Young Emiratis during the Mohammed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Adnec

Abu Dhabi: The UAE aims to build one of the world’s soft power superpower, a minister told the audience at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations on Monday.

Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said soft power is the art of letting other people have your way and it is the modern equivalent, projecting national magnetism that goes far beyond military power.

He said: “Soft power for UAE diplomacy is a ‘door opener’ in many ways. It opens doors to various parties, helps communicate what the UAE is about, especially on issues concerning our stance on radicalisation and extremism.

“What is important here is our public and cultural diplomacy. This not only involves the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, but also every citizen and resident in the UAE, other UAE institutions and bodies to spread the nation’s message.”

The UAE has projected its soft power and diplomacy efforts across various foreign policy pursuits.

“The UAE harnesses soft power and moves it into direct and immediate messaging. This is evidenced in the UAE topping the list of nations in which the youth of the Arab world want to live and work in,” Dr Gargash said.

“Year upon year, the UAE places first in the Arab Youth Survey, reflecting real experiences and opportunities for youth, families, work opportunities, and a safe, secure and fair environment to flourish. The UAE is the world’s top donor country for the last five years with more than Dh117 billion.”

He said Expo 2020 is one of the most notable examples of UAE’s soft power as World Expos are the single largest promotional event of a nation outside its own borders and a major platform for the UAE to reach out to the foreign public. “Louvre Abu Dhabi teaches the world to celebrate our diversity and common humanity, our shared hopes and dreams. Emiratis are granted visa-free travel in Schengen zone countries and every citizen can now travel visa-free to 159 countries and we still aim for making our passport among the world’s top most powerful,” Dr Gargash said.

He said if he is asked to name the UAE’s single most notable success in soft power, he would say women’s empowerment, crediting Her Highness Shaikh Fatima Bin Mubarak for the great achievement.

Results like these reflect that the “stock that we have in soft power is huge,” he said.

The UAE Soft Power Strategy aims to increase the country’s global reputation abroad by highlighting its identity, heritage, culture and contributions of the UAE to the world.

Despite the nation’s ability to extract influence of soft power, Dr Gargash said, “We, as the foreign ministry, understand that we need to do more.”

Dr Gargash shared a solid advice with all the young men and women attending the majli: “You are ambassadors of the country, and therefore represent the country well. Anything positive you do will be remembered by the world as a good Emirati deed, but any negative step you make, will reflect on your country. So you have a great responsibility of protecting your country’s image, whether you are in the UAE or abroad.”

He said the UAE always sends positive messages to the world, although we live in an unstable region that has challenges, citing optimism of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who said during the first edition of the majlis: “I am very optimistic by nature and I believe that the UAE today is more like a light that illuminates a dark land.”

Introducing the Majlis, Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazroui, Minister of State for Youth, who referred to herself as “the student” in her address, highlighted the value of hard work as she offered examples of self-growth and development from her experiences as a young Emirati.

She described how when deciding which study option she should pursue, her parents encouraged her to choose the sciences rather than the arts as they recognized the future benefit of such knowledge. Only later in life did she realize the true advantages of this decision. After then gaining a bachelor’s degree in Economics from New York University Abu Dhabi, Al Mazrouei earned her master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Oxford.

The Mohammad Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generation offers Emirati students the unrivalled opportunity to meet and engage with the UAE’s culture, social and technological leaders.

The speaker list covers the entire event, across five dedicated zones that explore the themes: taking pride in a nation, growing 21st century skills, and developing global mindsets.

Mohammad Khalifa Al Nuaimi, Director of Education Affairs Office, said regional and global experts across a variety of fields and disciplines, including Caleb Harper, Beau Lotto and Ayesha Khanna, will share their knowledge, experience and perspectives on relevant topics including ‘Digital Agriculture’ and ‘Creativity in Science,’ as well as deeper discussion into the future of Blockchain and Fintech.

“We have over 300 sessions planned across our five interactive zones which cover five main themes: Science and Technology; Business and Entrepreneurship; Leadership and Development; Culture, Art and Media; and Sports and Fitness. The majlis is set to be an action-packed two days of knowledge sharing and constructive dialogue, encouraging students to be leaders in their own lives, designing a better future for themselves and that of the nation,” Al Nuaimi added.