Effective government communication plays a role in sustainable development
The Emirate of Sharjah reminds us that governmental communication mechanisms are part of good geopolitical relations and a first step to solve mankind’s major current problems, collectively denominated as Sustainable Development Goals by the UN: zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships for goals.
Sharjah Media Centre launched the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) in 2012 to operate as an international meeting point for governments and its 6th edition is being organized these days. The forum is unique across the world and its goals are to build a platform for better communication between governments and stakeholders to create a participatory dialogue and to develop government communication mechanisms, “to enhance the spirit of community partnership and instill a sense of responsibility in the present and future generations towards their countries and humanity at large, to highlight successful approaches that government communication practitioners adopt to drive public opinion towards a proactive response to current global issues and to make people an integral part of the solutions”.
This year’s event with gather more than 2,500 local, regional and international leaders and media experts from 16 countries. The forum will consist of panel discussions and workshops among experts, and special meetings with government officials and members of the diplomatic corps in the UAE. The 2017 edition will be enriched by the presence of ambassadors, consuls and attachés to the UAE who will discuss the role of government communication in achieving sustainable development.
HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council, stressed that the event intends to improve the coordination of the government communication system in Sharjah and the UAE communication with governments of other countries in order to work together on joint goals of mankind: “The meeting will highlight the commitment of Sharjah and the UAE to the principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, it will provide a unique opportunity for the diplomatic corps to share the experiences of their countries in working towards these noble goals that have become a top priority for international governments and institutions. By hosting representatives of the diplomatic corps during the IGCF, we seek to gain insights from global experiences relevant to this year’s theme – ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development. The Sharjah forum will examine a wide variety of topics of interest to world governments. To achieve the SDGs, governments must join forces to overcome current and future challenges. In this context, government communication plays a vital role in supporting government efforts towards realising these goals, and contributing to economic and social development.”
Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau believes that “In Sharjah as well as across the UAE and around the world, governments have been increasingly creating frameworks and policies to promote sustainable development. The upcoming IGCF will strengthen these international efforts by bringing together local and global leaders and experts in order to learn from past experiences and adopt best practices. In particular, the IGCF will focus on the critical role that effective government communication can play in achieving these goals. Governments need to engage citizens to reach the 17 UN development goals, and the best way to do this is through effective government communication”.
Discourse is a tool
As long as it’s not “empty” or “double”, public discourse has been already acknowledged as a powerful tool of expression for governments and official discourse. Language in discourse has social, political, cognitive, moral and material consequences and effects. Rhetoric is often a tool by which international leaders, governments and organizations assess the position of a country, its policies and its intentions.
Public discourse has a strong performative function of which we become often aware; it can create stability or destabilize. The power of public discourse lies precisely in its ability to shape ideas, to stir emotions and empathy, sympathy and solidarity feelings, with the purpose to cause mindsets and behaviours because discourse is part of the unconscious and conscious mind and emotional life. People live unconsciously in discursive realities. Interpreting does not mean simply decoding words from the linguistic perspective but it implies matching the features of the utterance with recognizable interpretations and common sense assumptions.
Sharjah in a nutshell
The Emirate of Sharjah, the 3rd biggest of the 7 United Arab Emirates, was first inhabited 6,000 years ago, it was the first to have an airport in the Gulf area in 1932, the first to have a cinema in 1945 and it means “the rising sun”. It is a symbol for culture, intellect and architecture. It was the Cultural capital of the Arab world in 1998 and the capital of Islamic Culture in 2014. Sharjah has a sophisticated infrastructure for cultural development, including specialized museums such as Sharjah Archeological Museum, the Natural History Museum, Sharjah Museum of Science, Sharjah Art Museum, the Islamic Museum, and the Heritage Museum. Every year, the emirate holds the “Sharjah Cultural days” in one city in the world, celebrating the Emirati culture through festivals and exhibitions. With 80 programs, and dozens of thousands of students enrolled, the University of Sharjah is one of the largest in the Arab world. It was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who strongly believes that “developing the human being is the cornerstone of development”.
Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi is one of the most learned personalities in the Arab world who has dedicated his entire life to promoting culture across the world. His writings include unique historical pieces, great contributions to the world’s literature and a source of wisdom. In a speech delivered on 16th march 2004 at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, he reminded that the Arabs “gave the world the sciences: chemistry, physics, astronomy, algebra etc…and left their names and marks on these contributions”.
In 2011, one of his plays, Hulagu’s Return, participated in Sibiu Theatre Festival and two of his books, Hulagu’s Return and the White Sheikh, have been translated into Romanian and enjoyed success at subsequent book fairs, confirming what Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi has expressed during a theatre festival in Paris in 2007: “Theatre allows news channels of dialogue to open up between races, ethnicities, colours, creeds…”