Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
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 held on March 22 to 23 at Expo Centre Sharjah. Its theme ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, IGCF 2017 examined how the world’s nations can leverage effective government communication to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), which have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society. It offered a transparent platform to examine current issues and formulated recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communication. IGCF 2017 convened more than 2500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals.
IGCF 2017: A Pride of Sharjah
All the participants, speakers, diplomates and government’s official termed the IGCF 2017 as the pride of Sharjah. Now IGCC is a global achievement that marks Sharjah’s position as the centre in the field of the government communication challenges.
Role of Mass Media towards Societies and People
IGCF 2017 Day 2nd thoroughly discussed different segments of societies and their special needs and importance of government’s communication. It tabled importance of positive news and its reporting. It discussed about role of mass media in creating happiness and psychological comfort zones to excel in their respective societies. It also talked about the crucial role of mass media to mitigate spill over repercussions of a political oriented issues such as refugees and migration.
Strategic Importance of National Branding
IGCF 2017 highlighted the importance of national branding through massive media campaigns. It would bring desired socio-economic dividends in terms of inflows of investments, joint ventures and development of tourism.
Government’s Communication Strategies and UN SDGs
IGCF 2017 discussed at length the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed upon in 2015 by world leaders as part of the SDG Agenda 2030, including protecting the environment, empowering women, as well as combating poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
Visionary Leadership of Sharjah
The visionary leadership of Sharjah is always rated as people’s friendly. It has comprehensive policies for the development of youth and children. Its diversified but integrated policies have enabled children and young people to lead the future of the country. The IGCF 2017 hosted a special interactive session for the Sharjah Children Shura Council. It was informative and interactive too. It informed the young members of the Council about the current challenges facing the world. It asked the representatives of Sharjah’s children to contribute to the global conversation about the United Nations’ Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs).
His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council
His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, pointed out that we all live on this planet together, and in order to address its future challenges, we all need to play our role in the ongoing global efforts in this sphere.
“We are delighted to see the leaders of the future enthusiastically participate in the global conversation on SDGs. Their engagement gives us confidence in their abilities to take on the responsibilities that come with leadership. Investing in our children was of the utmost importance to the founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Today, we continue to water the seeds planted by the founders of the UAE and set the ground for comprehensive development of the country, he added.”
Innovative Solutions to Global Challenges
During the interactive session, children suggested innovative solutions to global challenges, such as poverty, food security and climate change. It also focused the important role of voluntary work, while some children emphasised the importance of providing quality education for underprivileged children that will enable them to move confidently towards the future.
The Sharjah Children Shura Council
The Sharjah Children Shura Council operates under the auspices of the Children Centre Department affiliated with the Sharjah Supreme Council for Family Affairs. It aims to build a generation that understands the democratic process and knows how to exercise its rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
The first Council was established in 1997 under the name of Sharjah Children Parliament, based on a directive of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The parliamentary council, elected every two years, represents Sharjah’s children centres and schools.
Sharjah Government’s Pro-Development and Pro-People Policies
The leadership of UAE and Sharjah Government always remained pro-development and pro-people policies. They always believe in true spirits of socio-economic development, qualitative life and happiness in the society. While delivering a keynote speech Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, the UAE Minister of State for Happiness highlighted the importance of mass media in projecting positive messages to society, and fostering a more positive outlook.
Widespread Negative in Arab Mass Media
HE Al Roumi highlighted said: “We have analysed Arabic newspapers for the past six days, at random, and more than half of the headlines were negative, covering death, injury and failure, as well as other negative issues. If we removed newspapers from the UAE that feature more stories covering achievements and welfare, the results would be much worse.”
Psychological Make-Over of Negativity
The Minister pinpointed many research studies and conclusions of different statistical data which indicated the psychological make-up of negative news on individuals. She focused to change the mantra of negativity in the mass media. She suggested reporting this negative news in a right way by also highlighting their solutions. She also highlighted the importance of positive content and positivity in the society which would build positive value in society and a positive way of thinking. The Minister also highlighted the importance of seeking out stories on “good role models who foster hope and encourage the youth.”
Media as Important Tool
The media is an important tool. It can build values and awareness, and specifically translate a culture of positive values in society. Therefore, it is important to build a strategic partnership with the mass media. Let us focus on the success stories and good news in order to improve daily life,” she said.
