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KT Exclusive: Expo 2020 Dubai is a beacon of hope for humanity, says UNGA President

anjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 4, 2021
Abdulla Shahid, President of the UNGA (right), is welcomed into the African Union pavilion by AU Commissioner-General Dr Levy Uche Madueke

Vaccine equity is the only way forward, the official believes

The UAE's ability to host an event on the scale of the Expo 2020 with Covid protocols in place is a “beacon of hope for humanity” and gives the assurance that the world can bounce back from the pandemic, Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

The official also said the mega event shows that countries can put their differences aside and work together. “Expo is a great symbol of unity,” he said.

Reflecting on the far-reaching impact of the pandemic, the 76th UNGA President noted how, over the last 18 months, the world has "seen humanity suffer".

“People have lost their loved ones and jobs. They have been in depression… The opening up of Expo 2022 gives a very clear message of hope to humanity… that with vaccination and proper protocols, we can, in fact, start transmitting to a new normal,” the 76th UNGA President said.

The official noted how, after almost a year of virtual diplomacy, the first in-person United Nations General Assembly could be held last week, thanks to vaccines and proper protocols.

“Vaccines are the way forward. And what is happening here and at the Expo gives us that assurance. Yes, it can be done. This is what my ‘presidency of hope’ is all about: moving forward in the right direction, with the promise that there is the possibility of a better tomorrow.”

Shahid is in the UAE as part of a three-country visit that will also cover Maldives and Serbia. During his visit to the Expo 2020 venue on October 4 and 5, the UN official — who is also the Foreign Minister of Maldives — will take part in several events on climate change and biodiversity, the first thematic week held at the world fair.

He said the UAE is a “knowledge hub” and a “symbol of tolerance and humanity”.

“The UAE has taken the lead in science and technology and renewable energy; it has sent astronauts into space, and is the first Arab country that sent a mission to Mars,” said the official.

He added that the Expo, which has the participation of more than 200 countries, is also an apt platform to reinforce the message that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

“This minute virus has delivered a very strong message: only together can humanity survive. Because the virus does not discriminate the rich from the poor, or the north from the south, it has no borders. The only way to fight it is through vaccines,” said Shahid.

The UNGA President also said it is “highly, highly unacceptable” that, while many nations have started administering booster doses to their citizens, only three per cent of Africa or developing countries are vaccinated.

“Vaccines should not have borders. It should not have racism; it should not have nationalism. All it should have is equity. Vaccine equity is the only way forward.”

The official is convening a high-level meeting in January at the United Nations to bring countries together, he said, because he “sincerely believes" that humanity has the capacity to vaccinate the entire world by the end of 2022. "If we can't do that, then we have not learned the lesson that the pandemic has taught us: that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Let us not deceive ourselves; let us have the courage to transcend whatever difficulties we have, because only collectively will we survive.”

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On the Expo’s focus on sustainability and how the world fair is bringing together thought leaders and decision makers, Shahid said he is confident that the mega fair will contribute in a “very, very positive manner” to the climate change issue.

The climate week at Expo 2020 is being hosted in the same month as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which will be held in Glasgow between Sunday, October 31 and Friday, November 12.

author

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.





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