United Arab Emirates Soft Power


Soft power is a country’s capability to influence the behaviors and preferences of other states or international communities through persuasion or attraction rather than the use of force. Soft power is a critical element in governance because it creates a positive image for a nation, positioning it in the global arena. In addition, it appeals to international corporations and individuals to invest and reside in a country, promoting its economy and cultural diversity. Research indicates that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was ranked 15th in the 2022 Global Soft Power Index, signifying its increasing influence in the Middle East and worldwide (Fouad, 2022). The United Arab Emirate’s foreign policy and its massive humanitarian efforts have strengthened its soft power increasing its dominance on the global stage.

The History of the UAE’s Soft Power and Inspirational Quotes by the Late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan

The soft power strategy is deeply embedded in the history of the UAE. It was introduced by the country’s first president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who emphasized diplomatic solutions and open dialogue in resolving conflicts (Almatrooshi, 2019). Several factors may have influenced the adoption of soft power. One of the major contributors was Zayed’s personality; he always encouraged peaceful settlement of disputes within the country and the Middle East region (Almatrooshi, 2019). In addition, the UAE was a weaker state compared to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran (Zartman, 2020). Therefore, due to the lack of hard power to secure it from threats, it embraced soft power to guarantee alliances with other states and ensure its safety.

Soft power was introduced in the UAE in the form of foreign aid, which has always been a crucial part of the country’s foreign policy ever since. In 1971, when the country was founded, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), a foreign aid agency, was formed (Krzymowsk, 2022). ADFD was funded using oil revenues, and in the first decades of its operations, the economic assistance was directed to countries in the Arab world. This humanitarian aid significantly increased the UAE’s influence in the region. Similarly, Zayed formed alliances with other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League (Ulrichsen, 2017). The country’s commitment to supporting other Middle East territories was demonstrated by its participation in the oil embargo of 1973 and its immense support to Syria, Jordan, and Egypt (Gökalp, 2020). Therefore, the UAE’s solidarity and aid to other Arab countries increased its influence in the region.

The UAE’s soft power in the global arena was experienced during the great recession that affected developed economies from 2007 to 2008. Due to the increase in oil prices from 2002 to 2006, the country had more than doubled its annual revenues accumulating massive economic resources (Al Ketbi, 2020). Therefore, during the recession, its oil proceeds, combined with its sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), became a critical source of funding for the United States and European governments to prevent financial collapse (Al Ketbi, 2020). This approach increased its influence on the international stage, thus attracting many partnerships with fast-growing economies in Latin America and Asia, further diversifying its alliances (Al Ketbi, 2020). The UAE’s religious policy has also acted as a significant source of soft power throughout its history. Since its inception, the country has practiced religious moderation by allowing the practice of diverse religions. Its religious tolerance attracted many immigrants to the UAE compared to other Middle East states, such as Qatar (Almatrooshi, 2019). Thus, the country’s history of soft power evolved from its foreign aid, forming alliances with neighboring states, and cultural and religious tolerance practices.

Over the years, the Emirates has significantly strengthened its soft power through its trade ties, humanitarian aid, and open-economy policy, which has attracted many corporations to invest in the region. In this case, in 2017, the UAE’s Soft Power Council launched a soft power approach to highlight its culture, heritage, and humanitarian aid (Gökalp, 2020). This effort was geared toward increasing the nation’s reputation on the international stage. The development of world-class infrastructure has also enabled the UAE to host major international events, such as the Expo 2020, further increasing its influence on the global arena (Krzymowsk, 2022). Therefore, the UAE’s soft power was introduced by its founder Zayed, and it has been strengthened by its humanitarian aid and multilateral trade links.

Sheikh Zayed is renowned for his inspirational quotes on diverse topics, including women empowerment and governance. Some of his famous quotes include, “The woman is half of the society; any country which pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy.” Sheikh Zayed also stated that “Arab oil can never be dearer than Arab blood” (McFarlane, 2018). Another quote says that “To treat every person, no matter what his creed or race, as a special soul, is a mark of Islam” (McFarlane, 2018). The quotes demonstrate Zayed’s focus on inclusion, solidarity, and tolerance, which are instruments of the country’s soft power.

The Establishment of the UAE’s Foreign Policy as Humanitarian-Oriented

Under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed, the Emirates’ international relations were founded on the principles of cooperation, hospitality, and solidarity. These values are critical to the Islamic religion; thus, the UAE’s diplomacy was greatly influenced by the Islam culture (Almatrooshi, 2019). Upon its establishment, the UAE adopted a foreign policy characterized by moderation, support for justice, regard for international treaties, non-interference in other nations’ internal matters, and compliance with the United Nations (UN) Charter (Almatrooshi, 2019). The Emirati foreign policy was also focused on establishing good relations and creating alliances with surrounding states. This was partly because it was a small state upon its foundation; therefore, it relied on the bandwagoning strategy to guarantee its security.

After the formation of the UAE, foreign aid became an integral part of its foreign policy. From an Emirati perspective, the country’s humanitarianism is rooted in Sheikh Zayed’s legacy (Gökalp, 2020). This explains why he is commemorated at the Zayed Humanitarian Work Day on the 19th day of Ramadhan each year (Gökalp, 2020). Foreign assistance was perceived as a means to ensure unity among the Arabic states. Additionally, it projected the UAE’s image as a protector of the oppressed and the underprivileged in the Islam and Arab world (Gökalp, 2020). As a result, the ADFD was created, which helped channel most of the UAE’s foreign aid to Arab nations in the 1970s (Gökalp, 2020). In addition, the UAE Red Cresent Authority was formed in 1983, becoming a critical agency in providing economic assistance (Krzymowsk, 2022). The country later extended its foreign aid to other poverty-stricken nations worldwide. The provision of financial help aimed to lower the poverty rates and guarantee the stability of developing nations.

The Emirati charity, humanitarian assistance, and philanthropy are deeply ingrained in the Islamic philosophy of sharing and compassion. Over the years, even after the death of Sheikh Zayed, foreign aid remains a central element in the nation’s foreign policy (Gökalp, 2020). Therefore, following the UAE’s formation, its international relations were based on a humanitarian-oriented approach, which has been consistent up-to-date. The humanitarian aspect of the Emirati foreign policy has considerably promoted the nation’s image as dynamic and liberal, strengthening its soft power.

