UAE calls on the global community to join efforts to instill and maintain human dignity through storytelling

Dubai, UAE, 25 May 2021: Dubai Cares, Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation (MoFAIC) have come together to launch Dignified Storytelling, an initiative with an aim of creating an ecosystem that fosters a shared understanding and practice of storytelling that maintains and upholds the dignity of all persons and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Today, thousands of stories are being told regardless of who tells them and how they are told. Many of these stories lack authenticity, transparency, or are driven by ulterior motives which serve a predetermined narrative. These are just some of the few obstacles that get in the way of honest, wholesome and dignified storytelling within development and humanitarian contexts. In order for a piece – be it visual, written or spoken – to reach an audience, it goes through a long process of filtration, revising and editing that sometimes alters the original content and makes it almost fictional. This in turn, ends up painting the wrong picture of the contributors who oftentimes are not aware of where their stories, visual or written, will be displayed and to what purpose will they be used.

Dignified Storytelling was born out of the need to unite the voices of content makers, editors, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, storytellers, and contributors and equip them with the awareness and hands-on knowledge that will enable them to capture moments and tell stories without compromising human dignity. In order to fulfill this need, Dignified Storytelling kickstarted global consultations a year ago, to solicit cross-sectoral perspectives on storytelling within development and humanitarian contexts, as well as set and agree on the Dignified Storytelling Principles that today serve as guidance and an advocacy tool for bringing together various stakeholders from around the world to form a global movement that will be a game changer in maintaining and promoting human dignity through storytelling. 

These foundational principles are also guiding the consultative development of an accessible and practical Dignified Storytelling Handbook which provides ‘how-to’ guidance and concrete best practice case studies. Cross-sectoral perspectives and insights from a diverse group of storytellers and experienced stakeholders from governments, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, and civil society are currently informing this valuable framework and resource.

To truly embed Dignified Storytelling in the day-to-day policies and practices among international development agencies and various storytellers within the development and humanitarian sectors, Dubai Cares, Expo 2020 Dubai and UAE MoFAIC have established a Dignified Storytelling Alliance. The Alliance is a network of champions that provides advocacy, in-kind support, and input on program deliverables. Representation in the Alliance includes a deliberately diverse range of viewpoints from organizations, individuals and governments who are able to share best practices from their on-the-ground experiences within a range of development contexts.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, remarked: “At a time when it is needed most, Expo 2020 will bring the world together in a spirit of hope and optimism, building bridges and inspiring action towards a brighter future for us all. This will be the ideal setting for strengthening Dignified Storytelling as we join our resources to reinforce the highest standards and increase the impact of those stories we choose to share with the world. The initiative also reflects the UAE’s commitment to advancing responsible storytelling for the greater good of humankind, and its central role in international humanitarian and development efforts more widely.” 

Stressing on the importance of storytelling in the development context, Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares and Member of its Board of Directors, said: “Storytelling is a powerful communication tool in both development and humanitarian settings. Stories, both visual and written, provide an avenue for understanding different perspectives and can be an impetus for action. This is why it is important for us as a global community to tackle irresponsible storytelling, a practice that has been left unaddressed for far too long, which I believe is rooted in the absence of widely available and comprehensive guidance on how to best tell stories that maintain the dignity of all persons. I invite all storytellers, governments, agencies, and civil society to join us in this effort to instill an understanding and practice of storytelling that brings us together and reminds us of our shared humanity.”

The initiative will include the Dignified Storytelling Forum, taking place at Expo 2020 Dubai on 10 December 2021 as part of the six-month mega-event. The Forum will serve as a powerful platform for key stakeholders – including members of civil society organizations, governments, the private sector, and international agencies as well as advocates, activists, and storytellers – to come together and collectively agree on a way forward in validating, adopting and integrating the Dignified Storytelling Principles. This will be achieved through a series of plenaries and an exhibition showcasing best practices in Dignified Storytelling, as well as side events including a press conference. 

The Forum is part of Expo 2020’s rich calendar of specialist programming, which reflects and celebrates the spirit of Dignified Storytelling all throughout. Encompassing cultural, social, economic, environmental and UAE-based themes, the program series has been curated in close collaboration with UAE entities, International Participants, Non-Official Participants, International Organisations and Commercial Partners and and seeks to garner solidarity around global challenges, spotlight areas of mutual interest and importance, and ensure the emergence of a meaningful legacy at the national, regional and international level.

Over the longer-term, Dignified Storytelling will create an environment of positivity that strengthens long-term relationships between the public, private, development and humanitarian sectors by placing dignified and ethical storytelling at the epicenter of knowledge sharing, stakeholder engagement, and capacity development to inspire and inform storytellers. To achieve this, the UAE calls on global stakeholders and partners to become advocates for this pivotal initiative by pledging towards the ten principles of Dignified Storytelling.

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