UAE Government Initiatives
HE Al Roumi pointed to a number of initiatives introduced by media institutions in the country to highlight positive news and experiences, including WAM’s section for positive stories, Sharjah TV’s ‘Al Bath Al Mubashir’, Sharjah Radio’s ‘Al Atheer’, Noor Dubai’s segment ‘Positive Minutes’, Al Khaleej newspaper’s initiative of ‘Country of Happiness’ and 24.ae’s ‘Happiness Bulletin’.
Basis of Government Communication
Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau, highlighted the importance of the Forum which is now in its sixth year. He said: “Government communication is the basis for cooperation and coordination on a global level. It is a tool to shape awareness and form social partnerships.
“It is a cultural power like no other, which can help us to overcome humanitarian problems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on the United Nations’ 2030 agenda.”
Former German President Horst Köhler and Climate Change
Former German President Horst Köhler in his keynote speech urged the participants of IGCF 2017, taking place “at a time of growing uncertainty and rising tensions”, to consider “the profound challenges that humanity faces in the long term.”
German President spoke about global warming/climate change with 15 of the 16 hottest years on record taking place in the 21st century, and global inequality where over a billion people are living in poverty, 780 million are without access to clean water and millions of children are unable to attend school.
Weakness of Prevailing World Economic System
President Köhler stressed the need to initiate massive economic growth in poor countries where hospitals and schools and services and industry are needed to provide people with education, work, and income. He rated humanity’s greatest challenge in the 21st century is to enable all people to live in dignity without destroying our planet. He warned that this goal of humanity dignity cannot be achieved with the current models of economic growth. If everybody produced and consumed like Europeans and Americans, we would need three or four planets in reserve.
President Köhler also spoke of the recent political issues and the newly emerging narratives of egotism and confrontation in the international sphere, a trend that made global agreements such as the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on Climate Change all the more important.
He said: “The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals present a valuable consensus that we want to be the first generation to end extreme poverty and the last generation to be threatened by climate change. To achieve that priority, the 2030 Agenda is a universal one, it requires change in the North and the South, in the East and the West.”
He emphasised: “It is possible to shape our futures if we embrace the inevitable change and not evade it. It is possible to be prosperous and respect nature – it might even make us happier. It is possible to live a life in dignity and at the same time allow people in other parts of the world and our grandchildren to live such a life, too. The basic principles of the SDGs respect for the interdependence and the permanence of human life on this planet are inherently human. In all our diversity, we all have the same basic needs.”
Global Media Trends in Coverage of Sustainable Development
The IGCF 2017 also facilitated a specialised workshop on ‘Global Media Trends in Coverage of Sustainable Development’ for government communication specialists.
It was organised by the United Nations. It attracted government communication specialists from different public sector entities across the UAE. Two main objectives were set for the workshop the first being to create awareness for the global Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations for 2030, and the second to interpret those goals into economic outcomes to benefit human beings and achieve greater levels of development locally (drawing on the UAE perspective) and for the planet at large.
Latest Mechanisms and Best International Practices
During the workshop delivered and moderated by Dr Najla Al Omari, media advisor and trainer, participants examined the latest mechanisms and best international practices used by government communication departments in conveying the right messages to their audience to positively contribute to achieving the goals of sustainable development. The workshop further discussed the rising role of new media in reaching broader segments and promoting positive messages on such development around the world.
Importance of Unifying Media Messages
Dr Najla Al Omary, also highlighted the importance of such workshops in unifying media messages for government organisations to achieve sustainable development and contextualise those messages globally to attain their ambitious outcomes.
Dr Al Omary added that the interaction of the participants was remarkable in their attention to detail and a keenness to identify the latest successful trends in government communication. She reiterated the importance of creativity in planning and producing messages that can effectively achieve results and speak to larger segments of audience. She concluded by commending the high standards observed in organising the landmark Forum.
Importance of Accuracy and Transparency in Media
The Thomson Reuters Foundation was also a two-day workshop aimed at improving journalists’ skills on the side lines of the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017.
It entitled ‘Writing and Reporting News’. The intensive workshop was led by Mathieu Robbin and Saad Hattar, seasoned journalists with over 20 years of cumulative experience and training consultants at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In line with Thomson Reuters methodology, it provided budding journalists with the tools needed to produce accurate and comprehensive stories.
The workshop featured practical exercises with a focus on improving accuracy and transparency among the journalists in attendance. In addition, it provided a framework for the participants to recognise their inner potential and refine their skills. Journalists also get an insight into the legal risks and ethical standards associated with the profession.
