The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a myriad of challenges that countries around the world have had to face with greater or lesser success. The health and economic crises have been the most damaging for all, but we must not forget the importance of one that has wreaked havoc on international society: the information crisis. Fighting the "fake news" and the wave of disinformation that has arisen around the virus has been impossible. For this reason, the International Government Communication Forum 2021 (IGCF) aims to analyse the strategies used to improve information systems for the near future.
The United Arab Emirates has been entrusted with hosting the 2021 ICGF. It has done so in large part thanks to the patronage of Sheikh Sultan Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council member and ruler of Sarja. "The Emirate of Sarja is always happy with its guests, scholars, thinkers and researchers. Intellectual and cultural communication unites us, unites our ideas and visions, and aspires for a better future," said Al Qasimi in welcoming the forum. He added: "The IGCF is an event that exceeds in its function the mere research of official discourse (...) where relationships are strengthened, values are preserved, principles are protected, and nations are uplifted".
Philip Hammond, former British Foreign Secretary, was one of the keynote speakers at the first of two days of the IGCF. He was accompanied by representatives of the Sarja government and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Abulgueit, as well as important journalists and influencers. The slogan under which this new edition began is "Lessons from the past, aspirations for the future". The aim is to present a set of outstanding models of communication and how governments have approached citizens in different contexts throughout history.
In addition, the analysis of crisis management mechanisms occupied a large part of the debate at the forum. Innovative methods of communication, as well as the speeches of political representatives towards their citizens, represent an important example of this. This was carried out through 31 activities in seven dialogue sessions, five speeches, seven workshops and 12 interactive platforms focusing on historical experiences of government communication and its evolution in recent years with the transformation that this field has undergone, largely due to social networks.
"The key for government organisations, especially at the local level, is to build a community and involve the community in disseminating information," said Elizabeth Linder, founder of Facebook's Government and Politics division, in statements to the EFE news agency. However, she believes that communication should also be something that society should drive, and that it should be society itself that makes the exchange of information flow with the spheres of power. In addition, she said that "it is necessary to contextualise through human stories because there comes a time when numbers become insignificant", in reference to the immense amount of data that has been thrown up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.