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Lebanon's presence in Expo 2020 Dubai tells of resilience and inclusivity – Arab News

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DUBAI: When the UAE set to work planning Expo 2020 Dubai, organizers had one important goal in mind — to ensure every country was represented, no matter its size, wealth or present social and political condition. It was this commitment that allowed crisis-hit Lebanon to take part.
It was not until May 2021, following the 2018 decision of the Lebanese Council of Ministers to approve Lebanon’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, that the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade signed an agreement with the Federation of the Lebanese Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for the management and operation of the Lebanese expo pavilion.
The tardiness was in part the result of multiple overlapping crises. Beyond its political and financial woes, the country has also been hit hard by the global pandemic. These challenges were further compounded by the Beirut port blast of Aug. 4, 2020, which killed hundreds and left widespread destruction in the country’s capital.
A recent country report by Arab Barometer, which surveyed around 3,000 Lebanese citizens, summarized the situation in bleak terms. “Lebanese are deeply worried about their country’s future, and have abysmal ratings of their domestic conditions and the government’s performance,” it said.
“Despite ongoing challenges from COVID, which has hit Lebanon hard, economic concerns are the dominant worry of most in the country. Lebanese are the most pessimistic about their country’s economic future of any country surveyed in Arab Barometer’s sixth wave.”
Participation in Expo 2020 Dubai is nevertheless viewed by many in Lebanon’s business community as an opportunity to attract investments to a country beset by economic problems and faced with regional isolation.
When Lebanon agreed to take part in the expo, the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture said: “Lebanon’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai constitutes a real challenge and an unmissable opportunity for the Lebanese business community to network and expand its international outreach.” 
It is against this backdrop that the Lebanon pavilion should be viewed — and even celebrated — since its very existence seems like a testament to the strength and resilience of the Lebanese people themselves.
Given the financial and logistical support provided to pavilion planners by the UAE to allow them to take part, it is also a small monument to solidarity and inclusivity — core values of World Expo.

The Lebanon pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is located in the Opportunity District. The structure is an austere and relatively unadorned white box, standing in marked contrast with some of the more lavish Arab pavilions dotted across the site. The interiors are also simple, with a minimalist, modern aesthetic.
Dubai is host to a large Lebanese diaspora, who supported the development and building of the pavilion. Many more are keen to join them. About half of Lebanese citizens are trying to leave their homeland for better opportunities abroad, according to the Arab Barometer.
The theme of the Lebanese pavilion is “Together We Walk” — an invitation for the world to join the collective journey of the Lebanese people, tied in with the spirit of Expo 2020’s master narrative, “connecting minds, creating the future.”
The pavilion places a particular emphasis on the principles of synergy, solidarity and the cultural meetings and connections that create change and opportunity. It celebrates Lebanon’s human capital, its vibrant and flourishing art scene, and cultural diversity.
Young Lebanese artists, working across a variety of mediums, are displayed in the pavilion’s gallery. Its content rotates on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, with differing themes in each rotation.
Lebanese ceramic arts, in particular, are a medium that has blossomed in the last decade. A new generation of artists has emerged from the country’s long-established history of pottery-making.
The emphasis on the younger generation is well captured by the interactive displays featured on the ground floor. In one such display, L’Organization internationale de la Francophonie, a global body supporting cooperation between nations with large French-speaking communities, invites users to record a short phrase in French that will potentially be used in a custom song to be mixed by a prominent DJ.
Perhaps the most novel and enjoyable exhibit in the pavilion is an interactive space filled with swings. Since they are normally found in playgrounds, their inclusion in the pavilion is another reference to Lebanon’s desire to highlight the ambitions of its young people. But more than that, swings are representative of motion, excitement, flexibility and possibility.
Visitors then move on to the concept store, which contains a selection of bold and unique Lebanese products available to buy. The collection has been curated with an emphasis on reviving traditions, empowering youth, women and local craftsmanship, all with a focus on sustainability.
One export Lebanon is famous for is derived from its grapes. The expo pavilion features a bar with more than 19 internationally renowned brands on offer. Tastings and introductions to oenology — the science and study of the topic — are hosted by prominent Lebanese sommeliers and are hugely popular, often with standing room only.
The restaurant serves Lebanese specialties and celebrates culinary traditions, rural heritage and the natural environment. It is based on fresh products and encourages organic, eco-friendly practices.