Saad Hattar said: “The workshop gives journalists and media professionals an opportunity to revisit basic principles of journalism. Our goal is to share our decades of industry insight, create a platform for exchanging tips and show the participants what is needed to take journalism to the next level.”
Mathieu Robbin said: “My goal is for journalists to come away from this workshop with a few key learnings. First, they must always write with their readers’ best interest at heart. Second, they should do their best to keep the stories interesting and relevant. Finally, they should never be afraid to ask the hard questions.”
In recent years, the Arab world has placed unprecedented emphasis on development with a special focus on achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, amidst an increasingly challenging economic and political climate, how can governments ensure that key stakeholders, such as the media, civil society and non-government organisations are collaboratively participating in this development journey.
Government Communication and Development Goals in the Arab World
A panel of experts thoroughly discussed these problems in a session titled ‘Government Communication and Development Goals in the Arab World’ at the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017). It was moderated by Sarah Dundarawy, TV Presenter at Al Arabiya, the discussion examined the role of educational institutions in developing future generations and society at large.
Importance of Children’s Education
Mishal Kanoo, Chairman of The Kanoo Group highlighted the importance of education in developing children as well as societies. He said: “We need to change the way we think about education. Teaching is not merely a job but a significant responsibility. Companies can also support development by creating opportunities for youth. Some companies have noble goals and believe it is their duty to help train and develop this segment of society.”
Dr Adah Almutairi, Professor and Director of the Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine and Engineering at University of California San Diego, said: “We should focus on the importance of research very early in school education. This will develop the awareness of children.”
Need of Innovations and Investments
Discussing the need for more inventors and innovators in the Arab world, she called for governments to encourage more innovation in educational institutions. She said: “The government can fund programmes. We do not need to have the whole population inventing or innovating, but we need a few. A small group of students interested in science is enough.”
Hanan Al Hroub, Winner of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, pointed out that development is a collaborative effort. She said: “The government alone is not responsible for the development of children or society. We need dialogue in order to reach solutions. Citizens need a greater voice to effectively apply solutions in a collaborative manner. We also need a unified vision between governments and schools that is reflected in the curriculum, the behaviour of students and society at large.”
Describing how technology has redefined the role of teachers, she added: “Earlier, the teacher was the only source of knowledge for the student. Thanks to technological progress, children now have a wide variety of sources available. Therefore, the role of the teacher today is to help the student discover information and instil moral values.”
Importance of Media in Shaping the Lives of Disabled People
During the sixth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, hosted a special interactive session for people with disabilities. During the session Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, discussed the current challenges facing the world and the need for the disabled to participate in development programmes, as well as the establishment of a public benefit organisation for the disabled.
The was organised in cooperation with Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, moderated by Mohammed bin Dakheen Al-Matroushi, Director of the Media and Communications Department at the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority, and witnessed the participation of disabled individuals from various academic institutions in the UAE.
Sharjah City’s Humanitarian Services
Participants highlighted the strides achieved by the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services in empowering its members for more than three decades, and making them effective and productive members of society, leading to holistic development of the UAE in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG).
Participants were divided into two groups. Each group discussed ways to achieve the SDGs with a focus on four main pillars health and wellbeing, suitable jobs and economic growth, reducing inequality, and sustainable communities and cities. The lively debate produced innovative ideas on how to achieve the SDGs in a sustainable society.
The session discussed how people with disabilities can be integrated into mainstream society. It emphasised the UAE’s pioneering efforts to empower this important social segment, making the country a role model of social inclusion.
Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi said: “In line with the efforts and directives of the UAE leadership, the International Government Communication Forum stresses the importance of serving all segments of society. We are happy to have people with disabilities participating in the Forum and to provide a platform for them to express what inclusion means to them and affirm their interest in developing innovative solutions to future global challenges.
“We hope that in the future, their participation will not be limited to a private session, but will extend to all sessions. We hope the Government of Sharjah and other national institutions will adopt their recommendations to contribute to the integration of this category into society. Through doing so, they can truly take advantage of the potential this Forum offers, and enable people with disabilities from a human, educational, social and cultural point of view, she added”.
Prominent Role of Disabled People in the Development of Society
Mohammed bin Dakheen Al-Matroushi said: “People with disabilities have a prominent role in the development of society. Today, I have learnt so much from the attendees about their creative ideas that I feel like a student. This is an unprecedented step for the UAE to stimulate innovative ideas among this segment. The participants have put forward many ideas and recommendations that will make the UAE community the first sustainable one of its kind to establish media and communication capabilities among all its members.”
