His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah (second from left) and Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi (third from left), Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council at the opening of IGCF 2023 at Expo Centre Sharjah on Wednesday
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah (second from left) and Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi (third from left), Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council at the opening of IGCF 2023 at Expo Centre Sharjah on Wednesday Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: How to turn resources into wealth was in focus during the opening session of the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah today.

His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 12th edition of the Forum in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council (SMC).

Organised by Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB) at Expo Centre Sharjah, the two-day forum has brought together over 250 guests, thought leaders and innovators from around the world to share their insights at over 90 key discussions based on the forum’s theme ‘Today’s Resources... Tomorrow’s Wealth’.

This year, the forum’s dialogues are focused on how nations and governments can communicate and collaborate to better utilise and optimise precious natural and manmade resources and turn them into sustainable wealth for future generations.

‘Thanks to Sharjah Ruler’

“We meet again at the 12th annual IGCF, which continues to be a gathering of great minds, inspiring thoughts and innovation. We are here to shine light on a topic that is one of the most pressing issues of our times. So, how can we turn resources into wealth in reality?” Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed asked during his inaugural speech.

“People in ancient Egypt, for example, faced long famines when their wheat production dwindled. They thus came up with a plan to innovatively preserve wheat in silos. I am presenting this example as it is a story of the triumph of a natural resource - wheat, and of a human resource - brilliant minds who came up with an innovative solution to preserve wheat. In Sharjah, the UAE’s food security agenda is being pushed forward by the visionary approach of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, who appointed agricultural engineers and put together a team of experts, led hundreds of field visits and research activities to locate the most appropriate plot of land in the desert for wheat production, and launched wheat production sufficiency as one of our emirate’s food security initiatives,” he said.

“And on March 20 this year, we tasted the first loaf of bread from the wheat of Sharjah.”

‘Lack of resources - or of management?’

During his keynote speech, Tariq Saeed Allay, Director-General of SGMB, highlighted the world’s challenges in terms of wealth and resources, noting that the world faces a significant challenge not in the scarcity of resources but in managing and investing them effectively.

He said: “Considering all these facts, the central role of government communication becomes clear: to shape and forge the path of change. We know that policies, plans, and solutions will remain on paper if they do not transform into conscious practices within communities and daily behaviour that align ambitions and goals with implementation. Therefore, we meet in IGCF to bolster the role of government communication in raising awareness among individuals and communities – to forge the path of change.”

UAE’s green projects

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and the Chairperson of the UAE Food Security Council, said:

“The UAE’s approach to sustainability is pragmatic. We want to reach a point where when we use our last barrel of oil, we celebrate the day, not worry. Projects like Masdar City boast giant solar stations, and we plan to triple our renewable energy production by 2030. The UAE was also the first nation to not only endorse the Paris Climate Agreement but also launch the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. To achieve this, the country has committed to reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.”

“All seven emirates are working together to protect our massive biodiversity, our endangered species, and build the biggest incubator for corals in the world. Once complete, this will be a 300,000 sqm incubator. We are also increasing our mangrove cover to fight carbon emissions. Our Mangrove Alliance for Climate, which has 17 global partners replicating the UAE’s experience in growing their local mangrove cover, has attained great success thus far,” she added.

“Through COP28, we want to achieve one goal - protect the Earth with concrete steps and leave a legacy by encouraging attendees to sign our Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production,” the minister further said.

Call for compassion

Frank Caprio, the celebrity US judge known as ‘The Nicest Judge in the World’, conveyed a message of compassion during the inaugural proceedings. “This is the most important government communications event in the world, and I thank the Ruler of Sharjah for inviting me here. This is a land of mercy and compassion, 11,000 miles away from my home in Rhode Island, USA, where I have tried to promote the same values in my 40-year long career,” he said.

“When I started my law practice, I realised quickly that a little bit of compassion in dealing with traffic violators went a long way in making a sustainable positive impact on their civic actions. The most frequent question I get asked today is: How did you get to be that judge 200 million people watch on social media? The answer is that I have always tried to place myself in the shoes of the person whose case I am adjudging. Our world is driven by hatred and conflict, and we need a lot of compassion, empathy and acts of kindness everyday to create a better one”, Capiro added.

“Government’s role is to help people, and not hurt them. It is crucial to understand the role of direct communication between public servants, on behalf of the government, and the people, in a way that responds directly to their needs. Justice is always served by implementing a fair court proceeding. As a judge, I wore a robe as I had to, but under it, I did not wear a badge. I wore a heart. Ultimately, we are all judges. And how we judge those around us will make a difference to the lives we touch.”

‘We need a food system transformation’

Vandana Shiva, the firebrand Indian environmental activist, researcher and food sovereignty advocate, delivered an inspiring speech titled ‘Charting a Hunger-Free World’.

She said: “Food is a basic need, not only for human beings but all life. It is also the most important global currency. The web of life is in fact a food web, which when disrupted leads to a two-fold crisis - a human crisis of large numbers not having food, and an even larger number not having food fit for consumption. Monoculture, excessive use of chemicals, synthetic fertilisers, and pesticides are destroying our ecology and leading to a gradual collapse of our planetary boundaries. All this is leading us to extinction.”

“A dysfunctional food system is at the heart of the chronic disease pandemic. We are losing trillions of dollars annually to cancer, diabetes, infertility, birth defects. Because there is a deep connection between the health of our gut, our brain, and how we grow our food. We need a food system transformation, and teach successive generations how to protect the health of our Earth by producing food in a regenerative way - not in a way that is worsening climate change,” stressed the activist.

‘Regardless of gender or literacy, we can bring positive change’

The 57-year-old grandmother and ‘solar power queen’ from Madagascar, Yolande Randrianambinina shared her remarkable story of bringing clean, solar-powered electricity to over 200 households in her community in Madagascar for the first time in 2017.

“I come from a very isolated village in Madagascar. I am a solar trainer and lead an organisation that protects the environment, particularly mangroves. The women I work with received a six-month training in biodiversity conservation in India and learned how they could help bring electricity to our village through the use of clean energy resources. Today, we have reduced our energy consumption by half. More than 200 of our community members trained as solar technicians in India and came back to install solar lights in their households”, she said.

“Today, we have our own training programme in Madagascar ‘Enrich’, where students learn solar energy sciences, literacy, sports, and other things. I encourage women to participate actively. Regardless of gender or literacy, we can bring positive change to the community,” she added.

A short film was screened during the opening ceremony showcasing IGCF’s theme, vividly depicting the potential consequences if humanity were to neglect its resources and the challenges that could arise if individuals abandoned their responsibility to protect the Earth and its wealth.

IGCF’s opening ceremony was hosted by Mohammed AlTomaihi, media personality at “Al Arabiya’’ and featured the participation of two notable figures: environmental activist and UNICEF ambassador for the Climate Change Conference (COP 28), Ghaya al-Ahbabi, known as the “Green Girl,” and Ghumaila Alketbi.

In an engaging conversation with AlTomaihi, these young girls shared their visions for the future, their aspirations, and their commitment to contributing to the goals and aspirations of the Emirate of Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates.