The UAE is making its mark as a space and soft power

The country is telling the world that now is the time to look beyond conflicts and confrontation

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories


Published: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 9:33 PM

Advanced. Progressive. Sustainable. The UAE’s rise on the world stage from an oil economy into an industrial, scientific, and knowledge powerhouse is a story of smart governance and diplomacy. Its global influence has grown over the years on the back of adroit diplomacy and economic heft - potent tools for peace and prosperity in a region ravaged by endless wars and conflicts.

Through space and a thriving knowledge economy, the UAE is telling the world that now is the time to look beyond conflicts and confrontation. Cooperation is key. On the domestic front, the country has shifted gears and has diversified beyond oil while seeking new opportunities as it fronts what is being called the ‘new Arab renaissance’. While there is much to celebrate in Sultan AlNeyadi’s mission to the International Space Station (ISS), there is an even bigger reason to tout the country’s rise on the soft power charts.

It now stands at number 10 and is expected to rise as AlNeyadi soars to the ISS in the Crew Dragon spacecraft at 20 times the speed of sound. The capsule will dock with the space station on Friday. These twin achievements of sending the first Arab into space for a long mission of six months and breaking into the top 10 soft-power ranks place the UAE in another orbit.

Here, it’s important to put into perspective what the young country has achieved in such a short span of time. A little over a decade was all it took to diversify the economy and expand its soft power. Once known as an oil powerhouse, which it still is, the UAE embarked on an ambitious mission to broaden the scope of its economic activity while empowering its people.

While others fought bitter wars, the UAE built real and digital infrastructure, attracted global investments, strengthened institutions, sought and found new allies and made tolerance its motto. It also brought faiths together while expanding trade, strategic, and economic ties with countries across the world.

This transformation into an expat haven and embrace of varied cultures made it special even as its smart business and administrative model gained wide acceptance across the world. The landmark Abrahamic Accords were signed during the pandemic in the middle of a global lockdown. Before the pandemic, the country built well. After the crisis, it is building back better and faster.

What is worthy of note is that the country’s ambitions in space were not curbed even during the worst phase of the pandemic in 2020 when it launched the first of its four historic space missions. For the record, the UAE’s four eventful space journeys in just four years is a record that is unmatched by any country in recent history. The manned mission was in 2019 and the Mars Hope Mission was launched in 2020; the lunar mission followed in 2022. With the longest Arab mission in space aboard the ISS, it is clear that the UAE is in it for the long haul.

Getting back to the advanced part, the country is creating a new template for the future. It has learned from the past and has entered a new era with its space missions and knowledge economy that will serve all humanity. It is investing heavily in the tech sector while seeking fresh talent to power its industries driven by AI.

Co-existence and tolerance are not just preached but are practiced and are part of governance. Later this year the country will host the COP28 conference where it will showcase its green credentials and attempt to forge consensus among nations on ways save our blue planet.

Climate change impacts us all and there is an urgent need to bring every nation on board to fight pollution to meet the goal of Net Zero. The UAE as the great influencer of the modern age has its task cut out. We have no doubt that it will deliver.

More news from Opinion