He added: “During this Forum, participants with hearing disabilities announced the launch of a mobile application that translates sign language into Arabic. This will be the first application to activate and facilitate communication between this segment and the rest of society.”
The session concluded with several recommendations that provide people with disabilities an opportunity to express their abilities and support the UN’s four sustainable development goals that the session focused on. Recommendations included the need to involve people with hearing disabilities and mobility challenges in all initiatives that help enable them and reflect their requirements and rights. One of the recommendations focused on teaching sign language in schools, so that all members of society can communicate seamlessly in sign language with people with disabilities towards building a happy and sustainable society.
The participants also recommended that the TV stations in the UAE should include sign language and language bars at the bottom of the screen for the most important shows. They also recommended issuing the Emirates Code (UAE standard code for the comprehensive environment) for people, institutions and society. The code will be used as a special guide to assist people with disabilities in handling emergencies, crises, disasters and evacuation.
Impact of Conflicts and Refugees on Arab Development
The impact of conflict on refugees, host countries and the Arab region in general was discussed at an afternoon session on day two of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017).
It entitled ‘Impact of Conflicts and Refugees on Arab Development’, the panel discussion, chaired by Houssam Chahin, Senior Private Sector Partnerships Officer for the MENA Region at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It discussed the issues facing the millions of displaced people around the world due to conflicts and crises. Topics included the role of women during the crisis, the role of the media in changing the situation, involvement of the private sector, and the impact of conflicts on children and youth.
Khaled Khalifa, Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the States of the GCC, said: “UNHCR figures show 65 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide and 21.3 million are categorised as refugees. We must first agree that people do not leave their homes willingly. They leave because of necessity. Out of the huge numbers affected, 86 per cent move to developing countries which face their own economic and educational challenges.”
Highlighting the issue of education for refugees, he added: “Fifty per cent of refugees are aged from five to 17. Many will not go to school and very few will go to college or obtain further education. This is more than a lost generation we are talking about. These people have lost the chance to live as children. It is an international failure and we are urging the international community to concentrate on the education issue because it is a fundamental human right.”
Serious Issues of Female Refugees
Focusing on the issues facing female refugees, Mariam Farag, Group CSR Manager at MBC Group, said: “We have an economic and social disaster on our hands. We face a particular challenge with girls, some of whom will turn to marriage as a solution. We are trying to focus on education because girls are always the ones who will be affected when it comes to education. They will be the ones pulled out of school to help the family or to get married.”
Conflict does not just create a problem for refugees, however. Petr Kostohryz, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Jordan, said: “When you are talking about 65 million displaced, there is also a huge impact on the host countries. When you take into account the refugees as well as the hosts, such as Jordan and Lebanon, there are 22 million people affected by the Syrian crisis.”
He added: “In Jordan, for example, 87 per cent of refugees live under the poverty line, even though we have over 70 agencies supporting the government in terms of access to education, shelter, health care and resources.”
Tamara Saeb, Head of Communications at Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), UAE, said: “Conflicts and crises pose major challenges for us operationally and in terms of communications. Refugees move beyond their neighbouring countries and into Europe, and we have found that the Mediterranean route – to Greece and beyond – is the deadliest. In view of this knowledge, we have launched three search-and-rescue boats that enable us to provide support on sea while receiving migrants on the shores.”
She added: “We need to use the media narrative to humanise the problem. We are at a stage where we need to rethink how we tell the story of refugees needing health care, to get the public to react.” The panel unanimously agreed there is a collective ethical responsibility to respond to the crisis more effectively.
Tamara Saeb said: “We realise this is a very complex issue, and it is going to be a challenge for everyone. But we all have to go beyond our comfort zones, and involve the private sector and the youth.”
Petr Kostohryz added: “It is about governments and the international community engaging better in the political process and also about individuals engaging better on their level.”
For her part, Mariam Farag said: “Our objective is to spread hope. There are numerous challenges but we need to be creative. If we all work on the individual level, we will create a chain of actions. My message is that we cannot be passive, we each need to take the opportunity and make the change individually.”
