The Government Summit, the first of its kind regional initiative in Dubai, called for a ‘sustainable and inclusive’ development model for the Gulf countries, with international speakers commending the UAE for its success in fostering human resources development as a key priority.
Addressing an audience of over 2,500 regional and international delegates, His Excellency Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that evaluating the performance of the region’s educational system against other competitive economies, and acting upon the needs of the younger generation will determine long-term economic success.
Mr. Brown said that the key priorities in development must be centred on not only investing in education but also measuring its output and performance, as well as a focus on innovation and technological expertise, and ensuring that the opportunities are widely spread. Underlining the need to further strengthen the educational sector, he said: “It is important to tap the potential of every child and this can be achieved only by providing the best basic general education to all.”
Lauding the successful strategy of the UAE outlined in its Vision 2021 to become one of the best nations in the world, Mr. Brown said that the key development challenge for the region is to identify “how we can more effectively deliver government services in the way the public wants, by personalizing the services and assuring individual satisfaction.”
Her Excellency Reem Al Hashemi, UAE Minister of State, said the UAE’s Vision 2021 serves as a roadmap in defining the priorities of the government to promote development with a focus on overall societal welfare. “At the heart of all our development endeavours are our people. We regularly review our performance to ensure that we consistently make progress.”
Highlighting the success achieved in women empowerment and gender equality, Her Excellency Al Hashemi said that compared to less than 5% women representing the UAE workforce in 1975, today, it is over 40%, while the governmental sector workforce has a women representation of over 65%. “This is the result of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who has focused on the importance of women to be part of the decision-making process,” she said.
Mr. Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), said that debates on development must shift from mere measurement of GDP to a number of other parameters including healthcare, education, gender equality and governance, among others. “Sustainable development is also about social cohesion, investing in research and development, and creating a model of growth that contributes to the happiness of the people.”
Ms. Jennifer Blanke, Lead Economist and Senior Director and Head of the Global Competitiveness Network, World Economic Forum, underlined the fundamental concepts of economic competitiveness that includes not only fundamental aspects such as healthcare, education and technology readiness but also a focus on innovation and business sophistication.
Explaining that the government has a role to play in driving all these pillars, she said that a multi-stakeholder approach is imperative in the education sector, linking business to universities so that the educational sector reflects the needs of the economy, and reiterated the need to strengthen a culture of entrepreneurship, which will drive demand for innovation.
The session was moderated by Mr. Abdullah Lootah, Secretary General of Emirates Competitiveness Council, who highlighted the role of The Government Summit to work towards constant improvement in providing government services. The session explored the definition of development and the role of government in achieving its development objectives.
Later, at a special address by Mr. Leterme, he lauded the achievements of the UAE, adding that the tremendous progress achieved by the country also has major influence on public service delivery. He said that governments across the Middle East region are feeling the pressure of the global financial challenges, which could lead to the importance of public services being overlooked. “The fact is that public institutions and public service matter more than ever in the current situation.”
He said that the responsibility of the governments cannot be delegated to anybody else, and that innovation and knowledge sharing are crucial for efficient public service delivery. “The policies must be constantly monitored for better results, with the key consideration that they are tailored to address the needs of the people. The UAE is at the forefront in this, with its clear forward-looking plan and having adopted a multi-year strategy with the nation’s Vision 2021.”
A special plenary session on the experience of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in providing government services was also held on the opening day. His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority and Member of the Dubai Executive Council, said that leadership plays a key role in achieving growth targets. “Dubai is constantly investing in its infrastructure, and the flexible approach to planning has helped the city grow. Significantly, our development plans do not compromise on the UAE’s national identity.”
His Excellency Falah Al Ahbabi, General Manager, Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, observed that progress can be achieved only through strong government institutions, economic diversity and a focus on sustainability. He said that Abu Dhabi is looking forward to becoming a sustainable global city that can compete with any global city. “We are keen to share our experiences with the developed and developing countries,” he added.
His Excellency Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, UAE Minister of Labour, shared the UAE’s experience in partnering with the private sector for effective government service delivery, at a dialogue session. He highlighted the role of Tas-heel service centres, and the standards adopted by the Ministry to further improve its quality and accessibility by working with the private sector, thus optimising operational efficiencies, and enabling the government to focus on policy making and regulatory frameworks.
In an interactive session on social media as a tool for citizen engagement, His Excellency Tareq Lootah, Executive President, Dubai School of Government, said the development of social media platforms has encouraged governments to keep up with the change. He shared the experience of the UAE government in developing social media strategies to offer exceptional services for the public.