Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) was officially inaugurated on March 22, 2017 at Expo Centre Sharjah. Keeping in view different current issues confronting with sustainable development, climate change, public-private partnership, community development, and the last but not the least effective communication strategies, the IGCF 2017 has achieved great recognition by discussing all the issues on day one of the prestigious IGCF 2017. Indeed it has become above skies and skies are not limit to IGCF 2017.
Main Theme of IGCF 2017
Its theme ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, IGCF 2017 examined how nations around the globe can leverage effective government communication to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society. It led the ways to achieve all these goals of human prosperity, socio-economic development, peace, harmony, sustainable development, women empowerment and the last but not the least, dreams of a “qualitative life”. IGCF 2017 has become an icon with a concrete blue print to move forward.
IGCF 2017 offered a transparent platform to examine current issues and formulate recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communications. More than 2,500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals graced the IGCF 2017. It was a great success in all respects.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, and HE Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan delivered keynotes speeches and highlighted the importance of IGCF. They all labelled IGCF 2017 “a strategic way forward”, “a role model”, and “an ideal platform” to achieve all goals of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
HE Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), HE Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of Sharjah Art Foundation, Sheikh Khalid bin Issam Al Qasimi, Head of Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation, Sheikh Salem bin Abdulrahman Al Qasimi, Chairman of HH Sharjah Ruler’s Office, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of Sharjah Department of Government Relations, Sheikh Mohammed bin Humaid Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Department of Statistics and Community Development, Sheikh Majid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Director of the Department of Suburbs and Villages Affairs, Sheikh Faisal bin Saud Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah International Airport Authority and Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah Al Thani, Director of Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation were graced the day one of the IGCF 2017. It clearly showed His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah strategic vision and strong commitments to maintain high standards of communication between the different departments of Sharjah and its people.
HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi
HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi emphasised the role of education and development in the growth of the Emirate of Sharjah. He highlighted different stages of its Emirate socio-economic development and showcased miraculous transformation during the last 32 years.
The first children’s centre in the UAE was built in Sharjah 32 years ago. The University City of Sharjah was established 12 years later. The generation that accompanied these projects is now an integral part of society. He expressed his happiness at the Forum’s theme that called for societal participation and commended the organisers for their efforts in including all segments of society and the UAE population, within the scope of this year’s Forum.
“Today, we welcome around 5,500 pupils and approximately 1,200 students annually graduate across 350 masters and 120 PhD programmes. In addition, we are increasingly interested in focusing our efforts on scientific research, and have therefore allocated US$120 million for this purpose, he elaborated”.
Importance of Sustainable Development
During his remarkable speech, he spoke high about the theme of comprehensive development. He defined sustainable development as the prioritisation of humanity over the being, which would allow progress to carry on beyond the life of a single being. Development should revolve around the family as a central unit, as well as the individual across different stages of life from childhood, to adolescence, to old age, he stressed. He lamented the lack of societal participation necessary for sustainable development.
Role of People in Societal Development
Addressing the theme of Societal Participation and Comprehensive Development, HH the Ruler of Sharjah said that for true societal development, humans must be the source and core focus of such inclusive development, regardless of ethnicity and background. He also emphasised the need for health insurance for all segments of the population, especially the elderly, to ensure their continued care as the nation moves ahead.
Afterward, HH the Ruler of Sharjah went around the venue to visit various media stands and workshops and interacted with their representatives and experts.
Launching of International Government Communication Centre
During day one, HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, launched the International Government Communication Centre, a first-of-its-kind academic establishment that will serve as a local, regional, and international reference point for government communications. Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi also announced the establishment of a Government Communication Fund which was derived from the UAE’s Year of Giving initiative.
Need to Change the Mind-Set
He called on the audience to keep in mind the countless bloody events that the world is currently witnessing, the obstacles they generate, and of the important need to transform them into opportunities. He encouraged all stakeholders to closely follow and benefit from the outcomes and recommendations of the sixth edition of IGCF.
Azerbaijan: A Dynamic Country
Speaking on behalf of HE Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, the guest of honour at the inaugural event, HE Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, expressed his delight at the opportunity to attend the important Forum. He commended the Emirate of Sharjah, and the wider UAE, on hosting the prestigious event, and voiced his concern on international issues such as famine, poverty, disease, inequality, environmental imbalance, and terrorism that have captured the attention of a worldwide audience.
