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EXCLUSIVE: Omicron could have been avoided with fast vaccination rollout, Costa Rican President says

By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 8th December, 2021 (WAM) — Rapid vaccination against COVID-19 around the world could have avoided new variants of the virus such as Omicron, said President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

In an exclusive interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM) on Monday, he said, "There is a hypothesis that some of these latest [coronavirus] variants [such as Omicron] could have been avoided if vaccination were to be deployed across the globe more rapidly. But that’s a hypothesis. The true thing is that we still need to vaccinate millions of people, particularly in the poor and developing world," said the President who was on a four-day official visit to the UAE.

One of the world’s youngest heads of state, Quesada, 41, was on the Time magazine’s Most Influential People’s list in 2019 after Costa Rica had won "Champions of the Earth" award, the United Nations’ highest environmental honour, thanks to the President’s climate policies. The Central American country with a 5 million population produces 99.5 percent of its electricity from renewables.

UAE as an example

The President pointed out that the health systems of some of "the poor and developing countries" do not have enough capacity to undertake faster vaccination process, and on the other hand, there is resistance to vaccination in the developed world.

"I think the UAE is one of the world’s examples of high levels of vaccination. In Costa Rica, we aspire to it [achieve the same]," Quesada stressed in an interview at the Costa Rican Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

He was referring to the UAE’s high vaccination rate with 100 percent of the population receiving the first dose, while 90.31 percent being fully vaccinated as of 28th November.

Quesada said almost 80 percent of his country’s population has got at least one dose of vaccine and more than 60 percent received two doses, "which is very good."

"But we haven’t got any further because we are in the process of getting [more] vaccines," he added.

In 2018 and at the age of 38, Quesada became the youngest serving Costa Rican President. "At the end, I do believe that one has to be young at the heart and mind, regardless of the actual age. We have to come up with new solutions and things that help people. And that’s what matters at the end."

The love for music since childhood helped the young politician find solutions to big problems. "I believe arts and music tend to strengthen how people can be more empathic with others. And being more practical nowadays, music helps me relax. Sometimes I need to forget about problems for a while and then I go back trying to solve them."

Masdar – a ‘dream’ for Costa Rica, Latin America

Talking about the UAE-Costa Rica strategic partnership agreement on government modernisation, Quesada said, "I have to say that we need to learn a lot. For example, I went today to Masdar City and it was like a dream come true for me. At the one-stop shop [in Masdar City Free Zone], you can start your company in 24 hours, and it costs less than US$400. Many countries, not only Costa Rica and [others] in Latin America, will love to have something like that."

Costa Rica–UAE complementarity in trade, finance, logistics

"Our countries are very similar in scale and they both have great strengths in different areas. Costa Rica is a leader in sustainability and a very renowned green country. The Emirates has the strength of innovation, the capacity for finance and logistics," Quesada said while talking about how the two countries’ expertise could strengthen each other.

For example, Costa Rica has trading goods that are scarce in the Gulf, he explained, adding that the two countries could complement each other in logistics as well. "Because we are both in strategic positions. The UAE in the Gulf, and in our case, we are in the middle of the Americas."

A tropical country such as Costa Rica can bring tropical produces such as coffee and exotic fruits to the Middle East, while the UAE has the investment strength to finance many projects not only in Costa Rica but the entire Central American region, the president went on to say.

Admiring UAE for recognising changing world

The UAE has taken the leadership in sustainability, although it used to depend on oil, he stressed.

"What I admire a lot is the capacity to recognise that the world is going to change. So, we need to change and diversify our economies and invest not only in the present but to build a future. That’s a great message, and that’s a great story that can inspire others to do that. I think there's a great story of sustainability here."

The UAE’s commitment to achieve net-zero by 2050 is so bold and courageous, he believes. "Even though it’s not what is traditionally called a large country, the UAE is showing the way and committing to hold COP 28 [in Abu Dhabi in 2023]. It is a great responsibility in the context of climate change."

Talking about the UAE joining as a non-regional observer member at the Central American Integration System (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana or SICA), he commented, "Well, its significance is how we can get closer to each other. SICA [representing eight central American countries] is the fourth largest market in Latin America, and UAE is a busines hub in the Middle East."