Once visitors have eaten, they can step outside to the pavilion’s open air space, which is almost as large as the pavilion itself and offers a quiet secret oasis for weary expo-goers. The space is equipped with tables, chairs and soft cushions as well as a stage and bleachers where evening performances, music, talks and workshops are held.
Sitting in this outdoor space, reflecting on the perennial hope and pluralism on display in the pavilion, one can admire the fact that Lebanon has risen to the challenge of participating in such a competitive international event.
As one poetic display within the pavilion muses: “From the deepest wounds, we cried ourselves out of despair. We gave the world a leap of faith. Overlooking the sea, we let go. And now, we see.”
Lebanon’s participation in Expo 2020 is a demonstration of this leap of faith. The pavilion is a small but important example of the Lebanese people’s famed resilience.

CAIRO: Bahrain’s foreign ministry confirmed in a statement on Saturday that an Israeli officer will be stationed in the country, according to the state news agency.
The appointment will be related to the work of an unnamed international coalition of more than 34 countries, the report said.
Bahrain also said that the coalition’s task includes securing freedom of navigation in the territorial waters of the region, protecting international trade and confronting piracy and terrorism.
Earlier media reports said Israel would send a naval officer to an official posting in Bahrain, the first time an Israeli military officer has been posted to an Arab country.
LONDON: French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country remains committed to the continued enhancement of joint cooperation with Egypt in a number of fields, and to supporting Cairo’s efforts to achieve comprehensive and sustainable development, and combat terrorism and extremist ideology in its region.
Macron said his country is proud of its strong relationship with Egypt, which has gained momentum in recent years through the many visits by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to France.
His comments came during a meeting with El-Sisi on the sidelines of the One Ocean Summit in the French port city of Brest on Friday, according to Bassam Rady, a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency.
El-Sisi said Cairo is in turn keen to develop ties with Paris in various fields, especially the transfer of expertise and the employment of French technological know-how in all types of development. He added that Egypt also hopes to maximize coordination and consultation with France on political, security, military and economic issues, and to help maintain security and stability in the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean and the African continent, especially under the current French presidency of the EU.
Rady said the two leaders also discussed a number of regional issues, including developments in Libya, where Macron said his country and the international community appreciates Egyptian efforts, led by El-Sisi, to preserve Libyan national institutions and promote a political solution to the crisis in the country.
They agreed on concerted joint efforts to help the Libyan people restore security and stability in their country, especially through the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from Libyan territory, and the eradication of terrorism, the spokesman said.
Macron and El-Sisi also reviewed opportunities for cooperation ahead of Egypt’s hosting of the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, given the prominent role they their countries play in environmental and climate issues, the spokesman said.
El-Sisi said the invitation for him to participate in the One Ocean Summit reflected the importance Egypt attaches to protecting the marine environment, as evidenced by the establishment of nature reserves and efforts to preserve biodiversity and reduce marine pollution.
The Egyptian president also held talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, and Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden on the sidelines of the summit.
RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen has struck targets in Sanaa, Al Ekhbariya reported early on Saturday.
The strikes came after Thursday’s drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport by the Iran-back Houthi militia.
The attack, which injured 12 people, has been widely condemned.
The coalition asked civilians not to gather around the targeted sites in the Yemeni capital.
LONDON: Britain’s Prince William, founder of United for Wildlife, was present for the signing of an agreement with Dubai Airports to prevent the illegal trade in wildlife, during his historic visit to the UAE, state news agency WAM reported on Friday.
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said by signing the “Buckingham Palace Declaration” the international transit hub was committed to thwarting any operations aimed at the illegal trade in wildlife, which is a global issue that ranks among the top five global crimes for profit.
He said the Duke of Cambridge had always been keen to launch global initiatives aimed at preserving the natural environment and combating the illegal trade of wild animals.
And also to see this police car…!  pic.twitter.com/BKh4Ss9ECc
Griffiths also said Dubai’s location is a link to all parts of the world, and the emirate has a strategic position as a center for international trade, so strengthening cooperation between Dubai Airports, DP World and Dubai Customs will constitute a strong impetus in the fight against trafficking issues to eliminate the illegal movement of wildlife across borders.
He continued: “Dubai Airports will provide the necessary support and jointly coordinate with partners and relevant authorities from all over the world to share data, find and develop strategic solutions and set policies that contribute to addressing this international issue because of its critical importance.”
Meanwhile, Prince William attended the first-ever Earthshot Prize Innovation Showcase at the DP World Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
Working together with @EarthshotPrize to inspire optimism & action to scale eco-innovations that will put our planet on a sustainable path and protect our world for generations to come.