Power of Brand Image and the Economy of Nation Branding
Richard Pattinson, Senior Vice President, BBC Storyworks, BBC Worldwide, highlighted different aspects of commercialization in mass media. He elaborated the role of marketing and advertising. He also pinpointed the importance of national branding, soft image projection. He shared popular and effective commercial practice in recent decades. He rightly pointed that the benefits of a strong national brand are both reputational as well as tangible, as they can increase tourism and foreign investment. He chaired a workshop titled “Power of Brand Image and the Economy of Nation Branding,” which was facilitated by BBC Worldwide for Sharjah’s leading government figures at the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Successful Case Studies of Nation Branding
Pattinson kicked off the session by presenting three case studies that highlight best practices in nation branding. The first example was a video created for DiscoverAmerica.com, an organisation that is encouraging tourism in the United States. The video clip highlighted the virtues of various cities in the US through recordings of their residents. The underlying message is that one can only discover America by experiencing it.
The second example was a BBC initiative called “BBC Britain”, which sought to showcase London ahead of the 2012 Olympics. As part of this project, BBC commissioned 150 new stories and launched a new content platform with thought-provoking narratives that captured the nation’s essence. The platform offered a simple and interactive way of exploring the country one story at a time. According to Pattinson, who cited that 73 percent of users said that the platform changed their perception of the country, the case study also illustrated the power of sporting events in creating a national brand.
The third example was from Germany, which hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2006, as a case study of positive nationalism. Pattinson explained that the World Cup was one of the first instances in which Germans felt comfortable with overt displays of nationalism. Recalling his experience in Germany prior to the event, he said: “We even drove up to a house that was painted in the German flag colours.”
In the final section of the workshop, Pattinson conducted an interactive exercise where the audience was asked to share their perception of three different countries Singapore, South Africa and Canada and evaluated their brand images. Participants were given various parameters, including safety, scenery, tolerance and history, and asked to select two positive and two negative indicators for each of the countries.
The results sparked a provocative discussion on the different challenges that governments encounter when managing their global perception. Singapore, for instance, ranked positively for innovation, but negatively for culture. Discussing how the Singaporean government has worked hard to create cultural spaces in the city, Pattinson attributed these efforts as a driving force to enhancing tourism. He said: “In the last decade, tourism has increased from 9 million to 16 million.”
The exercise gave the audience an opportunity to think about the core messages that constitute a country’s brand campaign. Commenting on how governments can overcome negative perceptions, Pattinson said: “You do need to be authentic. If you have got a problem, you need to talk about how you are tackling it.
Using the example of London, which has a long-standing problem of traffic, he said: “The city has done a lot of things to counter that, but ultimately, it needs to invest in public transport and restrict car access in the centre of the city, which it is now doing.”
He added: “You can only tell audiences things to negate a perception without having substance behind it for a short while. Singapore needed to invest in culture. It cannot just be a plaster that you stick on.”
Speaking about how governments should disseminate their brand messages he said: “It’s really important that the culture of a brand message is set from the top.” Emphasising the importance of consistency, he said. Pattinson also agreed with a comment from one of the participants about transforming weaknesses into opportunities. Speaking about the UK, he said: “Our government is obviously battling an enormous issue with Brexit and is trying to turn a perceived weakness into an opportunity. The idea that there are opportunities to be found in weaknesses is absolutely true.”
An interactive session entitled ‘Youth Energy’ discussed initiatives that support and empower youth in the UAE on the second day of the International Government Communication Forum 2017 (IGCF 2017).
His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani, Chairman of the Department of Statistics and Community Development in Sharjah, and Sheikh Theyab bin Khalifa bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, as well as Saeed Al Nuaimi and Amira Al-Marzouqi, participants of the South Pole Energy Challenge graced the occasion. The UAE Armed Forces team that climbed Mount Everest was also among the guests.
His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani said: “This session gathers many of the UAE’s adventurers under one roof. Despite our different journeys, what brings us all together is our passion for overcoming challenges. We hope that this session will motivate the youth to continue chasing their dreams and unleash their true potential. Overall, we are delighted to participate in this successful Forum, which has attracted many distinguished speakers and highlighted important emerging issues.”
The Sixth International Government Communication Forum 2017 (IGCF 2017) has become a global brand, an ideal platform to discuss the different socio-economic issues and importance of the government’s communications. Through its different informative sessions and interactive workshops the IGCF 2017 tried to form an effective government communication to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), which have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society. It instrumented to achieve a transparent platform to examine current issues. It formulated recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communication. IGCF 2017 convened more than 2500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals.
The Forum witnessed the participation of high-level officials from 16 countries and included five keynote speeches, seven main sessions, six parallel discussion sessions, five accompanying workshops and three interactive sessions. The list of participants included world statesmen, five UAE ministers, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and representatives of international organisations and public and private-sector officials. Day one of IGCF 2017 saw the announcement of winners of the fourth Sharjah Government Communication Award.