A country without army

About 73 years ago, Costa Rica decided to abolish its military because it thought militaries were a main force for causing civil wars and coups in Central America, instead of handling external threats. By abolishing the army, the country was able to establish rule of law and institutions.

Quesada believes that not having an army provides an important margin for investing in education and healthcare. "And it has worked well!"

WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla

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Hamriyah and Deira ports record AED 12.133b in customs declaration value for first nine months of 2023

Dubai Customs plays a crucial role as the frontline defense for community security, consistently advancing its customs centers to safeguard and facilitate maritime trade. H.E. Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director General of Dubai Customs, CEO of
Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, recently visited Creek Customs Center, Deira Port, and Hamriyah Port Customs Center to evaluate progress and oversee ongoing efforts for continuous customs service development. During this visit, several executive directors, department heads, and customs center managers were present.

Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, accompanied by Rashid Al Dhabah Al Suwaidi, Acting Director of Seae Customs Centers Management, conducted inspections at Khor Customs Center, Deira Port, and Hamriyah Port Customs Center. Managers Abdulaziz Ibrahim Al Salman and Majid Salem Al Tawilah provided insights into workflow progress and accomplishments. Over the first nine months of this year, 62,454 customs declarations were processed, totaling AED 12.133 billion, with 19 seizures recorded during the same period. A visit to Hamriyah Port Customs Center showcased an advanced container X-ray inspection device, supporting increased inspection operations.

Subsequently, visits to Khor Customs Center and Deira Port highlighted achievements, including a notable seizure called the “Wheelhouse,” which successfully prevented an attempt to smuggle 243 kilograms of narcotics into the country. Commending customs employees, Ahmed Mahboob Musabih emphasized the pivotal role of maritime customs centers in ensuring community security and facilitating trade. The department collaborates for efficient goods clearance and acknowledges employee efforts
during the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to the department’s support for global efforts to revive maritime navigation and international trade.

Musabih clarified that the department’s advanced capabilities in monitoring and inspection enable it to keep pace with the UAE’s rapid foreign trade growth. Supporting Dubai’s economic agenda D33, the department aims to double foreign trade and enhance economic partnerships with key global markets. Efforts to boost customs inspector efficiency continue through training courses, ensuring their ability to thwart smuggling attempts. Continuous development of X-ray scanning
devices and the K9 customs dog unit further enhances contraband control achievements. Rasheed Al-Dabah explained that the forthcoming period will witness the advancement of new initiatives and mechanisms in the realm of inspection and examination. These initiatives are grounded in a forward-looking perspective to introduce cutting-edge technologies utilized in examining maritime transport vessels, wooden ships, and ships engaged in fish trade.

He remarked, “Our endeavors are harmonized to enhance performance in sea customs centers, concurrently focusing on bolstering monitoring, tracking, and technical support activities to yield optimal outcomes through continuous and productive collaboration among all specialized teams within the department. The Customs centers in Deira, Al Khor, and
Hamriyah Port Customs Center shoulder their vital responsibilities in safeguarding society and facilitating maritime trade through Dubai Creek and Hamriyah Port, supporting the ongoing growth of the national economy.”

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Dubai Customs Hosts Sharjah Housing Delegation to Strengthen Government Communication Ties

Dubai Customs, represented by the Corporate Communication Department, warmly welcomed a delegation from the Sharjah Housing Department. The purpose of the visit was to familiarize the delegation with the duties and responsibilities of the
Corporate Communication Department and its affiliated divisions. The delegation also aimed to explore the awards received by the department, notably the recognition as the Best Government Communication Team in the Sharjah Government Communication Award for 2023.

Khalil Saqer bin Gharib, Director of Corporate Communication Department, along with department managers, extended a cordial reception to the Sharjah Housing delegation, which included Dr. Ahmed Rashid Al Nuaimi, Director of Government Communication, Nada Sivan, Head of the Public Relations and Events Department, and Hamad Saleh Al Hamadi, Head of
the New Media Department. Bin Gharib highlighted the department’s commitment to strengthening communication with government entities to exchange practical experiences and knowledge. The delegation was briefed on Dubai Customs exceptional performance in customs operations and other facets.