Thank you @DP_World for hosting and for your continued support of our Finalists, & the Prize. pic.twitter.com/DM4kPjKGgv
Prince William, was joined by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, CEO of Emirates Group and chairman of Dubai Airports, and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World.
He praised an announcement of a £1 million ($1.355 million) investment in two Earthshot Prize finalists, designed to scale their work in the UAE and Middle East.
“The Earthshot mission is more than just a prize. It’s a global team effort to spark urgent optimism and game-changing innovation to transform our future. I’m inviting all of you to join the Earthshot team and support our finalists — the eco-innovators — to take their solutions to scale,” said Prince William.
Queen Rania of Jordan, who participated via video message, said: “Every sector has a role to play public, private, philanthropic, and the bottom line could not be clearer: If we work together, everybody wins.”
Inside the pavilion is the promotion of our advancements in innovation, space, and artificial intelligence.

It’s one of the largest, self-built spaces at the expo, creating a global collective message projecting unity. pic.twitter.com/43mDAQ06Rq
With the funds, the finalists will begin collaborative work on reef restoration in the region, including scoping for the first commercial land-based coral farm for reef restoration in the Middle East.
This investment will scale their innovative work creating panels that mimic natural habitats like rock pools and mangrove roots, which are fitted to coastal sea defenses to return marine life to coastal shorelines.
DP World’s commitment will fund the design and installation of the largest living seawall on the planet adapted to support the native marine life of the UAE and wider region.
“Our business is connected to the oceans and their protection is an important priority across all our operations as part of our sustainable business commitments evidenced by our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2040,” said Bin Sulayem.
BEIRUT: Hundreds took to the streets of a southern Syrian city on Friday to demand better living conditions and democracy in a rare protest inside regime-held areas, a war monitor said.
More than 300 protesters, gathering for a fifth consecutive day in Sweida after authorities cut off 600,000 families from its subsidies program, staged their biggest rally yet, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“We want a civil, just, democratic state,” a young man told a cheering crowd of demonstrators in video footage broadcast by local media network Suwayda24.
The footage shows protesters raising the flag of the Druze, a religious minority whose heartland is Sweida.
In one video, an elderly man in traditional Druze costume lamented price hikes.
“We cannot live or get our rights, we don’t have any gas or diesel,” he told the crowd. “We want to live in a homeland that guarantees our dignity and our rights.”
The rally went ahead despite a heavy deployment of security forces, who sealed off main roads.
Earlier this month, the government excluded a large number of people from its subsidies program, in a country where 90 percent of the population is poor.
Those who were cut off lost access to lower-priced food and oil, a move that triggered rare protests and criticism from within government-held areas of Syria.
Most protesters took to the streets for the first time in their lives to demand better living conditions, while others demanded democracy, Nour Radwan of Suwayda24 told AFP.
Smaller protests over similar issues were held in Sweida in 2020.
But the Druze, who made up less than three percent of Syria’s pre-war population, largely kept out of the country’s conflict.
Sweida has been mostly spared by the fighting in the decade-old war, and only faced sporadic jihadist attacks which were repelled.
Syria has grappled with an economic crisis compounded by Western sanctions, the Covid-19 pandemic and a rapid devaluation of the local currency.

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