Wednesday 9, March 2016

Sharjah – MENA Herald: His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre (SMC), today reiterated that government communication has emerged as an important social and political science, given its defining role in stabilising and developing societies. He pointed out that this fact is reinforced by the public expectation of its ability to resolve crises spreading across regional and international arenas.

HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi was speaking at a press conference, hosted at Al Qasba Theatre, Sharjah, to announce the details of the fifth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2016) that will be held from March 20-21 at the Expo Centre Sharjah. The Press conference was attended by Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Media Centre, and senior officials from the public sector, representatives of IGCF’s sponsor organisations and agencies, and members of the local, Arab and international media.

Being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhamad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, IGCF 2016 will bring together more than 2,500 prominent world leaders, legal experts specialising in government communication, public sector officials, communication professionals and journalists, as well as employees and stakeholders working in the field of government communication. Students of local and Arab universities are also expected to participate in the event as volunteers and attendees.

Commending the partnership between government institutions and media organisations in the UAE, HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi said that this harmonising relationship supports and guides the development process in the country. The partnership serves as an exemplary global model of ideal relationships between the media and government institutions to ensure progress for the greater good of the country and its people, he added.

The Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre pointed out that the slogan of the upcoming edition of IGCF ‘Citizens for Prosperity’ stresses the integral role of government communication in socio-economic development, emphasising: “The slogan reinforces our focus to put a positive spin on this enabling relationship between governments and the people and highlighted their respective roles in pushing forward the development process.”

He added: “One of the basic differences between stable societies that are improving the lives of their people and those that are struggling and unable to achieve prosperity is the level of communication between governments and their people. We believe they share the task of development of key sectors that directly impact people’s social, economic and cultural reality. Therefore, the International Government Communication Forum this year will be more specialised and focused on sharing global best practices and experiences of government communication in areas such as education, community identity and culture, among others.”

Highlighting the most significant aspects of the agenda of IGCF 2016, Tariq Saeed Allay stressed that the current edition will deliberate on citizens’ perceptions of government communication and the critical role that government communication can play in serving the people through its emphasis on vital life sectors. Experts will highlight specific case studies in these areas to reiterate the Forum’s status as a reliable global reference for government communications.

The Director of SMC noted that IGCF 2016 will host several guests of honour who will deliver keynote speeches on both days of the forum. Most notably these will include HE Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of the Board of National Media Council; Mary Robinson, First female President of the Republic of Ireland (1990-1997) and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002); HE Shamma bint Sohail Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, UAE; Amal Clooney (Alamuddin), Lawyer, international advocate and human rights activist and author, as well as Christopher Gardner, American entrepreneur, motivational speaker, author, philanthropist.

The first session of the forum held on Sunday, March 20 will discuss the role of government communication in building knowledge societies, detailing the experience of educational institutions in Finland and Malaysia in shaping public opinion consistent with regard to the upgrading of the educational system. The session will also focus on the role of communication in linking educational policies with the requirements of development, particularly its impact on the policies and directions of private education, and on governmental reforms in formal educational institutions.

The panelists of the session will include: Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden (2006-2014); Ziauddin Yousafzai, UN Special Advisor on Global Education; Jordan Casey, Young entrepreneur, Owner of Casey Games and self-taught programmer (16 years old); and Rajai El Khadem, Head of MENA – Public Sector LTS LinkedIn. Mayssoun Azzam, Media Personality from Al Arabiya News Channel, will moderate the session.

Themed ‘Confronting Extremism: Government Communication and Creation of a Humanist Culture’, the second session will highlight the role of government communication in organising intensive media and awareness campaigns to target young people and educate them about dealing with intellectual, social and ideological messages that feed and fuel extremism. The session aims to mitigate destructive thoughts before they lead to deadly acts of terror threatening the national, cultural, social and economic security of societies.

The speakers for this session will include: HE Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC); Mohamed Benaissa, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco (1999-2007); Dominique de Villepin, Prime Minister of France (2005-2007): Husain Haqqani, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States (2008-2011). The session will be moderated by the media personality Mohannad Al Khatib, from Sky News Arabia.

Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, will address the third session ‘The Woman Citizen’ devoted to women with a keynote on ways to enhance women’s role in society to enable them to positively impact their world. She will particularly focus on subjects that are contributing to champion humanitarian issues to achieve a balance in the economic and social structure and safeguarding future generations from hatred, extremism and systematic destruction of human values.

The panelists of the session will include: Helen Clark, administrator of the UN Development Programme and 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008); Tina Brown, Founder ‘Women in the World’, journalist, author of the Diana Chronicles, and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media; Dr Sakena Yacoobi, Professor, President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL); and Lawrence Chickering, Founder and President of Educate Girls Globally. The session will be moderated by Muna Abu Sulayman, media personality from MBC.

A special session on Monday, March 21, titled ‘Natural and Humanitarian Disasters: From Crisis Management to Strategic Communication’, will discuss the role of government communication in creating procedural and psychological preparedness in the public even before the advent of crises. It will include briefing the public about steps taken to deal with the aftermath of the crisis, as well as the role of government communication in addressing and persuading the public to join the authorities or voluntary organisations to help evacuate the affected people and provide assistance to the needy.

The panelists for the sessions will include: David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom (2007-2010); Bernard Kouchner, Co-founder and President of Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France (2007-2011), Fahad Abdulrahman bin Sultan, Deputy Secretary General at the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC); and John Simpson, World Affairs Editor, BBC. The session will be moderated by Hamed bin Karam Al Farsi, a media personality from Sama Dubai.

The next session, titled ‘Government communication and the cultural and social components of the society’ will review the role of government communication in strengthening cultural identity and focus on the experiences of the GCC countries in protecting their own identities from the effects of globalisation, and rapid technological developments. It will also discuss the importance of communication in helping the region maintain its position on the civilizational map and in strengthening its identity and competitiveness.

HE Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); HE Ambassador Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary General, Head of Media and Communication Sector, League of Arab States; and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of President Nelson Mandela, Founder and President of ‘Africa Raising’ Foundation, will headline the session that will be moderated by Faisal Ben Hariz, a media personality from Sky News Arabia.

Tariq Saeed Allay confirmed that the forum will organise several workshops in collaboration with UNAOC, Thomson Foundation and Sky News Arabia. Of the two UNAOC workshops scheduled, the first will be titled ‘Prevention of Violent Extremism and Hate Speech: Sharing Good Practices in the Use of Social Media’. The second workshop will focus on ‘Involving Youth in the Promotion of Tolerance and Diversity across the World’.

Furthermore, Thomson Foundation will also organise two workshops – the first on ‘Working with Stakeholders in Communication Strategy’ and a second on ‘Investigative Journalism as a government tool for better decision making.

Sky News Arabia is also slated to organise two thought sessions at IGCF 2016 – one titled ‘Means of communication: from social to strategic’ that will provide an overview on the significance of social networking media with facts, figures and examples, and a second on ‘Government communication and strategies of partnership with the public’, which will discuss best ways of dealing strategically with social networking media.

The Director of Sharjah Media Centre said several events have been scheduled on the sidelines of the forum, including the Social Innovation Space, in which a number of young Emirati students will be invited to speak about their creative thoughts and projects. This platform is an attempt by the Forum to highlight national creative talents in innovation to meet today’s dynamic needs.

The fifth edition of the IGCF will conclude with the roll-out of recommendations and the announcement of winners of the third edition of Sharjah Government Communication Award – an initiative launched by Sharjah Media Centre in September 2012 to strengthen and promote best professional practices in government communication in the UAE and the wider GCC region. In addition to rewarding winners, the special award ceremony will also felicitate jury members.

The International Government Communication Forum, the first-of-its-kind in the wider Arab region, is an important global event that convenes decision-makers, experts and stakeholders in government communication from around the world. It is a transparent platform for raising important issues and discussing communication-specific trends in order to develop recommendations and resolutions that will help governments and people involved in the field of government communication to enhance their performance and scope of work. The forum seeks to achieve greater convergence in the relationship between governments and the public to ensure sustainable development.