How Are Youth Volunteers Playing a Dynamic Role with the United Nations at Expo 2020 Dubai?
24 March 2022
The success of the UN Hub was made possible with the support of over 300 part-time youth volunteers who helped the team in the daily operations at Expo 2020.
Nahyun Kwon, a young UN volunteer from South Korea with a background in Arabic studies, experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the United Nations in UAE. She arrived for the first time in the UAE in September 2021, yet she has been supporting the UN team remotely since December 2020 and was part of all the preparations. Once the COVID19 restrictions were eased, Nahyun moved to UAE and started her incredible journey by joining the UN and Expo 2020 teams onsite. Every day, Nahyun would commute to the UN Hub at Expo 2020 to support the team and coordinate with different UN agencies in organizing events and exhibitions.
Home of the United Nations at Expo 2020, the UN Hub became the most visited UN premise in the world during 2021. Since its opening in October 2021, the UN Hub has featured a dynamic set of programs, celebrating International days and Expo-related thematic weeks. The UN Hub also featured examples of the UN’s impactful work globally, regionally, and locally towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Throughout the six months duration, the UN Hub has welcomed an estimated more than 100,000 visitors including Expo visitors, school groups, youth, people of determination, dignitaries from the United Arab Emirates, and beyond. Managed under the leadership of the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office and the UN Country Team in the UAE,the success of the UN Hub would not have been made possible without the support of over 300 part-time youth volunteers who helped the team in the day-to-day operations and welcomed visitors on a daily basis. The volunteers were assigned thanks to Emirates Foundation, UN Volunteers programme, Expo 2020, as well as UN staff members and personnel.
Nasser Murad, a young Emirati volunteer, was assigned by the UAE National Service Program to support the United Nations at the UN Hub, given his language proficiency skills including the Spanish language alongside Arabic and English. According to Nasser, this unique experience enabled him to communicate with various cultures of the world in one place. "My presence at the UN Hub contributed to the richness of this experience, as it increased my knowledge of the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the importance of working together, with joint efforts and engagement of all in order to achieve them," said Nasser, expressing his gratitude for this experience, which enabled him to acquire additional skills in managing events and forums.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) at Expo 2020
Together with the UN Resident Coordinator’s office for the UAE, the UN Volunteers programme integrated qualified, and highly motivated international volunteers to support the UN in UAE team on-ground, providing the volunteers with a unique opportunity to gain lifelong skills and build connections, and promoting the value and global recognition of volunteerism.
Nahyun Kwon from South Korea and Jishen (Frank) Feng from China were among the 300 volunteers who joined the UN team, volunteering for the UN Hub full time. As Administration Officer, Nahyun commuted daily to the UN Hub and liaised with different UN agencies in organizing events at the Hub. “My work allows me to meet new people daily and engage in conversations with people from all over the world,” said Nahyun encouraging youth to never miss such opportunities. She chose to work with the UN team in UAE to practice her Arabic language skills, “I wish to perfect my Arabic language to be able to work in an Arabic-speaking environment,” she added.
As for Frank, he was always enthusiastic to engage visitors with the Hub activities and games and sensitize them on the Sustainable Development Goals. “It is crucial to let the next generation learn about the importance of sustainable development,” said Frank highlighting the importance of working together to create a better future.
The Commitment of the UN UAE Country Team to the Success of the UN Hub at Expo 2020
The volunteering services and commitment expanded to also include the United Nations Country Team for the UAE, whereby staff members from multiple UN agencies (including UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, and OCHA) offered support by volunteering at the UN Hub on multiple days. Furthermore, staff members from other UN agencies, like UNHCR, UNESCO, International Trade Center (ITC), and Global Compact also spent time at the UN Hub to support during their organized events at the UN Hub.
“It was a memorable experience for me to volunteer at the UN Hub in Expo 2020 Dubai and to engage with the visitors and explain the hub’s core theme,” said Lina ElKurd, Communications Specialist for UNICEF Gulf Area office. “I was happy to see people learning more about the United Nations and the SDGs in different artistic views, and to meet and work with a few of the young impressive and ambitious volunteers.”
As a UN Volunteer with UNFPA in UAE, Jianing Wang was thrilled to explain to people what the UN is about and to let the public know more about the UN's work. "Every time I check in to the UN Hub at Expo 2020, I expect something new and meaningful to learn, either from the events happening or the communications and exchanges with all the visitors," Jianing said.
While the countdown to the closing of Expo 2020 Dubai approaches, Emirates Foundation, a national organization in UAE, has successfully provided hundreds of volunteers assigned to the United Nations, serving as Expo ambassadors and providing all forms of support to visitors at the UN Hub. The deployment of volunteers by the Emirates Foundation in support of the UN Hub comes in agreement with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in the UAE and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme.
A core aim of Expo 2020 – the largest event ever held in the Arab world – is to inspire and empower the world’s next generation through numerous initiatives and programming. It was integral for the United Nations in UAE to engage youth in this unique experience; realizing their potential as partners in today’s global society and recognizing their impactful contributions to the success of the UN’s presence at Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond. Through this skills-enriching experience, youth are giving back to the community and creating a meaningful legacy for the UAE and the world.