Dubai: A hot debate took place during a live interview at the Government Communication Forum 2013 in Sharjah’s Expo Centre between former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Amr Mousa and politician and human rights activist Andrew Young who discussed the current form of communication between the authorities and the public.
During the session, both speakers discussed the role of technology, the economic crisis, the need for clean water and lack of jobs available as some of the key factors influencing communication and change.
Smartphones were invented in the middle of the 2008 campaign, all this has revolutionised how we do politics, Steve Jobs, head of Apple, had said to me that people will do everything from their smartphone — he was right, so we built a campaign that changed the way you do politics.”
With the forum’s theme of ‘Effective Communication… Unified Message’ in focus, the speakers made use of their expertise to evaluate and compare the past and present flow of government communication with the people, keeping in mind the revolution taking place in the Arab world.
“The Arab World and Middle East is changing and evolving which is the reason for the lack of communication between the government and the people and between the people themselves,” said Amr Mousa.
Highlighting the development of technology as one of the main factors affecting the methods of communication, Mousa explained that the government no longer has the upper hand in controlling radio and TV channels, but instead the world is globalising and is allowing people’s voices to be heard in the process.
“The Arab World is changing radically and the communication will depend on democracy, technology and globalisation which all create a new mechanism of change,” he added.
Also pointing out that social media and TV stations play a role in conveying messages, Mousa added that governments need to have a heart-to-heart and brain-to-brain conversation with the people. “It is not enough to only hear their thoughts.”
Despite new methods of technology facilitating communication between people, Mousa explained that the Arab states need to look forward to positive change. “We shouldn’t look backwards at all — we need to live in the 21st century, be aware of our time and preserve our heritage,” he added.
Politician Andrew Young who agreed with the major effects of technology in communication, also added that communication needs to be led with a vision in order to make a difference.
“Unless words are channelled into a vision, like [His Highness Dr] Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi [Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah] has for this region — which is based on the primary pillars of Islam, they have little meaning,” said Young.
Also referring to the global economic crisis as another major factor affecting the form of communication in the region, Young emphasised the need for global economic unity.
“Politics is local, economics is global — we need global economic unity,” he said.
Along with the use of new methods of technology and the aim of global economic unity, Mousa also added two points that he said could change communication in the future.
“The role between religion and politics and the role of youth in the change process taking place will draft the future,” explained Mousa.
Despite agreeing that there are specific fundamentals that Arab states agree on, Mousa said that each country in the region follows a different process. “There is bad management of government in numerous Arab countries, and this applies to the current situation,” he said, adding that what needs to be focused on is the people’s voices.
Highlighting the people’s role in the communication process, Young pointed out that conflict between the people themselves will hinder any possible positive change. “Everyone is talking about what they are against, we need people to say this is what we are for — these are the voices we are waiting for,” said Young. Hoping to hear these voices from the United Nations, Young added that following the UN’s vision “to live together despite our differences” would be a huge step forward.
“There is no such thing as an instant revolution, it’s a process, and management is very important,” he added, also highlighting the critical role of the media.
During the debate, Young also underlined the need for clean water along with the need to create more jobs as the two major factors of change. “We should be focusing on clean water — it will be more precious than oil in 20 years,” he said referring to numerous water wars happening around the world. “Along with clean water, we need the creation of more jobs — people who go to work will stop protesting,” added Young.