UAE youth minister: government must interact with youth on their terms

The 22-year-old Minister of State for Youth Affairs was making a keynote speech at the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah.

SHARJAH // The recently appointed Minister of State for Youth Affairs called on government bodies to open up two-way communication channels with youngsters.

In a keynote speech at the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah on Monday, Shamma Al Mazrui, 22, said communication was pivotal if decision-makers were to understand the younger generation.

“If we want to understand the youth, government bodies need to open diverse and direct communication channels with them, use their technologies to understand them, or else we will be swimming against the tide, as Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has said,” she said.

The country’s leadership has set an example by interacting directly with citizens, one that should be followed by government departments, she said.

“Our leaders usesocial media platforms to get in touch with the people directly,” she said.

“Sharjah Ruler Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi has interacted on ­radio many times to respond and help residents in need, while Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has asked for feedback and gauged residents on social platforms, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has interacted with residents directly during his extensive field visits.”

Ms Al Mazrui said one of the most important duties of the Emirates Youth Council was to listen to youth. “The council listens to youth problems and conveys it to the government, and we partner with them to find ideal resolutions to their problems.”

However, to reach the level she desires, government communications need to modernise.

“A large percentage of the youth do not read the news or listen to government statements, and don’t interact with them, which will create a vacuum between the government’s media and more than half of the country’s population,” Ms Al Mazrui said.

“When I ask my girlfriends when was the last time they picked up and read a local or international newspaper, they were surprised by my question, because they do not – they use social media platforms to catch up on news using their smartphones.”

She said youth cannot be blamed for a lack of communication and interest in government. “We talk to the youth, but we don’t listen to them enough, and government bodies [need to] put extra effort and honest communication in [to] matters that are important to them.”

Elsewhere at the forum, in a panel discussion titled Government Communication and Protection of the Social Structure, speakers said that governments had to interact with their citizens in a more dynamic manner.

Habib Al Sayegh, chairman of the Emirates Writers’ Union, said: “We need ministers and leaders to speak out more and speak to journalists and to people directly, particularly when national policies and laws are being drafted. This will make leaders more accountable and better role models.”

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

tzriqat@thenational.ae

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