Sharjah 24: Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah has stressed that the development of the human factor which is so essential to nation-building can be achieved by striking the perfect balance between socio-economic progress and intellectual and emotional development. This understanding, he said, fuelled the farsighted vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who laid the foundations of the emirate's development project with culture at its heart, more than 40 years ago.
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi's remarks came during the opening ceremony of the 10th edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) held today (Sunday, September 26) under the theme, 'Historic lessons, Future ambitions' at Expo Centre Sharjah.
A comprehensive development movement
At the opening ceremony of IGCF 2021, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi said: “The development of the human factor which is so essential to nation-building can be achieved by striking the perfect balance between socio-economic progress and intellectual and emotional development. In the eighties of the last century, when the region was undergoing rapid urban development during its post-oil discovery phase, the Ruler of Sharjah focused on building the essential human factor. Since then, the emirate has been on a harmonious development journey with an involved and motivated citizenry as its prime goal.”
The Deputy Ruler of Sharjah added: “‘Effective communication bolsters relationships, safeguards values and principles, and enables nations to rise. Today, we are celebrating a decade of IGCF that has enriched our experiences and helped in advancing government communications in the emirate, in the region and the world. As you share your experiences at the forum, it will help us learn better from historic lessons, and guide us as we look ahead to the future.
“IGCF is much more than a forum to research and evaluate government communications. It delves deep into the core of human relations. Without communication, there would be no relationship between individuals and no shared values or principles - societies would not exist and nations would not rise.”
The Guest of Honour of IGCF 2021, Prince Turki Al Faisal, Founder and Trustee of the King Faisal Foundation and Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said in his keynote address: “I cannot express the extent of my appreciation to the Sharjah Ruler for the vision and efforts, which have transformed Sharjah into a role model of Arab culture, knowledge development and sustainable progress to the world.
“In an era of globalisation of both media and economy, we have become increasingly interconnected. This current ‘closeness’ of the world, which was made more prominent than ever with the outbreak of a global pandemic – one that doesn’t recognise international borders or distinguish between peoples or nations – makes it critical to ensure that we pave a path that leads all humanity towards protection and prosperity. These two are key facets of development that should be viewed not only as an end, but as the means too.
Emphasising that the biggest challenge before the world today was managing the ongoing transformations to formulate and restructure a new international order, he said, “This is essential to highlight the existing balances of power, accommodate global changes on all levels, and respond to each country’s aspirations for a just international order that provides a strategic environment for a safe and stable world. Failure to overcome this challenge will lead to international conflicts and threaten humankind's achievements in all fields and impact the future of globalisation.”
Government communication in times of crisis
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, said: "IGCF’s launch in 2012 was the outcome of a wise vision and part of deliberate efforts to form an important link in the path of change that we all seek. This development has an important significance as it came shortly after the 2011 crisis that culminated in the ongoing crisis that many countries in the Arab world continue to suffer from even today. The aftermath of these events has provided a motive to reconsider and rethink, since a large part of the problems were caused by a disconnect between governments and its peoples.”
“Involving the public begins with highlighting the magnitude of the challenges and problems facing society. Sharing this information places people and governments on the same trajectory, and reshapes political discourse based on the prevailing reality,” he added.
Highlighting the impact of the pandemic, he said: “Over the course of two years, we witnessed the impact effective communication during a crisis had on the performance of governments. It is evident that governments with open communication channels and mutual trust with its peoples were able to better manage the crisis and carry out their duties to direct, control and raise awareness in a quicker and more efficient manner.”
For his part, Dr. Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said that for effective government communication to achieve its objective, it needs to be supported by ethical private media, and stated that the achievement and protection of key national objectives was a collective responsibility. Citing the example of and the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, he said there was a need for a charter to govern the cyber space to enable readers to sift facts from fake news and false information.
“Covid-19 led to the emergence of a host of conspiracy theory advocates and believers which had a negative impact on the efforts of several governments in combating the health crisis as the open and unregulated cyberspace became the reliable source of information for people the world over. This led key government organisations to create official accounts on various social media platforms to communicate efficiently with the public around the clock,” he added.
IGCF to answer fundamental questions
Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of SGMB, pointed out that the 10th edition of the annual forum is being held against the backdrop of a pandemic that has greatly impacted lives, globally. Noting that the crisis had altered realities across the spectrum – in work and education; in life; in entertainment and content industries; and led to fundamental shifts in relationships between individuals and institutions, he emphasised that the fundamental questions arising from these changes will be discussed at IGCF 2021.
He said: “In less than 50 years, the UAE has been ranked in top positions on global development indicators, and during this period, Sharjah’s cultural project has left a prominent footprint on the region and the world. All these achievements stem from many factors, most notably learning from past lessons, which is a key pillar of the 10th edition of IGCF.”
The SGMB Director General added: “The theme of IGCF 2021 places the present under the spotlight. Future ambitions are being created now,” stressing that the forum will address changes in concepts, tools, and mechanisms of communication while delving into how government communication teams can lead the ongoing transformations in vital sectors.
“A new era is now being shaped in Sharjah and the UAE. Together, we will witness the dawn of a new communication era characterised by readiness, agility, specialisation, and high efficiency,” concluded Allay.
Khaled Madkhali Saudi journalist, media professional and presenter of Al Arabiya News Channel, who was the master of ceremonies for the IGCF 2021 inaugural discussions, expressed his pride in being part of the forum and congratulated SGMB on the forum’s launch. He said: “I congratulate Sharjah, the forum’s audience and the media and communications community in the region and beyond for coming together for IGCF’s 10th edition. Allow me to express how proud I am to stand before you on a platform that is defined by a great vision, guests and goals.”
Following the opening ceremony, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi along with other attending officials toured the IGCF 2021 venue, learning from the organisers more about the key offerings of the two-day forum, which brings together 79 experts in communication from 11 Arab and foreign countries to discuss innovative crisis management mechanisms and determine the future of government communication.
The forum’s highlights include 31 events featuring 7 panel discussions, 5 inspirational talks, 7 training workshops, and 12 interactive programmes, to envision the future of government communications and review mechanisms, tools, and changes in public perceptions.
IGCF 2021 partners
This year, IGCF 2021 is organised in partnership with Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI); Sharjah Broadcasting Authority; Sharjah Media City (Shams); Expo Centre Sharjah; Sharjah Asset Management; Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; Emirates Airlines; ENEX; Sky News Arabia; Emirates News Agency; Al Ittihad newspaper; Dar Al Khaleej; Dubai Media Inc; and Dubai TV.