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UAE is a leader in government communication in region, report says

DUBAI // The UAE is leading the region in government-citizen communication and trust, according to a report on the future of government communication.

The WPP Leaders Report, launched in the Middle East for the first time in partnership with Dubai Media Office, found that the UAE was one of five Middle Eastern countries that stood out in terms of trust citizens have in their government and having their voices heard in decision-making.

The report is expected to contribute to the international dialogue at the first Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum in Dubai on Sunday.

“Through this platform of the forum, we are bringing experts and professionals from the communication industry to discuss the latest trends and case studies,” said Mona Al Marri, chief executive of the office. “Communication is a power and it all depends on how you use it. We have examples like the Trump campaign in the United States and, regionally, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and how he really utilised the tools of communication, like social media. The UAE leadership really set a high priority when it comes to effective communication to the world.”

Launched in Davos at the World Economic Forum, the report includes 40 countries, five of which are in the Middle East – Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Qatar. It tackles the future of government communication and how governments can better connect with their citizens in today’s increasingly polarised world.

“It [aims] to bring to the world, especially in government communications, the need to focus on this subject,” said Sunil John, founder of Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, which represented the WPP Group. “Alongside legislation, regulation and taxation, there is, most importantly, communication as one of the key levers of government. Sometimes communication isn’t fully focused on, it isn’t leveraged enough to be able to be an important part of, not just policy development, but policy delivery.”

A total of 85 per cent of respondents believe that communication is not involved at all in the policy delivery process, while 75 per cent say the voice of citizens is not taken into account in decision-making. “Our experience in the UAE is completely different,” Mr John said. “But 60 per cent globally said communication was purely a one-way flow on information, while 54 per cent feel bureaucracy is the number one challenge.”

Five key challenges emerged in the report, including lack of trust, fragmented audiences, traditional approaches, skills deficiency and lack of investment.

“With the developments of Brexit and the emergence of Trump, what we captured here are similar sentiments and concerns,” Mr John added. “There is severe anger, distrust, insecurity and disbelief among citizens, which is also related to the danger of terrorism, the financial crisis and those kinds of fear-inducing issues that governments are facing around the world.

“There is an existential clash between rising public expectation and those of the government to deliver proper policies and it’s in this challenging context that communication should be viewed as a strategic tool for policy development and policy delivery, which is what the report is trying to stress.”

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