The Stages of the UAE Foreign Policy

Since its inception, the UAE’s foreign policy has significantly relied on soft power to promote the region’s interests and guarantee economic and development success. The stages of the country’s foreign policy include;

Foundation: From 1971 Until 2004

Under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed, the Emirati foreign policy was founded on the principles of diplomacy and close relationships with other Arab and Islamic states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, the need to establish friendly relations with neighboring states encouraged the country to join the Arab League and the GCC upon its formation in 1981 (Ulrichsen, 2017). In addition, the UAE’s foreign policy was neutral in most regional affairs (Almatrooshi, 2019). The impartiality was driven by its quest to build close diplomatic ties with other Islamist and Arab nations. For this reason, it did not interfere in the Iraq-Iran war fought from 1980 to 1988 (El-Dessouki & Mansour, 2020). Similarly, the policy followed a centrist approach to international affairs that focused on mediation and peaceful settlement of regional disputes (Almatrooshi, 2019). Consequently, Sheikh Zayed led several diplomatic arbitrations in the Middle East, for example, during the gulf crisis triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Iraq-Iran war (El-Dessouki & Mansour, 2020). Thus, establishing strong ties with neighboring states was central to Emirati international relations.

Another prominent characteristic of the UAE’s foreign policy in its formative years was its commitment and advocacy for Arab countries. Under Sheikh Zayed’s leadership, the nation was greatly motivated by a sense of identity, which influenced it to pursue a pro-Arab foreign strategy to bolster the support of its neighboring states (Gökalp, 2020). This was demonstrated by the UAE’s massive efforts to channel most of its foreign aid to the Arab territories in the 1970s and 1980s (Gökalp, 2020). Palestine was among the countries that received financial and political support from the UAE (Gökalp, 2020). Furthermore, the nation showed great solidarity by offering funding to Jordan and Egypt, among other front-line-states in the Israeli-Arab conflict (Gökalp, 2020). Therefore, in its initial years, the Emirati foreign policy was focused on establishing close ties with other MENA nations, mediating disputes in the region, and supporting Islamic and Arabic states.

Internationalism: From 2004 to Present

The shift of the UAE’s foreign policy focus from the Middle East to the global arena began in the early 21st century. The change in the policy was motivated by the need to grow its economy rather than to gain political dominance. As a result, following the death of Sheikh Zayed in 2004 and under the new leadership of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE began projecting its soft power on the international stage (Al Ketbi, 2020). This was accomplished by constructing state-of-art infrastructure, which turned the country into a great economic hub attracting partnerships with fast-developing economies. In addition, over the years, the UAE has developed robust diplomatic ties with many countries across the globe through trade and its support for international institutions such as the UN (Almatrooshi, 2019). Similarly, the UAE’s foreign policy has been boosted by its humanitarian assistance to developing countries (Krzymowsk, 2022). Foreign aid has created multilateral relations and provided many alliances between the government and other global communities.

Lobbying and public relations have further improved the UAE’s relations with other countries. The country’s diplomacy was greatly affected by the 9/11 terror attacks, necessitating intense lobbying, especially in the United States (Gökalp, 2020). To maintain strong ties with other nations, the UAE has intensified its efforts to curtail extremism in the region and promote tolerance within its borders (Krzymowsk, 2022). In this case, in 2017, the UAE severed its diplomatic ties with Qatar due to the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical faction (Gökalp, 2020). In addition, the Emirates has established agencies, such as the Sawab Center, to counter any incidences of terrorism in the region (Almatrooshi, 2019). Establishing a society based on inclusion and tolerance values has helped tighten the region’s ties with the global communities.

Currently, the country has extensive diplomatic and trade connections with a majority of the nations around the globe. It is also a member of several international organizations, including the UN and World Bank, which further promote its relations with the international community (Almatrooshi, 2019). Hence, in its initial stages, the UAE’s foreign policy was focused on establishing good relations with other states in the MENA region, but over the years, it has fostered strong ties with other nations around the world.

The UAE Foreign Policy, Its Pillars, and What It Seeks to Achieve from Its Soft Power

The UAE’s foreign policy is fundamental in increasing its soft power, enabling the country to pursue its interests on an international scale. In recent years, the Emirates has put more effort into strengthening its foreign affairs with other nations in the Middle East and across the globe. In 2021, the UAE signed cooperation agreements with Qatar and Turkey, allowing the restoration of diplomatic relations (Hafidi, 2021). In addition, in 2020, the country set aside its prolonged enmity with Egypt by signing the Abraham Accords to establish positive working connections between the two regions (Al Ketbi, 2020). Thus, the determination of the UAE to promote international relations with global communities proves the centrality of its foreign policy in bolstering its soft power.

The Emirati’s diplomacy is founded on several critical pillars, which assist in shaping the international environment. Foreign aid is the central instrument of the UAE’s foreign policy (Krzymowsk, 2022). Since its foundation, the country has been an avid provider of economic assistance in the Middle East and third-world countries across the globe. Currently, the nation is among the top humanitarian aid donors. For example, in 2018, the UAE distributed foreign aid worth over $7 billion to 42 states worldwide, surpassing the UN’s 0.7 percent official development assistance (ODA) mark for six consecutive years (Krzymowsk, 2022). The economic assistance boosts the country’s foreign policy because it strengthens alliances with its aid recipients and other donors. Trade is another pillar of Emirati international relations (Krzymowsk, 2022). As one of the leading oil producers globally, the country has established trade links with many global partners. Similarly, its transformation into a business hub due to its infrastructural development and an open economy policy has attracted many global investors, fostering its ties to the international community.

Organizing international events has become a vital tool for advancing the UAE’s foreign affairs. The country’s ability to host major global events has significantly improved its diplomatic ties with other nations (Krzymowsk, 2022). This is because international activities such as expos or sporting events bring different states together, allowing for diplomatic encounters (Almatrooshi, 2019). Furthermore, the UAE’s massive support for global institutions is another robust pillar of its foreign policy. As a member of several regional and international organizations, the country is actively involved in funding such associations to achieve various objectives. For example, through the UAE’s financing of agencies like the UN, the country assists in improving world peace, security, renewable energy, economic development, and public health (Almatrooshi, 2019). Such efforts substantially help to improve its reputation, further tightening its international relations with other nations worldwide.

