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UAE foots bill for US participation at Dubai Expo 2020

US says its participation at World Fair was made possible by 'generosity of the Emirati government'
Dubai's Burj Khalifa, world's tallest building, is illuminated during festivities marking countdown to Expo 2020 (AFP)

The US has said it will participate in the 2020 World Fair in Dubai thanks to the "generosity of the Emirati government," months after Congress refused to provide funding for attending an event that is widely seen as a ploy to whitewash the UAE's crimes in the region.

The State Department said in a statement on Wednesday that the UAE had offered to sponsor the US pavilion, which is estimated to cost $60m.

According to Dubai Expo, the US pavilion will demonstrate a journey to Mars and an idealised future city with minimal traffic when it is unveiled in October.

"The US pavilion is made possible by the generosity of the Emirati government in recognition of the strong partnership between the United States and the United Arab Emirates," the State Department said. 

"The Department is dedicated to developing an exciting US pavilion at Expo 2020 with an exhibition that engages visitors from around the world to learn more about the United States and the freedom that enables success and innovation."

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Middle East Eye reached out to the State Department for more information on the nature of the Emirati contribution, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Since the first 'Great Exhibition' in 1851 in London, world fairs have showcased technological progress, promoted international cooperation and projected national pride. 

Still, in recent years they have also been derided as dated and needlessly expensive exercises.

While several countries have funded their own pavilions, a 1990s law prevents the US from doing so without special congressional approval. 

In 2000, the US was forced to sit out an expo in Hannover, Germany, after struggling to raise private money.

Last year, the Trump administration requested federal funding for the US pavilion, after earlier attempts at securing private sector funds failed to materialise.

Congress declined to authorise taxpayer money to make up for the shortfall, with the State Department saying last month that it was "exploring other options that would allow for the United States to participate".

"Funding for the World Expo pavilion would have required Congress to cut funding from other important global leadership priorities," Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, which writes funding bills, told The National.

'Glossy gimmicks'

Dubai has poured billions of dollars into Expo 2020, hoping the exhibition will generate new business and spur its economy amid a slowdown in growth. 

Still, organisers of the expo have faced mounting criticism for allowing the Emirates to host the prestigious event, considering its military interventions in both Yemen and Libya.

And despite declaring 2019 the 'Year of Tolerance,' the UAE was slammed by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday over its dismal human rights record.

"Time and again during 2019, as it garishly sang its own praises as a tolerant and rights-respecting state, the UAE proved just how little respect it really has for universal human rights," HRW said.

"The UAE's expensive efforts to paint itself as a respectable state on the world stage will continue to ring hollow as long as it does not back up its empty words and glossy gimmicks with real and genuine reform."