Soft Power and UAE

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Soft power is a vital concept in political science and international relations disciplines. With the dawn of globalization, information technology revolution and emergence of different financial resources, soft power concept has become significant in national and foreign policies. Implementation of soft power activities vary from country to country but the basic them is the same i.e. portray of friendly gestures, attract more foreign direct investments, tolerance and above all respect for the humanity. Soft power is a cashable commodity which would be useful to attract more tourists, develop hotel and service industry and moreover, boost human resources. Mass media, exhibitions, seminars, conferences and fairs are the main attributors of soft power projection.

United Arab Emirates has been using different techniques of soft power to achieve its desired socio-economic growth targets since its inception. It has become hub of all kinds of productive activities in shapes of conferences, seminars, expos, exhibitions and the last but not the least, fairs. It is now, one of the idealist destinations of foreign direct investments, service oriented projects, small and medium enterprises ventures and above all human interaction.

EXPO 2012 Yeosu, South Korea is at its peak. United Arab Emirates (UAE) pavilion in the EXPO 2012 is the highly visited destination. The International Expo 2012 was inaugurated on May 12, 2012 in Yeosu, Korea. A total of 104 countries and 10 international organizations, including the United Nations are participating in the 93 day Expo 2012. According to the organizing committee the three month Expo 2012 is expected to attract more than 8 million visitors from more than 100 countries around the globe. UAE pavilion is organized and supervised by the National Media Council (NMC).

Physical Composition (Table I)
UAE Pavilion Details
Exterior Facade Featuring a timeline and a special greeting
Pre-Show Featuring many interactive presentations, games and documentaries
Sea Tunnel A themed theatre screening a mini-feature
Post-Show Featuring many interesting information sharing, presentation etc

The above table I shows that the UAE pavilion at Expo 2012 Yeosu, Korea is segmented into five main areas: The exterior facade featuring a ‘timeline’ and a special greeting, the ‘pre-show’ features many interactive presentations, games and documentaries. All these areas are attracting millions of visitors every day and succeeding to achieve targets of soft power for the UAE.

Giving interview, on the inauguration ceremony H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the National Media Council stated that the UAE believes International and World Expos play an important role in bringing nations together and fostering understanding, cooperation and development. The theme of EXPO 2012 is particularly relevant to the UAE.

Another important occasion prior to the opening of the UAE Pavilion at EXPO 2012 the foreign minister paid special tribute to the organisers of EXPO 2012 and the international organising body for holding world Expos, B.I.E. He appreciated the theme of EXPO 2012 ‘Living Oceans and Coast’. He highlighted the importance of marine environment in human life by saying that failure to protect our marine resources in all its aspects; we will pay a heavy price.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs narrated UAE closed connection with the sea and maritime settlement in the region. “Our forefathers developed the skills to sail, navigate, fish and dive for pearls in local waters and one of the first stages of our modern development, following the formation of the UAE in 1971, was to develop our deep water ports, and to build new ones” he further elaborated.

Culture of expos, exhibitions and fairs has been one of the main attributes of human culture and civilization since from ancient days. It tremendously enhanced shared meanings of social interaction, and developed better understanding about others. It has been one of the main tools of exchanging commodities and communities, hearts and hoards and the last but not the least souls and sources.

UAE pavilion is darling to young couples and center of information for students. It has become hub of knowledge and entertainment for small boys and girls. It gives soothing effects to common people and dignitaries alike. It has become icon of passion, service, sharing, exploration and above all strong commitment.

Full of Life & Color

UAE pavilion is full of life, color, enjoyment and education. It provides larger than life experience about diversified natural genus. It is voyage of information and gaining knowledge about maritime life, species and fishes. It portrays true picture of UAE maritime heritage, marine conservation, coastal planning and marine science.

UAE is taking all possible measures to curb carbon emission by creating sustainable energy solutions. UAE is also deeply involved in ocean related climate change matters such as helping to alleviate the impact of sea level rise and UAE Participation in EXPO 2012 in Yeosu, Korea has already set another grand international stage to “let people and world know” about UAE immense and purposeful efforts in this regard.

