The department is a new government entity, established in 2014. What was the main reason behind its establishment?
The Department was established under the guidance of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Ruler of Sharjah, to develop Sharjah's relations with local and international organizations. Sharjah already boasts international relations based on trade, culture, and tourism with a wide array of entities and NGOs. The Department is the primary contact point for any international organization to coordinate and facilitate opportunities in the Emirate of Sharjah. We ensure that all stakeholders in Sharjah are provided the relevant information to engage in our activities and initiatives across the globe.
How has Sharjah's involvement with NGOs and international governments evolved in recent years?
Sharjah's economic development, business opportunities, and tourism offering is coupled with a focus on environmental awareness, education, and cultural preservation. This depth within the Emirate's priorities is of great interest to our local and international partners. Businesses and NGOs are focusing more on sustainable opportunities to cement their footprint in Sharjah. The Emirate of Sharjah has a broad geographical reach, from the US to New Zealand, and we are supporting initiatives between our government entities and international organizations to create mutually beneficial opportunities for the public and private sectors. One exciting point is the Technology and Innovation Park, which is being developed adjacent to Sharjah University City. As the home of higher education in the UAE, companies and international institutions are looking to set up facilities in the project for applied research and innovation. The many years invested in nurturing exceptional talent in the Emirate allows us to venture into research, development, and innovation. This is an example of how the Department of Government Relations ensures that Sharjah's international outreach program is aligned with the needs of the private and public sector in the Emirate. Working closely with all stakeholders in the government of Sharjah, we support international programs to export our thought leadership and identify opportunities for knowledge transfer.
Despite instabilities in the Middle East and falling commodity prices, Sharjah's well-diversified economy has outperformed others in the region. What are your expectations for Sharjah's economy and what opportunities and challenges might it face in the near future?
The sustainable development strategy of Sharjah was developed under the direction of HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. It has been the primary reason for its resilience and continued growth. With the Emirate's consistent focus on a comprehensive economic and social development strategy, opportunities will continue to present themselves for the private and public sector to engage in this growth. Furthermore, the long-term focus on developing higher education has created new opportunities that are based on the large population of over 26,000 university students in the Emirate. It is a key differentiator that required the foresight of His Highness the Ruler when it was developed in 1997.
What are the Department's goals and priorities for the year ahead?
We are proud in Sharjah to be twinned with the city of Granada in Spain. This agreement was built upon the long-standing cultural and historical ties that we share with Spain. Our focus for the year ahead is to identify other twinning opportunities with cities that share our diligent focus on culture, education, and innovation.