SHOW & TELL
TBY talks to Reem Al Hashimi, Minister of State and Managing Director of the Dubai World Expo 2020 Bid Committee, on the Emirates preparations to bring the exposition to the UAE.
BIOGRAPHYReem Al Hashimi was sworn in as Minister of State in the Cabinet of the UAE in February 2008. She is also the Managing Director of Dubai’s World Expo 2020 executive body. She has experience in international affairs, beginning her career as a Commercial Attaché and, subsequently, as Deputy Chief of Mission at the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC. She completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University, where she earned BA degrees in International Relations and French. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard University.
What are the main strengths of Dubai as a possible location for the World Expo 2020?
Dubai's commitment to host the World Expo is really about placing Dubai as a location where culture, ideas, and people from all around the world can come together to share and contribute their thoughts and add meaning and value to the environment and world around them. We believe that Dubai has many factors that make it a particularly good candidate, with the first being its geographic positioning. We have a very good position between East and West and have very strong relations with countries in the south. Historically, both in the last 40 years as the UAE and long before, we have always been a kind of hub. This is a place where people from all over have passed through. Secondly, we feel we have some incredible infrastructure, from our airport to roads to ports to the metro; we have everything necessary to facilitate the flow of millions of people who will have to come through. The third important quality that Dubai has is the fact that it is already a mini expo with more than 200 nationalities living here and showcasing their nationalities, art, and culture. To have 200 different nationalities that live and work here is something very special and shows that we are very open to the world. I think our fourth strength is that this is such a strong place for business. Some of the most important companies from around the world are here; 60% or 70% of the Fortune 500 companies have headquarters in Dubai.
What is the idea behind the “connecting minds, creating the future" theme?
The UAE is a responsible global citizen. We look at the world around us and realize there are challenges out there; we then try to address them. This notion of global citizenship is very important for Dubai and for the UAE in general. We believe that “connecting minds, creating the future" is the right theme as we feel that through doing that we can address global challenges. What we have done is looked at the global challenges in the world today and what they may be in 2020. Some will be energy security, employment generation for the youth, integration, the empowerment of women, climate change, and the efficacy of aid programs. What we see today may be exacerbated by 2020 and we want our theme to address these global challenges and help to provide solutions for them.
What motivated the choice of the large plot by the new Al Maktoum Airport as the proposed location for the event?
Expo 2020 is really a national project that involves the support of all of the Emirates and, obviously the Prime Minister. We felt that having a site that is located half an hour from Abu Dhabi's airport and 40 minutes from Dubai's airport will allow us to capitalize on the strengths of both cities. It is also connected to the Al Maktoum International Airport through a seamless corridor and to Dubai's ports. We see this connection with the new ports and airports as one large web of connectivity. The 400-hectare site will be best leveraged because it is connected to such important logistics and transportation nodes.
How important is Dubai's role in terms of the development of the new Silk Route?
Our role as a hub has dated back to the early 19th and 20th century. We have evidence of people who have come through Dubai to East Africa and Europe to Asia and East Asia. This is something that is very integral to us as a fact of history. With Dubai, we have that historical merit, and the city is built upon it. Dubai is also very keen to become more modern and efficient, embracing new technology and new ways of doing things. We see ourselves as very much a part of the new Silk Route. There are more than 200,000 Chinese people who live in the UAE. We have over 4,000 Chinese companies based out of the Emirates. Every single day, you will see travellers here making that East to West journey and now, more and more, we see the South to North connections as well. In my daily interaction with colleagues in Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, I see that movement continuously. It is all happening in Dubai, primarily.