UAE: Collaboration is key when it comes to space diplomacy, say experts

Ministers discuss the role of foreign policy in enabling space diplomacy and international cooperation

Reem Al Hashimy, Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Dr Jitendra Singh at a panel discussion at Abu Dhabi Space Debate.
Reem Al Hashimy, Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Dr Jitendra Singh at a panel discussion at Abu Dhabi Space Debate.

Lamya Tawfik

Published: Mon 5 Dec 2022, 9:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 5 Dec 2022, 9:55 PM

The UAE is a country that is oriented towards scientific discovery and explorations whether on earth or in space, a minister has said.

Reem bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, was speaking during a panel discussion on the role of foreign policy in enabling space diplomacy and international cooperation at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Space Debate on Monday.

“The greatest risk would be to do nothing in space. And so, we find ourselves through this forum very intent on building the types of collaborations and partners from almost untraditional sources and voices. As a nation and a character, we seek out these new partners and seeking out technological collaborations,” she said.

The UAE, she stressed, brings people together and focuses on what unites them. “As we explore this space, we find and we discover that there’s so much more than we can do in space to better understand earth,” she said, giving as an example getting information and knowledge from space to better understand weather patterns and agricultural needs.

But the key, according to Al Hashimy is collaboration. “No one country can do that alone. We are reliant on each other. We as a human population are reliant on information that we all gather from each other to provide necessary insights,” she said, adding that she is optimistic that partnerships and necessary frameworks would be built so that nations around the world could operate on earth - through space - for what’s good for mankind.

“We are interdependent, we need to figure this one out together and we need to do the heavy lifting collectively. Right now, our destinies are intertwined, and this is the only way we’re going to benefit from it or be harmed by it,” she said.

Also on the panel was Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, who said that space diplomacy is more needed than ever. “Space with its opportunities and challenges is an issue that affects every country in the world and every human being, one which cries out for genuine international cooperation and one in which we risk replicating existing geopolitical rivalries,” he said. Doing that, he stressed, will mean that humanity will never fully realise the potential of a genuinely cooperative approach.


According to Al Zayani, it is important to nurture a geopolitical environment which incentivises such cooperation to ensure that it remains viable over the time needed for ambitious space projects. “No country, no matter how large, has the capacity to exploit the opportunities of space exploration by itself. The costs involved and the range of specialties make international cooperation essential to reach goals that can’t be reached alone,” he said.

It is possible to achieve this through foreign policy by committing to established international principles for the use of space, building interdependence and genuine shared benefits from space projects, by sharing data on common challenges such as climate change or natural disasters and by providing services made possible by space technologies and demonstrating their practical value, he explained.

It is important to “demonstrating the value of those networks of cooperations and interdependence so that these principles become more attractive strategic choices for all international actors,” said Al Zayani.

Dr Jitendra Singh, Indian Minister of State for Space and Science & Technology, said that collaborating isn’t really a choice and that India’s atomic and space programmes were both focused on peaceful purposes right from the beginning.

He stressed that over the last few years, the private sector was allowed to be part of the space sector in India which led to having more than 100 startups. “The next level is the integration of research, academia and industry – private and public, domestically and overseas,” he said.

He illustrated how India used technology to bring ease to the lives of common citizens. “It’s an essential tool for different sectors, railways, smart cities, roads and buildings, highways, digital health and telemedicine. It’s a success story in itself,” he said.

The sentiment was praised by Al Hashimy who said: “There’s nothing more noble or necessary for a government to undertake.”

Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Orit Farkash-Hacohen, who joined the panel virtually, said that she was impressed by the vision and the spirit of the leadership in the UAE, which took a country with not a lot of resources and built the future. “Our industry is not diverse enough,” she said adding that following a series of meetings last September with the UAE’s space agency they pivoted their focus towards space industry, renewable energy, health technology and biotechnology.

“I hope that more budgets will be focused on our space agency. Currently, we use space technology for defence and my mission is to build on this strength and to push forward the civil space agency,” she said.

More news from UAE