The meeting delved into discussions on potential avenues for collaboration, with the Sharjah Housing delegation. Emphasis was placed on the crucial role played by Dubai Customs’ Corporate Communication Department, customs administrations, and centers in ensuring security and safeguarding society. The delegation was presented with an overview of the department’s working mechanisms, awareness campaigns, events, and activities conducted internally and externally, aligning with Dubai Customs esteemed reputation.

Furthermore, the Sharjah Housing delegation acquired an understanding of the best media practices adopted by the Corporate Communication Department, showcasing its outstanding performance in enhancing knowledge and media dissemination to all partners. This has resulted in the department establishing and fortifying relationships with local and international media
entities. The presentation also encompassed the factors contributing to the department’s receipt of the award for the Best Government Communication Team in the Sharjah Government Communication Award.

Dr. Ahmed Rashid Al Nuaimi, Director of Government Communication at Sharjah Housing, expressed appreciation for the efforts of Dubai Customs Corporate Communication Department, acknowledging its excellence and significant contribution to enhancing the department’s standing. Dr. Al Nuaimi affirmed Sharjah Housing’s commitment to fostering ongoing visits and meetings with Dubai Customs, aiming to achieve the highest level of coordination and benefit from the Corporate Communication Departmen’s experience in securing numerous local and international awards.

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Zayed Sustainability Prize opens submissions for 2025 cycle

The Zayed Sustainability Prize, the UAE’s pioneering global sustainability and humanitarian award, has officially announced that the 2025 cycle is now open for submissions.  Submissions will be accepted until 23 June 2024 through the Prize’s online portal. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs), nonprofit organisations (NPOs) and high schools with sustainable solutions are invited to submit an entry for consideration in one of the six categories of Heath, Food, Energy, Water, Climate Action and Global High Schools. Commenting on the launch of the 2025 submissions cycle, H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Director General of the Zayed Sustainability Prize, and COP28 President, said: “Since 2008, the
Zayed Sustainability Prize has honoured the legacy of Sheikh Zayed by fostering inclusive sustainable and humanitarian development around the world. In this decisive decade for climate change, these values are more important than ever. I am optimistic that the Prize will contribute to global climate action in line with the UAE Consensus, which will pave the
way toward an effective response to the Global Stocktake decision.” In response to the pressing climate crisis, and to further support the UAE’s efforts to accelerate practical solutions needed to drive climate action and uplift vulnerable communities around the world, the Prize has increased its funds from US $3.6 million to US $5.9 million. The Prize will reward US $1 million to each winner in the organisational categories of Health, Food, Energy, Water and Climate Action. Within the Global High Schools category, which is split into six world regions, each school can claim up to US $150,000 to start or further expand their project. The six world regions of the Global High Schools category are The Americas, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Sub- Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and Pacific. The most recent Zayed Sustainability Prize winners were recognised at an Awards Ceremony held during COP28 UAE. To encourage a broader range of organisations and high schools to participate, the Prize will be accepting submissions in multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. This will ensure that innovative solutions from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds can be recognised. For the Health, Food, Energy, Water and Climate Action categories, organisations should prove that they are improving access to essential products or services in their targeted communities and are able to implement a long-term vision for better living and working conditions. For the Global High Schools category, projects should be led by students, and must demonstrate innovative approaches to address sustainability challenges. The evaluation of each submission to the Prize consists of a rigorous, three-stage process. First, due diligence is conducted on all submissions to ensure that they meet the Prize’s evaluation criteria of Impact, Innovation, and Inspiration. This identifies the qualified entries and results in the selection of eligible candidates. Following this, evaluations are undertaken by a Selection Committee consisting of category-specific panels of independent international experts. From this shortlist of candidates, the finalists are chosen and then sent to the Prize Jury who unanimously elect the winners across all six categories.   Winners of the Zayed Sustainability Prize will be announced at an Awards Ceremony during the 2025 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).

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