There are numerous objectives that the UAE aims to achieve from its increasing soft power. From an Emirati perspective, soft power will promote the country as a business hub to attract many investors, which will boost its growing economy (United Arab Emirates [UAE], 2022a). Similarly, the UAE’s soft power is intended to enhance its image as a regional leader in culture, tourism, and art. Additionally, the country aims to bolster its reputation as a modern and tolerant territory to attract international communities, whether for tourism or investment (UAE, 2022a). This will provide much-needed diversity and a rich cultural heritage for the nation. Finally, the UAE purposes to unite its economy, media and science, tourism, and humanitarian aid in the same direction (UAE, 2022a). Combining these sectors will significantly increase the country’s influence and dominance on the international stage.

The Importance of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Aid to the UAE

Humanitarian diplomacy is one of the six critical pillars of the UAE’s soft power strategy. Since its inception, the country has become one of the world’s biggest foreign aid donors. Research indicates that from 1971 to 2019, the UAE had utilized more than $80 billion in financial aid, with its economic assistance in 2019 exceeding $8 billion (Krzymowsk, 2022). The significance of foreign support and humanitarian assistance to the UAE is that it helps in strengthening alliances with other nations, allowing it to pursue its interests on the global map. The development of diplomatic ties between the UAE and the recipients of its economic assistance continually builds on its soft power influence. For example, the UAE has provided financial support to many nations, including Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Egypt (Krzymowsk, 2022). As a result, these countries, especially Egypt, have become strong allies and avid supporters of the UAE’s position on international issues.

Humanitarian assistance helps the UAE establish positive relationships with other donor countries. Research shows that the nation’s involvement in foreign aid has deepened its connections with other major donors, such as the European Union (EU), which significantly strengthens its political influence in international relations (Krzymowsk, 2022). Therefore, the UAE’s foreign assistance significantly boosts its relations with countries and other world donors, influencing its decisions in the global arena.

Humanitarian aid and economic assistance considerably enhance the UAE’s image, attracting many investors. The country has created many foreign aid programs to support infrastructural development, government effectiveness, and safeguarding and empowering women worldwide (Krzymowsk, 2022). These programs include the Sharjah Charity House, which assists needy families and communities worldwide (Krzymowsk, 2022). In addition, the Emirates Red Crescent has been actively involved in helping regions facing crises such as Syria and Yemen with food and medical support (Krzymowsk, 2022). Similarly, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation has also been instrumental in providing foreign aid to needy communities worldwide (Krzymowsk, 2022). Thus, the UAE’s efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by assisting the vulnerable communities attract positive attention to the country, which significantly strengthens its position on the international stage.

The UAE’s financial assistance enhances peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East region, strengthening its soft power. Most of the country’s humanitarian and economic aid is channeled to states in the MENA region, which has increased its influence in the Arab world (Krzymowsk, 2022). In this case, some of the top recipients of UAE’s economic assistance include Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan (Krzymowsk, 2022). Additionally, following the war in Syria in 2011, the country provided $700 million to assist the refugees (Krzymowsk, 2022). Hence, by providing economic and humanitarian aid, the UAE promotes peace and stability in the MENA territory, increasing its influence in the area and globally. Establishing positive relationships with countries in the region improves support for UAE, considerably increasing its soft power. Equally important, by maintaining stability in the Middle East through foreign aid, the country attracts many investors, significantly improving its economy and influence in the international community. Therefore, humanitarian and economic assistance helps the UAE promote peace in the MENA region and to boost its soft power.

How the UAE Handled COVID-19 and Provided Humanitarian Aid to Countries Worldwide

The UAE has received massive recognition for its efficacy in controlling and managing the Covid-19 crisis. The Global Response to Infectious Diseases Index report ranked the UAE among the top 10 nations globally for its leadership and proactive measures during the coronavirus pandemic (Zaher et al., 2021). The country was quick and efficient in its response measures following the outbreak of the pandemic. In this case, the government directed the immediate closure of schools and institutions of higher learning (UAE, 2022b). There was also a ban on social gatherings and a directive to wear masks while in public places. In addition, the UAE suspended public prayers and issued an order for the closure of shopping centers and entertainment joints (UAE, 2022b). All these measures were geared toward curtailing the escalation of the pandemic.

The UAE’s government suspended visas and international flights to slow down the spread of the virus. Similarly, virtual learning was adopted, and a remote-work system was quickly implemented in most parts of the country (Zaher et al., 2021). Equally important, the government initiated a nationwide disinfection and cleaning program to sterilize all regions (Zaher et al., 2021). Additionally, it launched several drive-through Covid-19 testing centers and mass testing campaigns locally to remain updated on the spread of the virus (Zaher et al., 2021). Furthermore, all coronavirus cases were considered emergencies, and free medical care was offered to all Covid-19 patients. These efforts significantly helped the country to contain the spread of the virus.

The use of technology was critical in combating the coronavirus in the UAE. Telehealth services were quickly adopted to provide medical services and information regarding the virus. For example, an app named Doctor for every citizen was created to offer public data and assistance regarding the disease (Al Hosany et al., 2021). Additionally, the ALHOSN UAE app provided a platform through which individuals received their Covid-19 results on their phones (Al Hosany et al., 2021). The government also built field hospitals to alleviate the pressure on city-based health facilities and quickly respond to coronavirus cases (Al Hosany et al., 2021). Moreover, the frontline healthcare workers were put through rigorous training to inform them about the diagnosis and management of the disease as well as how to avoid exposure to the virus.

To further limit the spread of the Covid-19, the UAE was proactive in availing effective vaccines to its citizens. It hosted the world’s initial phase III clinical trials of an inactivated vaccine to combat the coronavirus (Zaher et al., 2021). Following the successful tests, the inactivated Covid-19 vaccine was approved for healthcare workers, after which it was availed to all residents of the country free of charge. In addition, the UAE began to actively source other vaccines such as Pfizer and Sputnik to ensure adequate vaccination for all its citizens. Similarly, the country offered free stem-cell therapy for critical Covid-19 patients leading to the recovery of 73 individuals (UAE, 2022c). Moreover, the UAE built effective infrastructures for identifying, sequencing, treating, and vaccinating coronavirus cases within its borders (Zaher et al., 2021). Such proactive approaches have been critical in controlling the spread of the virus and ensuring its citizens’ safety and tourists who visited after its borders were reopened.

