Sharjah: Government communication can transform challenges into opportunities and government policies such as the four-day work week in Sharjah promote family cohesion, which in turn helps fight social challenges, the 11th annual International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) heard on its opening day on Wednesday.
Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council (SEC), in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council (SMC), inaugurated the event at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the two-day forum themed ‘Challenges and Solutions’ is organised by the International Government Communication Centre (IGCC), an initiative of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB). The forum has convened over 160 senior public officials, thought leaders and experts.
The debates and discussions at the forum highlighted how government communication can be employed to not just overcome local and global governance challenges and socio-economic crises, but also with the potential to transform them into opportunities.
Opening the forum’s discussions with a keynote speech, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed highlighted the emirate’s successful experience in strengthening the role of the family and youth training centres, and combining it with responsible media communication to present only what is useful to society to overcome challenges posed by certain misleading external influences of a technology driven, globalised world.
4-day work week
“Today, Sharjah is a UNICEF-recognised child-friendly city and offers equal opportunities to the youth and persons with disabilities. We are also the first Arab city to have special care provisions for senior citizens and other vulnerable population segments. It is the first city in the Arab world to implement a four-day work week mandate to promote family cohesion, which we know fortifies us against these challenges,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed.
He reaffirmed that through its vision to promote the role and impact of government communication, “Sharjah wants to deliver the message that communication itself is the bold line that separates stability from turmoil, clarity from confusion, and guides us from where we are now to what we aspire to be.”
He pointed out that challenges have never stopped humanity.
Thanking bright minds who have enabled humanity to overcome the darkest of challenges by continually drawing lessons from the past, he said: “Some governments have the ability to foresee some disasters, anticipate the future, and prepare to reduce their challenging impact.”
However, he raised an alarm about climate change and emphasised on the shared responsibility to tackle it.
UAE’s values for balanced relations
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, whose talk titled ‘Optimal communication strategies for balanced relations between cultures’ began with him expressing deep appreciation and gratitude to the Ruler of Sharjah for extending generous and continuous patronage to key cultural and intellectual events, including IGCF.
The minister’s talk highlighted the axes that the UAE bases its relationship building with other cultures including dialogue, tolerance, full cooperation and fruitful relations to constitute the path to a more advanced, more peaceful, more prosperous and stable world.
Sheikh Nahyan stressed that the pursuit of balanced and equal relations between civilisations and cultures should not be limited to theoretical discussions but viewed as an opportunity for practical projects, social and economic leadership initiatives, volunteer programmes and public service. “The activities connected to relationships between nations and peoples can have significant economic value, allow the development of joint investments, and encourage beneficial innovation at all levels.”
“Our ministry and the entire nation are fully committed to the values of tolerance, coexistence and human fraternity. We committedly work towards establishing balanced and strong cooperative relationships with everyone in order to disseminate knowledge and raise awareness on civilisations, cultures and religions, and successfully counter extremism, racism, and hatred to achieve peace, and accord worldwide.”
The minister also urged everyone to fight fake news and rumours to achieve peace and harmony all over the world.
‘Caring face’ of government
In his keynote speech, Tariq Saeed Allay, director General of SGMB, said the absence of communication nullifies physical existence and whoever communicates in the wrong way creates a distorted shadow of his existence.
“Government communication is tantamount to giving life to the body that exercises it.”
Allay added: “Today, communication should be open to opposing possibilities and outcomes... It also must serve as the ‘caring face’ of official institutions that leads people amid rapid changes and transformations by prompting stimulating thought and self-confidence, and unleashing the spirit of innovation and creativity.”
The next inspirational talk titled ‘Green Growth... Mechanisms for Making Decisions’, was delivered by Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico and honourary chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
Calderón stressed the importance of shifting the focus from discussing the harmful impact of climate change to discussing the opportunities arising from green economies and sustainable development, noting if government communication teams want to be more convincing, they should prove it with actions and not only words or promises.
“Maybe we are making some mistakes in the narrative and the communication of the problem of climate change…It is possible to have better economic growth and better climate at the same time, but we need to work with better goals,” he pointed out.
Calderón explained that the focus of green economy investment promotion should be three-pronged to include cities, agriculture and energy, stressing the importance for governments to communicate with their communities to shine light on the opportunities in them and the potential for more agile growth compared to the traditional energy sector.
Actions speak louder in Sharjah
In her speech, former Canadian Prime Minister, Kim Campbell asserted that good and impactful communication is characterised by not just what governments say but what they do.
Saying that she was a firm believer in the proverb “actions speak louder than words”, the first female PM of Canada added that IGCF is an action of the Sharjah Government to bring global leaders together to collectively find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
“The policies that science cannot provide are the policies of the heart that offer a sense of dignity and a sense of belonging to people. The UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence and Sharjah’s recent move to a four-day week to enable more family time for its residents are powerful messages of what the nation values.”
“Countries today face numerous challenges of living in divided and multicultural societies, and the UAE and Sharjah’s actions are making all nationalities feel respected and empowered. It tells people that their lives are important,” she added.
Mohammed Abdullah Al Qahtani, author of The Power of Word, delivered the concluding talk of the morning titled, ‘Influential Leadership’, saying that people can only succeed in their endeavours when they are backed by a strong, inspiring leadership that believes in them and their potential.