His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, said: “The end of each edition of IGCF marks a new beginning for the further advancement of government communication. Today, our efforts to develop a vital communication ecosystem are closer to accomplishment than ever before, due to the recommendations and insights of the international experts that we’ve hosted throughout this two-day Forum.”
Jawaher Al Naqbi, Manager of the International Government Communication Forum, unveiled the recommendations of IGCF’s sixth edition.
The Forum recommended establishing scientific, cultural and spiritual centres for children and the youth to build responsible personalities who are committed to advancing their country’s interests and social participation.
It endorsed devising executive programmes to provide care for the elderly and ensure an environment that meets their needs. It focused to enhance education, support scientific research programmes, and build capacities and skills that are vital to achieve the comprehensive development goals.
It recommended the establishment of a joint Arab committee to support and launch initiatives that stimulate government communication programmes aiming to enhance the efforts of Arab countries towards sustainable development.
IGCF 2017 stressed the need to have active societal participation by families, schools, and media outlets in initiating progressive programmes to achieve the sustainable development of societies. The Forum reinforced the media’s role as a supporter of sustainable development programmes and human values. It encouraged the participation of people with disabilities in programmes and initiatives to achieve sustainable development in order to better integrate minority segments into mainstream society.
It suggested embedding a smart alarm on the front doors of houses that would notify residents when exiting the premises about any electrical units that are still in use. It extended support to productive families in poorer countries, rather than offering direct financial assistance to the governments of these countries. Lastly, the children participating in IGCF 2017 proposed establishing a Children’s Education Charity Fund to support the education of poor children across the world.
It emphasised the need to teach sign language in schools to enable all individuals within a society to communicate with one another. It also recommended issuing the Emirates Code (UAE standard code for the comprehensive environment) for people, institutions and society.
It stressed the pressing need for government entities to familiarise themselves with the most common communication platforms and smart applications among the youth in order to converse better with them. In addition, it highlighted the significance of including community hours as part of regular working hours at government offices an initiative that will allow the youth to play their role in becoming change agents and delivering a positive impact in society.
Its general recommendations of IGCF 2017 also included initiating conversation with government communication directorates at the level of the Arab region to form an Arab network of government communication based in Sharjah with representative offices across all member countries. Moreover, the Forum reiterated the importance of putting in place innovative and modern methods to survey Arab public opinion and public perception on government communication campaigns. The Forum articulated that in order for government communication campaigns to be more influential, they should enhance their presence across and utilisation of multiple social media platforms.
The Forum also called for launching a set of specialised training programmes for government communication professionals to equip them with the newest trends and tools in their field. It stressed the need to give them more flexibility in interacting with the public through social media platforms. Finally, several participating experts called for the launch of “development circles” to be held throughout the year to follow up on the public discourse about SDGs.
The Forum focused the need to increase numbers of media officers specialised in environment and climate change across all media platforms, in parallel with broader media coverage for these key issues and more regular in-depth training for dedicated media personnel. It mandated transparency as a standard approach by all entities responsible for government communication in order to address relevant environmental challenges and crises effectively. It will also help transform public perception from skeptical to supportive of the efforts of governments to achieve strategic goals.
Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB) honoured the 27 speakers and 7 moderators who took part in the Forum, as well as participants in the Green Chair Initiative and the 28 sponsors, including the United Nations Foundation, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, Sharjah Children Centres, Bee’ah Company, Emirates Youth Council, Big Heart Foundation, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), National Media Council, Dubai Media Incorporated, Abu Dhabi Media Company, Sharjah Media Corporation, Dar Al Khaleej for Press, Printing, and Publishing, Gulf News, Sky News Arabia, Al Arabiya Channel, BBC, New York Times, Newsweek magazine, The Business Year, Oxford Business Group, Motivate Group, INC magazines, Sharjah 24, Sharjah Islamic Bank, Emirates Airlines, Arabian Gulf Mechanical Centre, and Expo Centre Sharjah, in addition to the 9 supporters of the Forum including Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, Sharjah Civil Defence, Sharjah Municipality, Sharjah Police, Sharjah General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Sharjah Department of Government Relations, Sharjah Medical District, Al Qassimi Hospital, Kuwait Hospital, and Al Zahraa Hospital.
The topics discussed in the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum reflected the pioneering role of Sharjah and the wider UAE in enhancing the role of government communication in supporting government efforts across all sectors to ensure a brighter future for coming generations.