'Governments should interact with people'
Shaikha Bodour speaks at a panel discussion of International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah on Monday as moderator Faisal bin Huraiz of Sky News Arabia, Habib Al Sayegh and Ndaba Mandela look on. -Photo by M.Sajjad
Sharjah - Speakers at government communication forum say two-way approach must to address people's needs
The role of governments in not only communicating with citizens but also interacting with them on a broader level was highlighted on Monday during the fifth International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2016) at the Expo Centre Sharjah.
In a panel session entitled, 'Government Communication and Protection of the Social Structure', speakers highlighted the idea that governments must interact with their citizens in a more dynamic manner, using a two way approach in order to ensure that governments are truly able to address their needs.
Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said: "Through communication, we are exposed to various cultures and our children are exposed to them, as well. This is an extremely positive thing, I believe. As long as they have strong Emirati culture, this diversity and exposure due to today's modern communication is positive and will enhance their lives."
Shaikha Bodour added: "Obviously the role of government communication is very important to promote culture and identity in future generations. However, efforts are required at both the government and community levels and there needs to be interaction between the two to find the best solutions for protecting the identity of youth."
Habib Al Sayegh, Chairman of the Emirates Writers' Union and Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Writers, also referred to the importance of two-way interaction between governments and their citizens, saying: "We need leaders to speak out more and speak to journalists and to people directly, particularly when national policies and laws are being drafted."
He added: "His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is an example of this kind of role model. He has, in a sense, become a journalist himself through his use of Twitter to convey messages and news to the public. He speaks to the public in a transparent way on a daily basis."
Agreeing with Shaikha Bodour and Habib Al Sayegh that leaders must interact with their citizens more directly, Ndaba Mandela said: "I think it's very important for the government to speak not at people, but to people. It is also very important to make sure that the people who are affected by government programmes are part of that conversation." Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela and Founder and Chairman of Africa Rising Foundation, applauded the UAE government for appointing a 22-year-old Minister of Youth. Calling it as an extremely progressive move by the UAE, he urged other ministers and ministries to interact with her to understand what is important to youth when it comes to their expectations of the government and its policies.
Shaikha Bodour highlighted the dual role of the government in ensuring both a sense of tolerance as well as national identity in its citizens. She said: "I believe that tolerance for all cultures has to be an integral part of our society today and we have a collective responsibility to ensure that. At the same time, we also have to make sure that we cultivate a sense of belonging and ownership in all citizens."