The world needs greater unity and collaboration and must share innovations and expertise if humankind is to tackle its most pressing challenges, according to an overwhelming majority of respondents in a global study by Expo 2020 Dubai.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “As we learn to live with a changed world and rebuild from COVID-19, some things remain constant, such as our desire to reach out to one another, between communities and across borders, to enable progress through the exchange of knowledge, ideas and perspectives. We are eager to see a new era of global cooperation, one that equips us to deal with real-world challenges in the pursuit of sustainable prosperity for all.”

The 2021 survey of more than 22,000 people across 24 countries explored sentiment in a world irrevocably changed by COVID-19. Conducted in partnership with YouGov, it followed a similar study carried out in 2019, before the pandemic.

The number of respondents who are optimistic about their own future with regards to the Expo subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability increased to 65 per cent[1], up from 60 per cent[2] in 2019.

Notably, 86 per cent of respondents said international cooperation was crucial to solving challenges such as the global health pandemic, while more than half said sharing expertise and innovations, and collaboration between individuals and communities were critical to overcoming humanity’s obstacles and helping to build a more prosperous future.

Her Excellency added: “We developed this study to better understand humanity can shape a brighter future for all. The results align closely with our own Expo programming, which commits to real-life impact across essential topics such as gender equality and women’s empowerment; inspiring and enabling our youth; and harnessing tech, innovation and creativity in the pursuit of a cleaner, safer, healthier tomorrow.”

When respondents were asked to rank their priorities for the future, increasing opportunities for youth emerged as the highest, followed by the meaningful involvement of all people with respect to environmental laws and policies (environmental justice[3]), and then international collaboration.

However, opinions differed across regions: respondents in Africa, South America, and the Middle East ranked increasing opportunities for youth as most important moving forward, whereas equal opportunity for women and girls is considered the priority in Australasia and North America. Interestingly, international collaboration was cited as the most crucial future priority among European respondents.

Despite only 32 per cent saying they are hopeful about humankind’s ability to combat climate change, three in five (61 per cent) said they were optimistic about the world’s sustainable future. 

Comparing nations, optimism towards a global sustainable future was higher in countries such as Indonesia (82 per cent), India (72 per cent), the UAE (72 per cent) and Nigeria (69 per cent) versus Canada (42 per cent), Germany (36 per cent), France (35 per cent), UK (30 per cent) and Sweden (30 per cent), echoing the findings of the 2019 study.

Taking action towards a more sustainable future by integrating more eco-friendly practices and supporting local businesses stood out as important considerations for those surveyed. People in Poland (54 per cent), China (49 per cent), and France (48 per cent) were most likely to cut down on using single-use plastics, ahead of other measures such as powering their homes through renewable energy or adopting more environmentally conscious travel habits. 

The survey delves into a range of subjects, also including health and wellness, sustainable travel, efficient food supply chains and the development of both urban and rural communities, all of which will be focuses of Expo 2020’s programming.

Under the mega-event’s Programme for People and Planet, Expo 2020’s participating countries, organisations, partners and visitors will collaborate to discuss future-proofing solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.

One of the first global mega-events to take place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, inviting visitors from around the world to join the making of a new world, with a six-month celebration of human creativity, innovation, progress and culture.

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