He underlined the significance of such events and activities that bring together governments and nations, to coordinate their efforts in finding solutions to international issues, with communication at the core of this synchronisation. He also highlighted Azerbaijan’s efforts, as an oil exporter and in light of recent fluctuations, to diversify its economy and step up its global status. He stressed the need for nations across the world to focus on sustainable development, and identify how to contribute to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
First Session: Government Communication and United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs)
The importance of government communication in achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the GCC region was the main theme of a top panel at the first session of the sixth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017). It thoroughly discussed the different aspects of government communications to achieve the end goal i.e. UNO SDGs. It suggested certain guidelines to be implemented to achieve dreams of a qualitative life.
Communication for Development (C4D) and Community Partnership
In the session, titled ‘Communication for Development (C4D) and Community Partnership’, the panel discussed the importance of communication between government and society in the region’s journey towards sustainable development, prosperity and positive change. They were all of the opinion that transparency between government and society stimulated high level of trust which would gear sustainable development.
GCC’s Pursuits of Sustainable Development
Speaking first, His Excellency Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), said: “We can be proud of our sustainable development efforts in the GCC region. He termed communication and information as knowledge. We have transcended from the mere conveyance of information, and all stakeholders are aware of the comprehensive collaboration we believe in. We need clear vision and leadership from the leaders of the GCC countries to create this enabling environment. We want prosperity, and our means and objective is the citizen, he added.
UAE Minister of Community Development
Her Excellency Najla bint Mohammad Al Awar, UAE Minister of Community Development, spoke about the tools of communication that the UAE government is implementing.
“Government communication has diverse channels for positive change and community development. All the initiatives we have launched as a ministry or government including social media, councils, field visits and forums such as this one have been a result of government communication, she added”.
Matching the Needs of Society and Concerns of Citizens
She said: “The purpose of all these are to address the needs of society and the concerns of citizens. The government that only gives but does not receive lives in isolation and will never achieve development. True development occurs when the government listens to society and hears what it has to say, and this is why, since my appointment; we have created new channels for society to communicate. Our leadership has mandated us as ministers to go into the field and listen to the people.”
Empowerment of Emiratis
Najla Al Midfa, General Manager of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa), highlighted the importance of communication in empowering the region’s youth. She also showcased different on-going policies and programs for the further empowerment of Emiratis at large. She said “The topic of youth in the MENA region is not new, as 60 per cent of Arabs are under the age of 30 and the region has 30 per cent youth unemployment the highest in the world. It paints a bleak picture but also gives the region the opportunity to reap the youth dividend. Sheraa contributed to Sharjah’s economic development and the UAE’s knowledge-based economy through working with the youth, she elaborated”.
Need of Paradigm Shift
She suggested creating a change in mind-set as the youth still prefer government jobs and also have a fear of failure as entrepreneurs. In the pursuit of this goal, we have created an incubator within American University of Sharjah that allows us to interact with the students in a transparent and welcoming environment. This gives them a sense of agency, of creating their own future.”
Strategic Importance of Communication
Kailash Satyarthi, acclaimed children rights’ activist and joint 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, first highlighted his enlightening pre-forum discussions with His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi. He added: “Communication is very important, not just for commerce or for advertisements or entertainment but also for development. Communication should reach out to the last person of society. Everything has to be designed to be participatory and accountable.”
Dr Sultan Al-Nuaimi
The session was moderated by Dr Sultan Al-Nuaimi, an academic and researcher in political affairs. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) are a set of 17 global goals with 169 targets, aimed at transforming the world through ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030.
UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs
Her Excellency Shamma bint Sohail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs, also attended a special youth circle titled ‘The Role of Government Communication in Motivating Youth to Participate in the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals’.
Organised by Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), in collaboration with the Emirates Youth Council, on the first day of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) currently underway at the Expo Centre Sharjah, the panel discussion drew the participation of more than 30 people in the 15 to 30-year age group from diverse specialisations.
