Opinion by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi
Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah
2020 was not just the year of the pandemic or lockdowns. It was not all about disrupting businesses, large and small; or the global economy coming to a grinding halt. Our view and analysis of the past year goes far beyond that.
2020 was a year of unconventional challenges and unique experiences. It was a year in which we were physically grounded, but our minds roamed free, seeking out new opportunities and exploring new horizons to thrive and succeed. It was a year that left an indelible impact on our consciousness, leaving a trail of similar imprints on individuals and societies worldwide, reinforcing the commonality between all of mankind. In 2020, our aspirations and shared destinies defined us and united us all in ways we had never experienced before.
This is Sharjah’s perspective on the year just gone by. This perspective is one that we gained right at the start of the emirate’s journey, when we chose to ignore terms such as “risky”, “impossible” or “time to take a step back”. Instead, over the decades, we transformed our desert environs into a fertile ground that nurtured ideas, innovations and solutions in science, arts, and economics. We laid the foundations of a stronger economy through the values of resilience and competitiveness, and by building on our capabilities and noble values. Our efforts have borne fruits, and today, Sharjah is a destination where you can embrace a diversity of strategic, productive options to fuel your growth.
The fundamental challenges that arose due to the developments of the past year have prompted the Sharjah Department of Government Relations to delve deeper into the varied experiences of world nations in dealing with the lockdown and the pandemic – how they responded to the immediate needs of their citizens and what measures they have taken to ensure the continuation of education and businesses, amongst others. In return, we will share the good practices that have made our pandemic journey unique and the experiences we gained therefrom to benefit a larger number of people and nations worldwide. Sharjah, and the UAE, have been at the forefront in spearheading practical and efficient measures to ensure the continuity of essential services for the public, especially in the fields of education and healthcare, and in the provision of all other basic needs.
However, the most important outcome of our experience in Sharjah, as we encountered an unexpected bend in the road, is the revelation that for the desired change to happen, it must not be only in the tools we use but also the way in which we approach the core of the matter. For instance, if we take the field of education, no change in its tools and methods will have a substantial impact unless qualitative additions are made to the curricula and teaching materials.
In 2020, the world was put to the test, and for the first time in recent living memory, we have seen how societies across the face of the earth underwent the same experiences at almost the same time and in a strikingly similar manner. For the first time ever, we observed how identical our wishes, dreams and aspirations are – underlining why we need to teach our children the truth of our shared humanity and destinies.
The same applies to business. It is futile to talk of methods and tools for remote work, digital platforms, modern production mechanisms, or high functioning smart logistical networks if we do not first address their outcome and impact on society, or learn how we can sustain this vital energy and prepare societies to face unprecedented events in future.
The time has come for change and qualitative core transformations, not an adaptation to new circumstances. The time has come to realise that the past experiences – as varied as it may be – were unified in a single framework during the pandemic. This is what we want to share and discuss with the rest of the world to prove that this crisis is just the start of better times.