The UAE has been instrumental in providing humanitarian aid to assist other countries in combating the coronavirus. For instance, it worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN to provide medical aid, supplies, and testing kits to Cuba, Iran, and several African countries (Zaher et al., 2021). In addition, a report indicates that the UAE contributed about 80% of the global response to nations grappling with curtailing the spread of the Covid-19 (UAE, 2022c). By the end of July 2021, the country had distributed approximately 2154 tons of medical equipment, including ventilators, personal protection equipment, screening, and testing kits, to over 135 nations globally (UAE, 2022c). It also built six field hospitals in Mauritania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Guinea, and Lebanon, as well as a fully-equipped mobile clinic in Turkmenistan (UAE, 2022c). Furthermore, the country’s in-kind foreign aid channeled to the WHO to assist different regions in combating the virus was estimated at $10 million (UAE, 2022c). Therefore, it is evident that the UAE’s humanitarian aid was pivotal in assisting other countries to curb the Covid-19 spread.

Features That Make the UAE Attractive to the International Community

Several factors make the UAE considerably attractive to the international community. One of the major elements is the country’s economic stability. Research shows that the UAE is ranked 25th among the most competitive economies worldwide (UAE, 2022d). Numerous features contribute to its economic strength, including its strategic location, positive international relations, robust financial reserves, and huge SWFs. In addition, increased direct foreign investments, favorable economic expansion policies, increased government spending on infrastructure, innovation, and digital transformation, as well as free multi-specialty zones, significantly contribute to the UAE’s financial security (UAE, 2022d). Another element that makes the country appealing to foreign investors is the ease of running a business. The UAE has a conducive business environment, outstanding infrastructural amenities, and personalized services. It also has an excellent foreign policy that encourages many investors to operate business ventures in the country.

The UAE offers flexibility in regard to the selection of business premises. In this case, investors can set up their firms in commercial buildings, free zones, or industrial spaces. The country has impeccable industrial and commercial regions and over 40 free zones that permit fully-owned foreign companies (UAE, 2022d). Similarly, the Emirates has attractive investment incentives that may appeal to potential investors. In this case, it has an efficient visa system that permits a 10-year renewable residence visa. In addition, it allows for 100% wholly foreign-owned enterprises while offering 100% profit repatriation (UAE, 2022d). Equally important, the UAE’s currency has a robust appreciation because of the low inflation rates and is easily convertible. Furthermore, another factor that appeals to the international community is the country’s open economy, which promotes the growth of the private sector and increased competition while discouraging monopoly (UAE, 2022d). Therefore, all these elements make the country significantly attractive to foreign investors.

The UAE’s political stability appeals to investors, tourists, and individuals wishing to work and settle in the country. The region has good leadership, which has boosted its image in the world. It was recently ranked the third most peaceful nation in the Gulf region (UAE, 2022d). Similarly, the UAE has social stability because it exercises respect and tolerance for the individuals of diverse cultures living in the country. Research indicates that 88% of the Emirates’ population comprises expatriates of over 200 nationalities (Zaher et al., 2021). In addition, its stance against extremism and terrorism considerably appeals to the international communities, especially the United States (Krzymowsk, 2022). Moreover, the UAE practices religious tolerance and moderation, encouraging inter-faith religions. This may be attractive particularly to the expatriates wishing to work and reside in the country. Therefore, cultural and religious diversity considerably attracts many individuals to invest or live in the region.

The UAE is one of the most popular tourist destination sites globally. It is famous for its skyscrapers, including the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower globally (Lee, 2022). It also has exquisite shopping malls and unique biodiversity in the form of beaches, mountains, deserts, oases, and rich fauna and flora that attract many tourists each year (UAE, 2022e). Generally, the UAE’s state-of-art infrastructure, business-friendly environment, an image of modernity, cosmopolitanism, and tourist sites have a massive appeal to the international communities.

Factors That Make the UAE Host to International Organizations Such As IRENA

Several elements have contributed to the UAE’s ability to host international organizations, particularly the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). One of the primary reasons is the country’s commitment to improving access to sustainable and clean energy domestically, which made it IRENA’s headquarters in 2015 (Krzymowsk, 2022). The UAE’s efforts toward renewable energy (RE) have been demonstrated through its increased reliance on sustainable energy sources, such as solar and nuclear power, among other eco-friendly alternatives (UAE, 2022f). In addition, its devotion to RE can be proven by the construction of Masdar City, the world’s most sustainable urban area. Masdar utilizes solar and other renewable energy sources resulting in significantly low carbon emissions (Randeree & Ahmed, 2019). The city has been designed to become a hub for cleantech organizations to introduce new technologies in RE. Similarly, in 2017, the Emirates launched its 2050 energy strategy intended to increase the use of clean energy from 25% to 50% and decrease carbon emissions by 70% (UAE, 2022g). Therefore, the UAE’s adoption and push for more sustainable energy options have turned it into a hub that hosts IRENA events.

The UAE’s efforts to increase RE’s access globally have influenced its capability to organize international events. A significant amount of its foreign aid has been used to assist other developing countries in achieving the SDGs, in this case, SDG7, which involves increasing the access to affordable and RE by 2030 (Krzymowsk, 2022). The UAE transferred 538 million as economic assistance from 2010 to 2020 to support third-world nations in producing RE (Krzymowsk, 2022). Thus, the country’s commitment to helping developing nations create RE has enhanced its potential to host international organizations.

The Emirates has been proactive in launching innovative strategies and reinforcing multilateral cooperation among the IRENA’s member states to promote sustainable energy worldwide (Salman & Hussein, 2019). The finances provided by international partnerships, such as the ADFD-IRENA project, UAE- Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (UAE-CREF), and the UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund (UAE-PPF), have helped create RE in different regions (Salman & Hussein, 2019). For example, the UAE-PPF funding established small-scale wind and solar power plants in Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Samoa. In addition, the UAE-CREF has facilitated the launching of three solar energy plants in Barbados, Saint Vincent, and the Bahamas (Salman & Hussein, 2019). Thus, the UAE’s funding to developing nations to assist them in increasing the production and consumption of RE makes it influential enough to host global agencies.

The UAE’s multilateral diplomacy has strengthened its dominance on the international stage. Over the years, the country has developed positive relations with the GCC members and other global partners such as the European Union (Krzymowsk, 2022). The multilateral ties have been reinforced by its foreign policy, trade ties, and increased distribution of foreign aid to needy communities worldwide. Such approaches have strengthened its alliances with the other global players and enhanced its reputation and support to host international organizations. Furthermore, the UAE has invested heavily in infrastructure, increasing its capacity to organize international events effectively (Krzymowsk, 2022). The country has adequate resources to advance innovations in technology and other modern infrastructures required for hosting major organizations. Hence, the UAE’s diplomatic relations and economic stability provide the needed support to hold international activities. Generally, the Emirates’ capability to accommodate global agencies, especially IRENA, is influenced by its commitment to improving access to clean and RE domestically and worldwide and its diplomatic ties.

