• 2022
  • Dubai Expo 2020 showcases potential of a sustainable world post-Covid-19 pandemic

Dubai Expo 2020 showcases potential of a sustainable world post-Covid-19 pandemic

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak 
Opinion - New Straits Times 
March 31, 2022   



THE Dubai Expo 2020 comes to a close at the end of March. Following a difficult start due to the pandemic in 2020, it took off late last year.

After barely a year, it is sad to see it go since it is hugely popular judging from the diversity of nationalities making their way to see the world from up close at the Expo.

Just step into any of the hundreds of pavilions spread throughout the Expo ground and  one is bound to learn and discover something new. Especially from places that are less accessible because of travel logistics. 

It is also tragic because a point of convergence in a world so divided in reality will disappear. The Expo has given many a sense of unity linked by so many commonalities that we have often taken for granted, especially of late. 

To start off,  all visitors are greeted by the theme: 'The Global Goals for Sustainable Development' - unifying humanity as it were.

This is displayed on one of the main entrances that welcomes every visitor beginning at precisely 9am right up to midnight. Flags of every country in the world are flanked on both sides.

The Malaysian flag has been proudly hoisted on the right side, visible from the grand entrance.

As one passes through the entrance gate, after verification of the vaccination status, the lessons on SDGs cannot be missed.

Foremost is the wellbeing of everyone in creating memories to last a lifetime for humanity which is now at at a crossroads.

It highlights the story behind the Expo which has seen the transformation of a desert to liveable spaces committed to sustainability.

The mind-boggling journey is recognised as "one of the most sustainable World Expos in history" (since the first in London in 1851) and some 170 years later.

This time, Dubai  adopted pioneering solutions to reduce waste and energy in line with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) vision for the future.

The show is well illustrated by the "Sustainability District" in championing world-leading sustainability initiatives that pave the way for a more sustainable future for all humankind.

It underlines the experiences on how the human race can live (until lately) in balance and in harmony with nature by humanising the hi-tech future of the planet.

"Terra" is the Sustainability Pavilion with the Mangrove and Sidr Avenue alongside displaying a truly diverse global view of sustainability. It offers an optimistic celebration of a future that humans can actually achieve together.

The District houses the venue where an educational roundtable entitled: 'Reimagining Education - Science and Evidence for Education', sponsored by Unesco Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for  Peace and Sustainable Development.

Among the main purposes was to re-envision education for the future and to repurpose it for the needs of the 21st century post-pandemic.

In many ways, it resonates with the International Islamic University Malaysia's (IIUM) goal of "humanising education".

It realigns the sub-goals of transdisplinary education, one that is community engaged, based on sustainable entrepreneurship as well responsible research and innovation through the  framework of collaboration and co-existence.

Overall, any assessment needs to play a "new" role in looking into humans flourishing, education and learning; education, learning and context; learning experience; and the use of data and evidence.

It contributes to the Blueprint for a New Social Contract for Education. A number of key messages have been purposed to enable a new learning to take place in the entire education ecosystem.

These messages are well mirrored in the Expo through two other locations or districts, namely the Mobility and Opportunity Districts.

The Mobility District emphasises on connecting the dots to drive the world forward, "building a society where information, ideas and goods are exchanged faster than before".

Whereas the Opportunity District is about "transforming today's aspirations into realities of tomorrow and be inspired to shape the future by unlocking one's own potential".

All in all, the Dubai Expo 2020 has brilliantly articulated the potential of a sustainable world beyond the context of SDGs into the post-Covid-19 era. A reminder not to be forgotten.

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector