson, the creator of TED, who said such exchanges were about opportunity.

“I think magic happens when you bring different kinds of people together, when you bring students and politicians and academics and artists and you create a context for them to respond to and that’s what we hope to do in the expo,” she said.

“The journey to 2020 is almost as important as the 2020 six-month event itself, which will be incredible, exciting opportunity. Really the challenge is who do we bring along on that journey with us - beyond the physical infrastructure.”

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE Ambassador to the UN, who moderated the session said a grassroots effort to promote Expo 2020 would overcome global opportunity gaps.

Organisers hope to attract 25 million to visit Expo 2020 which is themed around mobility, opportunity sustainability. The legacy will be its role as a launching pad for new ways of tackling the biggest issues.

“The ideas should become solutions in themselves. A great idea is not enough - others should feel that agency, apply that urgency - for it to be more than a great thought for it to be able to live on,” Ms Hashimy said.

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