Collaboration with Youth
The panel discussion was moderated by Doaa Al Hammadi, a journalist at Sama Dubai TV. Building on the IGCF’s theme ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, Her Excellency Shamma bint Sohail Al Mazrouei, who is also the Chairperson of the Emirates Youth Council, said at the beginning of the session: “Sustainable development can be achieved when governments and officials collaborate with the youth to enhance their role and engage youngsters in advancing development policies.”
She encouraged young people to share their opinions on ways to develop government communication tools to achieve better results with regard to societal participation. She noted that youth councils in the country today are building a unified online platform that engages the youth with different government departments and entities. Aiming to maximise its reach among youth segments, the platform will ensure that all government initiatives are communicated to the youth.
Befitting Government’s Communication Strategies
Participants pointed out that government communication enables government entities and diverse social segments to understand one another’s points of view and act proactively to achieve sustainable development. They added that today social media channels offer significant opportunities to look at and replicate leading international experiences locally in engaging the youth in development initiatives.
Evolving Global Socio-Economic Landscape
Speakers also highlighted that in a rapidly evolving global socio-economic landscape, where change is the norm, it is imperative that the youth of any country must demonstrate responsible social behaviour and proactively ensure that society and the country at large are shielded from any negative impact as a result of these changes.
Better Knowledge of Multiculturalism
The participants pointed out that there is an imbalance in the selection of targeted groups in government communication today. They suggested that government bodies should understand the social, cultural and economic environment of the groups with whom they wish to communicate in order to formulate plans that suit their requirements, respond to their aspirations and benefit from their potential. However, other attendees noted that the diversity of communication platforms and smart applications has become a challenge for institutions when it comes to choosing the most appropriate and effective platforms to speak to the young people.
Youth circle panellists said that while the government plays its role in launching the development plans and initiatives, the youth should work relentlessly to not only follow these initiatives but also interact proactively in communicating their views and suggestions to become real partners in the development process.
Importance of Government Organisations
Some participants also focused on the importance of government organisations dedicating community hours to employing young people. This would fulfil a dual purpose in addition to instilling a sense of duty in the youth, it would demonstrate the commitment of the government entities to enhancing the role of the youth in achieving positive change in the community at large. They also underlined the importance of collective action from young people and urged the youth to transition from competing among themselves to competing with themselves in unleashing their true potential.
Climate Change and Government Communication
During Day one, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah attended a conversation panel with Al Gore, former US Vice President and founder-chairman of the Climate Reality Project as part of the sixth edition of International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) at the Expo Centre Sharjah.
Headlined ‘Climate Change…Are there Real Solutions?’. It was by HE Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah. The discussion explored the role of governments in educating society on the existential threat of climate change and raising awareness of sustainable climate changing solutions.
The panel warned environmental degradation which continued to sound alarm bells across the globe at regular intervals. The World Bank, in collaboration with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, published a report in September 2016 pointing out that air pollution costs the world economy over US$225 billion a year due to employee absences from work and the accrued costs of healthcare. The report also noted that an astounding 5.5 million deaths in 2013 were the direct result of air pollution.
Al Gore said: “The climate crisis is very different from any crisis we have ever confronted before. The population has quadrupled, and as technologies continue to become more powerful, the prevailing pattern of short-term thinking does not provide an impetus to make the investments in long-term infrastructure changes that are needed to achieve sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Climate Change: A Looming Crisis
Doomsday projections related to the environment continue unabated. The one silver lining to emerge from such data is perhaps the fact that people are increasingly questioning what they can do to mitigate the conscious as well as the inadvertent environmental impact triggered by human actions, he explained.
However, hurdles still exist and convincing the public to change their habits and lifestyles to help reduce global warming and prevent even worse consequences than those already happening is yet another challenge for governance, emphasised the former US Vice President.
Referencing a survey by Pew Research Center, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi noted that while two-thirds of people surveyed believe major lifestyle changes will be needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, awareness of the solutions that are readily available is still low.
In response, Al Gore said: “Some of the conversation has been dominated by inaccurate information. We cannot afford to allow science and reason to be undermined. Governments are in denial and we cannot continue to let political disagreements impair collective efforts to protect the environment.”
UAE’s Pursuits of Renewable Energy
Praising the UAE leadership’s focus on renewable energy, he added that the country’s efforts should be replicated elsewhere. In addition, he expressed hope that governments will develop a solid consensus in the pursuit of environmental goals by highlighting the evidence that is widely available and the consequences that are already occurring.
