- Speakers included H.E. Jamal bin Huwaireb, Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Ban Ki-moon, the UNDP’s Sophie de Caen, and Al Arabiya’s Turki Aldakhil
Dubai, December 6, 2016: His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, attended the opening ceremony of the Knowledge Summit 2016, being organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) on December 5-7, 2016, at the Grand Hyatt Dubai hotel.
Bearing the theme “Knowledge… Present and Future”, the three-day Summit is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as well as under the directives and in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of MBRF. The Summit brings together prominent ministers, executives, and intellectuals to discuss ways to boost the production and dissemination of knowledge.
Speaking at the opening ceremony were His Excellency Jamal bin Huwaireb, Managing Director of MBRF; the guest of honour, H.E. Tony Abbott, Former Prime Minister of Australia; Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General (in a televised message); Sophie de Caen, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director for the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); and Turki Aldakhil, General Manager of Al Arabiya Television Network in Dubai.
“The leaders of the United Arab Emirates realised early on the significant role of knowledge and reading in building sustainable communities,” noted H.E. Jamal bin Huwaireb in his speech, underscoring some of the UAE Government’s knowledge-focused initiatives such as the Year of Reading 2016 and the National Strategy for Reading 2026, launched by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and the Arab Reading Challenge, launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
H.E. bin Huwaireb added: “To implement these initiatives, it is imperative that we seriously and proactively anticipate and plan for the future as a basis for decision-making…This is where the Knowledge Summit 2016 comes in. This year, the Summit puts forth a revolutionary initiative – the Arab Reading Index – born out of the extensive joint efforts of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme. The index is an important tool capable of evaluating reading and cultural patterns in the Arab region.”
In a televised message, meanwhile, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lauded the efforts of the United Arab Emirates – and MBRF, in particular – in joining hands with the United Nations to promote knowledge with such prominent events as the Knowledge Summit, underlining its particular importance to the youth segment, as knowledge serves as a compass to help them find employment.
Meanwhile, the UNDP’s Sophie de Caen expressed her appreciation for the support and partnership that the UAE has provided to UNDP. “This partnership, inspired in part by the findings of the UNDP Arab Human Development Reports launched in 2002 and 2003, has by now led to an important body of joint work,” de Caen said. “This includes the publication of four major regional analytical reports on critical aspects of knowledge and education, as well as the Knowledge4All Web platform, the Arab Reading Index, and the Arab Knowledge Index. At UNDP, our view is that continuing to advance on knowledge is of critical importance for the path ahead across the Arab States region.”
“Last year world leaders embraced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the world’s plan to build a future of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all,” de Caen added. “I would like to call your attention to Sustainable Development Goal 4 in particular, which emphasises that education and knowledge are at the core of sustainable development...Here in the region, young people have more and more access to information, but we are aware that the quality of information that people have access to is uneven. Knowledge will be the key moving forward to ensure that many parts of the region are able to regain a solid footing.”
The Summit’s guest of honour, Former Australian Prime Minister H.E. Tony Abbott, also spoke at the opening ceremony, where he remarked on Dubai’s achievements and how far the emirate has come he first visited in 2010. “What was a few decades ago a sleepy desert outpost has been transformed into a wonder of the modern world,” H.E. noted, adding that Dubai wasn’t only a success story in terms of construction and development, but that, when compared with the rest of the region, “Dubai is free”.
“The contrast between the UAE and many parts of the region could not have been more stark,” Abbott goes on, calling the UAE an antidote to the idea that the Middle East is always prone to fundamentalism. “The main driver in this success was the UAE’s focus on education. I hope your example will be compelling to countries throughout the region. Knowledge events like this are very important because they build bridges of communication; they show that what binds us is stronger than what divides us.”
For his part, Turki Aldakhil, General Manager of Al Arabiya Television Network in Dubai, spoke at the opening ceremony of the annual Knowledge Summit, announcing the results of the Arab Reading Index. “We keep hearing about a lack of reading in the Arab World,” Aldakhil noted, “Many took this for a fact and began to investigate the reasons. They relied on statistics that erroneously state that Arabs only read six minutes – a quarter of a page – per year, or that on average, every 80 Arabs, combined, read one book. While these studies have been previously debunked, MBRF decided to carry out a new study in the region.”
“The poll was meant to canvass 20,000 people, but it actually drew 148,000 respondents from all around the Arab World – the largest participation in the world,” Aladkhil continued. “The study gives us insight into the realities of reading in the Arab world, revealing exactly how much the average Arab citizen reads, what they read, and in which languages, among other parameters. The Index also showed that, contrary to popular belief, Arabs, on average, read 35 hours a year – 15 hours within school or work hours and 20 outside of them. Meanwhile, the average number of books read is 16 per year – including seven within school or work hours and nine outside of them.”
“What is more,” Aladkhil explained, “e-reading surpasses traditional reading. As far as paper publications go, respondents read scientific books, novels, specialised magazines, newspapers, and comics, in that order. Meanwhile, in e-reading, the survey showed that social media topped the list, followed by news websites, e-books, and blogs.”
The opening session of the annual Knowledge Summit also included the announcement of the winners of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award, which honours individuals who’ve made outstanding contributions to the dissemination and production of knowledge around the world. A spectrum of events and workshops will also be organised on the sidelines of the summit.