EXPO 2020 and Its Impact on the UAE’s Soft Power Foreign Policy

The International Registered Exhibitions, commonly known as World Expos, are global gatherings organized every five years. The global fairs provide platforms for governments, universities, businesses, and people from different countries to meet and showcase their achievements (Krzymowski, 2020). In addition, the exhibitions often create an opportunity for the participants to share ideas and discuss advances in innovations, sustainability, the global economy, and other issues expected to influence the future.

The most recent international Expo was held between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022 in Dubai, the UAE (Krzymowski, 2022). The UAE got the opportunity to host the Expo 2020 after defeating the rival bids from Russia’s Yekaterinburg, Turkey’s Izmir, Brazil’s Sao Paolo, and following three rounds of voting. The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) decision was announced following a successful campaign that made Dubai garner 116 votes from 168 BIE member nations, defeating Yekaterinburg’s bid at the end of the polling process (Krzymowski, 2020). The UAE’s strengths in infrastructure, diversity, and political stability influenced its ability to host the Expo 2020 event. For these reasons, Dubai’s bid had secured a public endorsement from several diplomatic allies and celebrities after the BIE’s decision (Saeed, 2021). Therefore, the widespread support from other countries and political leaders reflects the UAE’s global standing.

Hosting the mega-event demonstrated the UAE’s capacity to organize a successful international fair. The event bolstered the country’s soft power policy by allowing it to expand its influence in the MENA region and beyond. The Expo 2020, whose central theme was ‘Connecting Mind, Creating the Future,’ offered an opportunity to unveil and explore several critical projects (Krzymowski, 2020). During the event that lasted for six months, the UAE took center stage in showcasing how to solve the globe’s major problems in energy, climate change, and sustainable development. In this context, the mega event enabled the country to display various technological novelties and life-changing innovations. For example, the international fair explored the healthcare challenges, the future of air travel, and how to adopt artificial intelligence to serve people worldwide. The Expo 2020 was the first to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asian countries (Krzymowski, 2022). As a result, this event helped consolidate the UAE’s global reputation and stand out in the region.

The Expo 2020 helped the UAE demonstrate its efforts to improve lives through foreign aid, including humanitarian diplomacy. As a result, the fair highlighted the UAE’s core values of leadership and commitment to improving the lives of different communities and reducing poverty around the world. In addition, the UAE capitalized on the Expo 2020 to strengthen partnerships and alliances with other nations to promote the region’s prosperity, peace, and stability. Similarly, the Expo 2020 acted as a platform for the UAE to expand investment and trade pacts for sustainable development in less developed countries and improve international relations (Krzymowski, 2020). Therefore, Expo 2020 strengthened UAE’s soft power policy by highlighting its charitable and economic development contributions to other countries.

The international fair provided the UAE with an opportunity to present its achievements in meeting SDGs, positively impacting the country’s global presence. For the first time in the world Expo’s history, the UAE hosted more than 190 countries during the event (Krzymowski, 2020). In addition, welcoming various countries to participate in Expo 2020 demonstrated that the UAE is built on mutual respect and tolerance. Therefore, the high number of participants highlighted the country’s pivotal role in cultural inclusivity, boosting its soft power (Krzymowski, 2020). Thus, organizing the Expo 2020 aligns with the UAE’s patriotic and modern culture that welcomes people from diverse cultural backgrounds and social structures.

The UAE’s Effort To Host COP28

In the Gulf region and globally, the UAE has been at the forefront of reducing its carbon footprint and setting a benchmark for climate goals. After successfully bringing countries together at Expo 2020, the UAE was again selected to host the 28th session of the UN Climate Change Conference dubbed COP28 in 2023. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formally confirmed that the country would organize the event following a unanimous resolution by the Asia-Pacific Group of nations during COP26 held in Glasgow, Scotland (Bell, 2021). The UNFCCC’s decision highlights the UAE’s commitment to enhancing cooperation with the international community and engagement with all relevant parties to mitigate climate change.

During the event, the UAE is expected to demonstrate to other nations the main progress it has made regarding the climate agendas outlined in the Paris Agreement. Some of the goals include profitable and innovative solutions, such as a zero-emissions transport system, the role of smart agriculture, and low carbon and renewable energy in creating a more sustainable economic future. For these reasons, the effort that the UAE has put to be hosting COP28 in 2023 includes the launch of the UAE Net Zero By 2050 Strategic Initiative to curb greenhouse emissions. To attain this climate objective, the government allocated approximately 600 billion dirhams ($163 billion) to renewable and clean energy sources for the next three decades (Hussein, 2021). Therefore, the UAE’s effort demonstrates its commitment and global influence in combating climate change.

The Net Zero By 2050 action plan aligns with the Paris deal adopted in 2015 and signed by 195 nations, including the UAE. The primary goal of this climate accord is to reduce the rise in global average temperature to 1.5°C (Hussein, 2021). Thus, the UAE’s capital investment in reducing emissions makes it the first nation in the MENA region to unveil a practical solution to achieve that climate ambition (Tolley, 2021). Similarly, the UAE’s role in mitigating climate change is consistent with the long-standing vision of the government to contribute to global sustainability efforts while supporting human and economic development both domestically and globally. Some of the country’s climate initiatives include the construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant and the Noor Abu Dhabi solar PV site. The programs are expected to reduce 21 and up to one million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, respectively (Tolley, 2021). Therefore, the UAE’s government budgetary allocation on clean and renewable is a direct reflection of the country’s long commitment to progressive climate action.

The country intends to use the path to net-zero to increase industrial competitiveness, enhance investment and create economic value. This strategic plan is regarded as an open invitation to other nations and organizations to collaborate with the UAE toward improving multilateralism, creating lasting solutions to climate change, and designing opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development. In this case, the UAE serves as an example in tackling climate change and creating sustainability ahead of COP28. These initiatives are aimed to protect the environment and enhance the UAE’s reputation as an attractive destination for direct foreign investment, aligning with its vision to drive sustainable development (Hussein & Ibrahim, 2021). Therefore, the UAE Net Zero By 2050 Strategic Initiative is a significant effort that the country has implemented to be hosting COP28 in 2023. The upcoming event is planned to provide new opportunities for economic growth and further position the UAE as an ideal place to work, live and raise families, and even create communities.

