IGCF 2017: Government Communication in UAE and GCC region helps bring about positive change

Baku, March 22, AZERTAC

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) in Sharjah, the UAE. Under the patronage of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the high-profile event run from March 22 to 23 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

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.

Speaking first, 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. The secret of communication and conveying information is 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.”

Speaking of the tools of communication that the UAE government is implementing, Najla bint Mohammad Al Awar, UAE Minister of Community Development, said: “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: “The purpose of all these is 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.”

Highlighting the importance of communication in empowering the region’s youth, Najla Al Midfa, General Manager of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa), 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 contributes to Sharjah’s economic development and the UAE’s knowledge-based economy through working with the youth.”

She added: “We needed to create a change in mindset 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.”

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.”

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.

Themed ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, IGCF 2017 examines how the world’s nations can leverage effective government communication to achieve the SDGs, which have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society.

Offering a transparent platform to examine current issues and formulate recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communication, IGCF 2017 convenes more than 2,500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals.

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