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02 October 2023

Sharjah’s DGR leads global dialogues on cross-cultural education, water security challenges at IGCF 2023


The Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah brought together global experts from the UAE, Japan and Switzerland on the second day of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) 2023, to underscore the importance of diplomacy, cooperation, and communication in addressing complex global challenges.

The first session, ‘UAE & Japan: Cross-Cultural Education in a Globalised World’, explored the intersection of diplomacy, culture and education. Diplomats and leaders in education from Japan and Sharjah convened to explain how they strengthened their collaborative educational efforts.

Japan, renowned for its education system and its emphasis on human capital, opened its doors to Emirati students while fostering cultural exchange between the two nations. Akio Isomato, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE, noted that his country has already accepted over 700 UAE students into its colleges and universities. This initiative, known as J-MENA (Study in Japan Global Network Project in Middle East & North Africa), seeks to support students from the Middle East and Africa, with a significant focus on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Japanese colleges and universities have also expanded their English-language programmes, making education in Japan more accessible to international students. The educational exchange programme extends beyond higher education. High school students from both nations have participated in exchange programmes, fostering cultural understanding and exposing them to new ideas and perspectives. One exciting theme of this exchange is Shokuiku, or food education, which teaches the importance of food culture in Japan. Emirati students are learning about Japanese culture and language in their home schools, and some continue their education in Japan.

“Education and human capital are the foundations upon which nations are built,” Akio Isomato, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE emphasised.

The collaboration between Japan and Sharjah extends to internship programs for Emirati students in Japanese companies. This initiative aims to equip Emirati students with valuable job skills and employment opportunities in Japanese firms.

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, Sharjah, pointed out that education is at the core of the UAE’s mission. He highlighted the UAE’s history of rapidly increasing literacy rates over the past 50 years.

Underlining the importance of global cooperation in education, he said, “Education and outreach are at the core of our work. We have learned a lot from Japan and are looking to expand educational opportunities for our youth. The leadership of both countries are also extremely focused for our youngsters to learn each other’s languages of Arabic and Japanese, to further increase collaboration and appreciation of the other’s culture and ethos.”

Dr. Muhadditha Al Hashimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Private Education Authority, emphasised the transformative approach taken by Sharjah to improve the efficiency and inclusivity of education, saying “Our education model combines international best practices with a local touch, offering a diverse choice for parents and focusing on the holistic development of students.”

The second session, titled ‘Scarcity in the midst of abundance: Deciphering the water security paradox’, addressed the global water crisis’, highlighted the vital role of diplomacy in mitigating water-related challenges. Switzerland, often referred to as “The Water Tower of Europe” due to its abundant water resources, shared insights into the challenges posed by climate change, centred on the importance of early action and international cooperation.

Arthur Mattli, Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE and Kingdom of Bahrain, revealed that despite its wealth of water resources, the country is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. With warmer temperatures leading to reduced winter snowfall, Switzerland anticipates a 30 to 40 percent reduction in water availability during summer months in the coming years. This shift poses challenges for agriculture and water management.

The global rise in extreme weather events, including wildfires and floods, directly affects water security. Rising sea levels are causing shifts in national borders and displacing populations in vulnerable regions like Bangladesh, a scenario that is set to increase around the world. Additionally, other environmental challenges are posed by issues such as microplastics in water bodies.

To mitigate these challenges, Switzerland advocates for "Blue Diplomacy" and cross-border collaboration. Sharing data and fostering political will were identified as essential elements of addressing the global water crisis. “Experts agree that raising awareness, especially among the younger generation, is vital to drive changes in social behaviour and the culture surrounding water use,” Mattli said. “We must act now to manage water resources effectively to avoid dire consequences. At the same time, I do not want to only paint a catastrophic future and doomsday scenarios. But with the knowledge we are armed with, it is our duty to take care of the next generations and empower them for the best preparedness.”