Steve Harvey and Other Influencers’ Role in Promoting the UAE as a Tourism, Financial, and Economic Hub in the MENA Region

Over the last few decades, the UAE has become one of the world’s most popular tourism and economic destinations, attracting visitors from diverse cultures and sectors to experience what the country offers. According to a report, the country attracted over 16.7 million tourists in 2019, representing an increase of 5.09 percent in 2018 (Cornwell, 2021). From traditional restaurants serving local dishes to modern skyscrapers hotels with fantastic firework displays or riding camels in the desert, the UAE has a lot of world-class experiences to provide its citizens and visitors.

The UAE has gained the world’s attention for its iconic skyline of high-rise buildings, mountains, vast coastlines, and various adventure destinations that offer excellent activities for all ages. The country is famous for its luxurious and grandest waterfront and golden sand hotels, resorts, beaches, and waterparks, such as the Burj Al-Arab Jumeirah, Armani, La Mer Beach, and Atlantis the Palm (Lee, 2022). The UAE’s myriad of hotels and holiday sites are why the country is very popular with overseas visitors, both new and returning. Similarly, the UAE has various key infrastructures that attract people to the region. These include the Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai and Sharjah Arts Museums, and Dubai Mall, which provides entry to the Burj Khalifa, and the Dubai Aquarium, which houses 140 species of sea life (Lee, 2022). Therefore, the UAE’s robust public spaces supporting tourism and activities that cater to every culture and population with varied interests make the country an ideal tourism and economic destination.

Various celebrities and social media influencers have recently been used as part of a broader unified tourism strategy to promote the UAE as a tourism, financial, and economic hub in the MENA region. For example, after traveling across the seven Emirates of the UAE and experiencing the country’s unique potential, Steve Harvey created a venture in Dubai called MELT Middle East. Harvey’s new venture comes after he previously participated in the 2020 UAE tourism online campaign named ‘When Steve Meets East.’ MELT is an abbreviation for Merging, Empowerment, Leadership and Technology, a consulting company that aims to encourage other United States superstars to visit the region to host events and promote cultural exchange (Saeed, 2021). Similarly, MELT is intended to provide a platform for celebrities to establish their footprint in the UAE and start new business ventures. As a result, the UAE uses superstars’ influence to cement its growing status as a leading business and tourism destination both at home and abroad.

MELT is designed to highlight and share innovation and skills. The platform allows youths from around the world to come together to learn a plethora of subjects, from movie production to coding and technology, to exchange ideas and generate revenue streams. Moreover, MELT aims to bridge the gaps between the Middle East and Western cultures through cultural exchanges using celebrity events (Rahal, 2021). Thus, sharing ideas and values is intended to help change the misinformation about the Arab culture and Islam, which has affected the number of people visiting the region. The UAE has a culturally and religiously tolerant population and is the home to over 200 nationalities from diverse cultural backgrounds (UAE, 2022e). The state’s celebrities-driven campaigns are used as a strategy to ultimately change perceptions of the region and boost the tourism sector and encourage people to invest in the area. Therefore, establishing new connections and influencing superstars to increase the UAE’s brand recognition, most notably through culture and values, reflects the country’s soft power.

International Sports Contribution to the UAE Soft Power

The UAE understands that hiring some of the most celebrated players attracts more viewers and followers for its domestic soccer leagues. The UAE was a second home for the Argentinian former football legend Diego Maradona, who played in four World Cups and stirred his nation to victory at the final in Mexico in 1986 (Molinaro, 2018). Maradona had a special relationship with the UAE and had spent much of the past decade in the country and coached the Dubai-based Al Wasl football club during the 2011 to 2012 season (McAuley, 2020). During his tenure, Maradona steered the team to the final of the Gulf Cup for Clubs (GCC) (Kunti, 2017). In addition, he was appointed Emirate’s honorary ambassador of sports in September 2012 (Jose, 2020). Maradona also received a managerial position at the Al Fujairah, a team in the UAE’s second tier of football, from May 2017 to April 2018 (McAuley, 2020). Although Maradona’s contract at Al Wasl was not regarded as a success, he inspired football sporting activities and helped place the country’s football on the world map.

Millions of audiences are attracted to mega sporting events around the world. In this context, international football creates enormous soft power by demonstrating the UAE’s economic strength on the global stage through state-of-the-art infrastructures, such as stadiums and transport systems. As a result, showcasing a country’s capacity to host a mega sporting event. Sports diplomacy helps promote the UAE’s foreign policy goals and enhance the country’s political image. Although organizing mega sporting events attracts substantial economic costs, the soft power potentially gained from hosting the competition is unmatched. For this reason, the UAE has evolved to become a home to world-class facilities for all types of tournaments and positioned itself as a global hub for organizing and hosting international soccer events. Robust sports arenas underscore the UAE government’s belief in the significance of the football sector and its influential role in boosting its soft power. The country boasts of various sports academies and playing fields designed in line with FIFA standards, such as Hazza Bin Zayed, Al Shamkha, Zabeel, and Hamdan Bin Rashid stadiums. These facilities have continued to benefit national interests by building their brand through sports excellence.

The GCC states have recognized the significance of using international tournaments, especially high-profile sports, such as the World Cup, for public diplomacy and soft power. In this case, the UAE has improved its sports prowess by directly investing in or sponsoring major international leagues, improving Olympic medals standing, and pursuing a higher FIFA ranking. In addition, the country has recruited top coaches, such as Diego Maradona, to advance domestic soccer. These initiatives allow the UAE to gain soft power and extend its influence in front of millions of football audiences worldwide. Similarly, the UAE’s state-of-the-art sporting facilities have made the country a significant destination for athletes and sports clubs to organize training camps during the winter break in Europe or prepare for international competitions. Therefore, the UAE’s sports attractions help improve the country’s image among other states in global power politics and gain international recognition.

The UAE’s leadership has used the mega-event tournaments as a catalyst to increase relations with other countries. In 2009, the UAE hosted tournaments, such as the Fifa World Cup, that offered the country opportunities to engage with other nations, transcending barriers of culture and language to unify populations and produce non-sport outcomes. In this case, the country uses sports events to project the aspirations and values of the UAE’s people and highlight stability, diversity, and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.