In closing, Al Gore said: “We see these catastrophes. Connect the dots and make it clear what the causes are. There are three questions about the climate crisis that we must ask ourselves: Must we change? Can we change? Will we change? The will to change in itself is a renewable resource.”
Importance of Ethical Reporting and the Evolution of Contemporary Journalism
Renowned, award-winning British journalist Kelvin O’Shea spoke on the importance of ethical reporting and the evolution of contemporary journalism. O’Shea shared highlights of his 40-year career as a reporter and producer, especially focusing on his time reporting across the Middle East during the session, which was co-hosted by Sharjah Press Club. He said: “Ethics is one of the tenets of strong journalism. Given the abundance of ‘fake news’ across various digital media platforms today, it is important to represent stories and personalities with accuracy and credibility, and in the most balanced way possible. People, on their part, must be rational and vigilant about the news they consume. Furthermore, delving into personal details for the sake of sensationalism may not create the right kind of engagement among readers and communities.”
Importance of Continuous Learning
He added that continuous learning and passion are essential to the positive evolution of the global media and communications industry. Elaborating on changing journalism in a social media-driven era, he remarked that conventional media platforms must broaden their appeal to accommodate diverse interests and target groups, while enabling and empowering local citizen journalists to create deeper engagement and open dialogue on important issues.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, also attended the second session of the opening day of the 6th IGCF. Eminent speakers emphasised that the private and public sectors as well as the youth have a collective responsibility to advance sustainable development.
The Public and Private Sectors: Real Partnership towards Sustainable Development
Titled ‘The Public and Private Sectors: Real Partnership towards Sustainable Development,’ the session hosted Jeffrey Sachs, renowned development economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Dr Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and President of Crescent Petroleum.
The moderator of the session, John Defterios, Presenter and Editor of CNNMoney Emerging Markets, commenced by asking the panellists how communication enables public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the achievement of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), unveiled by the United Nations (UN) in 2016.
Change of Direction for SDGs
Opening the discussion, Jeffrey Sachs said: “All 193 countries of the UN have adopted the principles enshrined in the SDGs for two reasons. First, the world needs to change direction to be more economically and environmentally conscious as well as equitable. We can no longer go on as we have. Second, the SDGs are not ideas or suggestions but targets for 2030 that must be fulfilled so that mankind can survive and thrive. The SDGs are a powerful communication tool to align countries on key objectives for the near future. Strong and relentless public and private sector action can collectively provide the road map towards achieving these objectives.”
UAE’s People Oriented Policies
Sachs added: “The UAE serves as a great example of putting people at the centre of public policy. This is evident in the fact that the government has launched the World Happiness Council in addition to announcing 2017 as the Year of Giving. I am grateful for the way this government has placed the SDGs high on its agenda and at the centre of our discussion today.”
Role of Private Sector and SDGs
Speaking on the private sector’s potential in advancing the SDGs, Badr Jafar said: “The region’s governments are buckling under pressure to solve even basic challenges. At such a time, they cannot take on all the responsibility to provide the opportunities required to address the rampant unemployment. The private sector has the power and resources to be a change-maker. However, for this to happen, the sector needs to understand the business case behind sustainability, corporate governance and accountability.
“Another tremendous opportunity in this region is the number of family businesses, which account for 85 per cent of the non-oil GDP. Their impact-generated approach and understanding of optimal business practices for long-term economic and organisational health can be applied to achieve the SDGs, he added”.
Blessings of Islam Charitable Codification
Finally, we have an underutilised civil society and a huge amount of philanthropic capital in the form of zakat and sadaqa that, if properly deployed, would go a long way in advancing some of the SDGs. In this part of the world, funding does not have to be an issue, as the spirit of giving is embedded in our DNA.”
Imbalanced Economic Conditions and Value of Entrepreneurship
Remarking on the huge gap between SDG objectives and existing polices, Muhammad Yunus said: “While we think about the world we have inherited plagued by tremendous wealth concentration, environmental problems and a dearth of jobs we must take a peek into our history. We have always been problem-solvers. In fact, I have observed even illiterate women at Grameen Bank flourish into entrepreneurs with determination and hard work. There is no reason that educated youth today in Bangladesh and all over the world should be job seekers when they could be job creators. Our mind-sets need a drastic shift to reorient ourselves in line with the changing world.”