UAE Commitment

The UAE is actively engaged in the EXPO 2012 by ‘LIVING SEAS’. It shows UAE government extraordinary achievements in the fields of blue economy, environment protection, ecology, alternative energy and love for wild life and of course sea life and its species. UAE pavilion is indeed a living reality of its unprecedented socio-economic development and its pledges towards nature, seas, coasts and water resources. It is combination of science and art, modernity and modesty, passion and profession. It is the best reflection of verbal and non verbal communications. Undoubtedly UAE pavilion is ideal combination of hi-tech and high spirits too.

United Arab Emirates has been famous for its aesthetic culture, rich heritage and openness. It has also been known for its tolerance, interfaith harmony and hospitality. UAE always actively participated in all the famous and mega expos and its marathon representation in Shanghai China 2011 is the prime example of its passion towards developing better cultural understanding and respecting diversity relating to humanity and civility around the globe.

UAE Ambassador to South Korea Abdullah Khalfan Al Rumaithi opened the UAE pavilion in the presence of a number of NMC official, organisers of the Pavilion, representatives of the Paris based Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), top Korean officials and Korean and foreign media persons. “The sea is in our blood. Our forefathers were sailors, fishermen, traders and pearl-divers” he added.

The UAE is closely connected in the EXPO 2012 by ‘LIVING SEAS’ as the over-arching theme which stands for UAE love, passion, care and perpetual feelings transcended through generations and generations about marine world including seas and oceans whether related with economics, innovation or nature. The UAE has won the membership of the higher steering committee of the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012 (Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea), becoming the only Arab and Muslim country in the world.

UAE pavilion at Expo 2012 is divided into four distinguished parts namely, Shoreline, Shallow Seas, Oceans and Connections. Each has its unique significance and relevancy with the EXPO 2012 main theme. It is all about live experience of nature with full of diversity and convergence.. It reflects the importance of “Blue Economy” in our daily lives well connected with complicated corporate world of commoditization.
The UAE’s marine related economy, surrounding fisheries, industries, trade, tourism and leisure, accounts for a very significant portion of GDP. Archaeological study confirms that for centuries the sea provided a corridor for wide ranging cultural communications and trade, together with essential food supplies and valuable commodities such as pearls. The pattern of human settlement in the land now occupied by the UAE has been one in which the coast has been of prime importance with nearly all the country’s cities situated next to the sea.

UAE pavilion at EXPO 2012 gained immense appreciation among the researchers, marketing gurus, soft image companies and advertisers. The state of the art infrastructure, fixture and environment friendly surrounding won the hearts of the common people and visitors alike. They were mesmerized with UAE museum heritage and splendid display of series of short documentaries about its culture, society, heritage, environment and above all peace-loving people.

Large queues gathering outside the innovative facade of the building, complete with its graphic ‘time-line’ illustrating key stages in the nation’s development is a daily routine at the EXPO 2012. Video screens showing school children from the UAE displaying their fluency in Korean has created special place in the hearts of the Korean people.

It provided longer than life opportunities and experiences in which ‘blue space’ meets ‘cyber space’ and where visitors can dispatch their ‘own’ fish to virtual aquaria. Children loved to gather around ‘Ocean of Dreams’ and jumping with great sense of pleasure and joy by setting their own ‘fish with a wish’ free to swim in a large virtual aquarium.

Wonderful maritime species and beautiful colored fishes of all types and sizes were wandering in virtual aquaria depicting the incredible assortment situated beneath us. Clownfish and damsel fish became hard favorite among the school going children and high education students. These fishes were named, tagged and connected with lively emotions and feelings of oneness.

Photo-Wall facility at UAE Pavilion in Expo 2012 attracted people of all ranks and age was not any bar. They were children, youngsters, girls, married couples and elderly partners. They shared their spirits of togetherness by making snapshots through Photo-Wall digital amazing facility. Unending spells of laughter, smiles, triumph, festivity, and above all collectiveness have been spreading at Photo-Wall facility since the start of EXPO 2012.