Contribution of Formula One and Music Festivals to the UAE and Its Soft Power

Formula One (F1) races and international music festivals further strengthen the UAE’s capability to host mega-events. For example, the Yas Marina racing track attracts many foreigners, leading to optimal capacity utilization of the country’s five-star hospitality hotspots, such as the Yas Viceroy Hotel. In addition, motorsport has positioned the UAE on the international tourism map alongside many other tourist destinations where the competitions are staged annually. According to a report, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (GP) increased hotel revenue from 483 million dirhams in October to 689 million dirhams in November 2018 (Debusman, 2019). In addition, the average rate for room booking rates per day increased to 515 dirhams from 349. Similarly, statistics show that the hotel occupancy in Abu Dhabi increased to 83% compared to 79% in the previous month (Debusman, 2019). Thus, motorsport has continued to significantly contribute to rising tourist numbers and boosting the country’s economy.

Staging motorsport events are beneficial in achieving economic ends and pivotal in geopolitics in terms of national branding and cultivating the UAE’s soft power. Abu Dhabi GP has made the UAE popular in front of the 490 million F1 spectators worldwide (Debusman, 2019). Therefore, the unrivaled audience represents a crucial opportunity for an emerging state, such as the UAE, to project itself on the global stage and improve its prominence. For example, the Yas Marina ground has become the world’s luxury car capital, providing stunning and exciting racing television images to millions of F1 supporters. As a result, the country utilizes the platform to reinforce its fundamental values. Similarly, the events are used as a powerful tool for the government to frame its global agendas, such as the creation of sustainable cities and environmental protections. In this case, promoting the country’s image is more valuable to the UAE than the pure monetary value linked with the influx of visitors and proceeds collected from staging these races.

International music festivals are also vital to the UAE hospitality sector. Singing events, such as Inclassica, Parus, RedfestDXB, and Dubai Jazz festivals and other forms of entertainment contributed to the growth and appeal of the country’s major cities (Hassan, 2022). The fairs act as a powerful symbol to indicate that the UAE is where people from America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa can meet for fun and leisure gateways. People attending different music festivals can visit various attraction sites, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The events promote the tourism sector by incentivizing families worldwide to visit and help to diversify the UAE’s economy (Wise & Harris, 2019). Hosting these fairs help portray the UAE as a culturally and religiously tolerant tourism destination. The UAE leverages the perceived positive international relations image to cultivate and wield its soft power by demonstrating peaceful coexistence and economic stability and portraying a more positive view of the region. Hosting F1 and music festivals elicit positive attraction to obtain preferred outcomes and cement a place as a prominent member of the international community.

Economic Importance of Dubai and Abu Dhabi Aviation Hubs and Their Contribution to the UAE Soft Power Strategy

The UAE is considered one of the world’s most influential countries in aviation, rivaling many of Europe and America’s premier airports and carriers. Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Dubai International Airport (DXB) are some of the largest airfields in the world and the home bases of two of the leading global airlines, Etihad and Emirates. The aviation sector directly contributes to the UAE’s national economy, employing approximately 180,000 people (International Air Transport Association [IATA], 2018). These include workers operating in airport on-site enterprises, such as restaurants and shops, aircraft manufacturing, and air navigation service. The industry supports extra 120,000 jobs through the direct purchase of goods and services from local suppliers. In addition, approximately 68,000 jobs are created through the wages the aviation pays its employees (IATA, 2018). Furthermore, both Etihad and Emirates airlines enhance travel and tourism, bolstering the region’s economic stability. Visitors arriving by air to the UAE usually spend their money on the domestic economy and support an additional 409,000 jobs. Overall, the UAE’s aviation sector creates about 777,000 employment opportunities (IATA, 2018). DXB and AUH are integral contributors to the UAE’s growth by creating jobs.

The DXB and AUH have become the key pillars of the development of the national economy. According to IATA, the aviation sector, including airlines and their supply chains, contributes $19.3 billion to the UAE’s economy (2018). Similarly, direct spending by foreigners in the country adds another $28.1 billion. This implies that the industry earns the government $47.4 billion, representing 13.3% of the UAE’s GDP. By 2037, the country’s aviation sector’s economic contribution will result in an extra 101 million passenger journeys, support around 1.4 million jobs, and contribute approximately $127.7 billion to GDP (IATA, 2018). Dubai and Abu Dhabi aviation hubs have positioned the UAE as a major competitor on the global stage. Through their popular airlines, Etihad and Emirates, the country has remained committed to diversifying the region’s economy, with travel and tourism prioritized as key areas of activity for bolstering sustainable economic development.

The national carriers and their hubs have roles in improving and demonstrating the UAE’s soft power. Etihad and Emirate have been pivotal in government strategy to boost recognition, awareness and the country’s admiration. The carriers have expanded the international route map and emphasized the quality of service, helping the UAE develop soft power. Apart from transporting passengers and cargo, the airlines improve the country’s global perceptions by connecting cultures, people, and businesses. Through Etihad and Emirates, images of stability, economic prosperity, cosmopolitanism, and diversity are projected to highlight the national brand to the global community, improving the country’s diplomatic relations and regional and international influence.

The UAE exercises its soft power through these airlines to demonstrate the opportunities they offer to the rest of the world and how they contribute to the global common good. For example, during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE was one of the first nations to become involved in providing ventilators, personal protection equipment, medical aid, and testing kits. In this case, by the middle of 2021, the country had supplied 2.154 tons of medical assistance to more than 130 countries, recording 196 flights (Krzymowski, 2022). Thus, besides the regularly scheduled air travel, Etihad and Emirate operate special flights to support the various relief efforts conducted by the humanitarian community.

The Louvre and Other International Attractions the UAE Hosts

The widespread world-class infrastructure and exciting scenes are the driving force behind the UAE’s popularity worldwide. Some of the country’s landmark attractions and facilities include Burj Khalifa, the tallest building globally. In addition to its impressive record, this building serves as a symbolic beacon of progress, an outstanding example of global cooperation, and an emblem of the innovative and dynamic MENA region (Khan et al., 2017). Similarly, Burj Khalifa is a declaration of the UAE’s capabilities and the resolve of its leadership to create novel projects and act as tangible proof of the country’s growing role in shaping the world. Other attractions and pioneering constructions that enhance the UAE’s profile include the Dubai Fountain, Palm Islands, Dubai Aquarium, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi (Lee, 2022). The nation’s robust development makes it an attractive place for people to visit, work, live and raise families. However, a groundbreaking project, such as the Louvre, is not just a prestigious museum but serves as a soft power tool.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a joint project between the UAE and France. The structural landmark is aimed to strengthen cultural ties by deploying art from different periods of civilization as a diplomatic tool. The UAE purchasing the rights to use the Paris museum’s famous brand for about $525 million for three decades acts as a strategy to share values by assembling works of art across continents (Zaretsky, 2017). The part of the deal made between the two governments saw the 17 French institutions loaning Emirates about 300 artworks (Carvajal, 2017). These included various drawings, such as the Monet’s 1877 and van Gogh paintings, as well as the portrait of La Belle Ferronnière. The Louvre’s diverse art collections have been instrumental in attracting foreign visitors to the UAE.