He added: “I am impressed by the UAE leadership’s forward-looking vision for this country and its youth. As this region enables entrepreneurs with investments and resources, they should leverage this model to create opportunities for themselves.”
Essential Government Support
Adding to the discussion, Jafar said: “Although government support can help unlock barriers and level the playing field to ensure nobody faces a competitive disadvantage, an overly supportive government could be detrimental to an entrepreneur’s learning curve. Risks are part of the deal on the road to leadership, and if they are all eliminated, the business would not be sustainable.”
Valuable Contributions of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa)
Jafar applauded the efforts of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa), in creating an attractive and supportive environment for aspiring entrepreneurs who aim to launch sustainable and competitive ventures. He said: “Their business models can accelerate environmental and social development and over the long term, help make the SDGs a reality.”
Speaking on the imminent environmental dangers and their impact on jobs, Sachs said: “Adapting our economy and habits to the environment is a necessity. We must make a change from a fossil fuel world to a low-carbon world to keep the planet hospitable and safe. Governments have an imperative to implement the right welfare measures and train public-sector entrepreneurs to champion such change. We need to proactively address gaps in global public administration so that SDGs are not just a concept on paper, but a reality.”
Fourth Industrial Revolution
Adding to Sachs’ point, Jafar said: “As we live in a world of changing technology and are on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, public and private sectors also have an economic imperative to collaborate. In a relationship-based society such as ours, the government can act as an inspiring role model His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi is one such example that we can all look up to.”
Day one of the sixth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) concluded with an insightful panel discussion on the importance of putting civil society at the centre of the climate change dialogue across the globe.
Environmental experts from the public and private sectors concurred on this point at the session themed ‘Environment and Climate Change in Media Policies’. Both segments agreed that media communication needs to be impactful and relay the right messages to civil society to enable them to effect meaningful change.
Mark Schapiro, an author and award-winning journalist specialising in international environmental stories, moderated the discussion. Panellists included His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, His Excellency John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland, former EU Ambassador to the US and Chairman of International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) Ireland, His Excellency Khaled Issa Al Huraimel, CEO of Sharjah environmental company Bee’ah, Safa’ Al Jayoussi, Head of Climate and Energy Campaign in Arab World, Founder and Executive Director for IndyACT in Jordan and winner of the 2016 Young Energy Professional of the Year Award, and Kehkashan Basu, UAE-based student and winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize.
Role of the Private Sector in the Climate Change Dialogue
Speaking on the role of the private sector in the climate change dialogue, Safa’ Al Jayoussi said: “Private sector entities play a major role in communicating the needs of the people to the government, as well as in advocating for change. There is urgency in this region to create a dialogue between the public and private sector as well as civil society. Unfortunately, climate change does not seem to be a priority, with the UAE being an exception. The steps the UAE has taken, including the establishment of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, shows that the country cares about environmental challenges. Across the region, we need to be able to communicate the benefits of climate change intervention, especially from a cost-cutting perspective.”
Strategic Utility of Bee’ah
Demonstrating the success of public-private partnerships for environmental causes, His Excellency Khaled Issa Al Huraimel said: “Bee’ah was created as a public-private partnership with the aim of addressing the huge waste management challenge we faced in the UAE, and establishing Sharjah as the environmental capital of the Middle East. Today, seven years after we envisioned this goal, I can safely say we have achieved record rates of over 70 per cent waste management away from the landfills. We are also actively involved in taking our vision across the UAE and the region. To this effect, we have tied up with Masdar to develop renewable energy sources. Our work at Bee’ah, in collaboration with the Sharjah Government and Shurooq, also extends to managing air quality and water quality, all of which will ensure a better future for the region’s environment. While most environmental initiatives in the region are fully run by the private sector, we have learnt that there are great benefits to working hand in hand with the government.”
Climate Change and Recycling Initiatives
Speaking from the perspective of the EU nations, His Excellency John Burton said: “The success of environmental intervention, such as recycling initiatives and setting of zero-landfill targets, has been largely driven by the fact that these targets are set individually for each country in the EU with clear indications of penalties, such as fines levied in case of violation. This has worked in most EU nations, except in cases such as Poland, which has a coal-driven market, or Ireland, where methane gas from livestock created environmental hazards. Within this framework, however, we find that it is very important to get the people on your side, to make the decision to recycle. Moreover, we need to repeatedly remind the people of the impact their household decisions could have on their own children and future generations.”