Entertainment, fun making activities and influx of information are the salient features of the UAE Pavilion 2012. UAE National Media Council’s Pavilion Director, Mr Abdulla Al Aidarous rightly stated that “entertainment is an essential means to engage people with our message”. “We want our visitors to have fun but we also want them to know that we are serious about supporting the EXPO’s call for maintaining the health of our oceans and coastline” he said.

UAE is keen to use the event, both as an opportunity to showcase the country’s heritage and achievements within the marine-related sphere and as a platform to share with other countries the UAE’s experiences for preservation of coastal environments in a rapidly developing setting,” he added.

Another interesting feature of the UAE pavilion is a collection of ‘Infopods’ educating visitors having a deeper interest to discover a range of marine related subjects, including turtles, dugongs, mangroves, corals, sharks, and fisheries. User-friendly touch electronic/digital screens and unidirectional speakers delivered high qualitative documentaries/films on these and other topics of special relevance to the UAE. School going children, researchers and environment loving people loved that idea imparting education with “One-Touch”. Curved “Cloud Wall” are one of the hot spots of visitors.

Center of Attractions ((Table II)
Name Details
Virtual Aquaria Visitors can dispatch their own fish
Ocean of Dreams Children can enjoy very bite of their stay
Photo-Wall Share their spirits of togetherness by making snapshots through Photo-Wall digital amazing facility
Infopods Educate all about sea life, species and fisheries
Reflections Show how five Emiratis’ lives are intertwined with the sea and “The Turtle saving the Pearl
Undersea Passageway Accompany by shoals of fish and the odd whale, into the ‘ocean theatre are attracted hundreds of thousands people

It is demonstrating larger than life characters through different well taken and highly cherished films like “Reflections” that shows how five Emiratis’ lives are intertwined with the sea and “The Turtle saving the Pearl” calling for saving marine turtles and highlights the UAE’s ban on non-biodegradable plastic. Moreover, the organizers of the UAE Pavilion combined eye-catching entertainment with so many informative videos that reveal the depths of the connections of the Emirati people with the world’s seas and oceans.

The gradual set of a large sun, to reveal an open doorway provided the next clue and ‘undersea passageway’, accompanied by shoals of fish and the odd whale, into the ‘ocean theatre are attracted hundreds of thousands people.

It has made big inroads in the hearts of lesser privileged “Blind People” by giving them unforgotten experiences. The organizers have created a tactile and audio-related path primarily for the blind but it can be enjoyed by anyone”. It is all about inner feelings and hearing “Ego of the Heart” experiencing richness and eternal connections of UAE with sea and maritime ecology. They can even listen to audio files on the related topic by touching a hidden object. All the necessary paraphernalia were developed with the support of the Korean Blind Association.

Emiratis volunteers at the UAE National Pavilion are very active, cooperative and mainly focused on helping the elderly, orphans, kids and handicapped people. Offering emergency response and the first aid is another avenue of volunteers at work at the 2012. A dozen of UAE volunteers are at work at the UAE Pavilion which is being visited by more than 8,000 people a day on the average. Hoping that their small helping hands dedicated to assisting kids, elderly and disabled adults would present a brilliant image of the UAE to Koreans people.

High officials and dignitaries paid rich tribute to UAE Theme “Living Ocean and Coast” delivering true concept of the EXPO 2012. Vicente Gonzales Loscertales, Secretary-General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) and Dr. Rolf Payet, Minister of Environment and Energy of the Republic of Seychelles praised UAE wholeheartedly participation in the EXPO by combining entertainment with eternity journey and fun with fundamental information with maritime life, seas and coastlines etc.

Zhao Zhen’ge, Commissioner General of China’s Pavilion at the 2012 Yeosu Expo has hailed UAE’s participation in the Expo that reflects country’s keenness in preserving environment and marine life. He expressed his admiration for the effective arrangement and interesting scientific material displayed at the pavilion which is spelling out awareness message to maintain the cleanliness of the sea and beaches to help rescue marine organisms.

