Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moving the UN to Dubai

As a brief follow-up to my last post on Dubai, this article introduces a provocative, if somewhat amusing, argument: move the United Nations headquarters from New York City to Dubai. The authors point out that moving the UN to the Emirate would solve a host of problems for each city. For New York, it would free up office and residential space and relieve the city from having to pay for the expensive upkeep of a crumbling facility full of America-bashing diplomats. And for Dubai, it would bring renewed international attention and prestige after its image has been tarnished and would fill a bunch of empty buildings that are currently desperate for tenants. The city could even construct a Dubai United Nations City -- to go alongside its Media City, Internet City, Knowledge Village, Festival City, Sports City, and Cultural Village. Dubai, for its part, seems enthusiastic: it responded to the Op-Ed three days later, saying it "is fully prepared to host the UN's headquarters."

The idea is interesting perhaps most for its implausibility. While it makes perfect practical sense the way the authors lay it out, there is simply no way the UN would choose the razzle-dazzle Emirate as its new home. The city is too young, too unproven, and too closely associated with glamor, new money, and ostentation. The United States is also wary of Dubai and the broader UAE, as evinced by Congress's decision in 2006 to block the Dubai port operator DP World from taking over operations at a collection of US ports. It is much more likely (as the article points out) that when the UN seeks a temporary new home in 2015, it will go to a different Asian city state -- Singapore. This is perhaps a telling choice. Singapore, at one point in its life, faced many of the questions skeptics are now raising about Dubai. In the decade following its independence many in the international community doubted that Singapore could present a viable economic model that would ensure its survival. And yet, here it is: a thriving cosmopolitan center of economic prosperity, vying to host the world's preeminent international organization.

Who knows. Perhaps three decades from now Dubai will not seems such an unlikely choice to host the United Nations...

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