Shutting minds and silencing the future: what the Dubai Expo really covers up

From 1st October 2021 to March 2022, the UAE is hosting the Dubai Expo, the first World Expo to be held in the Arab World. The event will explore the issues of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The country claims that when the world comes together, we create a better tomorrow.

But coming together to hear diverse voices and create a better world isn’t possible when you lock up people for speaking their minds. In the UAE, every single human rights defender has been exiled or imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression. Not one of them has been invited to the Dubai Expo.


Over 20 human rights partners* are launching a campaign to counter the narrative of “tolerance” and “openness” that the UAE claims to uphold and aims to feature at the Dubai Expo, and highlight the repression still happening in the country.

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Appeal for UAE to release detained
Human Rights Activists during the Dubai Expo

How you can support the campaign

Read the open letter and sign the petition by the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. Join the discussion and promote the campaign on social media using the campaign's official hashtags: #FreeEmiratiActivists and #AltExpoHumanRights alongside the Dubai Expo main hashtag #Expo2020

The Expo "Themes"

The Dubai Expo promotes three important themes for our common humanity: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. Below we have explained what we envision for each of them. We also list some actions that we believe governments in the MENA region should take to ensure that these themes do not remain empty messages.


When we join forces, small actions can grow into positive global movements that will help communities to protect and preserve the world around us. This can’t be achieved without women. A future in which women still don’t have the right to vote, are told what to wear, and are prevented from travelling, working or participating equally in our society is not a sustainable or better future. We believe that women are essential voices to attain sustainability. Let’s listen to them!


There’s a ripple effect in everything we do. Even one person can be the key to unlocking eight billion opportunities that can help individuals and communities create a better tomorrow, today. For this to happen we need to be connected and we need technology. There’s no opportunity if connectivity is replaced by blackouts and Internet censorship. We believe that each and every one of us can be an agent of change and that is why we advocate for everyone to be able to freely express themselves, connect, and collaborate online.


We live in a world of limitless connections. But young people and migrants cannot explore the horizons that drive human progress if their mobility is continuously restricted. Nor is there mobility for human rights defenders locked in prisons past the expiry of their prison sentences, or under travel bans. Governments in the MENA region are denying to all of them the mobility to connect with people, understand different cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas to transform the way we live. We envision a society where human rights activists can work unhindered and where everyone can travel and move freely.

Appeal for UAE to release detained
Human Rights Activists during the Dubai Expo

Our Partners