Another significant acquisition is a renaissance portrait of the Madonna and Child. The painting demonstrates Louvre Abu Dhabi’s commitment to showcasing works that represent different religions (Carvajal, 2017). The UAE aims to promote its image as a tolerant country, and its flagship museum acts as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures (Zaretsky, 2017). Apart from displaying objects and manuscripts of cultural and historical significance, Louvre collects modern and contemporary artworks. Therefore, the museum’s vast collections have the potential advantages of promoting visitors’ education and engagement by highlighting similarities arising from shared human experiences transcending history, nationality, and borders.

The Future of the UAE’s Soft Power

The UAE’s overall soft power score is more likely to improve globally. The country’s geographical location has historically exposed its inhabitants to a highly hostile and volatile environment due to several powerful neighbors vying for regional hegemony, especially Iran, because of its potential possession of nuclear weapons. In addition, the emergence of infectious diseases and environmental challenges are regarded as a significant threat to global safety. One of these widespread concerns is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has continued to ravage world economies. Further, in the age of climate crisis, the UAE being one of the oil producers, criticisms have been directed at them for their role in planetary degradation. For these reasons, the UAE is expected to continue seeking new opportunities for more global partnerships and engagements in innovation, multilateralism, philanthropy, conflict resolution, and event hosting to build its soft power.

The UAE’s soft power lies in its capability to bring international communities together by creating new opportunities for cooperation and development. Therefore, the country’s performance in foreign relations is likely to improve in the future. The UAE has been a pillar of peace in the MENA region and has built stronger bilateral ties with its neighbors to bring stability to the current world order that detests hard power.

Regarding humanitarian diplomacy, the UAE has been pivotal in fighting the pandemic and distributing the vaccines and non-medical supplies through its national carriers, contributing to its positive global influence. On the environmental front, the government has made a substantial financial commitment to control the climate change conversation. Currently, the UAE is rebranding itself as part of the solution to the planetary crisis through the creation of clean energy and sustainable development. Through these efforts, it is expected that the UAE will remain the most influential nation in all Arab nations. Similarly, the country’s prominence in political diplomacy, environmental protection, and support for the economic recovery of other countries can improve its overall soft power ranking from the current 15th position into the top 10 globally.

Being geopolitically located in a historically politically hostile and volatile environment, the UAE can pursue its interest further through its foreign policy. In this regard, the country needs to revisit its international relations agendas to enhance political stability and security in the MENA region. In addition, it is crucial for the state to improve its global partnerships by replacing proxy politics and military intervention with direct dialogue and diplomacy. For example, this was demonstrated by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s (UAE National Security Advisor) announcement to visit Iran (Hafezi, 2021). The action can be regarded as a step to expand bilateral ties and de-escalate tension between two nations.

Adopting a more pragmatic and cautious approach may serve the UAE’s interests by restoring its international reputation damaged by years of aggressive strategy. Some of the country’s previous international engagements include military intervention in the Libya and Yemen conflicts (Al Ketbi, 2020). Thus, peaceful resolutions can help the UAE improve its global projection of diplomacy and soft power, especially after being granted non-permanent member status at the UN Security Council for the 2022-2023 term (Eltahir, 2020). If the UAE engages in dialogue and mediation efforts, it may extend its influence and end excessive political polarization in the region.


In recent years, the UAE has experienced an unceasing increase in its soft power. The country’s growing influence in the MENA region and the global stage has been linked to its foreign policy and massive humanitarian assistance to developing states. The Emirati soft power approach was adopted by its founding leader Sheikh Zayed who introduced foreign aid as an integral part of the country’s international relations. During the Emirates’ formative years, its foreign policy focused on establishing strong ties with other Islam and Arab states. However, over the years, its diplomatic relations have extended to many countries across the world. The pillars of the Emirati foreign policy include foreign aid, trade, hosting global events and funding international organizations. The primary objectives for the UAE’s soft power are to promote the nation as a business hub, enhance its global image and to bolster its reputation as a tolerant and modern society.

Several factors make the UAE attractive and appealing to the international community. These include the country’s robust infrastructure, diversity, innovation, and political stability. The nation’s security status and extensive development make it an attractive place for people to visit, work, live and raise families. The country’s tourist attraction sites include the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Aquarium. However, a landmark, such as Louvre, serves as a soft power tool to share cultural values through arts and demonstrate that the UAE is built on mutual respect and tolerance to attract visitors. The country also is endowed with soccer stadiums, shopping malls, and unique biodiversity, including beaches that promote tourism. The UAE’s key features represent the image of modernity and cosmopolitanism and have contributed to celebrities’ and diplomatic allies’ endorsements to host mega-world events. These international activities include the EXPO 2020, Abu Dhabi GP, and pre-season international football tournaments, which have helped attract many tourists to the UAE, contributing to its economic growth and soft power. In addition, organizing these activities has strengthened its partnerships and alliances with other nations and assisted the country in consolidating its global reputation.

The UAE has been at the forefront in coordinating and promoting international efforts to combat the world’s emerging environmental and public health challenges. The country’s commitment to improving access to sustainable and clean energy domestically, such as solar and other eco-friendly alternatives, has helped reduce carbon emissions. The UAE’s objective to curb global warming and promote sustainable development is why it became IRENA’s headquarters. In addition, the country plans to host the COP28 summit in 2023 and has invested a considerable amount of capital in realizing the Net Zero By 2050 Strategic Initiative to curb greenhouse emissions.

The UAE has also continued to help countries worldwide fight hunger and diseases. During the outbreak of the Covid-19, the country was one of the first nations to become involved in providing vaccines and other non-medical aids to other nations to control the spread of the virus. Etihad and Emirate airlines have been leading in helping the country improve its global reputation and influence. The carriers schedule special flights to support various relief efforts conducted by the humanitarian community, building diplomatic ties, and marketing the UAE’s core values to other nations. These initiatives have enabled the UAE to improve and exercise its soft power by demonstrating the opportunities and solutions it can offer to the rest of the world. Thus, the UAE’s prominence in event hosting, diplomatic circles, environmental protection, and support for the economic recovery of developing countries improves its soft power and influence globally.


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