H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba

Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the U.S.

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al OtaibaUAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba works closely with the Meridian International Center to highlight cultural diplomacy, understanding and engagement.

In May 2014, Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba launched the UAE Embassy’s partnership with Meridian International Center with Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, the UAE’s first-ever touring exhibition of contemporary Emirati art abroad. The debut of Past Forward in the United States underscored a shared appreciation for culture and the arts, and demonstrated the deep friendship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other media by 25 esteemed Emirati artists reflected how the United Arab Emirates has embraced rapid economic development, while simultaneously maintaining its rich heritage. Past Forward shared the UAE’s national story with American audiences, and epitomized the UAE Embassy and Meridian’s commitment to increasing international cooperation through cultural diplomacy.

This program was complemented by strong community outreach, including lectures and workshops with the exhibition’s own artists. The exhibition toured the United States for approximately 18 months and made its debut in seven US states including Washington, DC, Texas and California. Calling attention to the UAE’s emerging contemporary art scene, Ambassador Al Otaiba commended the program for illustrating the UAE’s long-time legacy of tolerance, inclusion, and openness.

In addition to launching the Past Forward exhibition, the Ambassador has guided the UAE Embassy to support a number of Meridian initiatives including cultural diplomacy discussions, cultural delegations to the UAE and various annual Meridian Balls.

As the UAE’s official representative in Washington DC since 2008, Ambassador Al Otaiba has worked to strengthen the UAE’s bilateral relationship with the US, and foster greater cross-cultural collaboration. Elevated to Minister of State in 2017, his long-efforts to advance peace and stability throughout the Middle East helped negotiate the UAE-Israel Abraham Accords and landed him on TIME’s 2020 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Throughout his time in office, Ambassador Al Otaiba has underlined the immense power in social and cultural exchanges. Determined to fulfill the UAE’s vision for a more tolerant and inclusive society, he joined the Special Olympics’ Board of Directors and has facilitated a number of programs to promote greater interfaith dialogue and understanding. Passionate about empowering the future leaders of the UAE and the Middle East, he also helped to facilitate a number of prestigious education programs including the Emirates Leadership Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and New York University in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, the Ambassador has upheld the UAE’s long-standing tradition of providing charitable and humanitarian assistance to underserved communities in the US and around the world. One of his most profound philanthropic contributions include work with the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at the Children’s National Medical Center. Ambassador Al Otaiba has also remained steadfast in supporting disaster relief and recovery efforts across the US, helping to restore communities impacted by some of the worst natural disasters in American history including Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irma.

Prior to his current role, Yousef Al Otaiba served eight years as Director of International Affairs under His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. After graduating from Cairo American College, he went on to study international relations at Georgetown University. Additionally, he enrolled as an International Fellow at the Industrial College of the US Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.

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