Amal Clooney offers governments advice at Sharjah summit

The prominent rights activist and lawyer was a headline speaker at the opening of a government communications summit in Sharjah, which was attended by the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.

SHARJAH // Lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney said on Sunday that governments should be vocal, consistent, principled and transparent about human rights.

Mrs Clooney was a headline speaker at the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF), which opened in Sharjah and was attended by the emirate’s Ruler, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.

“The first piece of advice I would have from my experience is that governments need to be vocal about human rights,” she said.

Arab countries faced “an unprecedented human rights crisis”, she said, and urged that criticism of ruling systems be met with dialogue, not prison terms, and that protests be met with “crowd control,” not bullets.

“My advice to you is not only to be vocal and consistent but also to be principled in communications about human rights. Another suggestion I have is to be quick,” she said. “Governments must be prepared to be transparent and get their message out first.”

Mrs Clooney mentioned countries such as Sudan, Iran and North Korea in her 12-minute speech.

The Lebanese-born British lawyer, who takes on high-profile international cases, is married to actor George Clooney.

Last month, the couple met German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the crisis in Syria and spoke to refugees in Berlin.

Mrs Clooney was part of a legal team seeking wider recognition of the 1915 mass murder of Armenians as a genocide.

Historians estimate that as many 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks at the time of First World War, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, claimed the toll was inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

In his opening address, Dr Sheikh Sultan said: “Observers of the experience of Sharjah, a small emirate with big experience, know that while we focus on scientific and technological advancement, it is always accompanied by moral and social development – the two facets of our progress.

“We should not pursue advancement of today at the cost of tomorrow. This means being aware of the consequences of development, such as pollution.

“Pursuing development should not be at the expense of losing our principles and values. All leaders should understand and own the concept of responsibility and follow principles of sustainable development.”

The two-day IGCF is an annual forum held in Sharjah that aims to improve communication between governments and stakeholders and to develop those communications for the benefit the UAE and the Middle East.

A session titled Government Communication in Building Knowledge Societies highlighted the role of government communication in shaping opinion on education.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the former Swedish prime minister, said that education best practice is constantly changing as a result of rapid evolution in technology and the internet.

He said schools must adapt to better prepare pupils to become critical thinkers in the real world.

* With AP