Dubai’s World Government Summit: Positive Agenda, Surreal Context

Dubai’s World Government Summit: Positive Agenda, Surreal Context
Emirati officials watch U.S. President Barack Obama's address at the opening ceremony of the World Government Summit, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

This week, world leaders are gathering in Dubai for the fourth World Government Summit. It’s a bit surreal to talk about world government these days, given the recent setback to the United Nations’ efforts to get Syria peace talks off the ground, and the undeniable failures of governments across the Arab world to provide stability and a modicum of freedom to their citizens. Clearly, too, the summit is part of the United Arab Emirates’ relentless pursuit of its global brand. But it is also about the UAE’s desire to set a more positive agenda for the Arab world.

The gathering this week is the fourth in a series hosted by the United Arab Emirates on how to improve government, at the international and national levels. U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the opening address remotely, and the summit will be attended in person by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and numerous heads of state, as well as officials from major regional organizations, the founder of the World Economic Forum, CEOs of technology companies and other luminaries of the global summitry circuit.

The program suggests that the hosts hope to provide some inspiration as well as some practical ideas about 21st-century government. There are sessions on innovation and technology, the use of social media in education, clean-energy technologies, and pension sustainability, alongside uplifting “hope and change” messages from the World Bank, the U.N. Foundation and other global organizations.

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