UAE Cabinet: A Way Forward
Representing the viewpoint of the public sector, His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said: “The UAE Cabinet has agreed on the UAE Centennial 2071 to make our government the best in the world. This shows that we are well aligned with a long-term vision for the nation. In terms of communicating the effects of climate change, studies show that less than 19 per cent of nations globally are engaged in environmental dialogue, which shows that people are disengaged on this topic.
“We as a government need to convey these complex concepts to our communities, as well as impress upon them the consequences and impact of their actions. In this context, we find the role of the media to be very important, especially in simplifying the concepts for the people. Unfortunately, much of the media reporting today focuses on the catastrophic nature of climate change. Whereas, in my opinion, the media needs to additionally shed light on the positive actions that are being taken to mitigate environmental degradation.”
Heroes of the UAE Initiative
Giving the example of the Heroes of the UAE initiative, he added: “The UAE has effectively used this platform to educate children on the effects of climate change, and to encourage them to enable positive environmental behaviour within the household. Issues such as the impending water crisis in the region need to be conveyed with a sense of urgency to the people to help them become participants in the relevant interventions such as the UAE Energy Plan 2050 to make renewables account for as much as 44 per cent of our nation’s energy mix.”
Climate Change and Integration of Youth
In response to Kehkashan Basu’s question on how to integrate the youth in the climate change dialogue, His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said: “We need to build up the environmental responsibilities of the youth through the education system. In the UAE, our leaders created a new Ministry of Youth last year, which has also been instrumental in establishing national and local youth councils that seek to get the youth involved in addressing the nation’s challenges. The Ministry of Climate Change also worked recently with youth across the region to create Arab Youth Centres that aim to involve the youth in the future dialogue.”
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) was officially inaugurated on March 22, 2017 at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Its theme ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, IGCF 2017 rightly highlighted the strategic importance of effective government communication to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) that have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society.
Since its inception IGCF offers a transparent platform to examine current issues. It formulates recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communication. IGCF 2017 convened more than 2,500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals.
Day One of the IGCF 2017 emphasized the importance of constant government communication between the governments and societies which would reduce confusion, confrontation and promote sense of participation. Ultimate it would promote sense of mutual trust and respect between the government and the society. It would accelerate community development. It would foster youth development in right direction. It would also be used to educate people at large about the importance of climate change.
Day One of the IGCF 2017 also highlighted different successful initiatives, policies and programs of the United Arab Emirates to achieve the goals of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society. UAE has knowledge based economy which is also smarter to achieve sustainable development. It has highest ratios of women empowerment in the region. It is the happiest country in the region in terms of qualitative life, social development, societal harmony, multiculturalism and above all peace.
Day One of the IGCF 2017 stressed the need to have a functional partnership between public-private sectors for the wellbeing of the humanity and societies at large. An ideal combination of public-private partnership holds the key of socio-economic prosperity in the region and beyond. UAE is the ideal example of new concept of human survival and rigorous industrialization where under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Emirate Sharjah stands for diversification of resources and production channels.
During Day One of the said IGCF 2017, speakers also highlighted the importance of correct reporting and suggested different ways and means to create reliability while reporting. It suggested the strict role of regulatory bodies to promote a fair and a just cause in the mass media.
Human survival and dreams of a qualitative life are endangered due to many multidimensional socio-economic issues which were thoroughly discussed during the Day One of the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017).
From the climate change and global warming threat, to issues around education, healthcare and economic diversification attendees and dignitaries of diverse expertise weighed in on tangible strategies and solutions that governments, private sector and civil society can tap into to achieve long-term welfare, growth and sustainability. They drew on the importance of government communication in achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the GCC region.
High-profile attendees on day one included Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and founder and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project, Dr Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize winner, His Excellency Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah, Jeffrey Sachs, renowned development economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, His Excellency Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, His Excellency John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland, former EU Ambassador to the US and Chairman of International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) Ireland, and Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and President of Crescent Petroleum.