05:52 - Source: CNN
1 year countdown to the 'world's greatest show'

Editor’s Note: Reem Al Hashimy is the Minister of State for International Cooperation for the United Arab Emirates. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

Over the past few months, the United Arab Emirates has worked diligently to meet the needs of all our citizens and residents, even at a time of unprecedented global uncertainty and insecurity.

We have safely shut down, and now seek to reopen, what is today a major international hub for trade, tourism, logistics and more. And we have achieved this while also meeting significant and myriad external interests and obligations.

This is how we have responded to our new reality.

The United Arab Emirates had planned to host the largest and most ambitious international event in the history of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, over the span of six months starting this October. More than 192 nations and international organizations committed to participate in the Expo 2020 Dubai, offering them a platform to attract and inspire the anticipated millions of visitors from around the world.

Reem Al Hashimy

In so doing, the UAE would continue along a path it has followed since its birth almost half a century ago, bringing to fruition during its Golden Jubilee anniversary 50 years of international cooperation and collaboration, regionally and internationally.

At the heart of our global celebration, the UAE and all participating nations were to embrace the spirit and tenets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the need for all our decisions to be measured against the rightful demands of people and planet. We intended it to be a moment that mattered, with a tangible legacy apparent in policies and partnerships allowing us all to help build a better world.

And then the world we knew ground to a halt. An outbreak became an epidemic and then a pandemic, and 7.8 billion people were thrown into chaos and uncertainty; medically, economically, socially and in myriad other ways we have yet to truly understand.

The world we knew stopped talking, too. As people and nations suffer, international cooperation has stalled and, in some cases, been cast aside. While we know that Covid-19 does not respect national borders and have marshaled global resources to defeat it, we can do much more, and better, to show solidarity.

An artist's rendering of the Dubai Expo 2020 site.

The world we knew also stopped trusting. Pulled apart by the competing interests of its constituents, the institutions we built to protect humanity are under the strain. While this crisis has exposed weaknesses in our systems, global health and development agencies – and all of us – are finding that misinformation and the erosion of public trust in our institutions are just as dangerous as Covid-19.

In the UAE, we are steadfast in our commitment to those institutions and in the profound value of international cooperation. Together, we will find the strength to survive this onslaught and the wisdom to learn from it, understand what we need to do at national and international levels, and find the resolve to act swiftly and smartly so that we are able to avert the next such crisis.

In the first months of the year, when only a few cases had been identified outside Wuhan, our federal government moved to secure the health and safety of citizens, residents and visitors through a comprehensive program of testing and tracing. We are committed to testing in the UAE and abroad and have provided test kits and PPE to nations and institutions alike.

As the pandemic has grown, we have reached out to those in need around the world, in partnership with organizations, local and global. We have sent planes filled with critical medical supplies, including thousands of pairs of gloves, surgical masks and protective equipment.

Working with the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and others, we are leading efforts to provide medical and protective supplies to countries for the fight against the virus. South Africa, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Ethiopia and the UK are among those nations to which we have dispatched medical aid or helped build much-needed infrastructure. Dozens of countries, hundreds of tons of supplies – in a true voice of compassion and solidarity.

These efforts are consistent with our country’s founding principles of humanitarian solidarity. We take these steps at home because we are a responsible steward. We take them abroad because we are a responsible friend and a committed international actor. And we will do what is needed time and again, for as long as we can, to help build a stronger and more resilient future for us all.

Expo 2020 would have been the next step in our journey. Disrupted by the pandemic, and the economic and social devastation it has wrought, our Expo will now not open in October but instead, we hope, a year later on October 1, 2021.

From then until March 31, 2022, it will provide an even finer platform for innovation and displays of national excellence and international cooperation than we had promised. As humanity emerges, countries will present their best selves to the world. All will be offered the chance to heal and to be heard; to inspire millions of visitors from around the world and supercharge international cooperation and collaboration at regional and global levels.

They will also join a constructive dialogue, made more urgent by the events of today, that will allow us to start to build the world we want, one better than the one we have left behind. We will draw on an understanding of what we have lost, motivated by a purpose that goes beyond survival, to growth and development facilitated by structures that ensure equity, security and sustainability.

We will be able to deliver on this commitment as our Expo has always been about more than buildings, as spectacular as they are. It has always been about more than a moment in time, as vital as that window of opportunity is and remains. Our Expo is about a single unifying vision: to become more, together. As the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation, it is my nation’s rallying call to build and strengthen shared norms by which we must conduct ourselves in order to survive and thrive.

We are honored that the Bureau International des Expositions and nations around the world share our confidence in Expo 2020, and by their affirmation that we should come together in the UAE. We will redouble, rather than relax our efforts – with the theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” – and fulfill our promise to Expo and the world.

In the months ahead, the worst of this crisis will pass.

Then, the world we fashion must be relevant and purposeful. It must draw on the political will of its partners and the wisdom of hard lessons learned. It must be founded on institutions that are strongest in moments of adversity. And it must be more compassionate and more resilient.

Only in this future will we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and instead achieve our shared and full potential.