His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) on 22nd March, 2017 at Expo Center Sharjah held under the theme 'Societal participation… Comprehensive Development'. IGCF 2017, held under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah from March 22 to 23, examined how the world's nations can leverage effective government communication to achieve the United Nations' sustainable development goals (SDGs), which have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society. In his keynote address, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi focused on the importance of government communication in enhancing dialogue among governments, institutions and people, and the significance of spreading knowledge and serving sustainable development in the UAE and across the world. Convening more than 2,500 local, regional and international attendees, the Forum witnessed the participation of high-level officials from 16 countries and included five keynote speeches, seven main sessions, six parallel discussion sessions, five accompanying workshops and three interactive. The list of participants included world statesmen, five UAE ministers, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and representatives of international organisations and public and private-sector officials. From climate change and global warming threat, to issues around education, healthcare and economic diversification – attendees and dignitaries of diverse expertise weighed in on tangible strategies and solutions that governments, private sector and civil society can tap into to achieve long-term welfare, growth and sustainability. They drew on the importance of government communication in achieving the United Nations' sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the GCC region. High-profile attendees included Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and founder and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project; Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize winner; His Excellency Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah; Jeffrey Sachs, renowned development economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; His Excellency Dr. Abdullatif Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC); His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment; His Excellency John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland, former EU Ambassador to the US and Chairman of International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) Ireland; and Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and President of Crescent Petroleum. The sixth edition of IGCF concluded on March 23 with the issue of a set of recommendations aimed at activating community participation in the achievement of the United Nations' sustainable development goals (SDGs). The Forum recommended establishing scientific, cultural and spiritual centers for children and the youth to build responsible personalities who are committed to advancing their country's interests and social participation. Secondly, it endorsed devising executive programs to provide care for the elderly and ensure an environment that meets their needs. A third recommendation was to enhance education, support scientific research programs, and build capacities and skills that are vital to achieve the comprehensive development goals. Fourthly, IGCF 2017 recommended the establishment of a joint Arab committee to support and launch initiatives that stimulate government communication programs aiming to enhance the efforts of Arab countries towards sustainable development. The Forum also called for launching a set of specialized training programs for government communication professionals to equip them with the newest trends and tools in their field. It stressed the need to give them more flexibility in interacting with the public through social media platforms. Finally, several participating experts called for the launch of "development circles" to be held throughout the year to follow upon the public discourse about SDGs.
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