EXPO 2012 Organisers are of the opinion that UAE Pavilion successfully and skillfully covers all aspects of the UAE successful. It also shows UAE efforts, management and development of marine environment and life. They spoke highly about the devoted engagement of the UAE management and supportive role played by the corporate sector budding better understanding, conserving and developing of the marine environment.

Experts Views
Many experts are of the opinion that UAE pavilion lively participation is a giant step which would promote tourism and better understanding among the nations. It would bring dividends in the days to come in shape of hosting World Expo 2020 in Dubai. UAE Ambassador to South Korea Abdullah Khalfan Matar Al Romaithi has also shared same views and highlighted the importance and impact of UAE Pavilion participation in EXPO 2012 Yeosu. He also praised the important role played by Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister and Chairman of National Media Council (NMC) by making frequent working visits to South Korea. Shaikh Abdullah has also supervised and organised UAE pavilion at Expo 2012 Yeosu.
UAE Biggest International Participation
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State ‘&’ Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the World Expo 2020 has said that the UAE’s participation at Yeosu Expo 2012 in South Korea is one of the UAE’s biggest international participations in such international endeavors. UAE is also using EXPO 2012 Platform for its bid to host World Expo 2020 in Dubai. More than 100 professional from UAE including the skillful team of National Media Council (NMC) are making their best efforts to make it reality.
High Levels of Service, Cooperation and Coordination
(a) Video screens showing school children from the UAE displaying their fluency in Korean has created special place in the hearts of the Korean people.
(b) UAE Pavilion has made big inroads in the hearts of lesser privileged “Blind People” by giving them unforgotten experiences. The organizers have created a tactile and audio-related path primarily for the blind but it can be enjoyed by anyone.
(c) Emiratis volunteers at the UAE National Pavilion are very active, cooperative and mainly focused on helping the elderly, orphans, kids and handicapped people.
World EXPO 2020
Rigorous meetings are being carried out at different levels about UAE bid for World Expo 2020. H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, Chairman of National Media Council stressed that the country has become a hub for specialized exhibition industry due to its strong economy, world class infrastructure and business and investment friendly policies. He said that the UAE under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is witnessing huge development in all fields.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State ‘&’ Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the World Expo 2020 said “I’m very optimistic and expect voting in favour of the UAE” to host World Expo 2020 which is based on our huge potentials, capacities and merits. According to many regional and international experts, the UAE is well prepared to present the best offer to win the bid to host World Expo 2020. Even, Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, Bureau International des Expositions’ (BIE) Secretary General expressed hope that the UAE would mark five decades of its foundation, while hosting World Expo 2020. Moreover, he appreciated the UAE unparalleled advancement in the fields of infrastructure, economy, diversification and tolerance.
Taking a giant step, UAE submitted its bid for World Expo 2020. A comprehensive media campaign has already been initiated throughout the UAE and around the globe. Since 1851, World Expos have provided significant opportunities to engage the world community in a shared project. The World Expo is one of the largest international events organised for more than 150 years. The World Expo is the busiest exhibition in the world and is said to attract the largest number of visitors worldwide. If the UAE manages to secure the bid for the 2020 Expo, the exhibition alone is likely to attract at least half a million visitors.
Concluding Remarks
Soft power is a living reality and its contribution towards achieving higher national GDP, better human resource management, and national sovereignty is dominant. It creates wonders in shape of miraculous socio-economic development, inter-faith harmony, tourism, capital and above all connecting different ideas for the overall betterment of global people and economy alike.
UAE is the home of more than 193 nationalities where peoples live united and enjoy other cultures. UAE has state of the art infrastructure in shape of airports, airlines, cargos, marketing companies, soft image companies, vibrant media and so many potential businessmen and investors which will work to its advantage in terms of lowering the overall cost of these kinds of events. It is hoped that by connecting people, which is one of the main features of UAE strategic vision as a cosmopolitan nation, UAE can foster greater cooperation and understanding between people and cultures. “By connecting minds, UAE celebrates its common aspirations and work to create a brighter future.

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