As the world grapples with the appropriate response against the COVID-19 pandemic with mixed results, a new opportunity for soft power influence in the form of COVID diplomacy has emerged. Countries such as the UAE that have embraced soft power as a foreign policy tool and have done relatively better in combating the pandemic have seized the initiative to provide bilateral and multilateral support in the form of COVID-19 related aid to struggling countries and international agencies, dubbed COVID-diplomacy. The UAE can engage in COVID diplomacy due to the following internal attractions: a long commitment to humanitarianism, a resilient economy, a well-managed COVID-19 response strategy, a national soft power strategy, a strong health care system, and logistical capacity. Bilaterally, UAE's COVID contributions are as follows: provision of medical supplies and health personnel to needy countries, acceptance of critically ill COVID patients, and direct economic assistance to countries whose economies have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. Multilaterally, the UAE has made major financial and medical supply donations to the WHO and other international aid agencies and serve as a transportation and logistical hub for the distribution of vaccines and medical supplies. The success of COVID diplomacy in the global fight against the pandemic will offer a template for bilateral and multilateral response towards future pandemics. Furthermore, it will create more opportunities for countries desirous of burnishing their soft power credentials via international humanitarian assistance.
Keywords: United Arab Emirates, COVID-19, COVID diplomacy, Vaccine diplomacy, Soft power
Power is a highly contested idea, and no single definition fits all purposes. Within the international relations contexts, power has been defined in resource and relational terms (Nye, 2011). The most used definition is that power is the ability to influence others to achieve your desired outcome (Nye, 2014). The behavior of people, organizations, or countries can be influenced through threats, payments, or inducements. Hence, power is generally classified as hard power and soft power, and this paper focuses on the UAE's soft power. Soft power is an important element in international relations and political science. Globalization and information technology revolutions have led to increased use of soft power in foreign policies (Khan, 2012). A country's global influence can be strategically and systematically created through soft power strategies.
The UAE has actively used diverse strategies and foreign policies, such as foreign aid/humanitarian assistance, to create a positive brand image of the nation and/to enhance global and regional standing (Saberi, Paris & Marochi, 2018). Apart from projecting itself as a regional power, the UAE seeks to gain influence as an emerging global power. Soft power has been instrumental in attracting international tourists, foreign investment, and creating the UAE's reputation as a great destination to live and work. However, there is currently no comprehensive research on how the UAE has used a combination of foreign aid and COVID assistance as a new source of soft power.
This paper aims to explore how foreign aid and COVID-19 assistance, including medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines' supply, have...